Worries Intensify over Syrian Chemical Weapons

(Washington Post) Joby Warrick - Western spy agencies suspect Syria's government has several hundred tons of chemical weapons and precursor components scattered among as many as 20 sites throughout the country, heightening anxieties about the ability to secure the arsenals in the event of a complete breakdown of authority in the war-torn nation, U.S. and Middle Eastern officials say. Officials expressed growing fear that they have not identified every location. "We had been on the ground in Libya, yet there were big surprises, both in terms of quantities and locations," said a former American intelligence official. The Syrian chemical weapons arsenal appears to be larger and more widely distributed than originally suspected, according to two officials who have seen the intelligence reports. U.S. spy agencies have devoted enormous resources to monitoring the facilities through satellite imagery and to developing plans to safeguard the weapons if the crisis worsens, U.S. officials said. However, the former U.S. intelligence official said North Korea and Russia have assisted Syria over the decades in constructing weapons facilities that are well-fortified and shielded from spy satellites. "They are masters at concealment," he said. U.S. and Israeli officials fear that the chemical sites could be looted, leading to weapons being sold or given to radical Islamists or to Hizbullah. A single crate of artillery shells or a few barrels of chemical precursors would contain enough lethal poisons for a series of terrorist attacks, weapons experts say.

2012-09-07 00:00:00

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