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Thread: Syria

  1. #621
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    Default Re: Syria

    Syrian Chemical Weapon Use Would Spark World Reaction, NATO Says

    By Jonathan Tirone and Indira A.R. Lakshmanan on December 04, 2012


    NATO’s warning came a day after U.S. officials reported that satellite images showed Syrian forces moving chemical weapons into positions where they could be used more quickly. The officials, speaking under condition of anonymity, also said intelligence sources intercepted Syrian orders to prepare Sarin nerve gas for potential use.


    “The possible use of chemical weapons would be completely unacceptable for the whole international community,” Rasmussen said today in Brussels, according to a transcript posted on NATO’s website. “If anybody resorts to these terrible weapons, I would expect an immediate reaction from the international community.”


    The military alliance, which may deploy a missile-defense system along Turkey’s border with Syria, hasn’t become directly involved in the uprising. The 20-month-long conflict has killed more than 30,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.


    NATO’s warning over the possible use of chemical weapons echoes similar remarks by the U.S.


    “I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: the world is watching,” President Barack Obama said yesterday in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington. “The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable, and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”


    Foreign ministers from NATO’s 28 members convened two days of meetings today in Brussels. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, an ally of Syria, also attended the meeting.
    ‘Great Concern’

    “The Syrian stockpiles of chemical weapons are a matter of great concern,” Rasmussen said. “We know that Syria possesses missiles. We know they have chemical weapons and of course they also have to be included in our calculations and this is also the reason why it is a matter of urgency to ensure effective defense and protection of our ally Turkey.”


    Turkey asked NATO for the Patriot system, designed to intercept aircraft or missiles, after weeks of talks about how to shore up security on its 900-kilometer (560-mile) border as the conflict in Syria deepens.


    Last week, Syrian warplanes attacked targets close to the Turkish border as officers from the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands arrived to evaluate possible sites for Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries.

    ‘Provocative’ Patriots

    Syria has called the Patriot plan “provocative,” and its allies Russia and Iran have protested what they regard as a first step toward implementing a no-fly zone or military action against Assad’s regime. Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Turkey yesterday for meetings including with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


    “The purpose of the possible deployment of Patriot missiles is to protect the Turkish population and Turkish territory against missile attacks,” Rasmussen said. “We have no intention to prepare offensive operations, so the purpose of this possible deployment is to ensure effective defense and protection of Turkey.”
    To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at jtirone@bloomberg.net; Indira A.R.
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  2. #622
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    Default Re: Syria

    I can find nothing from Russia on this. They seem... "strangely quiet" about the whole thing.
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  3. #623
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    Default Re: Syria

    Well, I found this... they are "concerned".

    4 December 2012 Last updated at 13:31 ET Syria crisis: Nato approves Patriots for Turkey

    Mr Rasmussen said Nato was determined to protect Turkey
    Continue reading the main story


    Nato has approved the deployment of Patriot anti-missile batteries along Turkey's border with Syria.


    The long-expected move emerged from a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels, and amid growing fears that Syria could use chemical weapons.
    Nato's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the ministers had "unanimously expressed grave concerns" about the use of chemical weapons.
    Syria has said it would never use such weapons against its own people.


    The meeting of the 28-member Western military alliance's foreign ministers in Brussels follows a request from Turkey to boost its defences along the border.
    In a statement, Nato said it had "agreed to augment Turkey's air defence capabilities in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey and to contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the alliance's border".
    Continue reading the main story Analysis

    Jonathan Marcus BBC diplomatic correspondent
    Nato's deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries to south-eastern Turkey is essentially a gesture of reassurance to Ankara.
    Turkey feels threatened by the growing crisis in Syria. Stray Syrian artillery shells have already come across the border on several occasions. Turkey fears that worse could follow.


    Patriot is highly capable against both advanced aircraft and ballistic missiles. But Nato will underline that this is to be seen as a defensive deployment only. Patriot has no capacity to deal with stray shell fire.


    While Patriot can reach into Syrian airspace, Nato is at pains to stress that this is in no sense a step towards establishing a no-fly zone over Syria. Nonetheless, Nato may also hope that there will be a deterrent effect that may dissuade Syria from operating its aircraft too close to the Turkish frontier.



    Recent intelligence assessments have indicated Damascus is contemplating using ballistic missiles, potentially armed with chemical warheads.


    Speaking after the meeting, Mr Rasmussen told reporters that the foreign ministers had "unanimously expressed grave concerns" about the reports, saying: "Any such action would be completely unacceptable and a clear breach of international law."


    He would not give further details on the deployment, but said it would ensure effective protection of Turkey against any missile attack, whether carrying chemical weapons or not.


    Nato officials have previously made clear such a move would be purely defensive.


    Rebel gains

    The BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Robbins says Nato's move is an expression of solidarity with Turkey, and a signal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad he must not widen the war against his own people beyond Syria's borders.


    Syria is believed to hold chemical weapons - including mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent - at dozens of sites around the country.
    The CIA has said those weapons "can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile and artillery rockets".
    Continue reading the main story



    President Obama has previously warned President Assad he would face "consequences" if he used chemical weapons against his people.
    A Nato team has already visited a number of sites in Turkey in preparation for the deployment of Patriot batteries, which could be used to shoot down any Syrian missiles or warplanes that stray over the border.
    But analysts say any deployment - possibly supplied by the US, Germany or the Netherlands - could take weeks.
    Activists say more than 40,000 people have been killed since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country and another 2.5 million are internally displaced.
    Syrian opposition fighters have reportedly made dramatic gains recently, and several government mortar shells - aimed at rebel targets close to the border - have landed across its 900-km (560-mile) border with Turkey.
    Continue reading the main story Syria's chemical weapons

    • The CIA believes Syria has had a chemical weapons programme "for years and already has a stockpile of CW agents which can be delivered by aircraft, ballistic missile, and artillery rockets"
    • Syria is believed to possess mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent
    • The CIA also believes that Syria has attempted to develop more toxic and more persistent nerve agents, such as VX gas
    • A report citing Turkish, Arab and Western intelligence agencies put Syria's stockpile at approximately 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, stored in 50 towns and cities
    • Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) or ratified the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)

    Sources: CSIS, RUSI



    Although the head of the Arab League Nabil al-Arabi told AFP on Monday that the Syrian government could fall "any time", it still holds the capital, parts of the second city Aleppo, and other centres.
    In other developments:

