Published July 14, 2012
The United States intercepted several streams of signals intelligence about a week ago suggesting that elements within the Syrian regime transferred some amount of chemical agents, possibly including sarin nerve gas, to the Homs region, a senior U.S. defense source told Fox News.
There is no evidence that these chemical agents have been weaponized or employed, but the latest intelligence suggests there was movement of a portion of Syria's vast chemical stockpile.
According to the defense source, it is not clear whether the move was authorized by President Bashar Assad. The transfer may have been carried out by local commanders within the Syrian military frustrated that they cannot suppress the rebellion in Homs, the heart of the uprising over the past 16 months.
If these commanders were, in fact, acting on their own, this latest intelligence suggests a possible breakdown in leadership and authority within the regime, the defense source said.
The Pentagon is concerned that if there is a breakdown of authority in Syria, these weapons could somehow end up in the hands of terrorists.
"We know they’ve been moved, but we don’t know where they are right now," the military source told Fox News.
The Pentagon held several high-level meetings to discuss securing Syria’s chemical weapon stockpiles.
The source said the Pentagon is particularly worried because sarin can be used and released in canisters so there may not be weapons per se involved.
Also sarin does not remain in the air after an attack, so a lot of people could die and the regime would have “plausible deniability” that it had used a chemical agent, according to the latest intelligence estimate.
However, there continues to be a reluctance on the part of the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence community to get involved militarily in Syria because none of the opposition is any more friendly to the U.S. and U.S. interests than the Assad regime, according to former intelligence officials.
Syria is not a signatory to the 1992 international chemical weapons ban treaty.
The latest intelligence is based on multiple source signals intelligence.