Top scientist in Syria’s chemical weapons program spied for the CIA, according to new book

The top scientist for the Syrian chemical weapons program would have spied for the United States for years as he worked to boost the Assad regime’s capabilities, according to a new book published this week.

Red Line: The Unraveling of Syria and America’s Race to Destroy the Most Dangerous Arsenal in the World, written by award-winning American journalist Joby Warrick, reveals the scientist’s career and role in the Damascus chemical weapons program while providing information to the United States.

The scientist – whose identity the author does not reveal, but who he refers to as “Ayman” – returned to Syria after studying in the United States during the 1980s on a scholarship. He then became a principal investigator for a secret chemical weapons program called Institute 3000, which was covertly part of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), the institute created by President Bashar Al-Assad’s father, Hafez. , who directs the regime’s chemical weapons development.

According to Warrick’s book, which cites interviews with a Syrian dissident who knew the scientist and with three “former US intelligence officials familiar with the case,” Ayman contacted the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). in his 30s while at a conference in Europe in the mid-1990s.

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He then began reporting confidential matters to the agency, such as the nerve agent samples the Institute 3000 was working on, after a CIA officer contacted him in Damascus, receiving regular payments “in the form of wire transfers. of cash to a foreign bank account “.

However, this ended in late 2001, when the Syrian intelligence services brought the scientist in for questioning due to a minor case of reports indicating that he had asked foreign SSRC suppliers for payments in exchange for proposing them for new contracts.

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Mistakenly believing that the interrogators had found out about his contacts with the CIA, he confessed everything to them, and was later arrested and executed by firing squad in Adra prison on April 7, 2002.

Despite the fact that the Assad regime destroyed much of its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2013 due to international demand and outrage over their use against Syrian civilians and their ban under international law, the SSRC continues to operate to this day. today and is believed to continue to develop its chemical arsenal.

Last month, the United Nations admitted that it was not sure that Syria had actually completely eliminated its chemical weapons arsenals, and this month the UN urged the regime to cooperate with efforts to dispose of the weapons it has long used. of the current civil war.

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