U.S. officials: We, er, aren’t sure where all of Syria’s chemical weapons are

posted at 2:01 pm on May 2, 2013 by Allahpundit

Worrisome, but not surprising. Even with good intelligence, how could they possibly know where every last sarin shell is stashed away?

The real news here is that Assad keeps moving his weapons around — which, if your memory extends to several months ago (“a long time”!), you’ll recognize as a violation of Obama’s initial “red line” last year. (“[A] red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.”) Those goalposts have moved a lot since then.

The judgment comes from top U.S. military commanders and is supported by recent intelligence community assessments, according to three U.S. officials who work closely on Syrian intelligence matters. At the heart of the concern is that the Syrian military has transferred more and more of its stock of sarin and mustard gas from storage sites to trucks where they are being moved around the country. While U.S. intelligence agencies first saw reports that Syria was moving the weapons last year, the process has accelerated since December, according to these officials. Also worrisome, said two of the officials, is intelligence from late last year that says the Syrian Scientific Research Center—an entity responsible for Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpile—has begun to train irregular militias loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in how to use the chemical munitions.

The assessment that Syria is moving large amounts of its chemical weapons around the country on trucks means that if Obama wanted to send in U.S. soldiers to secure Syria’s stockpiles, his top generals and intelligence analysts doubt such a mission would have much success, according to the three officials. “We’ve lost track of lots of this stuff,” one U.S. official told The Daily Beast. “We just don’t know where a lot of it is.”…

One official said U.S. spy satellites in November picked up clear photographic evidence of trucks being loaded at known chemical-weapons storage sites outside Damascus. But this official also said the satellite did not track the movement of the trucks in the country. “You have to remember that satellites are not unmanned aerial vehicles,” this official said. “We saw the trucks being loaded, but we did not see where they went.”

Why weren’t they watching where the trucks went from the beginning, if Obama was supposedly treating movement of chemical weapons as a red line?

The idea of regime goons driving around with WMD in the trunk reminds me of this harrowing Atlantic piece from a few years ago about Pakistan’s military carrying nuclear weapons — live, ready to detonate — in civilian vans over open roads with a light security presence. Why would you do that in a country that’s crawling with jihadist nuts? Because: Their fear of U.S. troops swooping in and capturing the weapons if they kept them stored in known depots is, insanely, greater than their fear of terrorists ambushing a van and grabbing what’s inside. The subterfuge of moving them around in civilian vehicles is aimed mainly at fooling Uncle Sam’s eye in the sky, not Al Qaeda’s eyes on the ground. Assad’s running the same risk, it sounds like. Not hard to magine a gang of rebels ambushing a truck with an eye to stealing supplies and stumbling on a cache of sarin — which, ironically, raises an element of doubt that Assad’s really responsible for all of the alleged chemical attacks thus far. If WMD is kinda sorta “loose” on the open road, who’s to say that the rebels haven’t already gotten hold of a bit?

So, let’s game this out. Imagine the U.S. or Jordan, backed by the U.S., sends in troops covertly to grab whatever chemical weapons they can from the depots they still know about. Imagine they’re 100 percent successful. There are still plenty of chemical weapons out there somewhere, and Assad will probably feel compelled to respond to the U.S. incursion. If you’re the White House and you’re worried about him retaliating by tasking one of those “irregular militias” to gas a few hundred people in Aleppo or Homs, what’s your next move? Almost necessarily, you need to be prepared to take a next step if/when Assad acts. Hopefully he’ll realize that and be deterred from retaliating, but maybe he’ll decide, with Iranian backing, to call your bluff. What’s the next step then? A no-fly zone? Hmmmm:

Harmer contends that a no-fly zone wouldn’t have to become a foreign-provided Free Syrian Air Force: U.S. pilots won’t have to provide close-air support for rebel forces or bomb ground targets. But from Harmer’s perspective, once Assad’s air power is blunted, “the only solution left is a negotiated conclusion, or, more likely, a fallback to the Alawite coastal areas.” In other words, the Assad regime as we know it is over.

It’s an optimistic assessment: many, many analysts have considered airpower the key to breaking an enemy’s will, and many analysts have been refuted. It’s possible — but it depends on Assad suing for peace, not a suddenly invincible Syrian rebel force on the ground. And its risks are substantial: not least of which, it would mean American pilots shooting down Iranian resupply planes, an act of war. “I don’t envy President Obama’s decision,” Harmer says…

Lurking in the background: should Obama Americanize the war in the air, and it fails to topple Assad, how will he avoid pressure to use ground troops?

