US training Syrian rebels to secure chemical weapons

Training Syrian rebels to secure the country’s chemical weapons might be a good idea but for one small catch: Most of the rebels are al-Qaeda and since they will be the ones securing them, al-Qaeda will have control over the chemical weapons when the music stops.

The US and its allies have hired contractors to train some Syrian rebel brigades in chemical weapons security, Syria Deeply has exclusively learned from four diplomats, including one US official. The sources asked to remain anonymous, as they deal directly with developments in Syria. The training would mark a higher level of coordination between the US and armed opposition forces, working to secure Syria’s chemical arsenal during a period of political turmoil.

The diplomatic sources say defense contractors hired by the US and its European allies have recently conducted training exercises with Syrian rebel forces in Turkey and Jordan. The programs were intended to prepare brigades to handle chemical weapons sites and materials they might encounter, as Assad troops lose control of over parts of the country. US contractors have also been on the ground in Syria to monitor the status of regime stockpiles, said an employee with a major US defense consultancy that has been engaged in that work.

“They’re probably trying to provide near real-time surveillance at all these sites. There’s no point in limiting yourself,” said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He emphasized that any training of rebel fighters would represent just one element of contingency planning underway and said it would be incorrect to assume that training rebels is “the only hope”.

The State Department affirmed its concern over Syria’s chemical weapons, concerns that have been discussed with opposition leaders, but would not comment directly on the details of this report. The Defense Department hasn’t responded to a request for comment on the revelations.

What could go wrong?

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 8, 2012, 5:10 PM (GMT+02:00)

Sarin canisters stored in Syria

The danger that Syrian ruler Bashar Assad will now resort to chemical warfare shot up Saturday afternoon, Dec. 8, after the rebels captured the “chloride factory” at Al Safira east of Aleppo.

This is a codename for the Syrian army’s biggest chemical weapons store and base, which also houses Syrian Scud D missiles armed with chemical warheads adjusted to fire at Israel. Assad’s warning to the rebels not to fight with chemical weapons is taken as a means of justifying his own resort to chemical weapons and brought this threat closer than ever before. Read more…

did this already happen?

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