July 13th, 2012
01:13 PM ET

Syria believed to be moving "some" chemical weapons

By Barbara Starr

The United States believes Syria has moved "some" chemical weapons in recent days, a U.S. official told CNN on Friday.

The stockpile is believed to be is under the control of regime forces, the source said.

The official, who would only speak anonymously because the source was speaking about intelligence matters, said the reason behind the movement is unclear. The source could not say what types of chemical stockpiles were involved or how much was moved.

The United States has had satellite surveillance of Syria's key weapons sites since the unrest began.

But it's also likely some of the information came from communications intercepts based on conversations CNN has had with other sources knowledgeable about this matter.

Possible reasons for the move could range from whether it was to better protect the material from the fighting of the spreading revolt in Syria or more ominously to use against the population, the sources said.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report the suspicion.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said Friday that any use of chemical weapons by Syria would be a red line for the international community.  Syrian troops were in control of the chemical weapons stockpiles, Little said.

The State Department spokeswoman said Syria's government needs to ensure protection of its weapons stash.

"We have repeatedly made it clear that the Syrian government has a responsibility to safeguard its stockpiles of chemical weapons, and that the international community will hold accountable any Syrian officials who fail to meet that obligation," said Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman.

A former CIA director, Michael Hayden, said it is more likely that the weapons are being moved for security reasons. But Hayden, who said he has no knowledge of what U.S. officials are seeing, said it is always concerning when such materials are being moved.

"We were always concerned when states we believe had or might have weapons of mass destruction, when those weapons were being moved, when they were in transit," he told Security Clearance, "because there is no way you can make the security of those devices as great when they are on the move as they are in firm, fixed positions, where you have a heavy security routine."

Hayden said it is hard to believe al-Assad's government would use the weapons against its own people.

"Right now they are on the outer edges of being an international outlaw, beyond the edges. And the use of chemical weapons would seem to me to make any opposition to a more active intervention in Syria impossible, even for the Russians, even for the Chinese," Hayden said. "I'm far more concerned about loss of control of the weapons and what happens when the chaos that seems to be affecting larger society might touch upon some of these weapon stockpiles."

Key senators who are pressing for U.S. military involvement to help the opposition were quick to demand more information about the Wall Street Journal story.

"First and foremost it is essential to determine whether this report is accurate, and if Assad is in fact moving chemical weapons, where and why they are being moved. We urge the administration to brief Congress on what is known as soon as possible," read a statement from Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, Joseph Lieberman, I-Connecticut, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina.

"If Assad is transferring chemical weapons from secure sites to the battlefield, it significantly raises the risks that they will be used or that control over these weapons could be compromised. These are unacceptable risks for the United States and the entire international community, and they would threaten our vital national security interests."

The United States believes the facilities are guarded by some of the most elite Alawite troops loyal to al-Assad.

But a senior U.S. official told CNN in June, when the opposition forces appeared to be gaining strength in some areas, the United States, Jordan and others were concerned that if the amount of area controlled by al-Assad shrinks, some of those critical facilities could become open to attacks, pilfering or efforts by terrorist groups to buy material.

"This is getting a fair amount of attention," another U.S. official told CNN in June. Also discussed with Jordanian forces was the possible need for U.S. chemical and biological weapon-detecting equipment, the official said.

The overall assessment by the United States is that in the event some action has to be taken to secure Syrian chemical or biological weapon facilities, troops from some country would have to enter Syria in a matter of hours.

The U.S. military has calculated it could take more than 75,000 ground troops to secure Syria's chemical warfare facilities if they were at risk of being looted or left unguarded, CNN reported earlier this year.

The conclusion came from a military analysis of options for Syria that the Department of Defense is preparing for president should he request it, according to a senior U.S. official.

Securing Syria's chemical sites would be "extraordinarily difficult" given the scope of the problem, a Department of Defense official told CNN in February. Both officials would speak only on the condition their names not be used because they were talking about military planning.

The U.S. military believes there are 50 chemical weapon and production sites spread across the country with additional storage sites and research centers as well. The cities of Hama, Homs and al Safira, and the port city of Latakia are all believed to house production facilities.

Syria is believed to have one of the most advanced chemical warfare capabilities in the region, with the ability to develop and produce agents such as mustard gas, sarin and possibly the VX nerve agent, according to information collected by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-profit group that seeks to reduce the risk of use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons  (See NTI's interactive map for more details of where Syria's chemical weapons holding and productions facilities are located).

