Skip Navigation

Close and don't show again.

Your browser is out of date.

You may not get the full experience here on National Journal.

Please upgrade your browser to any of the following supported browsers:

Extremists Pose 'Very Real' Risk to Syrian Chemical Arms: U.S. Intel Official Extremists Pose 'Very Real' Risk to Syrian Chemical Arms: U.S. Intel O...

This ad will end in seconds
 
Close X

Not a member? Learn More »

Forget Your Password?

Don't have an account? Register »

Reveal Navigation
 

 

Global Security Newswire

Extremists Pose 'Very Real' Risk to Syrian Chemical Arms: U.S. Intel Official

Members of the Syrian rebel group al-Nusra Front prayed last week as they held position in the village of Aziza, on the outskirts of Aleppo. A senior U.S. intelligence official on Tuesday underscored the risk of extremists obtaining weapons of mass destruction in Syria.(Baraa al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)

photo of Rachel Oswald
February 12, 2014

A senior U.S. intelligence official on Tuesday warned of a "very real" risk of extremist groups gaining control of Syrian chemical or biological weapons.

"The current instability in Syria presents a perfect opportunity for al-Qaida and associated groups to acquire these weapons [of mass destruction] or their components," U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said in Tuesday testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, citing the terrorist organizations' longtime stated interest in acquiring the most dangerous arms.

His remarks stand in contrast to some recent comments by U.S. diplomats who have played down the risk that extremists might seize Syrian chemical arms as they are transported to a coastal city for international removal and destruction.

 

Syrian President Bashar Assad's government has blamed delays in moving these sensitive warfare materials out of the country on security concerns, amid assertions that the sensitive convoys already have come under rebel attack. Damascus last year agreed to U.S. and Russian demands that it surrender its entire chemical arsenal following a major sarin gas attack that allegedly killed more than 1,400 civilians.

"While Syria's stockpiles are currently under the control of the regime, the movement of these weapons from their current locations for disposal or other reasons drastically increases the risk of these weapons or their components falling into the wrong hands," Flynn said. "There is also the very real possibility that extremists in the Syrian opposition could overrun and exploit chemical and biological weapons storage facilities before all of these materials are removed."

Damascus this week said nearly all of most of its most deadly chemicals would be moved out of Syria by the end of the month -- two months past a deadline set by international authorities.

At the Tuesday hearing, U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper told the panel it was "hard to discern" whether the Syrian delays were due to legitimate security concerns. Instead, he indicated, the lag times could reflect a scheme by Damascus aimed at lengthening the chemical disarmament process for "as long as possible because it ... serves to implicitly legitimize Assad."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power in comments to reporters last week seemed to minimize Damascus' argument that extremist threats to chemicals under transport justified the delays.

"We know the regime has the ability to move these weapons and materials because they have moved them multiple times over the course of this conflict," Power said. "It is time for the Assad government to stop its foot-dragging."

On Tuesday, Clapper also told the Senate panel there are projected to be in excess of 7,500 foreign fighters hailing from about 50 countries currently in Syria. "Among them are a small group of [Afghanistan-Pakistan] al-Qaida veterans who have aspirations for external attacks in Europe, if not the [U.S.] homeland itself," he said.

This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Job Board
Search Jobs
Biomedical Service Internship Position
American Society of Civil Engineers | Flint, MI
Fire Sprinkler Inspector
American Society of Civil Engineers | Charlotte, NC
Professional Development Program Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Farmington Hills, MI
Deputy Director of Transit Operations
American Society of Civil Engineers | San Jose, CA
Transportation Planner
American Society of Civil Engineers | Salinas, CA
Assistant Professor - Water Resources/Ecological Engineering
American Society of Civil Engineers | Auburn, AL
Product Manager - Chemical Development and Supply - Tulsa, OK
American Society of Civil Engineers | Tulsa, OK
Commissioning Intern
American Society of Civil Engineers | Chicago, IL
Assessment and Remediation Team Lead
American Society of Civil Engineers | Regina, SK
Business Development Manager
American Society of Civil Engineers
Sr. Controls Systems Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Grand Island, NE
Senior Project Manager- Transportation
American Society of Civil Engineers | San Antonio, TX
Materials Engineer 2
American Society of Civil Engineers | IL
Land Surveyor
American Society of Civil Engineers
Quality Engineer
American Society of Civil Engineers | Attica, IN
 
Comments
comments powered by Disqus