Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

FSA Spokesman: Syria shifts chemicals to Iraq and Hezbollah - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page
In this May 5, 2011, photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian soldiers atop their armored vehicles pull out of the southern city of Daraa, Syria. (AP Photo/SANA)

In this May 5, 2011, photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian soldiers atop their armored vehicles pull out of the southern city of Dera’a, Syria. (AP Photo/SANA)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Syrian opposition has accused the Assad regime of transferring one of the world’s largest chemical arsenals to Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon. If the claim proves to be true, the move would cast doubt on Damascus’s intention to comply with the US and Russian plan to place the Assad regime’s chemical equipment under international supervision.

Free Syrian Army (FSA) spokesman Luai Al-Mekdad told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Assad regime is “preparing to transfer part of its [chemical] arsenal to Iraq under the supervision of Iran’s Quds Force,” noting that Damascus is “returning the Iraqi chemical arsenal, which Saddam Hussein had sent to Syria before the 2003 Iraq war.”

Mekdad, who claimed to have received this information from special sources within the Syrian government, said that the “regime is waiting for technical circumstances” before it ships the chemicals to Baghdad, a step which will be taken “with the knowledge of the Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki and under the supervision of the pro-Assad [Iraqi] militias.”

Mekdad said the US should not “fall into the trap twice,” implying that Iraq now will retain its chemical arsenal.

Another likely destination for the weapons is Hezbollah in Lebanon, which Mekdad said “received the first batch of chemical weapons almost a year ago . . . and now is preparing to receive the second batch, which it will stockpile in areas along the border with Syria, as well as in Baalbek in the Beqaa Valley.”

“Hezbollah has prepared several highly fortified depots in several locations that are under its control in Beqaa, as well as in the border zone in preparation for receiving the chemical weapons,” he added.

The West estimates Syria is in possession of 1,000 tons of chemical warheads and rockets, as well as liquid toxins. They are thought to be distributed across Syria, including in the Rif Dimashq Governorate and the mountains of Latakia.

On Friday the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Mekdad contacted it requesting technical help, one day after the civil-war torn country became a full-member in the chemical weapon watchdog organisation.