A Danger Room headline reads, “Exclusive: U.S. Sees Syria Prepping Chemical Weapons for Possible Attack.” But the sources for the report actually say: “We’re not sure what’s the intent.”
Engineers working for the Assad regime in Syria have begun combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponize sarin gas, an American official with knowledge of the situation tells Danger Room. International observers are now more worried than they’ve even been that the Damascus government could use its nerve agent stockpile to slaughter its own people.
The U.S. doesn’t know why the Syrian military made the move, which began in the middle of last week and is taking place in central Syria. Nor are they sure why the Assad government is transferring some weapons to different locations within the country, as the New York Times reported on Monday.
All that’s certain is that the arms have now been prepped to be used, should Assad order it.
“Physically, they’ve gotten to the point where the can load it up on a plane and drop it,” the official adds.
Sarin gas has two main chemical components — isopropanol, popularly known as rubbing alcohol, and methylphosphonyl difluoride. The Assad government has more than 500 metric tons of these precursors, which it ordinarily stores separately, in so-called “binary” form, in order to prevent an accidental release of nerve gas.
Last week, that changed. The Syrian military began combining some of the binaries. “They didn’t do it on the whole arsenal, just a modest quantity,” the official says. “We’re not sure what’s the intent.”
Back in July, the Assad regime publicly warned that it might use its chemical weapons to stop “external” forces from interfering in Syria’s bloody civil war. The announcement sparked a panic in the intelligence services of the U.S. and its allies, which stepped up their efforts to block shipments of precursors for those weapons from entering the country.
“This is a more serious moment than July,” according to the official. [Continue reading…]