    • A teacher and at least 28 students were killed when shelling hit their school inside the Wafideen refugee camp outside Damascus on Tuesday - state media said it was a rebel mortar attack but rebels blamed government troops.
    • A journalist working for a state-run newspaper was killed near his home in Damascus, said state media.
    • The UN said on Monday it was pulling "all non-essential international staff" out of Syria, with as many as 25 out of 100 international staff expected to leave this week.
    • The EU has withdrawn its mission altogether - the ambassador and head of delegation Vassilis Bontosoglou left Damascus with his six remaining international staff members on Tuesday morning.
    • Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi is said to have fled the country, amid reports he has been dismissed, ostensibly for making statements out of line with government policy.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Vladimir Putin: Moscow not defending regime 'nor acting as advocate'

    Big News Network (UPI) Tuesday 4th December, 2012

    BRUSSELS -- Russia agreed to try to sway Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, a Turkish official said, as NATO was to OK Patriot missile defenses for Turkey Tuesday.
    A senior Turkish official told The New York Times after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Istanbul, Turkey, that Moscow was "softening" its "political tone" and would look for ways of getting Assad to relinquish power.
    Russia has said it is not wedded to Assad, but the official suggested Moscow was now more motivated to find an alternative after Putin acknowledged Assad seemed unwilling to depart.
    After the meeting, Putin told reporters, "We are neither protecting the regime in Syria nor acting as their advocate, but remain worried about Syria's future."
    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Moscow would meet intensively with Syrian opposition groups based inside the country in the coming month.
    The possible Russian shift came amid a flurry of diplomatic and military activity.
    Bogdanov said for the first time Russia was ready to evacuate tens of thousands of its citizens from Syria. He told ITAR-Tass Moscow would arrange for planes to help them escape Syria's increasing instability.
    "Due to the situation, we recommend Russian citizens not to go to Syria," he said.
    The United Nations also began pulling out non-essential staff from Syria and the European Union said it reduced activities in Damascus "to a minimum" as regime forces bombarded opposition strongholds with artillery and airstrikes in an increasingly desperate attempt to keep rebel forces from advancing into Damascus, the capital.
    U.S. President Barack Obama warned Assad any use of chemical weapons against rebel forces or anyone else would be met with a severe international response.
    "I want to make absolutely clear to [Assad] and those under his command: The world is watching," Obama said at a nuclear non-proliferation conference in Washington. "The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable."
    A Western diplomat confirmed to the Times U.S. intelligence officials had grave concerns Syrian leaders would use missiles topped with chemical warheads in a desperate last effort to survive.
    The Syrian Foreign Ministry repeated earlier statements on state television the regime "would not use chemical weapons, if it had them, against its own people under any circumstances."
    Meanwhile, Lebanon's al-Manar satellite television reported Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi was fired for making statements that did not reflect the regime's position.
    Activists said he defected to Beirut, Lebanon, where he met his family. He then flew to London, Syrian National Coalition presidential adviser Wael Merza was quoted by al-Jazeera as saying.
    Makdissi's whereabouts could not immediately be independently confirmed.
    Makdissi, part of Syria's Christian minority, previously worked at the Syrian Embassy in London.
    Al-Manar said Makdissi was fired for saying in July Syria would use chemical weapons only against a foreign invasion. Syria prefers not to acknowledge having chemical weapons.
    Separately, opposition activists said rebel forces shot down a Russian MiG warplane in a Damascus suburb, while Turkey dispatched F-16 jet fighters after two Syrian jet strikes on a border city sent refugees and shrapnel into Turkey, Ankara said.
    The strikes in Ras al-Ain caused panic in the adjoining Turkish border-crossing town of Ceylanpinar, Ankara said.
    At the same time, NATO foreign ministers were widely expected to give political backing Tuesday to Turkey's request for Patriot missile batteries.
    Ankara requested the missile-defense systems last month to help it protect its border areas after learning Syria was considering using chemical weapons in Soviet Cold War-era Scud and North Korean SS-21 Scarab tactical ballistic missiles against rebel forces.
    Those missiles could easily stray into Turkey, as Syrian army artillery shells and mortars have done, Turkish officials said.
    The 28 NATO ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, were to meet in Brussels Tuesday and Wednesday.
    The Patriots, which diplomats say will be configured to shoot down ballistic missiles and not aircraft, will be provided by the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, The Wall Street Journal reported.
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    Default Re: Syria

    Well.. Syria is a big news item on FNC today
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    Default Re: Syria

    FNC reported earlier that Syria has indeed mixed what is believed to be Sarin and loaded it into weapons.


    Syria Loads Chemical Weapons Into Bombs; Military Awaits Assad's Order

    December 5, 2012

    The Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday.

    The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said.

    As recently as Tuesday, officials had said there was as yet no evidence that the process of mixing the "precursor" chemicals had begun. But Wednesday, they said their worst fears had been confirmed: The nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs.

    Sarin is an extraordinarily lethal agent. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces killed 5,000 Kurds with a single sarin attack on Halabja in 1988.

    U.S. officials stressed that as of now, the sarin bombs hadn't been loaded onto planes and that Assad hadn't issued a final order to use them. But if he does, one of the officials said, "there's little the outside world can do to stop it."

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated U.S. warnings to Assad not to use chemical weapons, saying he would be crossing "a red line" if he did so.

    Speaking Wednesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Clinton said the Syrian government was on the brink of collapse, raising the prospect that "an increasingly desperate Assad regime" might turn to chemical weapons or that the banned weapons could fall into other hands.

    "Ultimately, what we should be thinking about is a political transition in Syria and one that should start as soon as possible," Clinton said. "We believe their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people have to die before that occurs."

    Aides told NBC News that Clinton was expected next week to officially recognize the main opposition movement, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, with which she is scheduled to meet in Morocco. Britain, France, Turkey and some key Arab leaders have already recognized the opposition.

    Fighting intensified Wednesday in the 21-month civil war, which has left 40,000 people dead. The U.N. withdrew its personnel from Damascus, saying conditions were too dangerous.

    The government said this week that it wouldn't use chemical weapons on its own people after President Barack Obama warned that doing so would be "totally unacceptable."

    But U.S. officials said this week that the government had ordered its Chemical Weapons Corps to "be prepared," which Washington interpreted as a directive to begin bringing together the components needed to weaponize Syria's chemical stockpiles.

    U.S. officials had long believed that the Syrian government was stockpiling the banned chemical weapons before it acknowledged possessing them this summer.

    NBC News reported in July that U.S. intelligence agencies believed that in addition to sarin, Syria had access to tabun, a chemical nerve agent, as well as traditional chemical weapons like mustard gas and hydrogen cyanide.

    Officials told NBC News at the time that the Syrian government was moving the outlawed weapons around the country, leaving foreign intelligence agencies unsure where they might end up.

    Syria is one of only seven nations that hasn't ratified the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, the arms control agreement that outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of such weapons.