Iran has been accused of helping train and assist Syrian scientist with the construction of chemical plants, it said.

The United States is paying particular attention to the possibility of the weapons falling into the hands of extremists in the event the government loses control of certain areas or splinters within itself, the defense official said. U.S. intelligence and military officials have raised the concern that al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremists have infiltrated the opposition groups.

"Several dangerous terrorist groups, including al Qaeda in Iraq, are active in Syria, and I am very concerned that as the situation in Syria deteriorates, these weapons could fall into the wrong hands," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Loose chemical weapons in Syria are exactly the type of opportunity AQ has been looking for," he said. "We cannot discount that the Assad regime could make a decision to use these weapons in an act of desperation, and we must act accordingly."

soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. Pnm9pnm

    As in giulty./////((((((((((;((;;;;;;;;;;;;;(((((((((pnm.

    August 2, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  2. Shaila

    "Are mission trips aloud to carry wepaons if they go into dangerous areas?"Hypocritical Pharisees on missions should stay in their homes along their wepaons.References :

    August 1, 2012 at 3:46 am | Reply
    • Pnm9pnm

      U no in the 58th. Of Omaha NE.if u don't have legal proof u are giult an so r thay I wood not make a report this to deticktiv DIE.Things don't fly that way with her.PNM.

      August 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  3. dee

    Former high level members of Saddam's Gov't claimed in Saddam's Secrets that the Iraqi WMDs were moved to Syria. If Syria already had their own stockpiles, they could blend in nicely. If they didn't then a certain ex president was right.

    July 23, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  4. daisy

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    July 16, 2012 at 1:53 am | Reply
  5. HOW

    HOW MANY WHAT VOLUME AND SIZE WEIGHT AND CHEAPEST SAFEST WAY TO DESTROY THEM

    ITS A GOOD THING ASSAD IS PUTTING THEM OUT THERE JUST MAKE SURE IT IS ALL OF THEM

    July 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  6. Pnm9pnm

    Not good realy reelly 4reel look bad 4 all life every whair the earth should keep a good eye on Syria 24/7 with an hook an reel these chips in the UN an FED,s have nice cozy cell 4 them B4 there tide an hanged by the neck if thay missuse that stuff.pnm.

    July 14, 2012 at 9:12 am | Reply
  7. raika45

    Ah ha.Here comes the weapons of mass destruction theory again.Sadam was supposed to have them,Boom,goodbye Sadam.Well Syria you are next.If America cannot find any reason, the chemical story is good enough.

    July 14, 2012 at 9:09 am | Reply
    • D

      Not having a go at you!. Please do some research. You will find that they actually do have these, and so do many other Countries. Ahh bugger it i am having a go at you now, cause the more i think about your comment, the more i see your stupidity.

      July 15, 2012 at 2:57 am | Reply
  8. Matt

    I will withhold judgment he has not resorted to the heavy use of fixed wing assets yet, chemical weapons are not the panacea they appear to be, it would bring some breathing space (pardon the pun), Sunni Islam is not a minority, you gas the Kurds and get away with it, but not the Sunni's. After 9/11 the US had to be the Arabs to crackdown on the funding to the Talib and al-Qaida, places like the UAE are fiscal hubs they could deal with US imposed sanctions on the fiscal sectors. That is why al-Qaida and the Talib complain about lack of resources and donations.

    At the moment the decree in the Kingdom of Saud is holding, but the use of chemical weapons will only bring much increased funding from rich Arabs and increase in foreign fighters from gulf to the FATA, both will flood in. Domestically it is better for the Kingdoms to let that happen or it could cause domestic problems.

    If it uses them expect it to be a long term thing. It changes little in reality, short term breathing space.

    July 14, 2012 at 1:52 am | Reply
  9. Radgast

    why are senators finding this out through the media, shouldn't they have better intelligence sources than the press

    July 13, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Reply
    • Cheese Wonton

      Senate testimony on Syria's chemical and biological weapons program dates to the 1980's. What CNN is not reporting is that the move by Syria was prompted by a US warning some weeks ago to Syria's neighbors to be on the lookout for Syria's chemical and biological weapons if the regime fell, telling Syria's neighbors that if the Assad regime falls those weapons could fall into the hands of terror groups.

      July 14, 2012 at 2:35 am | Reply
  10. lance

    yea who cares, fix the economy obama.

