Syrian rebels dispute U.S. chemical weapons claims

J.J. Green,

WASHINGTON – U.S. and European Union politicians are “creating” stories about Syrian chemical weapons developments as a precursor to enter Syria, says the main spokesman for rebels in the country.

Abu Rami, speaking to WTOP from Homs, in western Syria, says the Free Syrian Army (FSA) believes politicians are fabricating the stories to “create a door to enter Syria to stop the violence” in absence of a U.N. resolution.

“I believe they’ve reached the point where they feel they must intervene to make a hard step to stop Bashar al-Assad and his regime from killing people, so they are trying to create this opportunity to come through,” Rami says.

U.S. officials, according to several media sources this week, said the Syrian government put its chemical weapons corps on alert to ready themselves for preparation of such weapons, which include sarin, VX and mustard gases.

Asked why he believed officials made the allegations, Rami – in a resentful tone that appears to have grown out of frustration – suggests guilt might be the reason.

According to Rami, the Syrian people have suffered while the world essentially stood by and watched.

“During the first months of the Syrian uprising, we called many times for the international community to take harder steps against Bashar al-Assad. Later we asked the outside world to intervene by all necessary means, either politically or military, but there was no response,” he says.

Now, intervention in Syria only can happen under strict circumstances, according to Rami. International military forces are not wanted in Syria unless they meet specific demands, he says.

“The Free Syrian Army is getting stronger, but we need more specific weapons, and we do not welcome intervention unless the U.S. and EU supply the FSA the specific weapons the opposition asked for,” Rami says.

Rami didn’t elaborate on what those weapons were, but the U.S. has said repeatedly it won’t arm the rebels. The FSA has, however, obtained rocket launchers and other weapons that have put the Syrian military on its heels.

The Syrian conflict began in March of 2011 with nationwide demonstrations by Syrians sympathetic to the Arab Spring movement.

In April of 2011, the Syrian army was sent to suppress the uprisings, and soldiers opened fire on civilians in demonstrations, accusing them of protecting armed activists. After months of turmoil, the protests evolved into an armed rebellion.

The opposition forces, made up mostly of defected soldiers and civilian volunteers, grew into a well-armed organization which eventually received military aid from several foreign countries.

There have been scattered reports for months that Syria has been mixing or moving chemical weapons stocks, which presents a troubling and confusing scenario, according to experts.

When it comes to sarin gas, Dr. David Kay – a former U.N. weapons inspector – says there are two types of mixing: “mixing to render chemicals harmless or mixing them to prepare them for use.”

Now a senior research fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Kay says Syria’s sarin gas is stored in “a binary form, which is harmless until chemicals are mixed together.”

Given the instability in the country, the Syrians may be trying to protect the chemicals from falling into the possession of rebels or terrorists, adds Kay.

The U.S. State Department did not respond to inquiries about the rebels’ allegations.

Follow @JJGreenWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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