    Bombshells filled with chemicals can be carried by Syrian Air Force fighter-bombers, in particular Sukhoi-22/20, MiG-23 and Sukhoi-24 aircraft. In addition, some reports indicate that unguided short-range Frog-7 artillery rockets may be capable of carrying chemical payloads.

    In terms of longer-range delivery systems, Syria has a few dozen SS-21 ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 72 miles; 200 Scud-Bs, with a maximum range of 180 miles; and 60 to 120 Scud-Cs, with a maximum range of 300 miles, all of which are mobile and are capable of carrying chemical weapons, according U.S. intelligence officials.

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    Default Re: Syria


    Companion Threads and Posts:




    China And Russia ‘Celebrate’ Obama’s Victory

    From Reuters:




    KGB Operation "Bill Clinton"

    Report: Russia to allow pre-emptive nukes while the America is forced to disarm

    Oct 14 11:09 AM US/Eastern
    By DAVID NOWAK
    Associated Press Writer



    MOSCOW (AP) - A top Russian security official says Moscow reserves the right to conduct pre-emptive nuclear strikes to safeguard the country against aggression on both a large and a local scale, according to a newspaper interview published Wednesday.


    Glenn Beck Names Valerie Jarrett As Barack Hussein Obama's 'KGB Handler'

    Quote Originally Posted by vector7 View Post
    Flashback: What has changed between the U.S. and Russia?

    Russia tied to Iraq's missing arms

    by bill gertz
    the washington times
    october 28, 2004

    Russian special forces troops moved many of Saddam Hussein's weapons and related goods out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks before the march 2003 u.s. Military operation, the Washington times has learned.

    John a. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, said in an interview that he believes the Russian troops, working with Iraqi intelligence, "almost certainly" removed the high-explosive material that went missing from the al-qaqaa facility, south of Baghdad.

    "the Russians brought in, just before the war got started, a whole series of military units," mr. Shaw said. "their main job was to shred all evidence of any of the contractual arrangements they had with the iraqis. The others were transportation units."

    Mr. Shaw, who was in charge of cataloging the tons of conventional arms provided to Iraq by foreign suppliers, said he recently obtained reliable information on the arms-dispersal program from two European intelligence services that have detailed knowledge of the Russian-iraqi weapons collaboration.

    Most of Saddam's most powerful arms were systematically separated from other arms like mortars, bombs and rockets, and sent to Syria and Lebanon, and possibly to Iran, he said.

    The Russian involvement in helping disperse Saddam's weapons, including some 380 tons of RDX and HMX, is still being investigated, Mr. Shaw said.

    The RDX and HMX, which are used to manufacture high-explosive and nuclear weapons, are probably of Russian origin, he said.

    Pentagon spokesman Larry Dirita could not be reached for comment.

    The disappearance of the material was reported in a letter October 10 from the Iraqi government to the international atomic energy agency.

    Disclosure of the missing explosives Monday in a new york times story was used by the democratic presidential campaign of sen. John Kerry, who accused the bush administration of failing to secure the material.

    Al-qaqaa, a known Iraqi weapons site, was monitored closely, Mr. Shaw said.

    "that was such a pivotal location, number 1, that the mere fact of [special explosives] disappearing was impossible," Mr. Shaw said. "and number 2, if the stuff disappeared, it had to have gone before we got there."

    the pentagon disclosed yesterday that the al-qaqaa facility was defended by Fedayeen Saddam, special republican guard and other Iraqi military units during the conflict. U.s. Forces defeated the defenders around April 3 and found the gates to the facility open, the pentagon said in a statement yesterday.

    A military unit in charge of searching for weapons, the army's 75th exploitation task force, then inspected al-qaqaa on may 8, may 11 and may 27, 2003, and found no high explosives that had been monitored in the past by the idea.

    The pentagon said there was no evidence of large-scale movement of explosives from the facility after April 6.

    "the movement of 377 tons of heavy ordnance would have required dozens of heavy trucks and equipment moving along the same roadways as u.s. Combat divisions occupied continually for weeks prior to and subsequent to the 3rd infantry division's arrival at the facility," the statement said.

    The statement also said that the material may have been removed from the site by Saddam's regime.

    According to the pentagon, u.n. Arms inspectors sealed the explosives at al-qaqaa in January 2003 and revisited the site in march and noted that the seals were not broken.

    It is not known whether the inspectors saw the explosives in march. The u.n. Team left the country before the u.s.-led invasion began march 20, 2003.

    A second defense official said documents on the Russian support to Iraq reveal that Saddam's government paid the Kremlin for the special forces to provide security for Iraq's Russian arms and to conduct counterintelligence activities designed to prevent u.s. And western intelligence services from learning about the arms pipeline through Syria.

    The Russian arms-removal program was initiated after Yevgeny Primakov, the former Russian intelligence chief, could not persuade Saddam to give in to u.s. And western demands, this official said.

    A small portion of Iraq's 650,000 tons to 1 million tons of conventional arms that were found after the war were looted after the u.s.-led invasion, Mr. Shaw said. Russia was Iraq's largest foreign supplier of weaponry, he said.

    However, the most important and useful arms and explosives appear to have been separated and moved out as part of carefully designed program. "the organized effort was done in advance of the conflict," Mr. Shaw said.

    the Russian forces were tasked with moving special arms out of the country.

    Mr. Shaw said foreign intelligence officials believe the Russians worked with Saddam's Mukhabarat intelligence service to separate out special weapons, including high explosives and other arms and related technology, from standard conventional arms spread out in some 200 arms depots.

    the Russian weapons were then sent out of the country to Syria, and possibly Lebanon in Russian trucks, Mr. Shaw said.

    Mr. Shaw said he believes that the withdrawal of Russian-made weapons and explosives from iraq was part of plan by Saddam to set up a "redoubt" in Syria that could be used as a base for launching pro-Saddam insurgency operations in Iraq.

    The Russian units were dispatched beginning in January 2003 and by march had destroyed hundreds of pages of documents on Russian arms supplies to Iraq while dispersing arms to Syria, the second official said.

    Besides their own weapons, the Russians were supplying Saddam with arms made in Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria and other eastern European nations, he said.

    "whatever was not buried was put on lorries and sent to the Syrian border," the defense official said.

    Documents reviewed by the official included itineraries of military units involved in the truck shipments to Syria. The materials outlined in the documents included missile components, mig jet parts, tank parts and chemicals used to make chemical weapons, the official said.

    The director of the iraqi government front company known as the al bashair trading co. Fled to syria, where he is in charge of monitoring arms holdings and funding Iraqi insurgent activities, the official said.