Thanks to Russia, Syria’s air defenses are vastly better than Libya’s. And as noted by Danger Room, shooting down Iranian planes opens the conflict up in all sorts of ways. Just for starters, western negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program would be instantly dead — not a disaster, given that they’ve been a charade all along, but a major crisis for the White House and Europeans who’ve been using those negotiations to kick the Iran can down the road. Then it would be Iran’s turn to retaliate — maybe against U.S. troops in Afghanistan via proxies or against Israel by mobilizing Hezbollah, maybe against other American assets internationally with terror strikes, maybe even by quietly launching its own chemical attacks in Syria to show that America’s big WMD clampdown backfired spectacularly. See why O is so hesitant to enforce his red line? Unless the “next step” he’s prepared succeeds in scaring Assad into not using the rest of his WMD arsenal, any initial military intervention is likely to drag the U.S. from confiscating WMD into moving more aggressively for regime change. Which could take years.

Update: This is not a political winner for Obama either. At least, not at the moment:

Only 10 percent of those surveyed in the online poll said the United States should intervene in the fighting. Sixty-one percent opposed getting involved.

But the figure favoring intervention rises to 27 percent if the Damascus government uses chemical weapons, while 44 percent would remain opposed.

Update: Here’s Martin Dempsey explaining why a no-fly zone over Syria wouldn’t be the turkey shoot that it was in Libya.


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F these savages.

Let the Shia vs. Sunni fun begin.

F them all.

OhEssYouCowboys on May 2, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Oh, Barry, I don’t know, either, but let’s hazard a guess or two?

A bunch have been used.

A bunch have been taken to Iran, via Iraq.

A bunch have been taken to Iraq because Iraq wants them back.

A bunch have bee nmoved to Lebanon, because Hezzbollah wants to use them in Israel.

A bunch are sorta dispersed within the population.

A bunched are deployed with forward units of a) the Syrian Army; b) AQ jihadis; or c) both.

They took the labels off.

They put “Milk Powder/Infant Formula” labels on the drums.

None of this would be a subject of discussion had you done your damn job, according to the Constitution, and kept your damn mouth shut.

Wanna play poker, sometime?

coldwarrior on May 2, 2013 at 2:08 PM

WMD?
Depends on what you are destroying..

Electrongod on May 2, 2013 at 2:09 PM

chemical weapons on muslims hands means mostly dead muslims of the opposing sect. who cares! just look away!

nathor on May 2, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Maybe they’re on a golf course somewhere.

Quick, better go find out, make a global tour of golf courses.

Lourdes on May 2, 2013 at 2:15 PM

You aren’t even sure what jihad web sites your muslim officers are reading.

VorDaj on May 2, 2013 at 2:21 PM

I heartily wish both sides of the Syrian Civil war success. May they fight like Franco’s Spain…. without German intervention, of course.

Heck, I’d love to see Muslim states intervene on both sides: Draw enough Islam on Islam fighters into a conflict and just let them massacre each other. What’s the downside?

Vanceone on May 2, 2013 at 2:22 PM

Look under Moochelle’s armpits.

MelonCollie on May 2, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Rest of the world laughs its collective azz off at the ineptness of the Obama admin./era.

Nice job, Berry!!! Yes you can…Hope ‘n Change…and Forward.

Schadenfreude on May 2, 2013 at 2:25 PM

See why O is so hesitant to enforce his red line?

There is something much more foolish than making a foolish promise and not keeping it, and that’s making a foolish promise and keeping it.

VorDaj on May 2, 2013 at 2:25 PM

That red line is starting to look like a circle, I mean an O, No! a

Zero.

Worrisome, but not surprising. Even with good intelligence, how could they possibly know where every last sarin shell is stashed away?

Not to mention all Saddam’s stash that disappeared after we invaded. You know all that mass destruction goop the UN sent convoys to go check?

Heck they can’t even find out what terrorists have EBT cards and section 8 housing! You want them to track WMDs in Syria?

You want to disturb Zero’s golf and campaigning for that? Damn you’re harsh.

dogsoldier on May 2, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Vanceone on May 2, 2013 at 2:22 PM

The horrible stench wafting across the rest of the world?

Funny thing…all of them want to die for mohammed…get to that goat-herding paradise.

So…why are we preventing that?

If a couple hundred million of ‘em want to kill another hundred million or so of ‘em…so they can shout allwantacracker or something…get to paradise in the express lane…

Seriously…why are we getting involved at all?

Contain the damage, sweep up after…divy up and claim the now vacant ground.

coldwarrior on May 2, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Even with good intelligence, how could they possibly know where every last sarin shell is stashed away?

