What to do about Syria's chemical weapons if Assad falls
It's a question that looms larger the weaker the Syrian regime becomes. That's because the number one candidate to acquire those weapons is Hezb'allah. They would be the most organized of any terrorist group and would no doubt get help from their paymasters in Iran.
Israel is not unconcious to this possibility, as Fox News reports:
Sources close to the Israel Defense Force told FoxNews.com soldiers have been put on standby and are ready to move, while civilian demand for gas masks has jumped 66 percent over the last few weeks from 2,200 to 3,700 per day. The fears center around the prospect of Hezbollah getting Syrian chemical weapons as the Assad regime shows imminent signs of collapse.
"Israel...will not hold back and will respond decisively if this happens," Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.
Hezbollah, (the Islamic militant group based in south Lebanon, supported by both Syria and Iran), who has long called for the destruction of Israel, is the prime candidate to take possession of the armaments. Speculation is mounting about when and how Israel will deal with the prospect of chemical weapons being spirited away during the chaos of Assad's likely fall.
"It appears the IDF may seek to eliminate Syria's ability to transport the weapons to proxy forces but not to eliminate the actual weapons themselves by striking at storage facilities," Idan Kweller, political correspondent for Israel Army Radio, told FoxNews.com. "Israel's main interest is to ensure the weapons are not passed on to the likes of Hezbollah in south Lebanon."
The potential breakdown of the Syrian regime has reportedly paved the way for any number of Islamist terror groups, including Al Qaeda, to blend in with the Free Syrian Army, giving them cover to get at the a chemical weapons stockpile Assad acknowledges having. That could potentially pose a massive threat to Israel's security and inflict significant civilian casualties, according to experts.
Meanwhile, the race to locate the chemical weapons has reportedly been taxing a number of international security agencies, including the CIA, desperate to ensure the arms won't fall into the wrong hands and spark an all-out regional war. One report suggested that a group of Jordanian commandoes had been sent into Syria to try and recover the weapons, while Turkey's intelligence agency is another with good reason to fear unaccounted for weapons.
It is doubtful that a squad of commandoes could carry off the chemical weapons by themselves. They would need special trucks and expertise in order to pack and ship the weapons out of the country.
That's why it is much more likely that the IDF, in conjunction with the CIA or Mossad, would be the logical choice to safegaurd the weapons. If Hezb'allah would make an attempt to grab the weapons, it would require a full blown military response by the Israelis.
It is believed that the Syrian stockpile is massive and requires dozens of trucks and support personnel to move them. They may already be in Alawite enclaves along the coast where Assad will use them to keep his enemies at bay if he is forced out of Damascus. He is not about to hand them over to anyone -- including Hezb'allah. But his fall might be so precipitous that the weapons could be exposed to capture, in which case the Israelis will almost certainly spring into action to prevent the unthinkable.