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U.S. Prepares for Fall of Syrian Government

A Syrian opposition fighter waves on Monday from the top of a destroyed army tank near the city of Aleppo. Washington is preparing for the collapse of the Syrian government in part by seeking to ensure the continued security of the country’s chemical arsenal (AP Photo). A Syrian opposition fighter waves on Monday from the top of a destroyed army tank near the city of Aleppo. Washington is preparing for the collapse of the Syrian government in part by seeking to ensure the continued security of the country’s chemical arsenal (AP Photo).

Ensuring the protection of Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons is one component of planning by the U.S. State and Defense departments for the fall of the Assad regime, the New York Times reported on Sunday (see GSN, Aug. 3).

The Pentagon and the State Department have established teams to prepare strategies for dealing with the chaos that could follow the overthrow of President Bashar Assad. Among the issues being considered are providing nutritional and medical aid to Syria and neighboring states and rapidly lifting U.S. and European economic penalties issued against the current government in Damascus.

Sources offered no timeline for the fall of the Assad regime, which remains locked in intense battle with resistance fighters in the city of Aleppo and elsewhere.

Syria is believed to hold hundreds of tons of chemical warfare materials and a large stockpile of rockets and other delivery systems for the blister and nerve agents. Among the concerns in Washington and other capitals is that Assad would use the weapons to stave off defeat, or that violent extremists could exploit the situation to obtain some of the agents for their own ends.

The chemical stocks are said to be held in multiple locations, with some materials reportedly moved in recent weeks. U.S. Central Command has reportedly estimated that 75,000 military personnel would be needed to lock down the chemical arsenal.

Preventing diversion of chemical warfare materials "would be a purely military-type mission, and so we have to think about contingency planning for safeguarding these stockpiles," according to one source (Myers/Shanker, New York Times, Aug. 5).

 

NTI Analysis

  • Disarming Syria of Its Chemical Weapons: Lessons Learned from Iraq and Libya

    Oct. 31, 2013

    This CNS issue brief examines the lessons learned from dismantling Libya and Iraq's chemical weapons programs and what these two cases presage for disarmament in Syria. In particular, this article explores the challenges relating to ensuring material and physical security for both inspectors and the chemical weapons stockpile itself; verifying the accuracy and completeness of disclosed inventories; and developing effective monitoring and verification regimes for the long-term. The conclusion examines recommendations stemming from this analysis.

Country Profile

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Syria

This article provides an overview of Syria's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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