Jordan: Syria’s chemical weapons could be seized by al-Qaeda


The king of Jordan warned Wednesday that his northern neighbour Syria was on the brink of all-out civil war and that in a worst-case scenario, chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda.

King Abdullah II told CNN a bomb attack that killed core members of the Syrian regime was a “tremendous blow” to President Bashar al-Assad but not yet the death knell for a regime that remains determined to cling to power.

“In other words, it’s getting very, very messy to a point where I think the worst-case scenario for all of us in the region is when you get full-out civil war. There is no coming back from the abyss,” he said.

Earlier, a bomb attack in Damascus killed key Syrian officials, including Defense Minister Daoud Rajha, Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat and General Hassan Turkmani, head of the regime’s crisis cell on the uprising.

“Definitely this shows some cracks in the system, but again, I don’t think we should jump to any conclusion writing the regime off in the near future,” King Abdullah said, while warning time was running out for a political solution.

“I think as we continue to pursue the political option, the realities on the ground may have overtaken us. Therefore I think the clock is ticking,” he said.

“I think we should continue to give politics its due. But if we haven’t already passed that window, I think we’re getting very close to it.

“If it breaks down, if civil order breaks down to the point of no return, then it will take years to fix Syria. And I have a feeling we’re seeing signs of that over the past three weeks,” he warned.

“The only people that can bring us back from that brink are obviously the president and the regime. And I believe this is the last chance they have,” he said. “This is a situation that is rapidly spinning out of control.”

Asked about reports that Syrian forces have begun moving chemical weapons stocks, King Abdullah said he was concerned that in the event of a descent into all-out war, the arms could fall into extremist hands.

“Our information is that there is a presence of Al-Qaeda in certain regions inside Syria, and has been there for a while,” he told CNN.

“And, again, one of the worst-case scenarios as we are obviously trying to look for a political solution would be if some of those chemical stockpiles were to fall into unfriendly hands,” he warned.

King Abdullah opposes international military action in Syria, but he said that if Assad were to make the “tremendous miscalculation” of turning chemical weapons on his own population, there could probably be a response.

And he said that if such weapons were to fall into the hands of rebel forces – some of which he said are unknown quantities – then even reluctant UN members like Russia might support some kind of international action.

But he said he remains hesitant to arm the Syrian opposition.

“As it comes to chemical weapons falling into rebel hands, I think at the end of the day all of us would suffer from that. I’m sure they would be very accepting of international actions,” he said of Russia.

“But we want to make sure if you’re going to send weapons, specifically weapons, we want to make sure it goes into the right hands and doesn’t end up as I alluded to earlier on in the hands of groups like Al-Qaeda.”

The United States also expressed concern about Assad’s chemical stockpile, warning that any official involved in its use would face the consequences, and adding they had seen no sign of the regime losing control of them.