The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad drew up plans to transfer chemical weapons to Hezbollah, a defected general formerly in charge of the country’s massive chemical weapon stockpile said.
Maj.-Gen. Adnan Sillu, who defected from Assad’s regime three months ago, told The Times (of London) that Damascus also had plans in place to use the weapons in its battle against rebel forces seeking to oust Assad.
The issue of Syria’s chemical arms stockpile, considered to be the third-largest in the world, has vexed Western and Israeli officials, who fear the weapons may fall into terrorists’ hands or be deployed inside Syria.
Though the West has rebuffed calls to intervene in the 18-month conflict, which has claimed upwards of 20,000 lives, US President Barack Obama recently called the transfer of chemical weapons a “red line” which Washington would not abide.
The transfer of chemical weapons to Hezbollah would be a veritable game changer in Israel’s relationship toward the terror group, which controls much of southern Lebanon and fought a war with Israel in 2006. Officials have hinted that Israel would take action before letting such a transfer take place.
Sillu told the paper that Syria had been kept from such a move for fear of consequences in the international arena, but now had nothing to lose. “If another war breaks out between Israel and Hezbollah, it will only help the Syrian regime,” he said.
Reports of the movement or testing of chemicals weapons have multiplied as Assad’s grip on the country has become more tenuous. On Monday, the German weekly Der Speigel reported that, in August, the regime, with the help of Iranian advisers, had tested weapons that could carry chemical warheads.
According to Sillu, over the summer top regime officials held a meeting south of Damascus to discuss the use of chemical weapons against the rebels. The plan included gassing opposition fighters and civilians who support them in Aleppo, the country’s largest city. The regime has been waging a months-long battle for control of the northern metropolis, considered a linchpin in Assad’s hold on the country.