NATO votes to approve Patriot missile defensive positions at Turkey's border with Syria. While movements detected at Syrian chemical weapon depots. The Syrian civil war teeters on the brink of international conflict. Old players at new games. Will chemical war be waged in the Mideast? Will NATO and thus the US be dragged in another ground war to stop the madness of chemical warfare? Now that an adversary actually has WMD, what will be done or not done?
NATO approves Patriot missiles for Turkey but says no intention to intervene in SyriaAP:
The U.S. will help build a shield to protect Turkey from chemical weapons attacks or any incoming missile from Syria by providing Patriot Missile batteries within the next few weeks. Under NATO agreement, the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands will deploy the batteries and set them up inside of Turkey by the beginning of 2013. Syria is believed to have the world's third largest supply of chemical weapons after the U.S. and Russia.
"'We stand with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity,' NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters. 'To anyone who would want to attack Turkey, we say, "Don't even think about it!"'
"Fogh Rasmussen stressed that the deployment of the Patriot systems — which includes missiles, radar and other elements — would in no way support a no-fly zone over parts of Syria nor aid any offensive operation against the Arab state.
"But the decision to deploy the systems takes the United States and its European partners closer to the war, with the possibility of U.S.-made and alliance-operated hardware being used against the Assad regime for the first time."
Britain has told the Syrian government that any use of chemical weapons would have "serious consequences", British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
U.S. President Barack Obama told Assad on Monday not to use chemical weapons, without saying how the United States might respond.
The United States has collected what has been described as highly classified intelligence information demonstrating that Syria is making what could be construed as preparations to use elements of its extensive chemical weapons arsenal, two U.S. government sources briefed on the issue said.
"Syria has dozens of chemical weapons sites spread around the country, and the latest intelligence shows there is activity at these sites, officials said, but not necessarily movement of the weapons.
"The White House issued a statement saying that any use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would cross a red line that could prompt military action. For its part the Assad regime has said it would not use chemical weapons against its own people.
"In September, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Syrians had moved some of their chemical weapons to better secure them."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Prague for meetings with Czech officials, said she wouldn't outline any specifics.
"But suffice it to say, we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur," Clinton said.
The warnings to Syria come after U.S. intelligence detected signs the Syrian regime was moving the chemical weapons components around within several of Syria's chemical weapons sites in recent days, according to a senior U.S. defense official and two U.S. officials speaking on Monday. The activities involved movement within the sites, rather than the transfer of components in or out of various sites, two of the officials said.
But they were activities they had not seen before, that bear further scrutiny, one said.
Another senior U.S. official described it as "indications of preparations" for a possible use of the chemical weapons. The U.S. still doesn't know whether the regime is planning to use them, but the official says there is greater concern because there is the sense that the Assad regime is under greater pressure now.
Exclusive: U.S. Sees Syria Prepping Chemical Weapons for Possible AttackIf Assad does not fall quickly, the chances of a WMD standoff or a massacre increases by an order of magnitude. Regime change is a messy business... as a matter of foreign policy it's downright dangerous.
Engineers working for the Assad regime in Syria have begun combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponize sarin gas, an American official with knowledge of the situation tells Danger Room. International observers are now more worried than they’ve even been that the Damascus government could use its nerve agent stockpile to slaughter its own people.
The U.S. doesn’t know why the Syrian military made the move, which began in the middle of last week and is taking place in central Syria. Nor are they sure why the Assad government is transferring some weapons to different locations within the country, as the New York Times reported on Monday.
All that’s certain is that the arms have now been prepped to be used, should Assad order it.
“Physically, they’ve gotten to the point where the can load it up on a plane and drop it,” the official adds.
Sarin gas has two main chemical components — isopropanol, popularly known as rubbing alcohol, and methylphosphonyl difluoride. The Assad government has more than 500 metric tons of these precursors, which it ordinarily stores separately, in so-called “binary” form, in order to prevent an accidental release of nerve gas.
Last week, that changed. The Syrian military began combining some of the binaries. “They didn’t do it on the whole arsenal, just a modest quantity,” the official says. “We’re not sure what’s the intent.”