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).