    July 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Reply
  11. TonyH110

    "Mr Assad the Americans are coming for my WMD's – would you like them – plenty of time to transport however so no rush – I have the UN chasing their tails". "Thank you a most generous offer Mr Hussein"

    July 13, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Reply
    • Trevor

      Even if this actually happens and after the Assad regime falls and Iraqi chemical weapons are found in Syria, you'll have PLENTY of folks simply saying that the U.S. "planted" the weapons... Still, it would be one of the craziest "twists" in the history of the world.

      July 14, 2012 at 5:53 am | Reply
  12. Brad

    Why do they find it so hard to believe Asaad would use these on Syrians. Dead is dead, it does not matter if its from a bullet or chemical weapons. This will effect the time it takes, not the # dead or the intentions of the Syrian govt.

    July 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Reply
    • Marcus Luttrell

      Assad won't use them on his own people. What kind of leader would he be??? Look he has been a leader for a long time and there hasn't always been violence in his country. The past 16 months of violence was started by the Free Syrian Army funded by the U.S., through Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He doesn't want the rebels to get a hold of them and use them. Open your eyes, this is IRAN's strongest ally. They need to be taken out before Israel and the U,S. bomb IRAN. Its all War Games to these powerful countries but to the average human being it amounts to WAR CRIMES!!!

      July 13, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Reply
      • JJBust

        assad's father has most certainly used chemical weapons against his own people. Why would anyone expect Jr. to be any different?

        July 13, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
      • Lloyd

        @ Marcus Luttrell: pity there's not much intelligent or honest people here that will accept the truth for what it is worth. look from when this Government was in Power and was doing a great job at securing his country and his people, yet for the sake of greed, a few guys were ready to sell out their country< government and people to the imperialist for a few extra dollars and maybe a US visa...All of this so-called freedom demonstration are the work and sponsorship of the USA and Israel to 1st get rid of the Syrian Government so to as perceived to have it easier to attack Iran: but its a plan all gone bad and out of control, as they thought it was a walk over for the criminals( the so-call rebels) base on what happens in Egypt and elsewhere...why is now the USA Senators saying Taliban and Al-Qaeda has infiltrated the opposition? was the Syrian government not saying from the beginning that is was foreign fighters including the Al-Qaeda that was causing all the problems, which was vehemently denied by the USA and their European cronies?

        July 14, 2012 at 3:11 am |
    • Power of Reason

      Everybody is missing the big possibility that Assad will use them against Israel.
      To divert the storyline, he could commit mass murder on Israel forcing a region wide war.

      July 13, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Reply
      • raika45

        Iran is after Israel, now Assad is after Israel.Can't you people come up with some more realistic excuses other than Israel being the target.Your stupidity is beginning to grate on our nerves.

        July 14, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  13. Marcus Luttrell

    The CIA is going to give the Free Syrian Army Chemical Weapons to unleash in Syria and then all international media will blame Assad's government for the Chemical Weapons. How does this keep people safe U.S. and Israel? Its already clear that the U.S. is funding the Syrian Rebels from John McCain and Hilary Clintons recent media commentary. Truly horrible messed up folks.

    July 13, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Reply
  14. tman

    they should use them on tehran.... two birds one missile... do it...ill start the launch sequence...10,9 ,8 7,6 ,5 4,3,2,1.0.....and away we go!

    July 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  15. Mike in SA

    Technically they are Iraq's chemical weapons and yes, I'm sure they are being moved...again.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • Cheese Wonton

      No. Syria's chemical weapons program dates to the end of the 1970's with manufacturing commencing around 1983. There is ample Congressional testimony on Syria's chemical and biological weapons program that pre-dates the end of the Cold War. Syria received help from the former USSR, a couple of western nations and India.

      July 14, 2012 at 2:38 am | Reply
      • raika45

        OH yeah .So did America knew that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.You killed thousands of people,created billions of damage for some thing that turned all wrong.If anyone had done that to your country, you would demand billions in compensation.What did you give Iraq Johnny boy? Except for mayhem that even till now has the country in turmoil.

        July 14, 2012 at 10:20 am |
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      August 3, 2012 at 12:16 am | Reply
  16. jim

    Hey Baffled..Please don't bring Obama up in every converstion. It doesn't always have to be about him. The intel community knows and handles these type of things. All Obama going to do is give the ok when the time comes.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • Mike in SA

      And yet you still blame Bush for the Iraq war. Double standard much?

      July 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Reply
    • dom

      Yes. Who can ever forget Collin Powell and his satellite image of the facility that turned out to be a powdered milk producing plant. But milk has a combination of chemicals, so technically he was correct.

