Syrian military loads chemical weapons into bombs, awaits Assad’s order

The Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday.

The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said.

As recently as Tuesday, officials had said there was as yet no evidence that the process of mixing the “precursor” chemicals had begun. But Wednesday, they said their worst fears had been confirmed: The nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs.

Sarin is an extraordinarily lethal agent. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s forces killed 5,000 Kurds with a single sarin attack on Halabja in 1988.

U.S. officials stressed that as of now, the sarin bombs hadn’t been loaded onto planes and that Assad hadn’t issued a final order to use them. But if he does, one of the officials said, “there’s little the outside world can do to stop it.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated U.S. warnings to Assad not to use chemical weapons, saying he would be crossing “a red line” if he did so.

Speaking Wednesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Clinton said the Syrian government was on the brink of collapse, raising the prospect that “an increasingly desperate Assad regime” might turn to chemical weapons or that the banned weapons could fall into other hands.

“Ultimately, what we should be thinking about is a political transition in Syria and one that should start as soon as possible,” Clinton said. “We believe their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people have to die before that occurs.”

Aides told NBC News that Clinton was expected next week to officially recognize the main opposition movement, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, with which she is scheduled to meet in Morocco. Britain, France, Turkey and some key Arab leaders have already recognized the opposition.

Fighting intensified Wednesday in the 21-month civil war, which has left 40,000 people dead. The U.N. withdrew its personnel from Damascus, saying conditions were too dangerous.

The government said this week that it wouldn’t use chemical weapons on its own people after President Barack Obama warned that doing so would be “totally unacceptable.”

But U.S. officials said this week that the government had ordered its Chemical Weapons Corps to “be prepared,” which Washington interpreted as a directive to begin bringing together the components needed to weaponize Syria’s chemical stockpiles.

That process would involve mixing “precursor” chemicals for the deadly nerve gas sarin, which could be used in artillery shells, U.S. officials told NBC News, stressing that there was no evidence that process had as yet begun.

U.S. officials had long believed that the Syrian government was stockpiling the banned chemical weapons before it acknowledged possessing them this summer.

NBC News reported in July that U.S. intelligence agencies believed that in addition to sarin, Syria had access to tabun, a chemical nerve agent, as well as traditional chemical weapons like mustard gas and hydrogen cyanide.

Officials told NBC News at the time that the Syrian government was moving the outlawed weapons around the country, leaving foreign intelligence agencies unsure where they might end up.

Syria is one of only seven nations that hasn’t ratified the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, the arms

control agreement that outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of such weapons.

Bombshells filled with chemicals can be carried by Syrian Air Force fighter-bombers, in particular Sukhoi-22/20, MiG-23 and Sukhoi-24 aircraft. In addition, some reports indicate that unguided short-range Frog-7 artillery rockets may be capable of carrying chemical payloads.

In terms of longer-range delivery systems, Syria has a few dozen SS-21 ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 72 miles; 200 Scud-Bs, with a maximum range of 180 miles; and 60 to 120 Scud-Cs, with a maximum range of 300 miles, all of which are mobile and are capable of carrying chemical weapons, according U.S. intelligence officials.

NBC

  • Btru2u

    ITlooks like the tyrant has nothing to lose and is going to take out as many people as he can with him. And not a shot has been fired at his freind ISRAEL, who  i believe have given him an escape route. Assad is going for the lowest depths of hell, which im sure he will achieve,

  • Btru2u

    ITlooks like the tyrant has nothing to lose and is going to take out as many people as he can with him. And not a shot has been fired at his freind ISRAEL, who  i believe have given him an escape route. Assad is going for the lowest depths of hell, which im sure he will achieve,

  • nagy_michael2

    Assad already escaped to China I think..Now he can tell everyone to go to hell. If he does order his thugs to do it. Then he is totally finished and Syria will be under Sunnis control in no time. Then they will turn on hezbollah to exact their revenge.. i am sure if hezbollah fighters remain in Syria when western nations bomb Syria. Then few thousands jihadist might come home..ahemm.

    • FreetheME

      You THINK he is in China. Could someone please make up their mind. One minute he is dead the next he has escaped to Russia. Now you THINK he has escaped to China. Be assured he is in Syria ready to finalise the elimination of the FSA terrorist.

      • nagy_michael2

        I was joking about China but I am sure he is sharing underground tunnel with Nassrallah lol. no matter what if he order his thugs to use chemical weapons, it will be the end of him, hezbollah members there and iranian pilgrams or rather security advisors..

        • FreetheME

          Nagy, the chemical weapons will be used if there is outside interference. Something Assad has said from the very beginning. I know you dislike him, however this whole chemical weapon thing is fabricated by the west. Just like when they said that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Do tell me Nagy, after all these years have they found them.  .

        • 5thDrawer

          Seems Saddam used his up on the Kurds, FreeME. They didn’t find more.
          But Syria has admitted it has the gas. And if they haven’t all along considered ‘the rebels’ as their own citizens, we might assume it’s use could be seen to be justified by Assad.
          40,000 or so dead, and 2 million displaced, will be small numbers if a cloud of gasses goes off. There is nothing that could justify the use … except self-immolaton of course.

  • nagy_michael2

    Assad already escaped to China I think..Now he can tell everyone to go to hell. If he does order his thugs to do it. Then he is totally finished and Syria will be under Sunnis control in no time. Then they will turn on hezbollah to exact their revenge.. i am sure if hezbollah fighters remain in Syria when western nations bomb Syria. Then few thousands jihadist might come home..ahemm.

    • FreetheME

      You THINK he is in China. Could someone please make up their mind. One minute he is dead the next he has escaped to Russia. Now you THINK he has escaped to China. Be assured he is in Syria ready to finalise the elimination of the FSA terrorist.

      • nagy_michael2

        I was joking about China but I am sure he is sharing underground tunnel with Nassrallah lol. no matter what if he order his thugs to use chemical weapons, it will be the end of him, hezbollah members there and iranian pilgrams or rather security advisors..

        • FreetheME

          Nagy, the chemical weapons will be used if there is outside interference. Something Assad has said from the very beginning. I know you dislike him, however this whole chemical weapon thing is fabricated by the west. Just like when they said that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. Do tell me Nagy, after all these years have they found them.  .

        • 5thDrawer

          Seems Saddam used his up on the Kurds, FreeME. They didn’t find more.
          But Syria has admitted it has the gas. And if they haven’t all along considered ‘the rebels’ as their own citizens, we might assume it’s use could be seen to be justified by Assad.
          40,000 or so dead, and 2 million displaced, will be small numbers if a cloud of gasses goes off. There is nothing that could justify the use … except self-immolaton of course.

  • Btru2u

    GAS MASKS EVERYBODY

  • Btru2u

    GAS MASKS EVERYBODY

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QUHCMQH262LEGPZCMEGORVMP2I Preview

    ” immediately after the battle the United
    States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified
    report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a
    need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that
    killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.
    The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the
    battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds’ bodies, however,
    indicated they had been killed with a blood agent — that is, a
    cyanide-based gas — which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are
    thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have
    possessed blood agents at the time.”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QUHCMQH262LEGPZCMEGORVMP2I Preview

    ” immediately after the battle the United
    States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified
    report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a
    need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that
    killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.
    The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the
    battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds’ bodies, however,
    indicated they had been killed with a blood agent — that is, a
    cyanide-based gas — which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are
    thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have
    possessed blood agents at the time.”