Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons
December 9th, 2012
05:55 PM ET

Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons

By Elise Labott

The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.

The training, which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

The nationality of the trainers was not disclosed, though the officials cautioned against assuming all are American.

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One of the aims, the sources said, is to try to get real time surveillance of the sites because the international community would not have time to prevent the use of the weapons otherwise. The program could explain how U.S. intelligence was able to learn what U.S. officials said was evidence the Assad government is mixing precursors for chemical weapons and loading those compounds into bombs. The intelligence, one U.S. official told CNN last week, came not just from satellite surveillance, but also from information provided by people. The official would not say whether the human intelligence came from telephone intercepts, defectors or people inside Syria.

The U.S. military is also working with neighboring Jordan's military to train for the potential need to secure chemical weapons sites. But U.S. troops cannot train rebel forces because the United States has only authorized nonlethal aid for the opposition.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seems to be backing off, at least for now, on the possible use of chemical weapons, after the major international outcry over the military activity, according to several sources. CNN reported Friday that the bombs are not being moved to any delivery devices and that the United States was not aware of any significant additional movement of chemical materials.

The Russians, who have allied with Syria, sent several strong messages to the Assad government over the past week against using chemical weapons, saying doing so would be a red line and Assad would lose Russia's support if he did. However, the sources said that the lull in activity could be short-lived and they believe that, if desperate enough, Assad would not hesitate to use such weapons.

Filed under: Chemical Weapons • Contractors • Syria
soundoff (608 Responses)
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  2. Lyle Courtsal

    See how they sensationalized the first attack. Those dead grey faces were all over the media right away. I am glad for that because I would not let an attack like that be forgotten, covered up even. But we should have known what was up when Assad was blamed five minutes before the attack (just kidding.. . ). The challenge is to find some way to demonize the.outgroup, the "Other"; the outsiders even. . . Oh, those bad ole so 'n so. . . . What better way than killing a lot of children in the next big conflict area; but whos thinking in a situation like that? See how the first world colonist/occupiers/vampires seem to kindoi follow ISIS around? The CIA had the breakup of syria planned out in 1983. They almost succeeded too.

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