Experts worried Syrian chemical weapons could fall into terrorists' hands
As the political turmoil continues to increase in Syria, U.S. officials are closely monitoring the stockpile of weapons in the country, particularly its arsenal of deadly chemical gases and delivery systems.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, American officials are deeply concerned that political dissidents or terrorist organizations may take advantage of the instability in Syria to acquire some of the nation's weapons of mass destruction. Officials do not believe any weapon sites have yet been compromised, Business Insider reports.
The officials do fear, however, that the Syrian government could lose control of its chemical cache if the country descends even further into political disarray or even into a full-blown civil war.
The chemical stockpile in Syria is believed to include a large amount of mustard gas, Sarin gas – the nerve agent used in the 1995 Tokyo subway attacks that killed 13 and sickened over 1,000 – as well as the missile systems required to deliver those chemical weapons.
Privately, the U.S. has worried about the extent of Syria's cache of chemical weapons since at least 2008, when a secret state department cable warned about the mounting threat of the county's large stockpile and potential ties to terrorist groups, Business Insider reports. Those concerns have increased in recent months as the government of Syria has teetered on the brink of collapse.
The United Nations estimates that more than 2,200 people have been killed in the country as a result of a government crackdown on protesters, leading to a number of foreign governments, including the U.S., to call for Syrian President Assad to step down.
The Obama administration has expressed similar concerns about weapons going missing in Libya, where rebel forces ousted long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi last week.