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Exploring Syria's chemical weapons stockpile

May 9th, 2013
11:36 AM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN 

Evidence of chemical weapons use gets harder to find with each passing day in Syria.

The Assad regime is blocking U.N. special investigators from entering the country as the Obama administration continues to seek concrete proof.

“It is publicly known that Syria has the largest active chemical weapons program in the world," President Obama's former chief adviser on all matters relating to weapons of mass destruction, Gary Samore, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.   

RELATED: Syrian opposition PM: Arm us, not the extremists

The only other country that might have a comparable stockpile might  be North Korea, about which we know very little, according to Samore.

"The agents that are said to be in Syria's position are mustard gas, which is a choking agent, and two kinds of nerve gas, sarin and VX," Samore told told Amanpour. "They have a well-developed arsenal for delivering these chemical weapons through aerial bombs, Scud missile warheads, artillery shells and rockets."

It would be a very daunting operation for the U.S. and its allies to secure those stockpiles.

"It would require a very large force to be inserted into many different facilities," Samore said. "And, of course, that force would have to be protected."

This is one of the reasons, he said, why the Obama administration is being very careful about deciding when its red line – Syria using chemical weapons – has been crossed.

"Military options are pretty unattractive to either try to destroy the chemical weapons at storage facilities or to seize them," Samore said. "For that reason, I think it's unlikely that those kinds of military steps will be taken until there's a really clear evidence of large-scale indiscriminate use that removes any doubt about what has happened."

READ MORE: Israel: We do not hide our red lines


Filed under:  Latest Episode • Syria
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Dimmus

    “It is publicly known that Syria has the largest active chemical weapons program in the world,..." – it is publicly known due to your news, but are the sources the same as about WMD in Iraq or some other sources?

    May 9, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Well, there WERE WMD in Iraq... Unless, of course, you insist that Saddam Hussein somehow managed to KILL tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians by USING chemical weapons and NOT have them at the same time...

      May 9, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Reply
      • octopus

        there WERE WMD in Iraq... in EIGHTIES. apparently, Bush and Condolleezzaa forgot to clarify it.

        May 9, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
      • JustMe2013

        Are you forgetting that the Iraqi people convicted 'Chemical Ali' for using gas on the Kurds... they had them; just as the first wave of propaganda suggested that the WMDs were a serious problem the leftist propaganda is just as bad to suggest that there were none...

        May 10, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • MBA

      There were no WMD in Iraq, Bush said so himself. If I were Obama I would think again before making that same mistake again and the result ofcourse will be, a lot of young American lives lost for nothing!

      Dimmus, you are right in what you said.

      May 10, 2013 at 4:51 am | Reply
      • Thinker23

        Neither Bush nor any other American official said that that THERE WERE NO WMD in Iraq. At most they could say that NO WMD WERE FOUND there... A HUGE difference.

        May 13, 2013 at 5:46 am |
  2. The Maeven

    I can't believe the US is wussing out. What other weapon would kill the cats, dogs, sheep and chickens along with the humans. Someone needs to both kill Assad and his family, they also need to install a secular government. Said government should go our searching for those who attacked in this fashion, and kill them, too. A bit too Old Testament for you? Think about it. They are taught to hate in their schools and homes. Down to the third and fourth generation.

    May 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Reply
    • mily

      so...who do you suggest should go and kill them??...American military? nope you my dear you can go there and kill them with your very own hands

      May 10, 2013 at 5:57 am | Reply
  3. ronwagn

    We have very small nukes that could vaporize all the plants.

    May 9, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  4. Medeni Satin

    Israel's plan is working like a clock. Soon millions will be murdered and billions will be earned by few.

    May 9, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Do you know something about Israel's plans no one else (including Israelis) knows about?

      May 9, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  5. Alice Dela Cruz

    So I think the bottom line is to wait for Syria to cross the 'red line' but before this happen, all the civilians must be secured already.

    May 9, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Reply
  6. George

    Are you seriously saying Syria has more chemical weapons than the US? How many does Israel have for that matter, along with 100ks of nukes?

    May 9, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Reply
  7. Jrod86

    Syria using chemical weapons is a red line, but its ok for the US to use them? Is our short term memory that bad? Does no one remember the Agent Orange in Vietnam?

    May 9, 2013 at 10:31 pm | Reply
    • Nazz

      Just to clarify, Agent Orange was not ment as an anti-human weapon, it was a defoliate weapon that happens to give people TB and other bad things.

      May 10, 2013 at 12:26 am | Reply
    • Tip

      Agent orange was used to destroy the thick jungles. It was not used as a chemical weapon against humans. It was only after the usage did the side effects were discovered.

      May 10, 2013 at 2:29 am | Reply
  8. Amit Chatterjee

    I had watched one of the greatest con jobs by Colin Powell in the UN about 10 years back. Currently again it looks strangely familiar. But then it is for the greater good and world peace. Hence, i reconcile and sip my Starbucks.

    May 10, 2013 at 12:21 am | Reply
    • Horsefly

      Colin Powell was duped by 'W" and Trickie Dickie Cheney and Donnie Rummie to make that presentation. If they would have actually listened to Powell, I believe the Mid East would be in one helluva lot better situation at this moment

      May 10, 2013 at 3:44 am | Reply
  9. Kamal

    So there is still no evidence of chemicals use – no result of analyses was made public...... by any interest groups

    May 10, 2013 at 3:40 am | Reply
  10. Steve49

    Who cares. The quicker they kill each other off, the better.

    May 10, 2013 at 4:21 am | Reply
  11. kapatiya

    Rebels are using chemicals weapons according to UN reports

    May 10, 2013 at 4:43 am | Reply
    • Mostafa

      You have got it SPOT on: And no by 5 yrs the global rervese currency (dollar) will have collapsed and the elites will be able to create their new one world government from the ashes.Don't worry,as dumb and easily led as you sound you'll probably be among the first led to the slaughter.

      January 23, 2014 at 7:58 pm | Reply
  12. JayHobeSound

    It makes no sense that Assad would deploy chem weapons. The lightly-sourced accusations of chem weapons sound all too familiar to the WMD claims that were used to justify the US-led invasion of Iraq.

    May 10, 2013 at 4:53 am | Reply
  13. Bello Y.

    I just hope Syria's case will not metamorphose into what we have in Iraq in all its ramification.

    May 10, 2013 at 4:54 am | Reply
  14. Witty

    FYI, Mustard gas (yperite or sulfur mustard) is a blistering or vesicant agent, rather than a choking one. Just effin' Google it if you don't have the previous knowledge. It works by alkylating the guanine nucleotide in DNA strands, which prevents cellular division and generally leads directly to programmed cell death. Or in simpler terms, it creates huge blisters and you die.

    May 10, 2013 at 8:06 am | Reply
  15. krehator

    Invasion of Syria will not occur even if evidence is discovered. So you can all stop worrying and comparing this to the Iraq invasion. The govt knows it cannot pull the wool over our eyes so easily after the Bush fiasco. Also, we simply cannot afford it. If anything, we would pound them from the air in support of the rebellion. Boots on the ground? Pointless unless we intended to keep it.

    May 10, 2013 at 8:29 am | Reply
  16. Devarajan

    Other than Syria and North Korea, does no other country having chemicals in thei country?

    May 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      The problem is not HAVING chemicals in the country but USING these chemicals to kill people.

      May 13, 2013 at 5:50 am | Reply

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