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BEIRUT, Lebanon – The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad publicly announced that it would not use its chemical weapons except against foreign intervention. However, analysts are suggesting that such a statement could have wider implications, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Because the rebels increasingly are being integrated by outside forces, the embattled Syrian government could interpret the opposition as constituting foreign forces and use its chemical stocks against them as a last resort to survive.
Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles have been known to the U.S. intelligence community for years, even though the Syrian regime until now never had admitted to their existence. In fact, it was the French years ago who initially provided the precursors and manufacturing facilities to the Syrian CERS facility, or Centre D-Eudes et de Recherches Scientifiques as early as 1971.
While Syria is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, it is known to have stocks of VX agents, sarin, mustard gas and tabun. Most of its chemical weapons arsenals are located in the western portion of the country, principally near Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Latakia and Palmyra – all cities which currently are under siege by the rebels.
Analysts say that the West has security plans for major intervention to secure the stocks in the event it looks like the Syrians will use chemical weapons, but there are serious drawbacks to this prospect.
Short of direct outside military intervention to secure the sites, the West could rely on the rebels to capture the facilities. However, there is serious trepidation with that idea, since the West isn’t entirely sure of the composition of the rebel forces, fearing that they increasingly are being infiltrated by more radical Salafists and al-Qaida. That would put the chemicals in the wrong hands .
Analysts believe it would take a force of at least 75,000 troops to secure the facilities. Some have proposed airstrikes and the use of cruise missiles, but the inherent problem with that approach is the potential for the release of hazardous chemicals into the surrounding area, causing serious casualties.
Any intervention would get countries whose forces undertake such an operation involved directly in the Syrian conflict.
There also is the high potential for mission creep and any exit strategy would be difficult, according to a report from the open intelligence company Stratfor.
Given that it would take a sizeable military force to secure all the sites, such a mission “would fully implicate the United States in another major war in the Middle East,” the report said.. “Intervention would be a precarious task fraught with geopolitical risk and consequences.”
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