By Barbara Starr
The United States and countries near Syria are analyzing intelligence reports that the Syrian regime may have moved some of its chemical weapons inventories in recent weeks, a senior U.S. official told CNN.
The movement could be to consolidate storage because of deteriorating security in the country, the official said. Over the last 10 days, the United States has been trying to ascertain the legitimacy of the reports but has been unable to make any firm conclusions, officials from multiple U.S. government agencies said. None of the officials would agree to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information.
U.S. officials say they don't know the extent of the movement, whether it's for consolidation or if it signals a move by the regime to potentially use such weapons. They says the U.S. wants to have multiple sources confirm the details before the intelligence analysts come to a firm conclusion.
When the United States and other countries believed the Syrian government was moving chemical weapons for potential use late last year, there were strong public statements from President Obama and other world leaders warning against their use. One senior U.S. official said if the recent movements are confirmed, the Obama administration will make strong public statements again.
There are further concerns for the U.S., which says the Iranian regime appears to be engaged in a two-pronged strategy inside Syria, according to the senior official. Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps is, on the one hand, supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and trying to get him to agree to move to an enclave of his Alawite supporters. But the Iranians are also stepping up their support for militia movements inside Syria, the official said. If the regime falls, the support for the militias will allow Iran to have a way to exert influence, the official explained.