Pressure mounted on Damascus as the West began taking notice of chemical weapons in Syria, something the country has made no efforts to hide. On the contrary televised exhibitions have been broadcast to demonstrate the power of its military.
The regime says it does not intend to use chemical weapons against the rebels, but warns it is prepared to use them in the case of an international
“All the stocks of these weapons that the Syrian Arab Republic possesses are monitored and guarded by the Syrian army. These weapons are meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic,” said Jihad Makdissi, Syrian Foreign Ministry Spokesman.
Since the 1990s Syria has been suspected by the West of possessing the largest arsenal of unconventional weapons in the Middle East, but exactly how many and of what kind it is difficult to know.
It is believed that there are sites in the country producing the nerve gasses Sarin, Tabun, and VX – all classified as WMDs by the UN – as well as mustard gas. The threat is exacerbated as it is thought that Syria possesses missiles to which these weapons could be mounted.
According to the Russian secret services, Syria also has thousands of chemical bombs, loaded with Sarin and ready for loading onto aircraft. VX could also be dropped by aircraft, they say.
The former head of Israeli military intelligence said he believes the missiles are not pointed at Israel. But Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has warned that if the weapons fell into the hands of Hezbollah it would be a reason to go to war.
Some analysts warn that the situation in Syria echoes the 2003 invasion of Iraq, after all it is another Middle East conflict featuring a dictator with apparent access to weapons of mass destruction. Diplomats say the international community must tread carefully.