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Assad will never give up chemical stockpile, defected Syrian General al-Sakat tells Amanpour

October 1st, 2013
03:47 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

A defected Syrian general told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that Bashar al-Assad will never give up his chemical stockpile.

“The locations of most of the scientific research centers in Syria and the storage facilities are known and under surveillance, thus, he will give up those centers and facilities for sure without lying. That said however, Bashar al-Assad will not give up the chemical stockpile,” Syrian Brigadier General Zaher al-Sakat said.

General al-Sakat says that he defected from the Syrian military after he was ordered to use chemical agents; he says he swapped the chemicals out for something non-toxic to fool his commanders.

The general said that in addition to four secret locations within Syria, the regime is currently transferring chemical weapons to Iraq and Lebanon, an enormous claim that the commander of the opposition Free Syrian Army, General Salim Idriss, recently also made to Amanpour.

Lebanon and Iraq denied the claims at the time, and CNN's Barbara Starr reported that, if true, the allegation would fundamentally shift the assessments of U.S. intelligence officials.

Al-Sakat said that the oppositions’ intelligence monitored “twenty eight large trucks moving from Jdeedet Yabous, toward Lebanon, then to Hezbollah, which were heavily guarded. They also found in the Frouqlus area more than fifty large Mercedes and Volvo trucks, also heavily guarded, moving in the direction of Iraq.”

Al-Sakat said that the trucks were not attacked “so as not to spread chemical weapons or agents.”

The general said that they are unsure whether the trucks crossed into Iraq.

General al-Sakat recounted to Amanpour the events that he says made him defect.

“In the beginning of the protest,” he said, “the field commanders used non-lethal chemical harassing agents.”

“But when I was given an order by my immediate commander, Lieutenant General Ali Hasan Ammar, the commander of the fifth division, to use the lethal chemical agents,” he told Amanpour, “I replaced it with diluted bleach and buried those lethal agents in the ground.”

The chemical al-Sakat was ordered to use, he said, was not sarin – which was used in the now-infamous August 21 attack outside Damascus – but phosgene, a chemical first used in WWI that causes severe respiratory problems.

“We should distinguish between three kinds of Chemical weapons,” he said.

“First, the non-lethal harassing agents that were used in the beginning of the protests and were fired by automatic weapons and bombs to disperse the protesters.”

“Two, the incapacitating agents that were used in land mines which would produce a cloud of gas that spreads in an area, harming civilians.”

“Three, lethal agents such as Sarin and VX gas were used loaded into mortar shells, cruise missiles and weapons bays of fighter jets,” he told Amanpour. “I was given an order to use the number two stage of chemical weapons, and I knew then that this regime will end up using lethal chemical weapons against the civilians, therefore I defected.”

General al-Sakat claims that he was given the order to use chemical weapons by his direct commander, but lays ultimate blame at the feet of Bashar al-Assad.

“The decision to use the lethal chemicals weapons such as sarin, VX, and Iprit [mustard gas],” he said, “is a strategic-military decision that would be made by the Commander in chief of the armed forces, who is Bashar al-Assad. He is the Commander in Chief.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Syria
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. kjkj

    ....thats the word of a coward and a betrayer im not sure why anyone would believe him.

    October 1, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Reply
    • rick

      But you know he's not lying. Why do you resist what you know to be the truth? Sure, we can all be skeptical and should be, but I believe US intelligence will quickly determine whether or not he's lying, and to me his words have the "cachet" of truth. BTW, a coward? Can you imagine what it took to defect, and who he had to leave behind? No, the cowardly thing to do is do whatever you're told, and ignore your conscience and morality.

      October 1, 2013 at 6:59 pm | Reply
      • willknutsen

        None of us here KNOWS what the truth is, so please stop writing as if you do. Let us wait to see what happens. Assad is in the cross hairs of an international gun, so we will not be seeing any use of chemical weapons by Assad's forces.

        October 2, 2013 at 2:59 am |
      • bill

        Nailed it.

        October 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • robert

      The betrayer is the man who used weapons of war on his own people. Assad, betrayed the trust of his people and will face a war crimes tribunal if he isn't killed first.

