Syria WMD report: ‘Country is a chemical powder keg ready to explode’

Special to

WASHINGTON — President Bashar Assad could order weapons of mass
destruction attacks to save his regime, a report said.

The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies asserted that Assad
could employ Syria’s massive WMD arsenal against any rising Sunni revolt. In
a report, the center warned that the Damascus regime could also fire
biological or chemical weapons to stop any foreign military
intervention to save the rebels.

Damascus, which hasn’t signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, possesses chemical weapons, surface-to-surface missiles and Korean No-Dong/Scud-D missiles.

“Indeed, in this fluid environment and uncharted territory, everything is possible,” the report, titled “Assad’s Toxic Assets,” said.

Authored by Chen Kane, Bilal Saab and Leonard Spector, the report outlined six scenarios in which Assad could employ WMD, which the opposition said already took place in the Syrian Army assault on Homs earlier this month. The report envisioned a decision by Assad or his younger brother, Maher, to
fire CW or BW shells even at the risk of NATO intervention.

Another scenario was that Alawite generals order WMD strikes against the Sunni rebels. Assad has ordered deployment of elite army and special forces units to guard CW production facilities around such cities as Aleppo, Damascus, Hama, Homs and Latakia.

“Should armed rebellion flare up again in areas that host chemical
weapons facilities and munitions storage sites including Dumayr, Khan Abu
Shamat and Al Furqlus and government forces find themselves facing
overwhelming opposition, the generals on the ground could decide, without
Assad’s authorization, to use chemical weapons against their opponents,” the
report, dated March 13, said. “They could also be tempted to act
preemptively, ‘using them before losing them.’ ”

Assad could also decide to transfer WMD to such allies as Iran and its
proxy, Hizbullah. The president could also offer these assets should he
conclude that he might be overthrown by rivals within the regime.

Syria was said to control more than 50 BW and CW facilities, and the
report did not rule out that some of them would be targeted by Al Qaida.
Another scenario was that Sunni rebels would attack or capture WMD sites, a
capability they do not yet possess.

“Furthermore, the moment the rebels decide to escalate and hit chemical
sites, government forces might retaliate with force and use planes to
deliver chemical agents by air,” the report said.

The report said none of the scenarios could be ignored. The center
recommended that the United States and its allies offer immunity to
Syrian troops who protect WMD sites.

“It is no wonder that President [Barack] Obama and his top military
brass are extremely hesitant to use kinetic force or send weapons into
Syria,” the report said. “The country is a chemical powder keg ready to

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