by Israel Hayom Staff
U.S. officials say recent movement of chemical weapons by Syrian military "suggests some potential chemical weapon preparation" although uncertainty remains over President Bashar al-Assad's intentions • West issues several warnings to Assad saying he would be "held accountable" if weapons were used against rebels.
Syria moved its chemical weapons in recent days, raising speculation in the West that President Bashar al-Assad's regime was preparing to use them, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
It was unclear what the Syrian military intends to do with the weapons, according to U.S. officials who obtained intelligence from Syria, but one official told The New York Times, "The activity we are seeing suggests some potential chemical weapon preparation." This would suggest that the Syrians are going beyond the simple movement of weapons between its weapons sites, although the U.S. official did not offer more details on what "preparation" means.
The movement of the weapons drew several warnings from the West over the weekend, including a reiteration to Assad that he would be "held accountable" if the Syrian military used the chemical weapons against rebels fighting to topple his government.
Western allies also exchanged a series of emergency communications regarding developments in Syria, according to The New York Times. They have been developing contingency plans if and when they decide to intervene in Syria to neutralize the chemical weapons. The Pentagon believes some 75,000 soldiers would be required for the task, but there were no indications that such an operation was about to begin.
U.S. President Barak Obama has been wary about intervening in Syria, but at a news conference in August, he said any proof that the Syrians were moving chemical weapons in a threatening way or planning to use them would constitute "a red line for us" that could provoke U.S. intervention. “That would change my calculus,” Obama said. “That would change my equation.”
A senior Israeli official told The New York Times that the weapons movement and the possible preparations to use them could be a bluff meant as a warning to Western nations at a time when NATO and the U.S. are considering support to opposition groups.
“It’s very hard to read Assad,” the Israeli official said. “But we are seeing a kind of action that we’ve never seen before."
Although uncertainty remains over the Syrian regime's intentions to use the weapons, the recent activity has raised concern among U.S. officials.
“We’re worried about what the military is doing,” one official told The New York Times. “But we’re also worried about some of the opposition groups,” including some affiliated with Hezbollah, which has camps set up near some of the chemical weapons warehouses.
Israel Hayom Staff
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