Assad said to be hoarding chemical weapons
Syrian leader squirreling away advanced arms in the Alawite regions in case country partitioned, UK report says
Syrian President Bashar Assad has been stockpiling chemical, biological and other advanced weapons in Syria’s Alawite areas so that they will remain in his hands in the event that the country is partitioned, London’s Sunday Times reported.
According to the report, among the weapons Assad has been squirreling away are chemical warheads.
“The Israelis believe that some of the weaponry, mainly chemical warheads for missiles and artillery shells, is now concealed deep in the Alawite enclave — in west Syria and along the coast around Latakia up to the Turkish border,” the report said.
Assad is a member of the minority Alawite sect, a mystical offshoot of Shiite Islam largely concentrated in northwestern Syria. He has been fighting an almost three-year-long civil war against rebel forces of mostly Sunni origin.
Sources close to the world’s chemical watchdog said last week that less than five percent of the around 700 tons of chemicals that, according to a deal with the West, were supposed to have left Syria by December 31 last year have done so.
A source quoted by the Sunday Times said that Assad “probably will miss the June 30 deadline when the entire 1,300 tons of lethal chemical weapons were due to be destroyed.”
Th source noted that, to date, “Syria has given up only about 4% of its chemical weapons arsenal” and “will miss this week’s deadline to send all toxic agents abroad for destruction.”
According to the report, Assad has recently been consolidating his hold on the Alawite regions.
“This region is now totally fortified and isolated from the rest of Syria,” an unnamed Israeli military intelligence source was quoted as saying. “The most advanced weapons manufactured in Syria and imported from Russia are kept there.”
Peace talks between the Assad regime and the Western-backed opposition ended in Geneva on Friday with no concrete progress and no immediate commitment from Assad’s envoys to return on February 10 for more meetings.
The US has insisted that Assad cannot be part of a transitional government, while Russia has been a key ally of Assad’s government.
News agencies contributed to this report.