PHOTO: Some of the hundreds of dead after the Assad regime’s August 2013 chemical weapons attacks near Damascus
A new US intelligence analysis projects that the Assad regime, increasingly worried about its military position, could expand its use of chemical weapons to defend its core territory.
The Wall Street Journal cites “officials briefed on the matter” for its report. One “senior US official” said the report is “being taken very seriously because [Assad] is getting desperate” and because some in the US intelligence community doubt the regime gave up all of its deadliest chemical weapons, during a handover required by the UN Security Council after the August 2013 chemical attacks near Damascus that killed up to 2,000 people.
Despite the handover and destruction of the stocks, the Syrian military has continued to use chlorine gas in attacks, dropping canisters from barrel bombs. The assaults spiked this spring in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, as the regime tried unsuccessfully to halt the rebel takeover of almost all of the province and then retaliated after its defeat.
The US officials cited the continuing use of chlorine. However, they also said the regime “may have squirreled away at least a small reserve of the chemical precursors needed to make nerve agents sarin or VX”, far deadlier than chlorine gas.
In addition to taking almost all of Idlib Province this spring, rebels have made significant advances in the south of Syria, along the Jordanian border, taking towns and military bases — last week, they began an offensive to claim all of Daraa city. They have also launched attacks in Aleppo, hoping to reunify Syria’s largest city which has been divided since July 2012.
The Journal does not indicate if it saw a copy of the intelligence analysis. It writes, “Syrian officials in Damascus and New York didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment.”