US Official Believes Syria Has Begun Preparing Deadly Nerve Gas

Chemical Weapons
Syrian soldier in protective gear

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Reports suggest that the regime of Bashar Al-Assad has begun mixing the two chemicals needed to weaponize sarin gas.An unnamed U.S. official told Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman of Wired that some of Syria’s chemical weapons have now been prepared for use should Assad order it.

Physically, they’ve gotten to the point where they can load it up on a plane and drop it,” the official told Wired.

Sarin gas is one of the most dangerous and toxic chemicals known to man as it is about 500 times more deadly than cyanide. The nerve agent is a colorless and odorless gas that can spread quickly through the air.

The Assad government has more than 500 metric tons of the precursors – rubbing alcohol, and methylphosphonyl difluoride – and usually stores them separately to prevent accidentally triggering the deadly reaction.

“We don’t know if there is actual intent [to use them on the Syrian people],” a U.S. official told Barbara Starr of CNN Sunday. “This is worrisome. This is a step beyond moving them around.”

An anonymous U.S. official now tells Starr that American intelligence revealed preparation of sarin gas. It is unclear whether it’s the same source that spoke with Wired.

On Monday the Syrian Foreign Ministry stated Syria would “not use these types of weapons, if they were available, under any circumstances against its own people.” Reuters then reported that Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi has defected.

Also on Monday Hillary Clinton said the use of chemical weapons by Assad would be “a red line for the United States,” adding that the U.S. would act quickly if the threat appears imminent.

Reuters reports that President Barack Obama has warned Assad that ‘there will be consequences’ if he decides to deploy chemical weapons.

The reports come as rebels begin to close in on the capital of Damascus. 

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