The Syrian government began to move its chemical weapons in recent
days, senior U.S. officials confirmed to Fox News, prompting new
warnings from the Obama administration that using those weapons against
the population would cross a "red line."
One senior U.S. official told Fox News "there are concerns about
possible preparations for use" of the weapons, though "we don't know yet
if they plan to use them."
The official added, "There are troubling signs of late."
The confirmation came as both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney issued new warnings to Syria.
"As the opposition makes strategic advances and grows in strength,
the Assad regime has been unable to halt the opposition's progress
through conventional means," Carney said Monday. "And we are concerned
that an increasingly beleaguered regime -- having found its escalation
of violence through conventional means inadequate -- might be
considering the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people."
Carney said using or proliferating those weapons "would cross a red line for the United States."
"They will be held accountable by the United States and the
international community if they use chemical weapons or fail to meet
their obligation to secure them."
Carney would not say whether the movement of weapons by itself could cross the so-called red line.
Clinton, in Prague for meetings with Czech officials, also reiterated
President Obama's declaration that Syrian action on chemical weapons
was a "red line" for the United States that would prompt action.
"I'm not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the
event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using
chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice it to say, we are
certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur,"
Syria said Monday it would not use chemical weapons against its own
people. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Syria "would not use
chemical weapons -- if there are any -- against its own people under any
Syria has been careful never to confirm that it has any chemical weapons.
The use of chemical weapons would be a major escalation in President
Bashar Assad's crackdown on his foes and would draw international
condemnation. In addition to causing mass deaths and horrific injuries
to survivors, the regime's willingness to use them would alarm much of
the region, particularly neighboring states, including Israel.
Although Syria is one of only seven nations that have not signed the
Chemical Weapons Treaty, it is a party to the 1925 Geneva Protocol that
bans the use of chemical weapons in war. That treaty was signed in the
aftermath of World War I, when the effects of the use of mustard gas and
other chemical agents outraged much of the world.
Clinton didn't address the issue of the fresh activity at Syrian
chemical weapons depots, but insisted that Washington would address any
threat that arises.
An administration official told the Associated Press that the trigger
for U.S. action of some kind is the use of chemical weapons or movement
with the intent to use or provide them to a terrorist group like
Hezbollah. The U.S. is trying to determine whether the recent movement
detected in Syria falls into any of those categories, the official
Syria is believed to have several hundred ballistic surface-to-surface missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads.
Its arsenal is a particular threat to the American allies, Turkey and
Israel, and Obama singled out the threat posed by the unconventional
weapons earlier this year as a potential cause for deeper U.S.
involvement in Syria's civil war. Up to now, the United States has
opposed military intervention or providing arms support to Syria's
rebels for fear of further militarizing a conflict that activists say
has killed more than 40,000 people since March 2011.
Israeli officials have repeatedly expressed concerns that Syrian
chemical weapons could slip into the hands of Hezbollah or other
anti-Israel groups, or even be fired toward Israel in an act of
desperation by Syria. Israel has indicated it would act in the face of
Clinton said that while the actions of Assad's government have been
deplorable, chemical weapons would bring them to a new level.
"We once again issue a very strong warning to the Assad regime that
their behavior is reprehensible, their actions against their own people
have been tragic," she said. "But there is no doubt that there's a line
between even the horrors that they've already inflicted on the Syrian
people and moving to what would be an internationally condemned step of
utilizing their chemical weapons."
Activity has been detected before at Syrian weapons sites, believed to number several dozen.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in late September the
intelligence suggested the Syrian government had moved some of its
chemical weapons in order to protect them. He said the U.S. believed
that the main sites remained secure.
Asked Monday if they were still considered secure, Pentagon press
secretary George Little declined to comment about any intelligence
related to the weapons.
Syria is believed to have one of the world's largest chemical weapons
programs, and the Assad regime has said it might use the weapons
against external threats, though not against Syrians. The U.S. and
Jordan share the same concern about Syria's chemical and biological
weapons -- that they could fall into the wrong hands should the regime
in Syria collapse and lose control of them.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/12/03/syria-moves-chemical-weapons-white-house-warns-crossing-red-line/#ixzz2E1p8RGgn
|Liveleak on Facebook|