Syrian CBW Stockpiles

U.S., Israel and Jordan Hold Bi-lateral Talks

by Jerry Gordon, The Iconoclast

Chemical Munitions
In late February, we and former Israeli diplomat Lenny Ben David  revealed the extensive Syrian  chemical and bio-warfare stockpiles amid rising concerns  about how and when to intervene in the country to prevent these unconventional weapons  from getting into the hands of terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Al Qaeda.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a report that this rising concern over how to secure Syria’s CBW stockpile was the subject of discussions between President Obama and PM Netanyahu  during their meeting this past weekend. Further, the report states that separately Jordanian defense officials have meetings with Pentagon specialists to discuss the possible use of Jordanian special ops to secure such caches under a proposed Arab-League brokered peacekeeping mission.

Watch this Fox News report on the threat of Syria’s CBW caches:
Here are excerpts from the Journal report by Jay Solomon and Julian E. Barnes,“US, Jordan Discussing Syria Cache”

The groundwork comes amid mounting concerns about Damascus’s arsenal of nerve agents and mustard gas at a time of growing instability in the country. One plan would call for Jordanian Special Operations units, acting as part of any broader Arab League peacekeeping mission, to go into Syria to secure nearly a dozen sites thought to contain weapons, these officials said.
[. . .]

    U.S. officials stressed that Washington and Amman don’t foresee unilateral commando raids inside Syria, due to the potential for direct conflict with President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces. But they said that locating and securing the sites will be a central part of any peacekeeping mission that is eventually allowed into the country.

    “Anything of that nature has to be done in a permissive environment,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the discussions with the Jordanians. “If you do not have a permissive environment, you will have a hard time getting anyone to go in… No one is going to want to fight their way in through bad stuff, like chem and bio weapons.”

    [. . .]
    Syria is believed to have one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons and is one of only seven nations that didn’t sign the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, the arms-control agreement that outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of such weapons. Other non-signatories include Israel, North Korea, Myanmar and Egypt.
    Over the past four decades, Syria amassed vast supplies of mustard gas, sarin nerve agent and cyanide, according to declassified reports by the Central Intelligence Agency. Significant quantities of these chemical agents are believed to have been weaponized by the Syrian government in artillery shells, bombs and possibly Scud and SS-21 missiles.

    Russia, North Korea, Egypt and Iran are among the countries that have assisted Damascus in developing these weapons, according to current and former U.S. officials.

    [. . .]
    Experts on Syria’s weapons program said the chemical and biological weapons are developed and stored in nearly a dozen sites, largely in northern and central Syria. Some of these sites are in cities currently racked by violence, such as Hama and Homs.

    U.S. officials this week said there are no indications that Mr. Assad’s security forces are prepared to use these weapons against Damascus’s political opponents, or that they have gone loose. But the Obama administration increasingly believes the Assad regime will eventually fall.

    Should that happen, Syria’s neighbors, in particular Jordan and Turkey, have told U.S. officials they are worried about what would become of the weapons. The Turkish and Jordanian officials expressed concern that elements of the Syrian opposition have ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups and could seek to use the weapons in terror attacks around the Mideast, said a U.S. official.

    Senior defense officials said they are worried they could wind up in the hands of Lebanon’s Hezbollah or other militant groups in the region.

    “If left unsecured, it would be, potentially, a very serious threat in the hands of … Lebanese Hezbollah,” Adm. William McRaven, head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, told a congressional committee Wednesday. “I think that it’s going to take an international effort when Assad falls—and he will fall—in order to secure these weapons.”
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has held extensive discussions on the Syrian WMD threat with President Barack Obama and his national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, in recent weeks, said officials from both governments. Israel’s government is concerned about Hezbollah or other militant groups obtaining the weapons and using them to threaten the Jewish state.

    The Obama administration is coordinating particularly closely with Jordan because of its proximity to Syria and Amman’s strong intelligence and commando capabilities. Jordan also has a history of cooperating with American special-operations teams.

    The two countries have jointly run operations against al Qaeda in both Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years. Jordan’s main spy agency, the General Intelligence Directorate, played a lead role in the 2006 assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, according to U.S. officials.

    Jordan has invested heavily in its counter-terrorism forces, and regularly trains and exercises with U.S. special operations forces. “They would be real good” at operating inside Syria, the senior official said of the Jordanian special operations forces.

Jordan’s role might be questionable as an intervening special ops force given King Abdullah’s dalliances with Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist elements in the Islamic Action Party. Furthermore, the Arab League has been notably unable to develop any peacekeeping capability when dealing with autocratic members like Syria. We would suggest that the bi-lateral talks in Washington between the Obama and Netanyahu about this Syrian WMD stockpile problem may have included what Israel might have to do in conjunction with the US to secure the Syrian CBW stockpiles should the Assad regime topple and the Arab League peacekeeping force fail to get organized and deployed. A related issue is what Syrian democratic opposition groups could provide in monitoring and surveillance of CBW sites to prevent filtering of such weapons with the possible assistance of Iran’s Qod force to terrorist groups operating inside and in the region.

Stay tuned for further developments.

March 9, 2012 | Comments »

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