DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 22, 2012, 10:47 PM (GMT+02:00)
The IDF, the Turkish and Jordanian armies and US Middle East forces have switched to preparedness mode in the last few hours in case the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal starts moving west toward Lebanon, debkafile’s military sources report. Acting in unison, those armies are on the ready for instantaneous action because it would take no more than two hours to cover the distance from Syria to the Hizballah-controlled Bakaa Valley of east Lebanon. Their arrival there, unless thwarted, would mean a war on Hizballah.
Therefore Israeli and US military chiefs prefer to stop the arsenal in its tracks before it moves across the border. This would call for surgically precise, rapid action against a target going to extreme lengths to stay concealed.
In the view of a senior US military source quoted by debkafile, the risk is solid but it comes from a different direction. He stressed that “President Assad has not decided to hand over his chemical weapons to Hizballah, nor has Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah decided to accept them.”
The chemical stockpile is kept at the al-Safira base northwest of Damascus in the care of the president’s personal guard unit which takes orders from Bashar Assad and no one else. If the heads of that guard saw the regime suddenly collapse – as it was expected to do last Wednesday when assassins murdered the men closest to the president – the American official says, “It is impossible to predict how they will act or what use they will make of the weapons systems under their guard.”
“They may decide to sneak out of Syria to Lebanon and take with them the entire arsenal as insurance for their safety and future,” he suggested.
According to our military sources, the arsenal which could be spirited across to Lebanon contains a lot more than chemical weapons. It also includes Scud C and Scud D surface missles capable of delivering chemical warheads and also the Russian-made advanced Pantsyr-S1 (NATO codenamed SA-22 Greyhound) anti-air missiles, which have been guarding the chemical stocks.
This background accounts for the words used by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak Sunday, July 22, to make their intentions clear:
“Israel would have to act if the Syrian regime collapsed without changing and if there’s a risk Syria’s chemical weapons and missiles could fall into the hands of military groups,” such as Hizballah or al Qaeda, Netanyahu said.
Asked if Israel would act alone, he said that Syria’s stockpile was a “common concern” – hinting at the coordination in place between the Israeli, Turkish and Jordanian armies and US regional forces.
Barak was more specific: “I’ve ordered the Israeli military to prepare for a situation where we would have to weigh the possibility of carrying out an attack against Syrian weapons arsenals.” He told reporters.
”The state of Israel cannot accept a situation where advanced weapons systems are transferred form Syria to Lebanon.”
Syria Chemical Weapons: Israel Would Strike To Secure Syrian Arsenal
By AMY TEIBEL 07/22/12 03:59 PM ET
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, Sunday, July 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Gali Tbbon, Pool)
JERUSALEM — Israel would “have to act” if the Syrian regime collapses and there’s a risk Syria’s chemical weapons and missiles could fall into the hands of militant groups, Israel’s prime minister warned Sunday.
The deteriorating situation of President Bashar Assad’s regime is stoking Israeli fears that militants affiliated with Lebanon’s Hezbollah group or the al-Qaida terror network could raid Syrian military arsenals for chemicals weapons or missiles that could strike Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel hasn’t considered specifically trying to cross the border to seize the weapons. “There are other possibilities,” he said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.”
Over the weekend, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would be prepared to attack Syrian weapons arsenals should the need arise.
Netanyahu said preventing Syria’s weapons from falling into the wrong hands is key to Israeli security.
“Could you imagine Hezbollah, the people who are conducting with Iran all these terror attacks around the world – could you imagine them having chemical weapons? It would be like al-Qaida having chemical weapons,” he said. “It’s something that is not acceptable to us, not acceptable to the United States and to any peaceable country in the world.”
“So I think that this is something we’ll have to act to stop if the need arises. And the need might arise if there’s a regime collapse, but not a regime change,” he said.
When asked whether Israel was prepared to act alone, Netanyahu said Syria’s stockpile was a “common concern” and that “we’d have to see if there was a common action to address that concern.”
Netanyahu said he believes the fall of the regime is inevitable, but that it could take days, weeks or months.
Russia warns Syria against using chemical weapons
MOSCOW (AP) — Russia chided its longtime ally Syria on Tuesday over its threat to use chemical weapons in case of a foreign attack, but Moscow gave no sign it was abandoning President Bashar Assad’s regime, despite growing international condemnation over the violence in the Arab country.
Syria is Russia’s last remaining ally in the Middle East and hosts the only naval base Moscow has outside the former Soviet Union. Russia has protected Syria from international sanctions and supplied it with weapons amid an escalating civil war.
On Monday, Syria threatened to unleash its chemical and biological weapons if it faces a foreign attack — its first-ever acknowledgement it possesses weapons of mass destruction.
In a statement that reflected a degree of irritation with Assad, the Russian Foreign Ministry reminded Syria that it had ratified a global convention banning the use of chemical weapons. It added that Russia expects Syria to “unfailingly honor its international obligations.”
The statement follows earlier Russian rebukes of Assad’s heavy-handed use of force and slow pace of reforms.
But despite occasional criticism, Russia has staunchly refused to back international calls for the Syrian strongman to step down, saying that foreign players have no right to determine the nation’s political future, and that it must be decided by Syrians themselves.
A 16-month uprising in Syria has morphed into a civil war has killed more than 19,000, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The escalating fighting is also feeding fears that Syria’s war could spill across borders and spark a regional conflagration.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made it clear Monday that Moscow would not join those pressuring Assad to step down. “If the Syrian leadership is ousted from power by unconstitutional means, the leadership and the opposition will trade places and the civil war will continue,” Putin said.
