Syria is believed to have the third largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world -- after the U.S. and Russia -- a cache created in the 1970s with help from Iran and Russia as a counter to Israel.
No precise, publicly available count of Syria's chemical weapons exists, but Secretary of State John Kerry recently pegged Syria's chemical weapons precursors and agents at 2 million pounds.
According to a French intelligence assessment, this includes several hundred tons of sulfur mustard, several tens of tons of extremely toxic VX, and several hundred tons of sarin gas. In all, more than 40 manufacturing or storage sites have been tentatively identified.
Also publicly unavailable is a complete map of where the precursors, agents and munitions are stored. Former United Nations weapons inspectors have described remote underground bunkers where hundreds of tons are stored, as well as factories used to produce mustard or VX gas.
Kerry and other officials said they know Syria has moved some of its stockpile into tanks, which can be moved to evade air strikes or inspections.
Even so, some suspected chemical weapons sites have been pinpointed, though the information may already be outdated:
-- Suspected dual use facilities include the Banias oil refinery, the Homs oil refinery, the Homs general fertilizer plant, and the Setma Limited facility near Damascus, which is believed to conduct civil and military chemical research.
-- Plants for the production of sarin, VX and mustard gas near Damascus, Hama, Homs, the Safira village near Aleppo and Latakia, a Mediterranean seaport city, and nearby Baniyas.
-- The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies reports a chemical weapons facility at the Khan Abu Shamat Depot, 12 miles east of Dumayr.
-- Chemical weapons storage facilities are located in Furqlus, Khan and Masyaf, according to GlobalSecurity.org.
(Reach Scripps Howard News Service editor Lisa Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.shns.com.)
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