      October 1, 2013 at 7:41 pm | Reply
    • seanbil

      Speaking of lying, Both Assad and his foreign minister said there's no civil war in Syria despite one hundred thousand people dead and millions fled

      October 2, 2013 at 1:52 am | Reply
    • Leina

      In Syria there is NO CIVIL WAR-the people flee and running for their life because the Terrorists like cancer spreading away in the country kill and kill and kill-of course they do,they got well paid, well armed (Saudia, Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, Germany, GB, France, the US and Israel), permanent recruited, on going propaganda to distract from their own political and economical problems and to harm the region to finally get IRAN. Their Oil, their Gas and their Land and one way is getting Syria to get Iran.
      100 000 are dead yes, but this number increased in the last 1 year isn´t it funny how fast it goes when everyone join forces?
      1 1/2 Syria was not on the radar due to the other countries like Egypt, Tunisia,Libya, Pakistan and the so called "Rebels" did a huge Massacre in Homs and in Aleppo only killing "12 000" so far but then when the other problem countries where more or less handled they focused only on Syria and that´s the one of the reason the number of death people rises up so fast.
      Every month 5000 "rebels" alone from Jordan enter Syria and the US trains and finance them they have admit that in February 2013 after 6 month by the way. Saudi alone send 10 000 (3500 of them formal convicts!) and Turkey is the Asylum of the Terrorists, I mean rebels of the Free Syrian Army that funny already existed since 2006 and the US-also admit- ever since giving them 6 MILLION DOLLARS...................................................................................................

      And before you talk about numbers you killed so far 1,7 MILLION PEOPLE IN IRAQ, 2 MILLION IN AFGHANISTAN, 12000 CHILDREN IN PAKISTAN WITH DRONES.....

      To make it short what happened when you got involved? You turn a well established country into crisis, kill HUNDRED THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE and then wondering HOW THIS COULD HAPPEN?

      October 2, 2013 at 3:34 am | Reply
      • Troll Searcher

        Yes Leina... Also don't forget Assad got Nobel Peace prize in 2010... but Americans and West only got We Kill 153 Million Children award. Assad only uses chemical agents to wash laundry. American CIA is lying... and... and... Assad invented light bulb and sewing machine... and personally trained Mother Teresa.

        October 2, 2013 at 4:42 am |
      • seanbil

        How could this happened? Why don't you ask Assad why he killed those protesters from day one? Don't be self centered, as if the whole word wanted to destroy oh-so-special Syria. Seriously, from Morocco to Jordan, many Arab countries experienced Arab Spring, but Syria is the worst example. Assad jr himself destroyed Syria by copying his father's notorious way in killing people in order to secure the 40 year old of dictatorship (pretty much like Ghadafy whose shorter killing-spree). Turkey was once Syria ally and warm to Iran. What will it gain by making enemy in the region?

        October 2, 2013 at 9:05 am |
  2. Geoff

    And that's exactly why Obama wanted to attack that f***ng country in the first place with our military forces! What are we waiting for? Syria is NOT going to do things peacefully. They're a rogue country that must be ruled with an iron fist!

    October 1, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  3. Geoff

    Russia's plan was a good one. I think it was a wise choice to give Syria the benefit of the doubt and see if we can come to a peaceful agreement that averts a military strike... Okay, that didn't work though so it's time to kick some Syrian a**!!!! I think the UN should support us this time around.

    October 1, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  4. rexedie

    it doesn't seem too plausible that you could swap an amount of chemicals for something less lethal without someone knowing about it. al beit sure its the generals and commanders running assad's war. he himself is a limp noodle.
    at least now .... we have more backing and reason to take some action in the matter.

    October 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm | Reply
    • Leina

      You are right some one else is running Assad´s war like your President is just a Marionette and the Industry leads him from one region to another region for war!

      October 2, 2013 at 3:38 am | Reply
  5. Umm

    He claims that he was asked to use level two chemical weapons, not level three (like Sarin). He claims he defected after he speculated that at some point in the future he may be asked to use level three chemicals. Sure, he mentions that he thinks level three chemical weapons eventually were used, but the implication of his comments is that he had already defected at that point and it is just speculation on his part as are his claims that chemical weapons were moved into or towards other countries. Even if he is being completely truthful and accurate in his recounting of things he experienced and in his assessments of events after his decision to defect, I believe this limits the value of this interview with Amanpour.

