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Terrorism & Security

Chemical weapons? Syria 'backpedaling furiously' over weapons threats

One day after threatening to unleash chemical weapons if it were invaded, Syria denies having unconventional weapons, and says West is preparing an Iraq-style intervention.

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The SANA statement suggests that the Assad regime may fear that acknowledgement of its chemical arsenal could incite, rather than deter, Western nations' intervention in the Syrian crisis. Western nations roundly criticized yesterday's statement, reports USA Today, and President Obama warned that Assad would be held accountable for use of Syria's chemical weapons.

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"Given the regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching – and that they will be held accountable by the international community, and the United States, should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons," Obama said. 

Reuters reports that Israel believes that the Assad regime remains in control of its chemical weapons. "The worry, of course, is that the regime will destabilize and the control will also destabilize," Israeli official Amos Gilad told Israel Radio. "At the moment, the entire non-conventional weapons system is under the full control of the regime."

But while Assad's chemical arsenal remains of prime concern, conventional guerrilla warfare continues on the ground in Syria. Col. Malik Kurdi, a Free Syrian Army spokesman, told The Washington Post that the rebels were forced to retreat from Damascus because they lacked the weapons to maintain a prolonged, toe-to-toe struggle with regime forces.

“The Free Syrian Army is carrying out a war of harassing the regime army until it is exhausted, using guerrilla tactics,” he said, speaking by telephone from the military refugee camp in southern Turkey where the rebel leadership is based. “We can’t keep control of an area, so this is a circular operation, moving from one place to another, one city to another, to tire the regime out.”

And Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi told pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat that the Assad regime is set to fall, and that he would soon be traveling to Russia and China to encourage them to end their obstruction of UN Security Council action on Syria. "Our message to the Russians will be, with clarity and frankness, that the veto decision they took is viewed as being against Arab interests. We hope for a review of the matter, especially given that they know that the days of the current regime in Syria are numbered," he said.

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