Intelligence reports indicate Syria may be readying the weapons for use.
The U.S. weighs military action and sends a clear warning to Assad’s regime that use of chemical weapons will bring consequences.
WASHINGTON — 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 the weapons.
“Today I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching,” Obama said. “The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Prague for meetings with Czech officials, said she wouldn’t outline any specifics.
“But suffice it to say, we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur,” Clinton said.
Options now being considered range from aerial strikes to limited raids by regime was moving the chemical weapons components around within several of Syria’s chemical weapons sites in recent days, according to a senior U.S. defense official and two U.S. officials speaking on Monday. Two officials said the activities did not involve movement of components in or out of various sites, but the movement was confined to within the individual locations.
One of the officials said they were seeing activities they had not seen before that bear further scrutiny.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about intelligence matters.
According to another senior U.S. official, the U.S is worried about “indications of preparations” for a possible use of the chemical weapons. The U.S. still doesn’t know whether the regime is planning to use them, but the official says there is greater concern because there is the sense that the Assad regime is under greater pressure now.
U.S. intelligence officials also intercepted one communication within the past six months they believe was between Iran’s infamous Quds Force, urging Syrian regime members to use its supplies of toxic Sarin gas against rebels and the civilians supporting them in the city of Homs, the former U.S. official said. That report was not matched by other intelligence, and other intelligence officials have said Iran also does not want the Syrians to use their chemical weapons. regional forces to secure the stockpiles, according to one current U.S. official, and one former U.S. official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter 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 warnings come after U.S. intelligence detected signs the Syrian
Anti-Syrian regime mourners carry the coffins of Syrian civilians killed by the shelling of forces loyal to president Bashar Assad, in Homs, Syria on Monday. Fears have spread that a desperate Assad might unleash chemical weapons.