The Damascus government promised Monday - again - that it wouldn't use chemical weapons against its own people. In a statement broadcast on government-run national television, the country's foreign ministry assured the international community President Bashar al-Assad would not approve such a measure.
"In response to the statements of the American Secretary of State, who warned Syria against using chemical weapons, Syria has stressed repeatedly that it will not use these types of weapons, if they were available, under any circumstances against its people,” the statement said.
The statement came following one by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said earlier in the day, “This is a red line for the United States. I'm not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice to say we are certainly planning to take action.”
Clinton addressed the issue while speaking with reporters during a news conference in Prague. The Czech Republic has been acting as the diplomatic agent in Syria on behalf of the United States, since the American embassy in Damascus closed down.
A similar “red line” on chemical weapons was drawn for Assad by U.S. President Barack Obama in a statement he made in August from the White House.
"We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” Obama told reporters at the time. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime – but also to other players on the ground – that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
The issue was raised in response to intelligence reports of new activity at Syrian chemical weapons sites that were made public in an article published Saturday by The New York Times. The report quoted a U.S. intelligence official as saying that the Assad regime is “doing some things that suggest they intend to use the weapons. It's not just moving stuff around,” he explained. “These are a different kind of activities.”
Israel has expressed concern that the chemical weapons arsenal maintained in Syria will indeed end up in the wrong hands – specifically, the hands of Hizbullah or other terrorists who aim to annihilate the Jewish State.
"The use of chemical weapons is internationally forbidden,” Israel's President Shimon Peres noted in an interview with CNN in July. “What do you do when someone violates the law? You fight against them. You stop them.”
Israel and the U.S. have been maintaining surveillance over Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, according to journalist Jeff Goldberg, quoting intelligence sources in a column he wrote for The Atlantic.
"Intelligence sources told me that Israeli drones are patrolling the skies over the Jordan-Syria border, and that both American and Israeli drones are keeping watch over suspected Syrian chemical weapons sites,” he wrote.