West could have to intervene to seize Syria's chemical weapon stockpile

Western governments could be forced to gain control of the chemical weapons stockpile of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad before the deadly weapons become vulnerable to terrorists.

The chemical stockpile in Syria contains hundreds of tons of mustard, sarin and VX gas. A western diplomat said that while the 14 month uprising does not currently pose an existential threat to the regime of Syria, if the situation changes, the international community would have to step in to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, the Telegraph reports.

"We could not tolerate the possibility of some of that stuff falling into the wrong hands," the diplomat said, according to the Telegraph. "This uprising is not an existential threat to the Assad cartel, but if it was the case that they were starting to lose the plot and it looked as if their ability to secure those materials was questionable, then I think you'd see more very serious worries coming out of the Security Council."

Experts say that Syria has a chemical weapons program that dates back to the 1970s, though the country is not believed to have any biological weapons. Little is known about the full extent of Assad's chemical weapons stockpile.

"It's worrying because we don't know," Dina Esfandiary, a non-proliferation specialist at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said, according to the Telegraph. "We don't know exactly what Syria's capability is. We don't know how big their stockpiles are - or where they are. It would be difficult for everybody to secure them, particularly if factions within the country are fighting each other. The risk of the agents falling into the hands of non-state actors is quite worrying."