On Thursday, Russia and China vetoed a Western-backed United Nations resolution threatening Assad’s regime with sanctions — the third such double veto of a U.N. motion addressing the crisis. The next day, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday renewing the 300-strong U.N. observer force in Syria for another 30 days.
Iraq’s WMD Secreted in Syria, Sada Says
By IRA STOLL, Staff Reporter of the Sun | January 26, 2006
Note: Diana & I heard General Sada speak at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego
The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein’s air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.
The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, “Saddam’s Secrets,” released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.
“There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands,” Mr. Sada said. “I am confident they were taken over.”
Mr. Sada’s comments come just more than a month after Israel’s top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam “transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria.”
Democrats have made the absence of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a theme in their criticism of the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in 2003. And President Bush himself has conceded much of the point; in a televised prime-time address to Americans last month, he said, “It is true that many nations believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong.”
Said Mr. Bush, “We did not find those weapons.”
The discovery of the weapons in Syria could alter the American political debate on the Iraq war. And even the accusations that they are there could step up international pressure on the government in Damascus. That government, led by Bashar Assad, is already facing a U.N. investigation over its alleged role in the assassination of a former prime minister of Lebanon. The Bush administration has criticized Syria for its support of terrorism and its failure to cooperate with the U.N. investigation.
The State Department recently granted visas for self-proclaimed opponents of Mr. Assad to attend a “Syrian National Council” meeting in Washington scheduled for this weekend, even though the attendees include communists, Baathists, and members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group to the exclusion of other, more mainstream groups.
Mr. Sada, 65, told the Sun that the pilots of the two airliners that transported the weapons of mass destruction to Syria from Iraq approached him in the middle of 2004, after Saddam was captured by American troops.
“I know them very well. They are very good friends of mine. We trust each other. We are friends as pilots,” Mr. Sada said of the two pilots. He declined to disclose their names, saying they are concerned for their safety. But he said they are now employed by other airlines outside Iraq.
The pilots told Mr. Sada that two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, Mr. Sada said. Then Special Republican Guard brigades loaded materials onto the planes, he said, including “yellow barrels with skull and crossbones on each barrel.” The pilots said there was also a ground convoy of trucks.
The flights – 56 in total, Mr. Sada said – attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.
“Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming,” Mr. Sada said. “They handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians.”
Mr. Sada said that the Iraqi official responsible for transferring the weapons was a cousin of Saddam Hussein named Ali Hussein al-Majid, known as “Chemical Ali.” The Syrian official responsible for receiving them was a cousin of Bashar Assad who is known variously as General Abu Ali, Abu Himma, or Zulhimawe.
Short of discovering the weapons in Syria, those seeking to validate Mr. Sada’s claim independently will face difficulty. His book contains a foreword by a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, David Eberly, who was a prisoner of war in Iraq during the first Gulf War and who vouches for Mr. Sada, who once held him captive, as “an honest and honorable man.”
In his visit to the Sun yesterday, Mr. Sada was accompanied by Terry Law, the president of a Tulsa, Oklahoma based Christian humanitarian organization called World Compassion. Mr. Law said he has known Mr. Sada since 2002, lived in his house in Iraq and had Mr. Sada as a guest in his home in America. “Do I believe this man? Yes,” Mr. Law said. “It’s been solid down the line and everything checked out.”
Said Mr. Law, “This is not a publicity hound. This is a man who wants peace putting his family on the line.”
Mr. Sada acknowledged that the disclosures about transfers of weapons of mass destruction are “a very delicate issue.” He said he was afraid for his family. “I am sure the terrorists will not like it. The Saddamists will not like it,” he said.
He thanked the American troops. “They liberated the country and the nation. It is a liberation force. They did a great job,” he said. “We have been freed.”
He said he had not shared his story until now with any American officials. “I kept everything secret in my heart,” he said. But he is scheduled to meet next week in Washington with Senators Sessions and Inhofe, Republicans of, respectively, Alabama and Oklahoma. Both are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The book also says that on the eve of the first Gulf War, Saddam was planning to use his air force to launch a chemical weapons attack on Israel.
When, during an interview with the Sun in April 2004, Vice President Cheney was asked whether he thought that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been moved to Syria, Mr. Cheney replied only that he had seen such reports.
An article in the Fall 2005 Middle East Quarterly reports that in an appearance on Israel’s Channel 2 on December 23, 2002, Israel’s prime minister, Ariel Sharon, stated, “Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria.” The allegation was denied by the Syrian government at the time as “completely untrue,” and it attracted scant American press attention, coming as it did on the eve of the Christmas holiday.
The Syrian ruling party and Saddam Hussein had in common the ideology of Baathism, a mixture of Nazism and Marxism.
Syria is one of only eight countries that has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty that obligates nations not to stockpile or use chemical weapons. Syria’s chemical warfare program, apart from any weapons that may have been received from Iraq, has long been the source of concern to America, Israel, and Lebanon. In March 2004, the director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying, “Damascus has an active CW development and testing program that relies on foreign suppliers for key controlled chemicals suitable for producing CW.”
The CIA’s Iraq Survey Group acknowledged in its September 30, 2004, “Comprehensive Report,” “we cannot express a firm view on the possibility that WMD elements were relocated out of Iraq prior to the war. Reports of such actions exist, but we have not yet been able to investigate this possibility thoroughly.”
Mr. Sada is an unusual figure for an Iraqi general as he is a Christian and was not a member of the Baath Party. He now directs the Iraq operations of the Christian humanitarian organization, World Compassion.
What does the Bible say?
Proclamation Against Syria and Israel
17 The burden against Damascus.
1 “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city,
And it will be a ruinous heap.
14 Then behold, at eventide, trouble!
And before the morning, he is no more.
This is the portion of those who plunder us,
And the lot of those who rob us.