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As the political turmoil in Syria continues unabated, U.S. officials are closely monitoring the country’s stockpile of weapons, particularly its arsenal of deadly chemical gasses and delivery systems.According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, American officials are deeply concerned that terrorist organisations or political dissidents may take advantage of the instability now gripping Syria to acquire some of the nation’s weapons of mass destruction. Though officials do not believe that any weapons sites have been compromised yet, they fear that the Syrian government could lose control of its chemical cache should the country descend even further into political disarray or even into a full-blown civil war.
Syria’s chemical stockpile is believed to include a hefty amount of mustard gas, Sarin gas — the nerve agent that killed 13 and sickened over 1,000 in the 1995 Tokyo subway attacks — as well as the missile systems necessary to deliver those chemical weapons.
The U.S. has privately worried about the extent of Syria’s chemical weapons cache since at least 2008, when a secret State Department cable warned about the mounting threat of the nation’s large stockpile and potential ties to terror groups. Those concerns have been amplified in recent months as the Syrian government has teetered on the brink of collapse. The U.N. estimates that over 2,200 people have been killed in Syria as a result of a government crackdown on protesters, leading a number of foreign governments including the U.S. to call for Assad to step down.
The Obama administration has expressed similar concerns about weapons going missing in Libya, where rebel forces last week ousted long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi.