UKCAF website

Go to content

Main menu:

Syria's 'biological warfare by proxy'

Doug's Blog

Ruined cities are Assad's legacy
Wrecked aid trucks ensure diseases will spread faster

After chemical weapons are used in Syria, now it's biological warfare - by proxy.

24th September 2016

We have all been sickened by reports of Basha al-Assad and his Russian cronies dropping chlorine gas on the people in Aleppo. But the latest deliberate attack on the Bab al-Nayrab water pumping station in eastern Aleppo, and the closure of the other that serves the rest of the city, moves the level of war crimes committed by these factions even further up the scale of atrocity.

They have already crossed the boundary prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, designed to cause indiscriminate and immediate but highly localized suffering and death to civilians. But now, their actions are designed to cause diseases that can result in both immediate death and injury at the site of the attack, but also will inevitably result in induced disease occurrences far beyond the immediate area of the attacks.

Attacking water supplies, particularly in war zones whose infrastructure has already been wrecked and whose populations are in desperate conditions, is just as certainly biological warfare as direct use of biological agents incorporated into the munitions themselves.

Of course, they will argue that targeting water supply facilities is nothing of the kind. The missiles used to attack the water facilities did not contain biological warfare agents, they will protest, so this cannot be equated with biological warfare.

I disagree. Targeting water supplies, and the facilities in which water is purified, has been an anti-humanitarian tactic of this detestable collaboration for as long as the civil war has existed. Only a year ago Marianne Gasser, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Syria, warned that, "Too often in Syria, water becomes a tool in the hands of fighting parties. It becomes a weapon of war. A weapon of war indeed – a biological weapon.

But so far no one seems to have realised that this practice is indeed biological warfare, even if by proxy. The inevitable and intentional result of the primary actions is that people will be forced to find alternative sources of water, much of which is already dangerously infected by disease-causing organisms – typhoid, dysentery, and numerous other pathogens.

It is, of course, no coincidence that hospitals and medical aid facilities have already been targeted. If the capacity of the crumbling infrastructure and the expertise of those staffing them, are destroyed, and the medical aid convoys attempting to re-establish even a rudimentary medical

capacity in the city, are eliminated, then it is inevitable that uncontrollable epidemics of fatal water-borne diseases will result.

Within the the strategy of biological warfare, last week's attack on the aid convoy was essential, since it rendered the efficacy of the assault on the water supply network far more effective. To such mentalities, aid convoys are regarded as a threat to military objectives, and must be destroyed or discouraged.

That the UN and its agencies was incapable of understanding this is a reminder that in the military area it is necessary to think like the warrior, and not the peacemaker.

Such indiscriminate 'germ warfare' has been practised for centuries, and is abhorrent to all humanitarian legislation. Yet weakening the resistance of those trapped within the city, and especially threatening the lives of the children, was the entirely intended physical and psychological consequence of the attack.

Paralysing the medical services by bombing hospitals and medical facilites, and then hitting the aid collumn, was designed to cause disease epidemics, and was, without question, a deliberate form of biological warfare by proxy.

But whilst we clamour for those responsible to be brought to justice, of more immediate urgency is that the capacity of the Syrian government and its Russian allies to continue these atrocities must be ended.

The UN wrings its hands in corporate anguish, and does nothing; governments issue lugubrious statements of disgust – and they too do nothing. Only by halting this genocide now will the rest of the world be able to bring relief to the sick and wounded in this terrible conflict.

So what, you may ask, do President Assad and Mr. Putin get out of all this? Assadseems simply to want territory - all of Syria, regardles of its condition, or that of those of the Syrian nation who survive the war. If he wins the war, with Putin's gracious support, then in return Putin might be allowed to
establish Russian military ports on the Syrian coast.

This would allow Russia u
nfettered direct access to the Mediterranean, a far more attractive prospect than the twisting narrow route from the Crimea down through the Black Sea and the Dardanelles. Russia's attempts to control that trade route led to its defeat in the Crimean War of the 19th Century, a fact of which Mr Putin is undoubtedly acutely aware.


A couple of days after I wrote this, Putin sent his fleet of warships through the North Sea and English Channel, to the Mediterranean and the Syrian coast, on their way to attack targets from the sea, exactly as I predicted!

Back to content | Back to main menu