U.S. prepares countries near Syria for chemical war

The United States has arranged for thousands of chemical protective suits and related items to be sent to Turkey and Jordan, according to Western and Middle Eastern officials.

The Obama administration is also encouraging military forces to take primary responsibility for safeguarding Syrian chemical weapon sites if the chemical agents become vulnerable to misuse and theft. Western governments are training the Turks and Jordanians to use chemical gear to get the nerve agents out of Syria as quickly as possible if Bashar al-Assad's regime falls, the Center for Public Integrity reports.

Allied forces from the countries bordering Syria would likely be the first responders to prevent the weapons from being captured by Hezbollah or other anti-U.S. or anti-Israeli militant groups.

U.S. and foreign officials said that Turkey and Jordan have not promised to take up the full role as first responders that Washington wants to give them.

"We have always said that contingency planning is the responsible thing to do, and we are actively consulting with friends, allies, and the opposition," Scott McIlnay, a spokesman for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, according to the Center for Public Integrity. "But I am not going to get into the specifics of our contingency plans."

Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey James F. Jeffrey said that Turks are typically reluctant to act as the foot-soldiers for the West and that the country is eager for the U.S. to play a larger role in resolving the crisis in Syria.

Syria contains a chemical stockpile estimated at 350-400 metric tons. U.S. military planners estimate that as many as 75,000 foreign troops could be needed to contain the threat of chemical weapons in the area if Turkey, Jordan and other local countries do not intervene in the aftermath of the regime's downfall, the Center for Public Integrity reports.