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Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Syria converts combat aircraft to WMD-armed drones

Syria converts combat aircraft to WMD-armed drones

A Syrian MiG-21, flown into Jordan last June by a Syrian air force colonel,
had been upgraded to fly without a pilot and to carry chemical weapons •
U.S. experts who examined the plane and questioned the pilot believe Russian
engineers helped with the upgrade.

Yoav Limor Yisrael Hayom 25 December 2012
http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=6845

This MiG-21 flown by a Syrian pilot who defected to Jordan was reportedly
converted into an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of deploying chemical
weapons. |Photo credit: Ammon News
http://media.israelhayom.co.il/2012/12/25/135642726967595825a_b.jpg

This MiG-21 flown by a Syrian pilot who defected to Jordan was reportedly
converted into an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of deploying chemical
weapons. |Photo credit: Ammon News

A MiG-21 combat aircraft flown by a Syrian pilot who defected to Jordan in
June was found to have been upgraded back in Syria to carry chemical weapons
and to fly without a pilot, according to U.S. experts who examined the
plane. The experts believe Russian engineers helped convert the plane and
that Syria has more of them in its air force.

On June 21, Syrian pilot Hassan Hamada, who holds a rank equivalent to
colonel, took off in his MiG-21 from al-Dumair military airport northeast of
Damascus and flew to King Hussein Airbase just across Syria's southern
border with Jordan. Upon landing in Jordan, Hamada removed his rank and
requested political asylum.

Syria immediately admitted the pilot had defected and called him a traitor.
Suspicion arose when Syria put increasing pressure on Jordan to return the
plane. After being examined by Western intelligence agencies, the aircraft
was discovered to have the ability to employ chemical weapons and fly
without a pilot.

Information about the plane's additional capability was reportedly passed on
to U.S. intelligence agencies, which were said to have studied the
information and interviewed Hamada. After concluding their examinations,
U.S. experts said they believe Russian engineers helped convert the MiG-21
to an aircraft with unmanned aerial capability that could be armed with
chemical weapons. Officials at the Pentagon believe additional Syrian
aircraft underwent the same conversion, although the exact number is
unknown.

Meanwhile, U.N. and Arab League envoy al-Akhdar al-Ibrahimi met with Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to discuss the prolonged crisis in
Syria. Reports by the official Syrian media described the meeting as
"positive" and quoted Assad as saying, "The Syrian government is determined
to succeed in its efforts for the good of the Syrian people and protect the
country's sovereignty and independence."

Assad's remarks come despite the Syrian regime’s survival being in doubt and
the scenario of Syria divided into three political entities — a northeastern
Kurdish sector, an Alawite sector along the coast and a Sunni-ruled area in
the remainder of the country — becoming more of a reality each day.

Recently, after 21 months of clashes between forces loyal to Assad's Baath
Party government and those seeking to oust it, reports of the use of
chemical weapons against the rebels have become more frequent. After a
recent report by Iranian and Hezbollah news agencies that claimed anti-Assad
forces used chemical weapons on Syrian soldiers, rebel leaders claimed on
Monday that seven opposition fighters had been killed when Syrian troops
launched an attack near Homs, which, they said, included the use of chemical
weapons. Photos of the alleged victims of the attack were shown on TV but no
independent source was able to authenticate them.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that the use of
chemical weapons by Syrian troops would be tantamount to suicide for Assad.

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