A report in the WSJ which relies on anonymous sourcing to say Syria has begun moving some of its chemical weapons has been picked up by other media outlets despite Syrian denials. The report has led to some “ZOMG!” reactions and dire warnings from the U.S. government.
”œWe have repeatedly made it clear that the Syrian government has a responsibility to safeguard its stockpiles of chemical weapons, and that the international community will hold accountable any Syrian officials who fail to meet that obligation,” Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told the Journal.
Significantly, the Israeli government seems rather less worried than American pundits, as Reuters reports.
An Israeli official said however the movements reflected an attempt by President Bashar al-Assad to make “arrangements to ensure the weapons do not fall into irresponsible hands”.
“That would support the thinking that this matter has been managed responsibly so far.”
And Reuters also quotes one analyst I know and highly respect in what could be seen as a warning that the U.S. and its allies could use these movements as a pretext for massive intervention.
“The material in question may not be adequately protected, or they are near restive areas,” said Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute military think tank.
Assad’s focus on the possibility that Western forces may one day seek to capture his chemical weapons may have been sharpened by the holding of regular multinational military exercises involving U.S. forces in neighbouring Jordan earlier this year.
Joshi said the U.S. had been training for that kind of operation with nuclear-armed Pakistan in mind, “and so the stories have been trickling out (from Jordan) in a very clear U.S. signaling that ‘we are preparing for this eventuality’. That will obviously have affected Assad.”
“We are preparing for this eventuality” sounds omminous to me, given that it’s not too long ago that CNN reported one US military source as saying it could take more than 75,000 ground troops to secure Syria’s chemical warfare facilities. That’s Iraq all over again, if we’re not careful, and still might not be successful. back then, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists notes, “Even with a nationwide presence of 200,000 coalition troops, several other sensitive military sites were also looted, including Iraq’s main nuclear complex.” Can anyone say quagmire?