Secret Syrian Unit Scattering Chemical Weapons Stockpile
Doubt that the proposed deal with Russia will be successful? Well now there is reason to doubt it even more. Recently, American and Middle Eastern officials have reported that a secret Syrian unit at the center of Assad’s chemical weapons program have been busy scattering the country’s stockpile into over 50 cities.
The goal seems to be to protect them from any U.S. bombing raids but also seem likely to be an effort to hide them from inspectors.
A secretive Syrian military unit at the center of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track, according to American and Middle Eastern officials.
The movements of chemical weapons by Syria’s elite Unit 450 could complicate any U.S. bombing campaign in Syria over its alleged chemical attacks, officials said. It also raises questions about implementation of a Russian proposal that calls for the regime to surrender control of its stockpile, they said.
U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies still believe they know where most of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons are located, but with less confidence than six months ago, U.S. officials said.
Secretary of State John Kerry met Thursday in Geneva with his Russian counterpart to discuss a road map for ending the weapons program. The challenges are immense, Mr. Kerry said.
The U.S. alleges a chemical-weapons attack by the Syrian government on Aug. 21 killed more than 1,400 people, including at least 400 children. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday again denied any involvement in a chemical attack, but he said his government was prepared to sign an agreement banning the use of chemical weapons. Syrian officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the weapons.
Unit 450—a branch of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center that manages the regime’s overall chemicals weapons program—has been moving the stocks around for months, officials and lawmakers briefed on the intelligence said.