Proof of cooperation between Iran and Syria in the proliferation and development of weapons of mass destruction was brought to light Monday in a Jane's Defence Weekly report that dozens of Iranian engineers and 15 Syrian officers were killed in a July 23 accident in Syria.
According to the report, cited by Channel 10, the joint Syrian-Iranian team was attempting to mount a chemical warhead on a Scud missile when the explosion occurred, spreading lethal chemical agents, including sarin nerve gas.
Reports of the accident were circulated at the time; however, no details were released by the Syrian government, and there were no hints of an Iranian connection.
The report comes on the heels of criticism leveled by the Syrians at the United States, accusing it of spreading "false" claims of Syrian nuclear activity and cooperation with North Korea to excuse an alleged Israeli air incursion over the country this month.
According to globalsecurity.org, Syria is not a signatory of either the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), - an international agreement banning the production, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons - or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
Syria began developing chemical weapons in 1973, just before the Yom Kipper War. Globalsecurity.org cites the country as having one of the most advanced chemical weapons programs in the Middle East, JPost.com reports.
According to the British magazine, the facility where the accident took place was built as part of a cooperation agreement signed between Syria and Iran in 2005. The joint activity included technological supply and assistance from Syria to Iran.
A Western diplomatic source reported in the past that in exchange, Tehran was providing Damascus with means that would enable it to independently produce chemical weapons, including help in planning and building facilities and carrying out chemical weapons experiments in a number of locations. According to the source, the cost of the project was estimated at millions of dollars.
Syria is currently in the midst of a PR battle aimed at denying the allegations that it has nuclear ties with Iran and North Korea. On Tuesday, Syrian Expatriate Affairs Minister Bussaina Shaaban said that the allegations of nuclear cooperation between Syria and North Korea which led to the reported Israeli overflight were "an orchestra of lies".
In an interview with the Iranian Fars news agency, the minister denied reports in Israeli and American media that suggested Pyongyang was helping Damascus build a nuclear installation in the country and said that "Syria maintains the right to respond when and where it sees fit."