    Also, an Arabic-language report obtained by u.s. Intelligence disclosed the extent of Russian armaments.

    The 26-page report was written by Abdul tawab mullah Al huwaysh, Saddam's minister of military industrialization, who was captured by u.s. Forces may 2, 2003.

    the Russian "Spetsnaz" or special-operations forces were under the gru military intelligence service and organized large commercial truck convoys for the weapons removal, the official said.

    Regarding the explosives, the new Iraqi government reported that 194.7 metric tons of HMX, or high-melting-point explosive, and 141.2 metric tons of RDX, or rapid-detonation explosive, and 5.8 metric tons of petn, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, were missing.

    The material is used in nuclear weapons and also in making military "plastic" high explosive.

    Defense officials said the Russians can provide information on what happened to the Iraqi weapons and explosives that were transported out of the country. Officials believe the Russians also can explain what happened to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.

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    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
    "Your grandchildren will live under communism."
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    Default Re: Syria

    You know what, the thought crossed my mind a few weeks back that Jarret was a KGB operative. I kept my mouth shut on that because I', skating on thin ice on some things already hahaha. But now that Glen Beck mentioned it, you know what, HE'S RIGHT
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    Default Re: Syria

    Martha McCallum (LOL I put Stewart this morning, geez, COFFEE!) from FNC just stated that they have CONFIRMED that Sarin Gas is being mixed for weapons in Syria.

    I heard ABC state that they were putting together bombs at a military base someplace.
    Last edited by American Patriot; December 6th, 2012 at 14:01.
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    Default Re: Syria

    And this....

    Syria loads chemical weapons into bombs; military awaits Assad's order

    Pentagon sources tell NBC News that the Syrian military is awaiting final orders to launch chemical weapons against its own people after precursor chemicals for deadly sarin gas were loaded into aerial bombs. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.

    By Jim Miklaszewski and M. Alex Johnson, NBC News
    Updated at 8:20 a.m. ET: The Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday.
    The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said.
    As recently as Tuesday, officials had said there was as yet no evidence that the process of mixing the "precursor" chemicals had begun. But Wednesday, they said their worst fears had been confirmed: The nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs.


    Sarin is an extraordinarily lethal agent. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces killed 5,000 Kurds with a single sarin attack on Halabja in 1988.
    U.S. officials stressed that as of now, the sarin bombs hadn't been loaded onto planes and that Assad hadn't issued a final order to use them. But if he does, one of the officials said, "there's little the outside world can do to stop it."


    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated U.S. warnings to Assad not to use chemical weapons, saying he would be crossing "a red line" if he did so.
    So far, intelligence sources say, bombs loaded with the components of sarin haven't yet been loaded onto planes. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.



    Speaking Wednesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Clinton said the Syrian government was on the brink of collapse, raising the prospect that "an increasingly desperate Assad regime" might turn to chemical weapons or that the banned weapons could fall into other hands.


    "Ultimately, what we should be thinking about is a political transition in Syria and one that should start as soon as possible," Clinton said. "We believe their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people have to die before that occurs."


    Aides told NBC News that Clinton was expected next week to officially recognize the main opposition movement, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, with which she is scheduled to meet in Morocco. Britain, France, Turkey and some key Arab leaders have already recognized the opposition.


    Fighting intensified Wednesday in the 21-month civil war, which has left 40,000 people dead. The U.N. withdrew its personnel from Damascus, saying conditions were too dangerous.
    Kevin Lamarque / AFP - Getty Images
    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking Wednesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, said the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government was "inevitable."


    The government said this week that it wouldn't use chemical weapons on its own people after President Barack Obama warned that doing so would be "totally unacceptable."
    But U.S. officials said this week that the government had ordered its Chemical Weapons Corps to "be prepared," which Washington interpreted as a directive to begin bringing together the components needed to weaponize Syria's chemical stockpiles.
    Watch World News videos on NBCNews.com
    U.S. officials had long believed that the Syrian government was stockpiling the banned chemical weapons before it acknowledged possessing them this summer.
    NBC News reported in July that U.S. intelligence agencies believed that in addition to sarin, Syria had access to tabun, a chemical nerve agent, as well as traditional chemical weapons like mustard gas and hydrogen cyanide.
    Officials told NBC News at the time that the Syrian government was moving the outlawed weapons around the country, leaving foreign intelligence agencies unsure where they might end up.
    Syria is one of only seven nations that hasn't ratified the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, the arms control agreement that outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of such weapons.
    Bombshells filled with chemicals can be carried by Syrian Air Force fighter-bombers, in particular Sukhoi-22/20, MiG-23 and Sukhoi-24 aircraft. In addition, some reports indicate that unguided short-range Frog-7 artillery rockets may be capable of carrying chemical payloads.
    In terms of longer-range delivery systems, Syria has a few dozen SS-21 ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 72 miles; 200 Scud-Bs, with a maximum range of 180 miles; and 60 to 120 Scud-Cs, with a maximum range of 300 miles, all of which are mobile and are capable of carrying chemical weapons, according U.S. intelligence officials.
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed President Obama's recent vow to take action if Syrian President Bashar Assad uses chemical weapons during the ongoing clashes within his country. U.S. officials are also concerned about the rising influence of extremist groups within Syria. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.
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    From Germany...

    Germany ready to send 400 troops to Turkey-Syria border
    (AFP) – 1 hour ago



    BERLIN — The German government said Thursday it had approved participation in a NATO mission to deploy Patriot missiles to help member state Turkey defend its border against Syria and will send up to 400 troops.


    The foreign and defence ministries said in a joint statement that the mandate, which is expected to be presented to parliament early next week, would run to January 31, 2014.


    They said the move was an "exclusively defensive measure, which as a means of military deterrent prevents the conflict inside Syria spreading to Turkey".
    NATO on Tuesday approved Turkey's request for Patriot missiles to defend its border against Syria following a series of blunt warnings to Damascus not to use chemical weapons.


    German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere said they had seen "no intention" by the Syrian government to deploy chemical weapons. "And therefore the deterrent serves to ensure that the capability does not become an intention," he told reporters.


    NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance's decision reflected a "steadfast commitment" to preserving the security of its 28 member states.
    The alliance said that Germany along with the Netherlands and the United States have agreed to provide the Patriot missile batteries, which would come under the command of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).


    "Turkey is currently the most-affected partner in the Syria conflict. It is exposed to a potential threat from Syria," the ministries said.


    German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that if chemical weapons were to be used in Syria, he had "no doubt" that a new situation would arise at the UN "in which also Russia and China must reassess their position".


    Since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, Russia and China have sided with President Bashar al-Assad's regime and have repeatedly obstructed any UN Security Council action against Damascus.


