INTERNATIONAL > US warns NATO over Syria chemical threat


NATO needs to plan a possible response in the event Bashar al-Assad’s government uses chemical weapons, Washington’s top diplomat says

Print Page Send to friend »
Russian FM Sergei Lavrov (R) stops at a NATO meeting in Brussels to present US counterpart John Kerry with an envelope containing photos of the pair recently taken at a G-8 conference in London. AFP photo

Russian FM Sergei Lavrov (R) stops at a NATO meeting in Brussels to present US counterpart John Kerry with an envelope containing photos of the pair recently taken at a G-8 conference in London. AFP photo

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has urged NATO to prepare for the possible use of chemical weapons by Syria and called for alliance members to boost their assistance to the Syrian opposition.

Kerry said contingency plans should be put in place to guard against the threat of a chemical weapons strike.

“Planning regarding Syria, such as what [NATO] has already done, is an appropriate undertaking for the alliance,” Kerry told NATO foreign ministers yesterday in Brussels. “We should also carefully and collectively consider how NATO is prepared to respond to protect its members from a Syrian threat, including any potential chemical weapons threat.”

Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen noted that “the situation in Syria has dramatically deteriorated” and “continues to pose a threat to regional stability.”

He said the alliance is “extremely concerned about the use of ballistic missiles in Syria and the possible use of chemical weapons.” However, he also noted that NATO has not yet been asked to intervene.

“There is no call for NATO to play a role, but if these challenges remain unaddressed, they could directly affect our own security,” he told reporters. “So we will continue to remain extremely vigilant.”

NATO ally Turkey borders Syria and would be most at-risk from such an attack. NATO has already deployed Patriot missile batteries in Turkey.

Earlier in the day, an Israeli general said Israel believed Damascus has used chemical weapons in the conflict, a claim that has also been made by Britain and France. American officials say the evidence to date is inconclusive, but U.S. President Barack Obama has said the use of such weapons would be a “game changer” and hinted it could draw intervention.

“To the best of our professional understanding, the [the Syrian government] has made use of deadly chemical weapons against the rebels in a number of incidents in the last few months,” said Brigadier Gen. Itai Brun, head of the research and analysis division of Israel’s military intelligence.

Speaking to delegates at a Tel Aviv security conference, he cited an incident on March 19 in Aleppo province in which 31 people were killed, pointing to the physical symptoms suffered by those in the area at the time. “Which chemical weapons? Apparently sarin. The regime is also using chemical weapons that neutralize and are not fatal,” he added.

Kerry said the Obama administration was “looking at every option that could possibly end the violence and usher in a political transition” and that plans needed to be made now to ensure that there was no power vacuum if al-Assad were overthrown. Kerry also said increasing aid to the Syrian National Coalition and its military command, the Supreme Military Council, was critical to that effort.

“I want to urge all of your governments to increase your material and political support to the coalition and the [military council], which share our vision for Syria’s future, and to ensure that all assistance is only funneled through them,” Kerry said.

Speaking April 21 during a visit to Turkey, Kerry announced that the U.S. would double its non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition. Many of NATO’s 28 members also belong to the European Union, which a day before lifted its oil embargo on Syria to provide more economic support to the rebels and is now considering easing an arms embargo on the country to allow weapons transfers to those fighting the al-Assad government.

Kerry was also scheduled to meet with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the session. Officials said those talks would likely include a discussion of the ethnic Chechen brothers accused of last week’s Boston Marathon bombings.


PRINTER FRIENDLY Send to friend »


Notice on comments

mara mcglothin

4/25/2013 4:23:31 PM

ILKER I am only pointing out that we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. How did it work in Iraq once we did get involved, and how much bashing has the USA taken for getting involved??? And where was Turkey sitting just across the border while Sadaam was gassing the Kurds???? It is time for America to take care of their own and let the rest of the World do the same. I don't thinnk the USA should get involved iin Syria regardless.

ilker avni

4/25/2013 8:06:59 AM

@ Mara According to your logic we should stay out of it,.isnt thats what America did when Hitler was gasing the jews in they millions,America did the same in Bosnia,allso when Saddam was gasing the Kurds,with chemical weapons left over from the Iran Iraq war supplyed bythe West.How would Europe like a mad dictator with chemical weapons on the borders?.

alkan alkan

4/24/2013 6:08:34 PM

Saddam & his henchman Chemical Ali killed 5000 Kurds by poison gas at Halabja, this is a fact. But in the aftermath of the 2.Gulf War no "weapons of mass destruction" were found in Iraq, whereas the WMD were the excuse to intervene in Iraq. Now for Syria the question is: is it more humane to kill by bullets or bombs than by gas that is to say so long as Assad uses conventional weapons it is all right but when he attempts to use chemical weapons NATO should intervene? Does this make sense?

Jim Phipps

4/24/2013 5:33:24 PM

With the current administration in D.C., Syria has little to fear from Obama. Add to this the weak response of Turkey to responding of the shelling of cities on its border, NATO is a paper tiger at best.

mara mcglothin

4/24/2013 3:46:39 PM

ALKAN Do you not believe that Sadaam used chemical weapons against his own people???? Why would Assad be any different. We all need to stay out of this and let Syrians handle their own business. Will you be the first one to show back up here on this page to protest the inactivity of the USA should we do nothing and Assad start to kill off his own people with chemicals? You can't have it both ways.

alkan alkan

4/24/2013 9:34:48 AM

The use of chemical weapons by the Assad Regime is exactly like the story of the possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction by Saddam. At that time it was an excuse to intervene in Iraq. Now it is being used as a prelude to military intervention in Syria with potentially catastrophic results.
< >


AcerPro S.I.P.A HTML & CSS Agency