    October 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Reply
  6. felix

    @Umm your response is rational, I agree that this fellow did not witness assad using chemical weapons, but interestingly enough the UN concluded that asad did use them, and I wonder if someone can direct me to evidence of such claim, another possibility is that Hezbollah was given level 3 chems to use against opposition, since assad took Hezbollah under his umbrella so to speak and these folks are highly trained with advanced systems and special forces units that are capable of striking with anything from anywhere, they were the ones to get assad winning again after recapturing Damascus and its suburbs.

    October 1, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Reply
  7. Mickey

    “I replaced it with diluted bleach and buried those lethal agents in the ground.”

    Uh huh... I can imagine a general fast-taking his way past the hard-faced guards protecting the chemical munitions, then, unseen by anyone, he pulls out his Ninja-issue miniturized bomb disassembly kit and the "Bomb-Disassembly for Dumbies (Chemical edition) how-to guide and goes to work. Within minutes, he's pouring the chemicals into empty Evian bottles and replacing it with gallons of bleach he smuggled under his hat. Finally, he pulls out his shovel, the one with the telescoping handle, and digs a hole to bury the evidence (which is still hidden there of course, and one day will confirm this man's heroic antics). It's all true, really, that's why CNN and Amanpour published it.

    October 1, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Reply
  8. Freddie

    What a load of BS. You don't think the US or Israel would notice all these expensive heavily guarded large trucks leaving a chemical weapons site! This "general" is irrelevant. The US is right on Syria.

    October 2, 2013 at 1:01 am | Reply
  9. Awabnavi

    Why is this FOOL of a GENERAL making this statement ONLY NOW? Makes one wonder, NO? Hmmmm!

    October 2, 2013 at 2:17 am | Reply
  10. Maria OConnor

    Those representatives, should not get paid, they did not work.

    October 2, 2013 at 2:18 am | Reply
  11. JOHN

    Sounds legit, like john mc cain and obama.

    October 2, 2013 at 2:24 am | Reply
  12. me

    a question to the war inthusiasts here – how a country with 16 trillion debt and on the brink of bankruptcy is going to fund another war?

    October 2, 2013 at 3:00 am | Reply
  13. TP

    First of all, he is not a general of the army anymore, he defected and gave up his post. May be because he thought that once Assad is gone, he can have better position in the new government! Second, it will be extremely difficult to replace the toxic chemicals by something non-leathel in such a large scale. You not only need the facility but also scientific skills/know-how to change the chemicals. Third, even if we believe that his lot managed to replace the chemical weapons, where did the toxic chemicals go? Is he keeping them for future use? Four, the transfer of huge amount of chemicals across the war zone areas into Iraq, Lebanon etc will be not only difficult but nearly impossible considering the fact that there are so many countries who are keeping a close eye on Syria. Clearly, Assad does not want to be attacked which is why he is helping the UN out, at least for now. If he gets caught while transferring such weapons across into various countries, its not only Syria but the others will also be in trouble. Bottom line, the so called general is making things up to get attention. He did get success up to certain level to get attention!

    October 2, 2013 at 3:24 am | Reply
  14. COM

    Dont tell me that these are the kind of people the US has been paying in Syria. No wonder he defected, because Assad as a wise man could not have relied on an imbecilic General like this for his protection. What a bunch of BS.

    October 2, 2013 at 3:47 am | Reply
  15. KEVIN

    This guy is full of sh**. He's a plant.

    October 2, 2013 at 4:21 am | Reply
  16. KEVIN

    Yea, this guy defected. With a gun to his head. And now he is being told what to say.

    October 2, 2013 at 6:15 am | Reply
  17. Abu-bkr

    Here comes another plot, lies! Lies!! & lies!!!

    October 2, 2013 at 7:36 am | Reply
  18. Zeid Zayed

    More than 80 years on and the world still talks in shock about the holocaust of Nazi Germany that lasted no more than 12 years.That was Adolf Hitler,s reign:the Assads atrocities began in 1963 and are still on.If the defecting Syrian officers who have testified against the regime are not believed,one needs to remind the world and the UN that the wide scale gas attack on August 21 that killed 1500 victims is the 21st. gas masacre perpetrated on civilians by a regime claiming to represent and protect them.Can anyone point to a similar horror ,past or present?

    October 3, 2013 at 9:28 am | Reply
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