    Westerwelle stressed in a joint press conference with De Maiziere that a deployment in Syria was "in no way" linked to the missiles' mandate.


    Although the mandate runs until end-January 2014, De Maiziere said their goal was for the operation to end earlier although it was dependent on the situation on the ground.


    Turkey is a vocal opponent of the regime in Syria, where monitoring groups say over 41,000 people have been killed in almost 21 months of conflict, while hundreds of thousands have fled to neighbouring countries.
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    From Syria:

    Syria says chemical scare "pretext for intervention"





    By Erika Solomon
    BEIRUT | Thu Dec 6, 2012 8:50am EST

    (Reuters) - Western powers are whipping up fears of a fateful move to the use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war as a "pretext for intervention", President Bashar al-Assad's deputy foreign minister said on Thursday.
    He spoke as Germany's cabinet approved stationing Patriot anti-missile batteries on Turkey's border with Syria, a step requiring deployment of NATO troops that Syria fears could permit imposition of a no-fly zone over its territory.
    "Syria stresses again, for the tenth, the hundredth time, that if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people. We would not commit suicide," Faisal Maqdad said.
    U.S. President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders have warned that using chemical weapons would cross a red line and have consequences, which they have not specified.
    Assad would probably lose vital diplomatic support from Russia and China that has blocked military intervention in the 20-month-old uprising that has claimed more than 40,000 lives.
    A senior Russian lawmaker and ally of President Vladimir Putin said Syria's government is incapable of doing its job properly, a sign that Moscow may already be trying to distance itself from Assad.
    "We have shared and do share the opinion that the existing government in Syria should carry out its functions. But time has shown that this task is beyond its strength," Vladimir Vasilyev, who heads President Putin's party group in the State Duma lower house, was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
    Syria's Maqdad said Western reports the Syrian military was preparing chemical weapons for use against rebel forces trying to close in on the capital Damascus were simply "theatre".
    "In fact, we fear a conspiracy ... by the United States and some European states, which might have supplied such weapons to terrorist organizations in Syria, in order to claim later that Syria is the one that used these weapons," he said on Lebanon's Al Manar television, the voice of Hezbollah.
    "We fear there is a conspiracy to provide a pretext for any subsequent interventions in Syria by these countries that are increasing pressure on Syria."
    UNCONTROLLABLE
    Exactly what Syria's army has done with suspected chemical weapons to prompt a surge of Western warnings is not clear. Reports citing Western intelligence and defense sources are vague and inconsistent.
    The perceived threat may be discussed in Dublin on Thursday when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meet international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi to try to put a U.N. peace process for Syria back on track.
    The talks come ahead of a meeting of the Western-backed "Friends of Syria" group in Marrakech next week which is expected to boost support for rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
    Brahimi wants world powers to issue a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a transitional administration.
    In addition to the possible use of chemical bombs by "an increasingly desperate" Assad, Clinton said Washington was concerned about the government losing control of such weapons to extreme Islamist armed groups among the rebel forces.
    U.S. officials said Washington was considering blacklisting Jabhat al-Nusra, an influential rebel group accused by other rebels of indiscriminate tactics that has advocated an Islamic state in Syria and is suspected of ties to al Qaeda.
    An explosion in front of the Damascus headquarters of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent killed at least one person on Thursday, Syrian state television said.
    It blamed "terrorists from al Qaeda" -- a term often employed to refer to rebel forces.
    Meanwhile, activists said the army pummeled several eastern suburbs of Damascus, where the rebels are dominant, with artillery and mortar fire. The suburbs have also been cut off from the city's water and electricity for weeks, rebels say, accusing the government of collective punishment.
    COLLAPSE
    Rebels say they have surrounded an air base 4 km (2-1/2 mikes) from the center of Damascus, a fresh sign the battle is closing in on the Syrian capital.
    They also said they were battling soldiers on the road to Damascus International Airport, 20 km (12 miles) out of the capital where several airlines have canceled flights due to security concerns.
    Maqdad, in his interview on Thursday, argued that reports of such advances were untrue: "What is sad is that foreign countries believe these repeated rumors."
    But residents inside the capital say the sound of shelling on the outskirts has become a constant backdrop and many fear the fight will soon come to Damascus.
    The Western military alliance's decision to send U.S., German and Dutch Patriot missile batteries to help defend the Turkish border would bring European and U.S. troops to Syria's frontier for the first time in the civil war.
    The actual deployment could take several weeks.
    "Some countries now are now supplying Turkey with missiles for which there is no excuse. Syria is not going to attack the Turkish people," Maqdad said.
    But a veteran Turkish commentator, Cengiz Candar of the Radikal newspaper, said Ankara fears Syria's 500 short-range ballistic missiles could fall into the wrong hands.
    The government is "of the view that Syria was not expected to use them against Turkey, but that there was a risk of these weapons falling into the hands of 'uncontrolled forces' when the regime collapses", he wrote.
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    From Russia:

    US, Russia set for surprise Syria meeting

    By BRADLEY KLAPPER, Associated Press

    Updated 5:43 a.m., Thursday, December 6, 2012

    • Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pauses during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. Photo: Kevin Lamarque, Pool / AP






    DUBLIN (AP) — The top U.S. and Russian diplomats will hold a surprise meeting Thursday with the United Nations' peace envoy for Syria, signaling fresh hopes of an international breakthrough to end the Arab country's 21-month civil war.

