It was first established in mid- 2012 that Syria had an active chemical weapons program and was reported to be manufacturing Sarin, Tabun, VX, and mustard gas types. Independent assessments indicated that its output could add up to a combined total of a few hundred tons of chemical agents per year.
For its biological weapons program, Syria worked on anthrax, plague, tularemia, botulinium, smallpox, aflotoxin, cholera, ricin and camelpox. Russian help was used to install anthrax in missile warheads.
Bashar Assad also has Scud missiles capable of delivering these lethal chemicals and a variety of advanced conventional arms, including anti-tank rockets and portable anti-aircraft missiles.
The first Syrian admission, Israel threat, US confusion
The Assad regime publicly warns that it might use its chemical and biological weapons to stop “external” forces from interfering in Syria’s bloody civil war. The announcement, Damascus’s first-ever acknowledgement that it possessed weapons of mass destruction, followed a disturbing rise in activity at suspected chemical arms installations detected by US and allied intelligence services.
Syrian Foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi pledged his government would not use unconventional arms against its own citizens. Later, he accused the rebellion against the Assad regime of being funded from abroad and recruiting foreign extremists.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu states that if Syrian chemical weapons slipped into the hands of Hizballah or any other terrorist organization, Israel would be bound to take action. As yet, Israel has not done so.
The US finds – and loses – Syria’s chemical weapons
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “Our intelligence services and our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play, so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that. We have planned for many contingencies, including the very horrible scenario of the use of chemical weapons.”
That day, in wake of Clinton’s remarks, debkafile’s military and intelligence sources disclose that in the previous week, the US had set up three joint headquarters with Israel, Jordan and Turkey for coordinating military strategy that would potentially entail staging warning acts and military responses as well as providing medical care for the victims of Syrian chemical aggression against any of those three countries.
The White House, the CIA, and US Pentagon’s military intelligence – the DIA, say the odds for this kind of Syrian attack have greatly increased. All the military and intelligence systems engaged in chemical warfare preparations and responses in the three endangered countries are placed on a state of alert.
Western countries, chiefly the US and France, fly special forces trained in chemical warfare, along with military field hospitals and hundreds of tons of medical equipment, to Jordan, which lacks the military and medical infrastructure for coping with a chemical attack.
It is taken into account that US military and strategic facilities in the three Middle East countries would be prime targets of such an attack.
President Barack Obama issues a warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad:
Noting that he had not "at this point" ordered U.S. military engagement in Syria, Obama told reporters during an unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room that the issue of chemical and biological weapons was of high concern to the both the United States and its close ally, Israel.
"A red line for us is (if) we see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being utilized. That would change my calculus," he said.
The use of such weapons of mass destruction, which Syria has, would widen the conflict considerably. "It doesn't just include Syria. It would concern allies in the region, including Israel, and it would concern us," he said.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admits that, although chemical weapons were recently sighted moving out of their main arsenals in Syria, the US does not know to where they were moved.
The US has lost track of some of Syria’s chemical weapons, Secretary Panetta said Friday, and does not know if any potentially lethal chemicals have fallen into the hands of Syrian rebels or Iranian forces inside the country. “There has been intelligence that there have been some moves that have taken place. Where exactly that’s taken place, we don’t know,” Panetta said in a Pentagon press briefing.
In a delayed reaction to an Iranian drone’s infiltration of Israeli airspace from Lebanon on October 6 – and its unhindered flight for two and-a-half hours in Israeli airspace – Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, OC of Israel’s Northern Command, denied Iran had gathered important data. "I don't think there was a camera," he said. He added that, to the best of his knowledge "there were no weapons on the drone."
But he also raised the possibility of future "suicide and chemical drones," which could carry explosives and be crashed onto Israeli targets. This was the first time a military source had raised the possibility of Iran, Syria and Hizballah having chemicals-armed drones.
What have the NATO Patriots awarded Turkey to do with chemical weapons?
Turkey formally applies to NATO for Patriot interceptor missiles to protect itself against a potential Syrian attack. The upgraded Patriot system requested can intercept both incoming missiles and aircraft, but Ankara has insisted it would not be used to enforce a no-fly zone but only as a means of defense against possible Syrian aggression.
At the same time, the Patriots’ deployment on Turkish soil brings NATO a step closer to direct involvement in the conflict raging in neighboring Syria.
The alliance's secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, agrees to the request being discussed "without delay" and promises to send an advance team to Turkey in following week to locate sites for the Patriot batteries for protecting Turkey against possible chemical missile attack.
The Obama administration consented to six American, Dutch and German batteries being deployed in Turkey, manned by 1,000 troops from the three armies.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources note that this decision had the following consequences:
1. After major movements for the redistribution of its chemical weapons, the Syrian army embarked on operational preparations for their use.
2. Iran upped its missile shipments to Syria and made its first delivery of Fateh A-110 high-precision, short-range ballistic missiles to the Syrian army.
(More than a month later, on Dec., 29, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast accused NATO of deploying the Patriots in Turkey to shield the “Zionist regime” from Iranian retaliation for an attack on the Islamic Republic.)