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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Syrian Chemical Weapon Preparations

CNN reports:
Syrian forces began combining chemicals that would be used to make deadly sarin gas for use in weapons to attack rebel and civilian populations, a U.S. official tells CNN.

The United States obtained intelligence over the weekend indicating this development, according to the official who had direct knowledge of the latest information.

The intelligence, the official said, came from multiple sources but declined to provide any more details about how the United states learned of it.

Sarin gas, the source said, could most readily be used to fill artillery shells.
The CNN report goes on to quote Hillary Clinton stating that the U.S. would respond to an attack with chemical weapons against Syria's own people. (Apparently no comment on what would happen if the weapons were turned on surrounding countries).

The CNN report was based off a Wired "Danger Room" report located here. The Wired report indicated:
Sarin gas has two main chemical components — isopropanol, popularly known as rubbing alcohol, and methylphosphonyl difluoride. The Assad government has more than 500 metric tons of these precursors, which it ordinarily stores separately, in so-called “binary” form, in order to prevent an accidental release of nerve gas.

Last week, that changed. The Syrian military began combining some of the binaries. “They didn’t do it on the whole arsenal, just a modest quantity,” the official says. “We’re not sure what’s the intent.”

Back in July, the Assad regime publicly warned that it might use its chemical weapons to stop “external” forces from interfering in Syria’s bloody civil war.
 Israel wants to be more proactive, but has been denied permission by Jordon to attack the stockpiles or facilities, according to this YNet News story.
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that Israel can attack these sites without Jordan's approval, just as it reportedly attacked the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, but an intelligence official told him that Israel is concerned about the possible repercussions of such an attack on Jordan.

"A number of sites are not far from the border," the official was quoted as saying: "The Jordanians have to be very careful about provoking the regime and they assume the Syrians would suspect Jordanian complicity in an Israeli attack."

The official said, "You know the Israelis - sometimes they want to bomb right away. But they were told that from the Jordanian perspective, the time was not right."

Other intelligence officials told The Atlantic that Israeli drones are patrolling the skies over the Jordan-Syria border, and that both American and Israeli drones are keeping watch over suspected Syrian chemical weapons sites.

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