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and mediator Lakhdar Brahimi will gather in Dublin on the sidelines of a human rights conference, a senior U.S. official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter. She provided few details about the unscheduled get-together.
    Ahead of the three-way meeting,Clinton and Lavrov met separately Thursday for about 25 minutes. They agreed to hear Brahimi out on a path forward, a senior us official said. The two also discussed issues ranging from Egypt to North Korea, as well as new congressional action aimed at Russian officials accused of complicity in the death of lawyer Sergey Magnitsky.
    The former Cold War foes have fought bitterly over how to address Syria's conflict, with Washington harshly criticizing Moscow of shielding its Arab ally. The Russians respond by accusing the U.S. of meddling by demanding the downfall of President Bashar Assad's regime and ultimately seeking an armed intervention such as the one last year against the late Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
    But the gathering of the three key international figures suggests possible compromise in the offing. At the least, it confirms what officials describe as an easing of some of the acrimony that has raged between Moscow and Washington over the future of an ethnically diverse nation whose stability is seen as critical given its geographic position in between powder kegs Iraq, Lebanon and Israel.
    The threat of Syria's government using some of its vast stockpiles of chemical weapons is also adding urgency to diplomatic efforts. Western governments have cited the rising danger of such a scenario this week, and officials say Russia, too, shares great concern on this point.
    On Thursday, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad accused the United States and Europe of using the issue of chemical weapons to justify a future military intervention against Syria. He warned that any such intervention would be "catastrophic."
    In Ireland's capital, one idea that Brahimi could seek to resuscitate with U.S. and Russian support would be the political agreement strategy both countries agreed on in Geneva in June.
    That plan demanded several steps by the Assad regime to de-escalate tensions and end the violence that activists say has killed more than 40,000 people since March 2011. It would then have required Syria's opposition and the regime to put forward candidates for a transitional government, with each side having the right to veto nominees proposed by the other.
    If employed, the strategy would surely mean the end of more than four decades of an Assad family member at Syria's helm. The opposition has demanded Assad's departure and has rejected any talk of him staying in power. Yet it also would grant regime representatives the opportunity to block Sunni extremists and others in the opposition that they reject.
    The transition plan never got off the ground this summer, partly because no pressure was applied to see it succeed by a deeply divided international community. Brahimi's predecessor, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who drafted the plan, then resigned his post in frustration.
    The United States blamed the collapse on Russia for vetoing a third resolution at the U.N. Security Council that would have applied world sanctions against Assad's government for failing to live by the deal's provisions.
    Russia insisted that the Americans unfairly sought Assad's departure as a precondition and worried about opening the door to military action, even as Washington offered to include language in any U.N. resolution that would have expressly forbade outside armed intervention.
    Should a plan similar to that one be proposed, the Obama administration is likely to insist anew that it be internationally enforceable — a step Moscow may still be reluctant to commit to.
    In any case, the U.S. insists the tide of the war is turning definitively against Assad.
    On Wednesday, the administration said several countries in the Middle East and elsewhere have informally offered to grant asylum to Assad and his family if they leave Syria.
    The comments came a day after the United States and its 27 NATO allies agreed to send Patriot missiles to Turkey's southern border with Syria. The deployment, expected within weeks, is meant solely as a defensive measure against the cross-border mortar rounds from Syria that have killed five Turks, but still bring the alliance to the brink of involvement in the civil war.
    The United States is also preparing to designate Jabhat al-Nusra, a Syrian rebel group with alleged ties to al-Qaida, as a foreign terrorist organization in a step aimed at blunting the influence of extremists within the Syrian opposition, officials said Wednesday.
    Word of the move came as the State Department announced Clinton will travel to the Mideast and North Africa next week for high-level meetings on the situation in Syria and broader counter-terrorism issues. She is likely then to recognize Syria's newly formed opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, according to officials.
    The political endorsement is designed to help unite the country against Assad and spur greater nonlethal and humanitarian assistance from the United States to the rebels.




    Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/world/...#ixzz2EHQ00WYL
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    Syria Loads Chemical Weapons

    By Matt Vasilogambros
    Updated: December 6, 2012 | 8:25 a.m.
    December 6, 2012 | 8:24 a.m.
    UPI/Eco Clement

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

    The Syrian military has loaded sarin nerve gas into aerial bombs that, if given the order by President Bashar al-Assad, could be dropped on civilians, NBC News reports.

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Wednesday that if al-Assad found himself in a “desperate” situation, he might use the country’s chemical-weapon stockpile, Reuters reports.

    Clinton repeated what the Obama administration has said for the last several days: If Assad uses chemical weapons, the U.S. response would be swift.

    Also on Wednesday, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said President Obama is likely to enforce the threat. “I think it would be a mistake, particularly on Bashar Assad's part, to underestimate him,” he said on CBS.
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    December 6, 2012 Inching toward the precipice: Syria readies chem weapons

    Rick Moran

    On the heels of my post yesterday on Syria's possible preparations for using chemical weapons on its own people comes word that US intelligence is convinced that Assad is readying a "go" order and that the agents have been mixed and placed into bombs.

    MSNBC:

    U.S. officials told NBC News that as soon as Syrian President Bashar Assad gives the order, the country's military will use chemical weapons against its own people.
    Tuesday there seemed to be no firm evidence that the Syrians were mixing the "precursor" chemicals for the nerve gas sarin. The chemical weapon could be loaded into bombs that would be dropped from Syrian Air Force fighter-bombers. But on Wednesday, NBC News said, American officials came to believe the bombs had indeed been readied with the lethal agent. The sarin bombs were not yet loaded onto the fighter planes, however, and Assad has not issued the "go" order.



    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned President Assad once again that he would be crossing "a red line" if he used nerve gas against the country's rebels. But "there's little the outside world can do to stop it," one official told NBC News. Secretary Clinton, in NATO headquarters in Brussels, said the Assad government was "increasingly desperate" and on the verge of collapse. The 21-month civil war has cost 40,000 lives already.



    "We believe their fall is inevitable," Clinton said. "It is just a question of how many people have to die before that occurs."
    Next week Clinton is expected to officially recognize the main opposition movement, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, aides told NBC News, and the secretary will meet with them in Morocco. Britain, France, Turkey, and some Arab leaders have already recognized the opposition.
    U.S. officials had long believed that the Syrian government was stockpiling the banned chemical weapons before it acknowledged possessing them this summer. NBC News reported in July that U.S. intelligence agencies believed Syria had access to sarin, tabun, a chemical nerve agent, as well as traditional chemical weapons like mustard gas and hydrogen cyanide.
    It is impossible to overstate how dangerous the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be. In addition to mass casualties, it is the series of unknowns - the unpredictable responses of various regional actors, as well as the reaction of the west - that makes Assad's decision potentially catastrophic not only for his own people, but for the region and the world.
    A few frightening unknowns:



    1. Israel has indicated that it would swoop into Syria and take control of Assad's WMD stockpile if it appeared they would fall into the wrong hands. The use of chemical weapons would mark the certain end of Assad and the resulting chaos could create conditions for an Israeli incursion.
    What would be the reaction of Egypt, Jordan, and other Arab states to an Israeli thrust into Syria? What about Iran?
    2. If Assad is crazy enough to use WMD on his own people, Turkey may figure he's crazy enough to launch against them. The urgency to supply Turkey with Patriot missiles has never been greater, even with the objections by Russia. An attack by Assad on Turkey would trigger an automatic NATO response, placing the western alliance in direct conflict with Putin and the Russians.

    3. What form would intervention by the US and NATO take? If the goal would be to unseat Assad, ground troops would almost certainly be necessary. Would Syria's master Russia stand by and allow NATO troops in Syria?
    4. The fall of Assad would cause chaos in Syria - chaos that terrorists and jihadist groups already in Syria would take advantage of. How would the west deal with the political ascendancy of extremists in Syria?



