Syrian chemical weapons more widespread than previously thought, officials say
Western spy agencies suspect the Syrian government has dispersed several hundred tons of chemical weapons and precursor components across as many as 20 sites across the country, heightening anxieties over the ability to secure the arsenals in the event of a complete breakdown of authority in the war-torn nation, U.S. and Middle Eastern officials say.
Officials are monitoring the sites, but the officials said there is growing fear that they have not identified every location and that some of the poisons could be stolen or used by Syrian troops against civilians.
“We think we know everything, but we felt the same way about Libya,” said a former U.S. intelligence official who has been briefed on U.S. preparations for both conflicts. “We had been on the ground in Libya, yet there were big surprises, both in terms of quantities and locations.” The former official was one of several people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.
The collapse of government control in several Syrian provinces has prompted heightened scrutiny of the weapons depots by the United States and its allies in the region. It also has hastened preparations for securing the sites with foreign troops, the officials said.