By Benjamin Weinthal.. The 59 Tomahawk missiles the US fired at the Shayrat Air Base served to punish dictator Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons against civilians. The strikes on April 6 also helped shine a spotlight on Iran’s role in Assad’s repeated use of nerve agents, because the mullahs’ Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were at Shayrat. What the rapid-fire news cycle didn’t say early this month was that Tehran and Damascus jump-started a program to develop a sophisticated Syrian chemicals arsenal as early as 2004. The British publication Jane’s Defense Weekly reported in 2005 that the Islamic Republic would work with Syria to build an “innovative chemical warfare program.” Iran’s role was to build equipment to produce “hundreds of tons of precursors for VX, sarin and mustard.”
Assad first used sarin nerve gas to attack the Damascus suburb of Ghouta in 2013, killing nearly 1,500 civilians, including 426 children. Read the full story.