    Again, it's not the known variables that make this situation so radically dangerous. It is the unfathomable moves and countermoves of others down the line that have the potential to start a regional conflict.
    Assad is assembling the fuel for his own funeral pyre. If Gotterdamerung is his goal, he has the wherewithal to achieve it.


    Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/...#ixzz2EHRc8jDr
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    Patriot Missiles being moved to Turkey. But... won't be there til next MONTH.
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    From Syria, again denying....

    U.S. says Syria readying chemical weapons to use against its own people; Syria denies claim, says U.S. looking for excuse to intervene

    U.S. President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders have warned that using chemical weapons would cross a red line and have consequences, which they have not specified.

    Thursday, December 6, 2012, 8:58 AM






    Western powers are whipping up fears of a fateful move to the use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war as a "pretext for intervention", President Bashar al-Assad's deputy foreign minister said on Thursday.

    He spoke as Germany's cabinet approved stationing Patriot anti-missile batteries on Turkey's border with Syria, a step requiring deployment of NATO troops that Syria fears could permit imposition of a no-fly zone over its territory.

    "Syria stresses again, for the tenth, the hundredth time, that if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people. We would not commit suicide," Faisal Maqdad said.

    U.S. President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders have warned that using chemical weapons would cross a red line and have consequences, which they have not specified.

    Assad would probably lose vital diplomatic support from Russia and China that has blocked military intervention in the 20-month-old uprising that has claimed more than 40,000 lives.

    A senior Russian lawmaker and ally of President Vladimir Putin said Syria's government is incapable of doing its job properly, a sign that Moscow may already be trying to distance itself from Assad.

    "We have shared and do share the opinion that the existing government in Syria should carry out its functions. But time has shown that this task is beyond its strength," Vladimir Vasilyev, who heads President Putin's party group in the State Duma lower house, was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

    Syria's Maqdad said Western reports the Syrian military was preparing chemical weapons for use against rebel forces trying to close in on the capital Damascus were simply "theatre".

    "In fact, we fear a conspiracy ... by the United States and some European states, which might have supplied such weapons to terrorist organizations in Syria, in order to claim later that Syria is the one that used these weapons," he said on Lebanon's Al Manar television, the voice of Hezbollah.

    "We fear there is a conspiracy to provide a pretext for any subsequent interventions in Syria by these countries that are increasing pressure on Syria."

    UNCONTROLLABLE

    Exactly what Syria's army has done with suspected chemical weapons to prompt a surge of Western warnings is not clear. Reports citing Western intelligence and defense sources are vague and inconsistent.

    The perceived threat may be discussed in Dublin on Thursday when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meet international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi to try to put a U.N. peace process for Syria back on track.

    The talks come ahead of a meeting of the Western-backed "Friends of Syria" group in Marrakech next week which is expected to boost support for rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    Brahimi wants world powers to issue a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a transitional administration.

    In addition to the possible use of chemical bombs by "an increasingly desperate" Assad, Clinton said Washington was concerned about the government losing control of such weapons to extreme Islamist armed groups among the rebel forces.

    U.S. officials said Washington was considering blacklisting Jabhat al-Nusra, an influential rebel group accused by other rebels of indiscriminate tactics that has advocated an Islamic state in Syria and is suspected of ties to al Qaeda.

    An explosion in front of the Damascus headquarters of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent killed at least one person on Thursday, Syrian state television said.

    It blamed "terrorists from al Qaeda" -- a term often employed to refer to rebel forces.

    Meanwhile, activists said the army pummeled several eastern suburbs of Damascus, where the rebels are dominant, with artillery and mortar fire. The suburbs have also been cut off from the city's water and electricity for weeks, rebels say, accusing the government of collective punishment.

    COLLAPSE

    Rebels say they have surrounded an air base 4 km (2-1/2 mikes) from the center of Damascus, a fresh sign the battle is closing in on the Syrian capital.

    They also said they were battling soldiers on the road to Damascus International Airport, 20 km (12 miles) out of the capital where several airlines have canceled flights due to security concerns.

    Maqdad, in his interview on Thursday, argued that reports of such advances were untrue: "What is sad is that foreign countries believe these repeated rumors."

    But residents inside the capital say the sound of shelling on the outskirts has become a constant backdrop and many fear the fight will soon come to Damascus.

    The Western military alliance's decision to send U.S., German and Dutch Patriot missile batteries to help defend the Turkish border would bring European and U.S. troops to Syria's frontier for the first time in the civil war.

    The actual deployment could take several weeks.

    "Some countries now are now supplying Turkey with missiles for which there is no excuse. Syria is not going to attack the Turkish people," Maqdad said.

    But a veteran Turkish commentator, Cengiz Candar of the Radikal newspaper, said Ankara fears Syria's 500 short-range ballistic missiles could fall into the wrong hands.

    The government is "of the view that Syria was not expected to use them against Turkey, but that there was a risk of these weapons falling into the hands of 'uncontrolled forces' when the regime collapses", he wrote.

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    A wary Iraq weighs its options as Syrian civil war deepens

    Fears in Iraq of a spillover of Syria's fighting, or a victory for Sunni Islamists hostile to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, have Iraq weighing its options.


    By Jane Arraf, Correspondent / December 6, 2012






    Members of a Syrian refugee family who fled the violence back home, walk at the Domiz refugee camp in the northern Iraqi of province Dohuk in July.
    Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

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    Baghdad, Iraq

    As Syria implodes, shock waves from the sectarian conflict are being felt in Baghdad, where a beleaguered Iraqi government is struggling to maintain a hard-won but fragile stability.
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    Iraq has said it is trying to play a neutral role in the conflict next door. But escalating violence, involvement by regional players, and the Shiite-led government’s unique fear of a more hostile successor than the Syrian president appears to have made neutrality impossible.
    “We think the regime is finished, but we are afraid of what comes next,” says a senior Iraqi official who asked not to be identified.
    For now, there are concerns that Iraq is tolerating military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.
    Baghdad’s sincerity in agreeing to intercept Iranian military shipments to Syria has again come under scrutiny due to limited efforts on its part to inspect Iranian aircraft using Iraqi airspace. Iraq has searched only two Iranian flights since it began the inspections two months ago, according to diplomats and government officials. One of them was returning from Damascus rather than heading there.
    Think you know the Middle East? Take our geography quiz.

