Iran is continually deepening its involvement in the Syrian chemical weapons industry and maintains control to such a degree that Hezbollah, or other Iranian terror proxy groups, may use Syrian chemical weapons against Israel in the future.
Iranian involvement in CERS, the Syrian weapons research center that produces the country’s chemical weapons, has been growing ever since was first established in the early 2000s, according to an in-depth report by the Alma Research and Education Center,
The Alma Research Center focuses on security threats to northern Israel and gathers geopolitical knowledge about the Middle East.
Iran intensified its involvement after the Second Lebanon War in 2006, during which most projects in CERS were carried out on behalf of Hezbollah, the precision missile project, in particular, and potentially the conversion of outdated rockets to precision rockets.
Since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, Iran has all but completely taken over the center.
During the civil war, the Syrian government claimed to have submitted all chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as part of the 2013 chemical weapons disarmament procedure, but the Alma report stressed that “chemical weapons were nonetheless used during the civil war.”
“The Syrian regime now possesses extensive chemical capabilities. The Syrian regime considers the stockpiles of chemical weapons in its possession and the threat they pose, as a guarantee of its survival,” according to the Alma report.
Alma sees the possibility of stockpiles of weapons left in remote CERS facilities- be it missiles, rockets or mortar shells armed with chemical weapons like nerve gas – could be transferred to Hezbollah during the next war with Israel.
Iran’s main goal with CERS has been to develop and produce precision missiles and rockets, cruise missiles, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The regime also envisions CERS as “a ‘growth engine’ for the development and production of modern conventional weapons based on Iranian technology on Syrian soil.”
This also shortens the supply and logistics route of weapons transfers to Lebanon and Syria from Iran which in the past has proven vulnerable to disruptions by airstrikes against weapons convoys and production facilities, some of which have been attributed to Israel.
“The bottom line is that the CERS Center is an inseparable part of the infrastructure of the arms corridor to Syria and Lebanon, both in terms of the production of advanced weapons and their long-term storage for future use by the Shiite axis, as well as their storage in interim storage before transfer to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” the report stated in conclusion.
The CERS center was established in 1971 and has a French name, the Centre D’Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques, and is referred to in English as The Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC).
It employs some 20,000 people and functions as Syria’s national military industry, whose stated goal is promoting, directing, and coordinating scientific activities in Syria.
CERS facilities are spread across Syria and include a variety of institutes and factories, as well as industrial and storage sites.