A former Syrian general has revealed how he defected after being given orders to use chemical agents on unarmed civilians, and claimed that Bashar al-Assad was already in the process of hiding his chemical weapons stockpile in anticipation of the start of an internationally-led disarmament program.
In an interview with CNN, Brigadier General Zaher al-Sakat said that a "strategic decision" had been made to use lethal chemical agents against civilians and rebel forces, and that as such the order had to have come directly from the commander-in-chief of the Syrian armed forces - President Bashar al-Assad.
He recalled how, following an order from his commanding officer to use chemical weapons, he replaced the lethal agents with a harmless but powerful-smelling cleaning bleach, and buried the chemical warheads in the ground. He further claimed that the regime had no intention of handing over its chemical weapons arsenal, and would instead seek to deceive the international community by granting access only to certain "known" facilities, whilst continuing to hide its chemical weapons at secret locations.
“The locations of most of the scientific research centers in Syria and the storage facilities are known and under surveillance," he said, "Thus, he [Assad] will give up those centers and facilities for sure without lying. That said however, Bashar al-Assad will not give up the chemical stockpile.”
General al-Sakat also backed up claims made last month by Syrian opposition sources, which alleged that the Assad regime was already in the process of dispersing its weapons and passing them on to Hezbollah, as well as to Iran, via neighboring Iraq.
He said that rebel "intelligence" spotted "twenty eight large trucks moving from Jdeedet Yabous, toward Lebanon, then to Hezbollah, which were heavily guarded. They also found in the Frouqlus area more than fifty large Mercedes and Volvo trucks, also heavily guarded, moving in the direction of Iraq.”
Sakat told the interviewer that rebels had decided not to attack the convoys, to avoid a potential lethal chemical spillage.
Both Hezbollah and the Iraqi government have strongly denied the allegations.
Israeli experts have long worried about the possibility of Islamist groups from either side of the conflict - whether Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah, or radical Sunni Muslim factions - gaining possession of Syria's chemical stockpile, fearing those arms could be used against Israel.