Report: U.S. warns Syria's neighbors of rogue WMDs after Assad ouster
Foreign Policy cites 3 U.S. officials as saying that Washington indicated that it would aid Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, in case chemical, biological weapons cross their borders.
The United States is coordinating with Syria's neighbors to safeguard Syrian President Bashar Assad's stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in the event Assad is ousted by popular unrest, Foreign Policy reported on Friday.
Assad's reported stockpile of chemical and biological weapons has been a cause for concern ever since the onset of his 11-month violent crackdown on opposition protests.
Earlier this month, opposition sources reported that Syria's military has begun stockpiling chemical weapons and equipping its soldiers with gas masks near the city of Homs.
Opposition activists said they had received reports that the Syrian army had transferred a significant quantity of grenades and mortars containing chemical agents to a school building in Homs.
The opposition also reported that gas masks were being distributed to soldiers at roadblocks.
On Friday, Foreign Policy, citing three different U.S. officials, reported that the United States sent out a secret message to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, warning them about WMD's crossing over their borders at the event of the collapse of Assad's regime.
While the U.S. State Department declined to provide Foreign Policy the access to the authors of the diplomatic missive, it did respond to the report, saying: "The U.S. and our allies are monitoring Syria's chemical weapons stockpile."
"These weapons' presence in Syria undermines peace and security in the Middle East, and we have long called on the Syrian government to destroy its chemicals weapons arsenal and join the Chemical Weapons Convention," the State Department official told Foreign Policy.
"We believe Syria's chemical weapons stockpile remains under Syrian government control, and we will continue to work closely with like-minded countries to prevent proliferation of Syria's chemical weapons program," the official added.
One administration official speaking to Foreign Policy concerning the demarche said that the missive was "essentially a recognition of the danger to the regional and international community of the stockpiles that the regime possesses and the importance of working with countries, given the potential fall of the regime, to prevent the proliferation of these very sensitive weapons outside of Syria's border."
"It's an exponentially more dangerous program than Libya. We are talking about legitimate WMDs here -- this isn't Iraq. The administration is really concerned about loose WMDs. It's one of the few things you could put on the agenda and do something about without planning the fall of the regime," he added.