Syria today possesses a number of dual use facilities and laboratories which comprise sections of a highly compartmentalized biological weapon program. In July, 2012, Jihad Makdissi, Syria's spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Syrian state television that the regime would not use chemical or biological weapons against its civilian populations, confirming what had long been suspected by Western intelligence agencies. See: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/23/syria-chemical-warfare-threat-assad and http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390443437504577544632378473006 Highly concerning is Assad's potential loss of command and control over his bio-pharmaceutical infrastructure, which supports and contributes, to this weapon complex. The SSRC which is the core research center for Assad's WMD programs contributes as well, however the SSRC is relatively well protected with hardened labs and some estimates suggest it is partially now guarded by IRGC/Quds.
Serious concerns remain however, with regard to the looting of some laboratories and one estimate, from a source who has previously provided highly accurate, in country accounts, on a number of facilities, estimates the looting to be at around 70% of Syria's laboratories and veterinary vaccine facilities. The source is a highly credible NATO citizen, whom I've personally had direct contact with for over seven years. The source has provided ample documentation and photographic evidence from inside the labs. The looting has occurred in sections where Al Qaeda has been fighting. In one incident, five members of Hezbollah were killed. While Hezbollah would likely be privy to direct transfers of laboratory equipment and or pathogenic agents, Al Qaeda generally would not, as they are not a state sponsored entity, although there is evidence to suggest they work on occasion with what would appear to be counter-interests. In my view, as BW expert, there is a risk that Al Qaeda, given their lengthy track record of not only calls to acquire and use BW/WMD as a religious duty, but their long term recruitment of experts trained in Western universities, could divert materials and pathogenic agents; possibly skirting it to AQLIM or Islamic Jihad of Yemen. It is possible AQ, well aware of Syrian laboratory infrastructures, could divert such materials in areas where it is fighting and has access to these facilities. An geospatial analysis of areas where Syrian labs now under ISIS controlled zones, paints an increasingly concerning picture. It is not a coincidence that Yazid Sufaat, Al Qaeda's long time BW expert who ran Al Qaeda's anthrax program then set up his own private facility, 'Green Laboratory', was recently rearrested for planning terrorist activities in Syria and is currently being held under ISA detention. Israel too, aware of the threat both Hezbollah and Al Qaeda's possession of biological warfare agents and dual use related materials (lab stocks) poses, has interned a known biological weapon expert for Al Qaeda. Samar Halmi Abdel Latif Al-Barq was recruited by Ayman al-Zawahiri, now head of Al Qaeda and the same recruiter of Sufaat under Osama bin Laden. Al Barq's, detention has no doubt removed a major Al Qaeda biological weapon threat form the region however, the looting of Syrian laboratories is very concerning. See: http://www.nst.com.my/nation/general/ex-isa-detainee-and-his-worker-rearrested-1.288078
Syria is long suspected of conducting work on botulinum, anthrax, smallpox, ricin, T2, among other agents and toxins. Laboratories working on vaccines would be a target of AQ and fighting near those labs gives ample opportunity. The labs have not been destroyed by bombings or damaged by mortar rounds, but looted of their equipment. Assad does not need to loot his own labs and one has to question to what extent he maintains command and control over this deadly infrastructure. Will update shortly.