Preparations for Protecting Syrian Chemical Arsenal Pick up Pace

Rebels aim their machine guns in a neighborhood of Syria’s Homs province last week. Washington and allied governments are accelerating preparations to prevent the diversion of chemical warfare materials held by the Syrian government, according to a Saturday news report (AP Photo/Fadi Zaidan).
Rebels aim their machine guns in a neighborhood of Syria’s Homs province last week. Washington and allied governments are accelerating preparations to prevent the diversion of chemical warfare materials held by the Syrian government, according to a Saturday news report (AP Photo/Fadi Zaidan).

The United States and partner nations close to Syria are picking up the pace of strategizing for preventing the diversion of the Assad regime's chemical stockpile and other potential crises, the Washington Post reported on Saturday (see GSN, May 3).

No fewer than seven nations have put spy and armed forces personnel to work in preparing responses to specific scenarios such as using special forces units to take control of chemical weapons should sections of Syria come under extremist control, according to sources from the United States and Middle Eastern countries.

Damascus has since 2011 sought to put down the opposition movement against the government of Bashar Assad. Continued fighting has led to concerns that Syria could fall into civil war, opening the door for Islamic militants to become the de facto leadership in some communities or sectors.

"There's a big worry that things could quickly fall apart," according to an informed one-time U.S. intelligence staffer. "A big problem can turn up on your doorstep overnight."

Syria is believed to possess a sizable chemical arsenal encompassing nerve and blister agents, along with Scud missiles and other munitions that could be used to deliver the materials during conflict. Its stockpile is believed to be far larger than that of Libya, which was subject to similar concerns and planning last year during the successful uprising against Muammar Qadhafi (see GSN, April 24).

Intelligence services from the United States have been watching over Syria's chemical assets for a period extending past 12 months; an alert from those agencies would set in motion an effort to take control of the materials believed stored in no fewer than five locations across the nation.

There does not seem to be an imminent threat to the stockpile facilities, but materials could be removed or entire sites left unguarded in the face of an offensive by opposition forces or extremists connected to al-Qaeda, according to sources (Joby Warrick, Washington Post, May 19).

May 21, 2012
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The United States and partner nations close to Syria are picking up the pace of strategizing for preventing the diversion of the Assad regime's chemical stockpile and other potential crises, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.

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