Syrian Chemical Weapons Supposedly Ready For Use. That’s Why UK And US Special Forces Are Already In Jordan
Olli Makepeace in Tel Aviv: Officials here say that Syria has twice prepared chemical weapon munitions for use against villages controlled by rebels. Intelligence reports based on US-supplied satellite monitoring and Israeli high reconnaissance plus electronic intelligence (ELINT), including email traffic, pinpoints a command and control operation run by the Syrian air force outfit Unit 450. There appears to be stockpiling under the army command in just two battalions. Weapon size is identified as 500lb air-delivered munitions containing sarin, although other binary CW systems may be on two hours to move notice. The systems would be airborne and delivered before an Israeli response could be credible.
It is suggested that Turkey’s request for Patriot air defence missiles (now on their way from stockpiles in Holland) is directly connected with precautions recommended by the Pentagon.
When intelligence reports of the chemical weapons activity were raised from Status Possible to Status Probable, a combined warn-off was sent to President Bashar Al Assad through American, Chinese, Russian, Saudi Arabian, Qatari, Turkish and Jordanian channels. This single action was the first combined effort among often disagreeing states during the nearly two years of the Syrian rebellion.
While Syria has never actually used chemical weapons, there’s no indication that they have been dismantled. As the rebels gain ground in the war, the possibility of Syrian forces using chemical weapons grows. In their present form these weapons can only be used from the air. Which means that only the Syrian air force could do the job.
Even with the airborne advantage, chemical weapon attacks are not simple to carry out. For example, a binary warhead is one where two chemicals combine to create a toxic agent once a diaphragm is exploded. That makes the weapon unstable under anything but the right conditions.
Ironically, a simple crop sprayer could be the ideal delivery aircraft. Even then, the crucial factor is wind direction for the chemical to be most effective.
One consequence of the November 2012 crisis is the redrawing of special forces and air strike contingency plans to destroy not the chemical weapons but the aircraft capable of carrying them. US and UK special forces are now in place on the Jordanian border, as Stirring Trouble has learned from sources who claim to know things.
One means of reducing the chemical weapons risk is to warn off the commanders of Unit 450. These are highly motivated and trained officers and among President Al Assad’s most trusted military personnel.
The chemical weapons may be on hold at present as the means of last resort. That means the Unit 450 command could be vulnerable to the threat that they would be held personally responsible for their use and that use would be seen internationally as a crime against humanity – a war crime.
Following this line, there remains a daily updated contingency for a rapid reaction force to go into Syria and secure those chemical weapons stockpiles should Al Assad fall. In spite of Western rhetoric, there is no sign yet of President Al Assad going but just one more dawn could change that, especially if his departure comes about by a palace revolution rather than the blood thirst of the disparate rebel groups.
That is a second fear here in Tel Aviv: if one of the rebel groups gets to the chemical stockpiles before an international force would that mean a direct shoot-out between the rebels and an intervention force?
It’s just another mess in a country being reduced to rubble. It was once one of the three most influential states in the Middle East.