Washington: The United States is accelerating its plan with Middle Eastern allies to secure Syria`s vast stockpile of chemical weapons as that crisis in that country continues to worsen, according to a report.
According to America and Middle Eastern officials, the planning, involving intelligence and military officials from at least seven countries, includes detailed arrangements for securing chemical arms with special operations troops in the event that parts of Syria are seized by militants.
The stepped-up preparations have coincided with increased military training in the region, including an unusually large multinational military exercise underway this month in Jordan, Syria’s southern neighbour, The Washington Post reports.
US and Jordanian officials separately have been discussing possible permanent bases in the country for small units of Marines who could be deployed rapidly in a crisis anywhere in the region, from the Syria border to Iraq.
According to the paper, Western intelligence agencies made similar plans to safeguard chemical munitions in Libya in 2011, particularly during the chaotic final weeks as Libyan troops deserted their bases ahead of the rebels’ final advance on Tripoli.
The contingency planning for securing Syrian chemical weapons relies on early warning from US spy agencies who have been closely monitoring Assad’s stockpiles for more than a year.
According to the report, Syria possesses one of the world’s largest arsenals of chemical munitions, including tons of nerve gases such as VX and sarin.
Experts say that the weapons are kept in bunkers under heavy guard in at least five sites around the country.