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. The West, Israel and Syria’s other neighbors have gone on elevated preparedness. DEBKAfile file: The fall of Al Safira into rebel hands crosses a red line and places the Assad regime in direct peril. Possession of the chemical-tipped Scuds gives the rebels their strongest weapon for forcing the Syria army to capitulate.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said earlier Saturday that the UK and the US have seen evidence that Syria is preparing to use chemical weapons. There was enough evidence from intelligence sources to know “that they need a warning,” he said at a security conference in Bahrain. “The President of the United Sates warned of serious consequences and he meant it,” said the British minister.
British intelligence sources told the BBC that Syria’s chemical weapons are concentrated at five air bases and are being closely watched. They said contingency plans have been drawn up if they show signs of being readied to be loaded and used as weapons.
DEBKAfile reported this week that US British and French air, sea and marine forces are concentrated opposition Syrian shores and across its Turkish and Jordanian borders.