WASHINGTON - American media are reporting extensively that the Syrian president is getting ready to use chemical weapons on his own people, raising concerns that Washington could be planning a strike on Damascus with the chemical threat as a pretext.
Reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime is preparing to use its chemical weapons at home have created a storm in the U.S. media.
NBC reports that the Syrian military has loaded sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs, which could then be dropped on rebels from Mig-23 or Sukhoi-24 aircraft.
Unnamed American officials stressed that so far the bombs have not been loaded onto planes, and that over the last 48 hours there have been no major movements at chemical weapons sites of concern, ABC News reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton warned that if Assad goes down the chemical weapons road, he would be crossing “a red line.”
President Barack Obama also warned Assad that “the use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”
Clinton said that Washington is worried that Syria’s chemical weapons might fall into the hands of the Syrian rebels, some of whom have links to Al-Qaeda.
“Our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons or might lose control of them to one of the many groups that are operating within Syria,” Clinton told reporters Wednesday.
Syrian rebels also claim to have reached Safira, a town with stockpiles of chemical weapons south east of Aleppo, according to a video posted to YouTube.
According to another video posted to YouTube, rebels threaten to kill Naseeriyah, the Alawite sect, “and supporters of Bashar Al-Aasad with our chemical weapons.”
The video features two rabbits that die in convulsions just a minute after inhaling a chemical agent.
A text underneath the video reads, “Your destiny would be like them because you are missionaries for Naseeriyah and supporters of Bashar Al-Aasad. God is great. God is Great. Wait and see. We from the AR-Reeh Asarsar Chemical Battalion, the Destructive Wind Chemical Battalion – we shall kill you all with our chemical weapons.”
The situation is reminiscent of the military buildup and war of words before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Washington and London used the pretext that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction as a justification for going to war. The allegations proved to be false, but the damage was done.
In the latest round of U.S. saber-rattling, the USS Eisenhower, an American aircraft carrier holding eight fighter bomber squadrons and 8,000 men, joined the USS Iwo Jima, an Amphibious Ready Group of 2,500 marines off the Syrian coast yesterday.
Paula Slier, RT’s Middle East correspondent, explained that the U.S. is making contingency plans in case Assad’s regime suddenly crumbles.
“They are aware that Assad has received numerous asylum offers, and the United States stands ready for direct military intervention in the Syrian conflict,” she said.
Hisham Jaber, a former general in the Lebanese army and head of the Middle East Center for Studies and Research in Beirut, explained to RT that America is conducting “a psychological game designed to threaten the Assad regime.”
He expressed concern that the weapons might fall into the hands of the rebels, and believes the only viable option available to Assad is to ask the United Nations to help him safely dispose of them.
He thinks the U.S. “may send in Special Forces to occupy, control and destroy the chemical weapons.”
Washington says President Assad could resort to using chemical weapons out of despair, as his government is on the verge of collapse. But Ali Mohamad, editor in chief of the Syria Tribune, believes such concerns are exaggerated.
“They’ve been saying this for the past, like, 18 months, and so far the Syrian government is still there and it is not desperate,” Mohamad told RT. “The question is why President Assad or the Syrian army would use chemical weapons? It’s winning the ground, the Damascus airport battle a week ago proved that again. Why would Syria give a pretext to the U.S. to intervene when it does not even need to?”
Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile is not designated for anything but deterrence, Mohamad says. “It is obvious that Syria has something that is scary to its opponents, but the idea is that this thing was built to face the massive nuclear bomb power that Israel has.”
US to declare leading Syrian opposition group foreign terrorist organization
The US may soon name the Syrian rebel al-Nusra Front, one of the strongest among the opposition, a foreign terrorist group. The designation is likely to complicate the opposition’s fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The US Department of State has been collecting evidence against the group for several months to classify the Islamic radicals as a foreign terrorist organization. Officials believe the designation will come before the Friends of Syria meeting, which is scheduled for Dec. 12 in Morocco.
The Department of State originally planned to add the al-Nusra Front to its international terrorist list this week, but the announcement was postponed while officials discussed when the timing would be most beneficial, McClatchy reports. Officials who spoke to the publishing company said the al-Nusra Front will likely be added to the list shortly before the Morocco conferences.
American officials claim the goal of the designation is to isolate extremist groups in Syria and give more power to the new political opposition group that was unveiled in Qatar last month, National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, CNN reports. The al-Nusra Front has expresse opposition to this new coalition and some fear the group wouldn’t accept its authority if Assad is defeated.
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