      July 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Reply
      • db

        Give a milk product to my daughter who is lactose intol. is like making a chemical wheapon!

        July 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  17. dom

    I bet after using them for the justification of removing Assad, they somehow find the legs to make it over to Venezuela.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  18. Jon Dough

    So when will someone admit as to how much of this stuff came from Iraq?????

    July 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Reply
    • PaganObservation

      That shouldn't surprise you at all. After all, Sadam Hussein used chemical warfare during the Desert Storm. Syria probably bought many of those weapons from Iraq post Desert Storm. I know that it is widely known that Syria has had chemical weapons at their disposal for at least 15 years, if not longer.

      July 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Reply
      • P. JOSH

        Saddam used weapons that we gave him to kill Iranians,and used the rest to kill some Kurds afterwards,say the entire truth.

        July 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
      • Bob

        P.Josh has little man syndrome

        July 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
      • PaganObservation

        P. Josh- The US did not provide chemical weapons to Iraq, so your argument is mute. In fact it was Sadam's cousin, "Chemical" Ali, that developed chemical weapons that were later used in the massacre of the Kurds and used against US troops during Desert Storm/Deser Shield.

        July 13, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
      • Scott

        P. Josh.....psssttt little man. Iraq was a Soviet proxy. They flew MIGs, shot AK-47s, and drove T-72 tanks. All ....achem...Soviet. It was a Mirage fighter with a French exocet missle that hit the Stark.

        God some people deny reality.

        July 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
      • Cheese Wonton

        It was West Germans who helped the Iraqis develop chemical weapons. They were know as "Uday's Germans" inside the regime. There was near panic when the Iranians began to advance against the Iraqis. Every other nation in the Gulf and most of the west were silently praying Saddam would not lose to Iran, and some western nations like Germany helped the Iraqis. The US provided satellite intelligence but it was the Germans who made the chemical weapons.

        July 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
      • Cheese Wonton

        Public testimony on Congress dating to the late 1980's shows that Syria has had a domestic chemical weapons program that dates to the 1970's. Assistance came from the USSR, some western nations and India, motivated primarily by the Syrian military's defeats at the hands of the Israelis in 1967, '73 and '82. The right wing conspiracy nut cases willfullly, even gleefully distort history for their sordid ends.

        July 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Bob

      No that will never happen. That will just prove Bush was right and Odumbo and the rest of the stupid democrats would have to eat their words... again.

      July 13, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Reply
    • Scott

      LMAO...none of the left want to admit that is where the WMDs in Iraq disappeared to. Even though WAPO and others, at the outbreak of the war, said 2 weekds prior to us invading Iraq, Russian special forces flew in and convoys of tractor trailers were seen by satelite fleeing known bases with WMDs for the Syrian border (kinda like when he lew his air farce to Iran). Why do you think Rummy was poised to go into Syria? Their oil?

      July 13, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Reply
      • Cheese Wonton

        No Scott, Syria's chemical weapons program dates from the Cold War and is a result of their several defeats by the Israelis in 1967, '73 and again in 1982 (Bekaa Valley). It was very much independent of Iraq's and pre-dates the Iraqi program.

        July 14, 2012 at 2:40 am |
  19. Dale

    Don't be surprised if Syria's chemical weapons has Saddam Hussein signature on them along with Russian or Chinese parts.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Reply
    • PaganObservation

      Too bad chemical weapons don't have a shelf life.

      July 13, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Reply
    • P. JOSH

      Idiot,the WMD Saddam had we are the one who gave it to them,keep thinking that our country is a little saint,we are worse then the Russians and Syrians combine,invaded over 49 countries in less then 100 years.

      July 13, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Reply
      • Bob

        P.Josh has little man's syndrome.

        July 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  20. dom

    Borrowing from the G W bush book on how to prep the people for war: massacres and WMD.

    July 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Reply
    • Bob

      stupid democrat!

      July 13, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Reply
      • dom

        Labels. I am a registered Republican. No. I'm not voting at all this year. Can't decide between two compulsive liars.

