As Syria's civil war continues to worsen, the Syrian government is turning to extreme measures to quell rebel forces. A couple of anonymous Obama administration officials told the New York Times that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's military has fired several scud missiles at rebel positions.
Scuds. Remember those things? Saddam Hussein used them to terrorize Israel back in 1991. They're big, scary Soviet hand-me-downs, and they're not very accurate.
So why is al-Assad using them inside Syria, against rebels hiding in the thick of population centers? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 civilians have already been killed. Sounds pretty desperate to me, and I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Now, down to the nuts and bolts of the missile, which is what I know you're really interested in. The reason why Scuds are so inaccurate is because they're old. The Russians basically ripped off (surprise, surprise) an updated relative of the German V-2 design for the original Scud, which they called R-11. Later, they designed a new rocket called the R-17 that was better, but still sucks by today's standards. We called it Scud-B, and eventually, all of the USSR's crappy Western Europe-themed missiles became known as Scuds. Newer versions were designed to hold nuclear and biological/chemical warheads.
Middle Eastern regimes chummy with the Soviets back in the '70s bought scads of Scuds, mostly because they're cheaper than an air force. But it was ol' Saddam who made Scud-Bs armed with chemical and biological weapons onboard (see the image of one below) the ones we all know so well today. So the Scud is basically a Nazi-derived rocket crafted by commies and used by an insane despot to terrorize his own population. Quite the pedigree.
There's also word that the Syrians are using sea mines tossed on dry land against rebel positions.
Because information coming out of Syria is so limited and the Administration so tight-lipped, there's no indication how many, if any, people have been killed or injured by the attacks. For the sake of the Syrians living through this mess, let's hope that their president is finished shooting missiles at them.
Photo credit: Associated Press