    “The biggest concern we have is the facilitation of the Iranian air bridge,” says a Western diplomat. “They know what’s in those flights, we know what’s in those flights, and they’re continuing. The inspection process is a charade.”
    The diplomat said Iranian flights to Syria had increased significantly over the past few months at the same time the West was seeing evidence of an increased Iranian intelligence presence in the fighting. He said the flights were believed to include surveillance equipment and technical personnel allowing Syria’s secret police to more effectively find and kill opponents.
    Arms to Syria

    While Iran is believed to be providing support to the Syrian government, countries including Saudi Arabia and Qatar are widely believed to be channeling weapons to opposition forces. Diplomats say Gulf states though have so far refrained from providing strategic weapons such as anti-tank missiles in fear that they could eventually be used against the countries that provided them.
    Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki this week said Iraq did not have the capacity to search every plane but emphasized that his country is committed to not being a transit point for weapons to Syria.
    “We will not be a party in the conflict between the Free Syrian Army or the government,” said Mr. Maliki, who spent years in exile in Syria under Saddam Hussein’s rule.
    While the Arab uprisings have upended repressive regimes, they have also threatened historical alliances. Russia fears not only losing its main foothold in the Middle East if President Assad falls but it also fears the potential spread of Islamic militancy to the Muslim populations of the former Soviet republics.
    The ties to the Muslim Brotherhood of many figures who until recently dominated the Syrian opposition have also fueled fears by the Iraqi government that Assad could be replaced by a hardline Sunni government.
    While Syria turned a blind eye to Al Qaeda fighters transiting through their country to launch attacks in Iraq during the sectarian war here before the uprising, the Iraqi and Syrian governments had begun to improve relations.


    Iraq, which is a shiite majority, has the Arab world’s only Shiite-led government. Shiite flags commemorating mourning for Imam Hussein drape government buildings including the Oil Ministry and fly from police cars in central Baghdad. But Maliki and many senior officials remain convinced they are surrounded by enemies inside and out who want to see their downfall.

    Fear and warnings“We have information that there are regional attempts to destroy the security situation in Kirkuk, Ninevah, and Diyala,” Maliki told a press conference this week. He said a regional security command he had set up for the three northern provinces was aimed not against the Kurds but extremist forces backed by other countries.
    He said those militants were aimed at launching attacks and creating "an imagined ‘Free Iraqi Army.’"


    The comment was Maliki’s first public reference to a reported group modeled after the Free Syrian Army and linked by Iraqi government officials to former Baathists, including former Iraqi Army officers, and Sunni extremists – many of them with ties to Syria and Jordan.


    It’s not clear whether the group is a genuine force or simply a propaganda tool for recruitment purposes. None of its members have claimed responsibility for attacks against government targets.


    Some of Iraq’s allies are concerned the country could be too preoccupied with the fear of Syria becoming a Sunni extremist state to keep its options option.
    “Our advice to them is to look ahead. We think this regime is finished and if they continue to give it support or allow others to give it support then it will be difficult for them to develop good relations with whatever the successor arrangement is,” says the Western diplomat.


    The Iraqi government’s efforts to play a mediating role with Assad failed when it became clear that the Syrian government was intent on continuing its military campaign. Opposition leaders have ignored Baghdad’s advice to hold talks with the Syrian government.
    Flexibility?

    “The Syrian opposition is really illiterate in the art of opposition,” says one senior Kurdish official. “They have this zero sum game – us or them – and in an opposition this is wrong. You have to be flexible. We did it – Saddam was massacring us and led 2 [million], 3 million of our people to flee and our people were talking to him in Baghdad.”
    As a sign of Baghdad’s carefully evolving position regarding Syria, government officials have indicated Iraq could support a no-fly zone preventing the Syrian government from launching air strikes against its people. A US, British and French no-fly zone after the Kurdish uprising against Saddam Hussein in the 1990s stopped Iraqi government attacks in the north.
    Think you know the Middle East? Take our geography quiz.

    While Iraqi officials emphasize the country’s humanitarian efforts in sending food and medicine to Syria, those efforts have not extended to allowing in large numbers of Syrian refugees.
    Kurdish Syrians crossing the border in the north are given refuge in camps in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq. But hundreds of miles from Baghdad at the main border crossing of al-Qaim, Iraqi forces have closed the border to all but the most desperate of Syrian refugees.


    UN officials say only six or seven Syrians a day are being allowed across that border in Western Anbar Province, almost all of them sick or wounded.
    More than 1 million Iraqis took refuge in Syria during the sectarian fighting here. While the Iraqi government has said it does not have the capacity to care for the Syrian refugees, it has also made clear it’s main worry is security.


    When the Syrian side of the border fell to opposition fighters earlier this year, the Iraqi government immediately sealed its side of the crossing with concrete barriers. A makeshift gate now carefully controls who crosses into Iraq. Every afternoon, Iraqis drop off food and medicine between the two border gates, leaving it for the Syrian side to pick up.
    Related stories

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    NPR: The Mouthpiece of the Left

    Syria: Clinton To Meet With Russian Diplomat; Sarin Fears Continue

    by Mark Memmott




















    December 6, 2012 - 1:17am


    Some of this morning's news and analysis about the crisis in Syria:


    -- "Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister To Meet." (The Washington Post)


    "DUBLIN — In a potential sign that Russia's support of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be softening, Moscow's top diplomat will meet jointly Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the United Nations envoy for Syria, a senior State Department official said."


    -- "The Syrian Sarin Threat." (The New Yorker)


    "Whatever the regime's real intentions with regards to its chemical weapons, the next chapter in Syria will be an ugly one, and before it is all over, many people are going to die—from bullets and bombs if not from sarin gas. Thanks to the boy-who-cried-wolf legacy of the Iraq invasion and the W.M.D.-that-weren't, it is not surprising that the alleged Syrian chemical weapons threat has thus far failed to cause panic in international circles. This could prove to be an unfortunate historical lesson, for, as things stand, there is no guarantee that they won't be deployed."


    -- "Is Syria's Civil War Entering Its Final Act, Or Poised For A New Phase?" (Time)


    "It may yet be premature to suggest that the 22-month civil war that has claimed more than 30,000 lives is near an end. The regime still has an overwhelming advantage in fire-power, analyst Joe Holliday of the Institute for the Study of War told the Washington Post this week, and the limits of rebel arms and organization may mean that their victory remains many months away."


    -- " 'It's A Disaster': Life Inside A Syrian Refugee Camp." (NPR's Deborah Amos, on Morning Edition)
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    I guess we (the US) is considering this as worst case.

    The World is watching so why would he use chemical weapons? Well, Saddam did. Assad isn't taking our threats seriously either. (Not sure I would if I were in another country watching what has happened here in this one either).

    Personally, I think the guy is doing everything he can to hold out until he can find a safe way to escape. His OWN people will kill him. The Rebels will kill him. he's kind of between a rock and a hard place on this.
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