The chemical weapons arsenal of the Syrian regime, believed to be one of the largest in the world, is a match for Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal, the defected former head of Syria’s chemical warfare program told Al-Arabiya on Monday.
Major-General Adnan Sillu, who defected from the regime earlier this year and was reportedly “party to top-levels talks” regarding the use of chemical weapons on both rebel fighters and civilians, said that the Syrian government had stashed chemical weapons in various cities, specifically in Homs and Aleppo.
“Syria’s chemical arsenal has reached similar levels to Israel’s nuclear weapons,” he told Al-Arabiya.
Sillu, who once led the army’s chemical weapons training program, warned in June that although the central storage sites for sarin and mustard gas are being guarded by thousands of Syrian Army troops, they could easily be captured by rebel forces.
“Probably anyone from the Free Syrian Army or any Islamic extremist group could take them over,” he said.
The Pentagon has drawn up plans for responding to possible scenarios involving Syria’s chemical arms, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday during a visit to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 60 miles from the Syrian border.
The United States has become increasingly concerned that Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist terrorists, rogue generals or other uncontrollable factions.
In recent days, the Syrian regime has fired more than a half-dozen Scud missiles at rebel forces trying to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
The move represents a significant escalation in the fighting, which has already killed more than 40,000 civilians in a nearly two-year-old conflict and suggests increased desperation on the part of the Assad government.
United Nations peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said that the UN is sending kits to protect soldiers in the peacekeeping force on Syria’s border with Israel from the effects of a possible chemical attack.
“We have taken measures to enhance security,” he told reporters after briefing the Security Council on Monday. “For those personnel who are not equipped on a national basis we are sending them some kits to protect them from chemical attack, if that were to happen.”