The White House and its allies are weighing military options to secure Syria's chemical and biological weapons, after U.S. intelligence reports show the Syrian regime may be readying those weapons and may be desperate enough to use them, U.S. officials said Monday.
President Barack Obama, in a speech at the National Defense University on Monday, pointedly warned Syrian President Bashar Assad not to use his arsenal.
Options now being considered range from aerial strikes to limited raids by regional forces to secure the stockpiles, according to one current U.S. official, and one former U.S. official, briefed on the matter. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
The administration remains reluctant to dispatch U.S. forces into Syria, but a U.S. special operations training team is in neighboring Jordan, teaching troops there how to safely secure such sites together with other troops from the region, the officials said.
The Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said on Tuesday that using chemical weapons in the Syrian crisis will inevitably lead
to international intervention.
Judeh added that the Syrian regime knows
that the international
community would not
accept the use
of these weapons by
the regime whether against its
people or against
For his part Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud el-Faisal said that the "inevitable
transition of power within Syria should soon occur to safeguard the interest
and unity of the people."
During a press conference, Faisal reiterated the positive impact the
unification of the opposition forces had had on the developments, adding that
other opposition members should follow the lead.
“The unification of the opposition forces is one issue, the unification
of the Security Council is another,” he said, adding that the Syrian opposition
and the coalition can manage the country in the wake of Assad’s downfall with
no fear on minorities whatsoever.
NATO gave the go-ahead on Tuesday for the deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Turkey to protect it from any spillover of the civil war in neighboring Syria, a NATO official said.
"NATO has agreed to augment Turkey's air-defence capabilities by deploying Patriot missiles to Turkey," a NATO official said.
Russia, Syria and Iran have criticized Turkey's request to the alliance to send the Patriots which can be used to intercept missiles.
NATO allies also expressed "grave" concern on Tuesday about reports that the Syrian government may be preparing to use its chemical weapons, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
"The NATO ministers unanimously expressed grave concern about reports that the Syrian regime may be considering the use of chemical weapons," Rasmussen told a news conference. "Any such action would be completely unacceptable and a clear reach of international law."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian government Monday
of serious violations of the 1974 agreement that separated Israeli and
Syrian forces in the Golan Heights and called on both countries to halt
firing across the cease-fire line.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban said recent incidents
across the cease-fire line have shown the potential for the escalation
of Israeli-Syrian tensions and jeopardize the disengagement agreement
and stability of the region which is already facing a spillover from the
19-month Syria conflict.
The U.N. chief recommended a six-month extension of the 1,036-strong
U.N. peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights, until June 30.
Since indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel ended in December
2008, there have been no negotiations and Ban said the current Syrian
crisis further complicates efforts to reach a peace agreement.
Meanwhile the Assad regime insists it would not use such weapons against
Syrians, though it carefully does not admit to having them. The
Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government "would not use chemical
weapons if there are any against its own people under any
circumstances." The regime is party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning
chemical weapons in war.
The Syrian assurances did not placate the White House.
On the Ground:
A rebel mortar attack on a school outside Damascus on Tuesday killed 29 people, Syria's state news agency SANA said.
It said 28 students and one teacher were killed at the school in Wafideen Camp, in the Damascus suburbs.
Areas east of the capital Damascus are being pounded by regime forces hours
following rebels controlled the region according to the Syrian Observatory for
The British based observatory added that surrounding towns and cities
including Darayya, Bait Sahem and Akarba are undergoing constant bombardment.
As for eastern Ghota, regie jets are flying over and targeting orchards
and fields the observatory added.
Meanwhile the Syrian Daily Al-Wattan said that the Syrian regime forces
have advanced on several Damascus axes all the while causing innumerable losses
in the ranks of “terrorist” forces.
For its part, the Syrian state TV announced the death of a journalist who was killed while in the line of duty in
"An armed terrorist group assassinated journalist Naji
al-Assad in front of his house in the neighborhood of Tadamon, while
heading to the newspaper", the Television reported, putting the
assassination in the frame of "targeting national competencies."
Fighting between rebels and government forces raged near the Syrian capital Damascus on Monday, forcing an inbound commercial jet to turn back while the U.N. said it was withdrawing staff because of deteriorating security conditions.
Lebanese security officials said Jihad Makdissi, a polished Foreign Ministry spokesman known for defending the regime of President Bashar Assad in fluent English, flew from Beirut to London. But it was not immediately clear whether he had defected.
The fighting over the past few weeks in and around Damascus has been the most serious in the capital since July, when rebels captured several neighborhoods before a swift government counteroffensive swept them out. The spike in violence recently is concentrated in the ring of mostly poor suburbs around Damascus but often bleeds into the capital itself as rebels bring their fight closer to Assad's seat of power. Assad's forces have so far repelled major rebel advances on the capital, though their hold may be slipping.