that the Syrian military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin nerve gas into aerial bombs to potentially use in the country’s civil war.
But Syria says the claims are a Western attempt to provide a pretext to send international forces into the country.
“We fear there is a conspiracy to provide a pretext for any subsequent interventions in Syria by these countries that are increasing pressure on Syria,” Assad’s deputy foreign minister Faisal Maqdad said Thursday. He also repeated the assertion that the regime would never use chemical weapons on the Syrian people.
Sarin gas, a colorless and odorless gas that can spread quickly through the air, is one of the most dangerous and toxic chemicals known to man. The Assad government has more than 500 metric tons of the precursors and usually stores them separately to prevent accidentally triggering a deadly reaction.
The U.S. claims came hours after French weekly magazine Le Point reported that NATO special forces are preparing to enter Syria to secure its chemical weapons stockpiles.
NATO has already approved Patriot missiles for Turkey’s border with Syria. And The Voice of Russia reported that there are now 17 warships off the Syrian coast following the arrival of the U.S.S. Dwight D Eisenhower — a multipurpose nuclear attack carrier that holds 70 fighter-bombers and 8,000 U.S. servicemembers — in the eastern Mediterranean.
On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the U.S. is “certainly planning to take action” if new evidence showed that Assad’s regime intended to use its stash of chemical weapons internally or cross-border.
Also on Monday there were reports that the regime had reached the point “where they can load it up on a plane and drop it,” but on Tuesday the Pentagon told NBC that there was no clear evidence that preparations had begun.
Meanwhile Syrian rebels are closing in on Damascus and activists posted a video telling residents of Damascus how to prepare for the “Zero Hour” — a major offensive in the capital to topple the Assad regime.
Yesterday Haaretz reported that Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal al-Miqdad recently traveled to Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador with personal letters from Assad, looking for the possibility of political asylum for him and his family.
No matter the veracity of the claim, all signs point to the end game of the 21-month conflict.