So the Hussein regime has it’s own Curveball ?
Daaayyuuummmm…
:O

burrata on May 2, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Rest of the world laughs its collective azz off at the ineptness of the Obama admin./era.

Nice job, Berry!!! Yes you can…Hope ‘n Change…and Forward.

Schadenfreude on May 2, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Shad, they’re sharpening their knives, figuratively and literally.

They’ve all seen what a small number can do, they expense, the chaos etc.

I expect things will get ugly in a hurry.

dogsoldier on May 2, 2013 at 2:29 PM

Well, they might have known if Barry hadn’t expunged all references to WMDs in the intelligence community’s WMD Tracking Manual, which now reads XXX’s Tracking Manual.

Which also explains why they’re watching porn 24/7 now.

Dusty on May 2, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Too bad Saddam’s not around. We could ask him. He’d probably know.

petefrt on May 2, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Of course, the 800-ound gorilla in the room that the media and the Lefties are PRAYING no one mentions is this: Syria GOT those chemical weapons by the TRUCKLOAD from Iraq, just before the invasion that the Lefties like to hold up as “finding no WMD.”

All of us with a brain at the time who heard of the satellite images of truck convoys heading into Syria were PERFECTLY aware where the WMD went – now they are being used.

Wake up, morons.

PJ Emeritus on May 2, 2013 at 2:32 PM

Which also explains why they’re watching porn 24/7 now.

Dusty on May 2, 2013 at 2:30 PM

There would be hope if they were watching porn. They’re watching cartoons. And not the Road Runner.

dogsoldier on May 2, 2013 at 2:32 PM

If a couple hundred million of ‘em want to kill another hundred million or so of ‘em…so they can shout allwantacracker or something…get to paradise in the express lane…

coldwarrior on May 2, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Sometimes they shout allwantacracker and sometimes they shout alltothegaybar.

VorDaj on May 2, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Too bad Saddam’s not around. We could ask him. He’d probably know.

petefrt on May 2, 2013 at 2:31 PM

I’ll bet Mossad knows. Any takers?

dogsoldier on May 2, 2013 at 2:33 PM

Obama lied, people died!

Kingfisher on May 2, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Even with good intelligence, how could they possibly know where every last sarin shell is stashed away?

Who knows, maybe some of it found its way to some of our very own muslim communities right here in the US of A.

Heck they can’t even find out what terrorists have EBT cards and section 8 housing!

And they don’t want to know that terrorists have them.

You want them to track WMDs in Syria?

Inspector Clouseau could probably do better.

hawkeye54 on May 2, 2013 at 2:36 PM

Here’s hoping that Americans don’t die trying to prop up the pack of lies that constitute the rat-eared coward’s supposed legacy in this part of the world.

Happy Nomad on May 2, 2013 at 2:36 PM

The assessment that Syria is moving large amounts of its chemical weapons around the country on trucks means that if Obama wanted to send in U.S. soldiers to secure Syria’s stockpiles, his top generals and intelligence analysts doubt such a mission would have much success, according to the three officials.

Soooo…his top generals and intelligence analysts doubt such a mission would have much success ,huh ?
I bet Hussein will go ahead and do it, just because of that. Ofcourse he will make it look
” bipartisan” which means the senile fool McCain and his arm candy Linsee will jump in with their support .

burrata on May 2, 2013 at 2:40 PM

burrata on May 2, 2013 at 2:40 PM

But, isn’t that argument the same that allowed the White House to issue that “stand down” order when Benghazi was burning?

Not enough time. Not enough intel. Probably couldn’t make a difference? Situation was not clear.

But..Obama drew a big red magenta, carmine, rose, or was it crimson line?

Basically told the world, I dare you.

Well…

I do not want to intervene for one moment in Syria. Had our chance, couple years ago to do it without a shot being fired. Blew it.

But…this Obama character…his stupidity, his need to be the center of attention, always…will get more Americans killed…and fast.

coldwarrior on May 2, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Are the current Syrian air defenses the same ones that the Israelis were able to successfully evade when they destroyed the nuclear facility a few years ago or have they been upgraded since?

Mark1971 on May 2, 2013 at 2:54 PM

Help!!! Call the United Nations!!! Paging Hans Blix–he’ll find out where all those chemical weapons are, and then call Obama a bahstid.

Steve Z on May 2, 2013 at 2:57 PM

I’m confused. For months -many months- we’ve been hearing at various times that Assad had days, maybe weeks, but that the end was near. Lon before December, mind you. Like, December 2011 or so. That rebel troops had gained control over this city and that depot.