        July 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • JJBust

      Dom, do you not understand that massacres and weapons of mass destruction actually exist and are realities in our world. Are you a holocaust denier too? At least GW bush had the cojones to stand up to the mid east fascists

      July 13, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Reply
      • dom

        The justification for killing 250,000 Iraqis in war was WMD. No I do not believe it was worth it.
        There is a snow job going on from the revolutionists as well as the government.
        No country that we have intervened in, Vietnam (my era), iraq, Libya, Aphganistan has been worth it, neither has it turned out decent.
        The US armed forces is supposed to defend the US against agression, such as in WWII.
        Basically, I (a people), have been lied to one to many times. The Tonkin attack. Weapons of Mass Destruction. Regime change.
        People need to learn to live with whatever government is in power over them. Brutal attacks against soldiers are met with a heavy response, I find that completely normal.
        Dad didn't fight in WWII to spread democracy, but because the country was attacked. Former presidents never stepped over that line. If we had gone into Europe in 1939, we would have been driven out with the British at Dunkirk...and lost it.

        July 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
      • PaganObservation

        Dom- I would disagree that Syrian protesters took brutal action against the military. The only reason they are agressive now is because the regime started killing unarmed protesters that opposed to the regime. Heck, the US wouldn't even exist if we had just "learned to live" with the British monarchy.

        July 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  21. PaganObservation

    If chemical weapons are launched, you can bet that there will be military action from UN. Don't think this regime is that stupid, however, they may become that desperate the closer they come to losing the conflict.

    July 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Reply
    • jimdog33

      Highly doubtful. No one sending in troops especially if chem weapons are being deployed. However, this won't happen simply from a PR perspective. Assad would literally cut himself off from the rest of the world with no where no run or hide. As is now, there's probably several places he could flee if he just gave up power. Not after chems though.

      July 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Reply
      • PaganObservation

        Military action doesn't necessarily imply the use of ground forces. They could still use aircraft and long range cruise missiles without the danger of being exposed to the chemicals, since those chemicals tend to be heavier than air.

        July 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
      • KS

        I just have to say, there would always be a place for him to hide. History proves this time and again. Nazi's did it in South America. Also to think that he would not use them is a misunderstanding. Look at Saddam when he used them. It took over a decade to finally get him out of his country. He had no problem breaking the rule.

        The only thing I don't get is why is no one else thinking of a strike on Israel. All he would have to do is send a few towards Israel and they would become involved in the conflict, which in turn would bring in Iran. While at the same time he just kills his people off. Maybe thats a thought to have.

        July 13, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  22. johnnie r. patten

    Wheres my donut?.

    July 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • Vamshi

      WHOOHOO!!!! I have been waiting for this for so long!! I am thrielld that you have the film, but alas while I will see it probably about 10 times at your theater Opening night is for IMAX!!! You will see me the next day over and over and over LOL!! I am so happy about Harry and that YOU ARE THE BEST cinema around !!

      October 13, 2012 at 12:25 am | Reply
  23. db

    Does anyone know if Syria is a signatory of the Genevea Convention on Warfare? I do believe that Chemical Weapons are outlawed in warfare, not that that means anything anymore.

    July 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Reply
    • PaganObservation

      After everything they have done so far, do you really think they care about the Geneva convention or Laws of War?

      July 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Reply
      • KS

        I agree. When you are done, why not take down everyone with you. Thats been the history of madness in people.

        July 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  24. A Baffled and Confused America says

    Obama: Syria has WMDs... w-we are going to take this time to make an unprecedented step towards making sure Syria doesn't make an unprecedented move to using their weapons in the most unprecendented way.

    Reporter: You love using that word "unprecedented huh?"

    Obama: Well I... I... uh... Well... m-my concern is about the safety of the international community and not my usage of the word unprecedented.

    Reporter:....

    July 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Reply
    • Ricky L

      Damned right you're confused.

      You didn't mention one "unprecedented" action in either surveillance, movement or use of chemical weapons.

      July 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply
      • A Baffled and Confused America says

        lol it was a joke over his usage of the word, possibly him doing what Bush did :p

        July 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  25. HR Directors Are Incompetent

    Human Resources Directors, VPs, (or whatever those dumba$$, overpaid, useless, idiots are called in your company) are THE most incompetent people in any company....bar NONE!!!!!

    But then again.....you already knew that.

    I feel better now.

    July 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Reply
  26. Good

    Keep them out of the hands of the Towel Heads that will take over.

    July 13, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Reply
    • Bad

      You mean people rich, fat-cats fresh out of the saunas, right?

      July 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  27. Hahahahahahahahahaha

    Move them to the RNC and let them loose! Hahahahahahahahahahha

    July 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Reply
    • xfiler93

      move them to their allies: the DEMS LOLOLOLOLOLOL

      July 13, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Reply

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