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Equally less surprising would be if Assad delivered his chemical weapons to an outside terrorist organization, especially given recent reports from Western intelligence indicating that long-range surface-to-air missile systems and long-range missiles have been moved out of Syria by the Islamist terror group Hezbollah. The missiles include dozens of Syrian-manufactured M600s, which have a range of approximately 300 miles and can carry a half-ton warhead.
The unsettling prospect of facing Hezbollah’s 42,000 missiles and rockets, now potentially loaded with chemical weapons, comes as Israel’s Home Front Command announced only days ago that it will run out of gas masks within months, leaving 4 million Israelis (nearly 45 percent of Israel’s population) without protective kits.
It should be noted that Israel’s concerns over the fate of Syria’s chemical weapons have been long-standing, fears that prompted the creation of a joint US-Israeli surveillance operation in the summer of 2011 to monitor Syria’s chemical weapon stockpiles.
That partnership reportedly led the United States to develop undisclosed contingency plans in case the Syrian regime was seen preparing to use chemical weapons or pass them on to terrorist organizations.
Of course, Assad may not be the one to determine how his chemical weapons are ultimately used if Syria’s chemical weapon armories — many located near current or recent sites of unrest — are seized by Syrian rebels and militant Islamist groups.
That scenario comes ever more apparent as intensive fighting between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) — an estimated force of 15,000 military defectors — and the regular Syrian army has now reached the outskirts of Damascus.
The possibility of the Syrian government losing control of its chemical weapon arsenals, however, doesn’t appear imminent according to US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland who has said the United States “believes that Syria’s chemical stockpile remains under government control and that there is no change in the lockdown status of those weapons.”
That assessment, however, may soon change as the Israeli Defense Force recently announced that it was making preparations for the imminent fall of Assad. According to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Assad “won’t see the end of the year. I don’t think he will even see the middle of this year.” Then, according to the head of Israel’s military planning division, Major-General Amir Eshel, “The big question is what’s going to come the day after.”
Until then, while it remains to be seen if the Syrian regime is prepared to use its chemical weapons, an indication of its intentions may be found in a report that Russia recently sent 3 million gas masks to Syria, masks which have already been distributed to the regime’s remaining loyalists.
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