How confident can we be that it’s Assad, and only Assad-loyalists that are using these things? And why didn’t we A) realize that the “rebels” -if not from the outset- would eventually be infiltrated and overrun by AQ-types? And 2), why didn’t we do something long before now to secure the situation regarding chemical weapons?

It seems to me that the entire middle east has been largely ignored by the White House since the killing of bin Laden. Sure, we’re still fighting there, and we’ve got assets around, but I get the feeling much of it is dog and pony, and there are few directives on how to handle unforeseen (though incompetence from the leadership seems to be allowing much more of this category)circumstances and occurrences. Benghazi is another example.

BKeyser on May 2, 2013 at 3:05 PM

coldwarrior on May 2, 2013 at 2:47 PM

Benghazi was a set-up, plain and simple.
The way Hussein and Killery were not even curious to see what was happening in those few hours to 4 Americans surrounded by jihadies ( the jihadies who had been armed by Hussein coincidently) and then the total lack any concern after the deaths of 4 Americans only means that they knew in advance what events would happen and what the end result would be.
And they were totally jubiliant over their planning and success.
But darn those pesky bloggers who busted the whole thing up.
Well, there are always bumps in the road to optimal protests of youtube videos !! What difference does it make ?

burrata on May 2, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Inspector Clouseau could probably do better.

hawkeye54 on May 2, 2013 at 2:36 PM

I agree.

dogsoldier on May 2, 2013 at 3:09 PM

“We’ve lost track of lots of this stuff.”

Seems to me that one of the things we would make every concerted effort to keep track of would be WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION… particularly chemical and bio weapons… since the potential for devastation though unskilled use, or misuse, or an accident during shipment by untrained or poorly equipped personnel, or even trained personnel more interested in haste and secrecy that safety, exists.

We had very good evidence that the Iraq WMD were shipped to Syria. Perhaps we should have been more interested in what happened to them after their arrival.

thatsafactjack on May 2, 2013 at 3:13 PM

There is something much more foolish than making a foolish promise and not keeping it, and that’s making a foolish promise and keeping it.

VorDaj on May 2, 2013 at 2:25 PM

How about making a foolish promise in the first place?

Made for your own vanity?

itsspideyman on May 2, 2013 at 3:22 PM

It happened a long time ago.

elifino on May 2, 2013 at 3:33 PM

I’d be willing to bet money that the NGA and associate organizations with eyes in the sky know pretty well where a lot of the material is, but since the President “doesn’t know”, everyone down the chain of command cannot say squat because it’s all top secret.

https://www1.nga.mil/Pages/default.aspx

Logus on May 2, 2013 at 3:36 PM

I’m studying for a degree in GIS right now. In fact, the courses I’m taking this quarter are Remote Sensing and GEOINT…

Our government knows full well the five w’s about Assad’s weapons, bank on it.

Obama’s being a political wimp.

How many NGA and other personnel are probably angry on the inside that their work is ignored to the detriment of the Syrian people, more so our own.

Logus on May 2, 2013 at 3:40 PM

The REB doesn’t have a f’n clue where exactly his ‘red line’ was either, let alone the chemical weapons. President Clueless McDowngrade.

slickwillie2001 on May 2, 2013 at 4:05 PM

The chemicals are probably back where they came from, Iraq.

Wade on May 2, 2013 at 4:58 PM

The idea of regime goons driving around with WMD in the trunk reminds me of this harrowing Atlantic piece from a few years ago about Pakistan’s military carrying nuclear weapons — live, ready to detonate — in civilian vans over open roads with a light security presence. Why would you do that in a country that’s crawling with jihadist nuts? Because: Their fear of U.S. troops swooping in and capturing the weapons if they kept them stored in known depots is, insanely, greater than their fear of terrorists ambushing a van and grabbing what’s inside.

If this happens again, it should be a red flag for us. Because there’s the high probability that the movements would be a setup to allow the jihadists to obtain a nuke in such a way that after it was used, the original owners could claim they had nothing to do with it.


“It’s not our fault! If you weren’t always bothering us, it wouldn’t have happened!”

Taqqiya is not a custom exclusive to non-governmental actors in that neck of the woods. And no, I do not believe Pakistan is on our side.

clear ether

eon

eon on May 2, 2013 at 5:33 PM

The whole region has been the world’s festering boil for eternity.

let them kill each other.

portlandon on May 6, 2013 at 4:51 PM

…not that they would….but who wouldn’t be highly skeptical of Al Qaeda-backed rebels, who were reportedly fighting with Assad’s forces a week ago over a facility where Chem weapons were stored, using chemical weapons?!

easyt65 on May 6, 2013 at 4:51 PM