The UK has joined the US in claiming Syria’s government may soon use chemical weapons on its own people. The Syrian government has warned of the potential danger of these weapons falling into the hands of “terrorist groups.”
Following the UK’s claims, Damascus declared it would never use chemical weapons against Syrians.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned that President Bashar Assad may use his stockpiles of chemical weapons against the country’s rebel forces.
“We are extremely concerned about the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and we are also concerned about evidence during the last couple of weeks that the regime could use them,” Hague told reporters on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Manama, Bahrain.
Hague warned that there were “dangerous scenarios” where the weapons could fall into “the hands of other people.”
The foreign secretary was apparently referring to rebel forces within Syria. The Assad government shares Hague’s concerns – Al Arabiya reported late Saturday that Damascus warned that rebel “terrorist groups” may resort to using chemical weapons.
The statement came a few hours after Syria reiterated to the UN that it would not use chemical weapons against its own people.
Hague went on to say that Britain had not ruled out military intervention in Syria, and that the UK government would continue to give the rebels “strong practical assistance – communication equipment and humanitarian assistance.”
On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there were no confirmed reports that Assad is preparing to use chemical weapons.
“Recently we have been receiving alarming news that the Syrian government may be preparing to use chemical weapons. We have no confirmed reports on this matter,” Ban said while visiting Syrian refugees in Turkey, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
There were numerous reports from US media this week that Syria was readying to use chemical weapons. NBC reported that the Syrian military had loaded Sarin into aerial bombs, which could then be dropped onto civilian areas by Mig-23 or Sukhoi-24 aircraft.
Both Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton were quick to warn Assad that using chemical weapons would be crossing a ‘red line.’
Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to former US Secretary of State Colin Powell and a retired US army colonel, told RT he was deeply skeptical of US intelligence on Syria, and believes it is being politicized in order to justify military intervention.
“I would be highly skeptical of any of the intelligence rendered by the $140-billion-plus US intelligence community as to weapons of mass destruction in possession of another country,” he said.
Wilkerson argued that it had “been known for years” that Syria possesses chemical weapons stockpiles, and he found it “preposterous” that Assad was preparing to use them “against his own citizens within his own territory.”
The attack on Hama in 1982 by Assad’s father Hafez al-Assad, in which chemical weapons were allegedly used, is often cited as a reason why Bashar Assad would be likely to do the same.
Robert Fisk, a senior journalist at the Independent who was in Hama covering the Sunni Muslim uprising in 1982, rejects these claims.
“I happened to have got into Hama in February 1982 and while Hafez’s Syrian army was very definitely slaughtering his own people (who were, by the way, slaughtering regime officials and their families) no one ever used chemical weapons. And none of the civilian survivors I have interviewed in the 30 years since 1982 ever mentioned the use of gas,” Fisk wrote in an opinion piece on Saturday titled, ‘Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and the truth about chemical weapons and who may or may not have them.’
Fisk concludes that while “Bashar probably does have some chemicals in rusting bins somewhere in Syria” and although he has committed “quite enough inequities, he is about to be accused of another crime he has not yet committed and which his father never did commit.”
Meanwhile, in Syria, the Syrian army has allegedly fought off a rebel attack in the suburbs of Damascus and reports suggest that the fighting there is subsiding.