Is Assad hoarding WMDs in Alawite heartland?

The Pentagon is suggesting the world's chemical weapons watchdog use a U.S.-made mobile destruction unit in Syria to neutralise the country's toxic stockpile. (File photo: Reuters)

As the removal of Syria’s chemical stockpile drags on, President Bashar al-Assad has been accused of stockpiling advanced weaponry – including chemical and biological arms – in the heartland of his Alawite sect, according to The Sunday Times this week.

The British newspaper cited Israeli and Russian sources as saying that the weapons have been “upgraded with the help of North Korean and Iranian experts.”

The news comes as fears grow after the Syrian regime missed a deadline to hand over all his chemical weapons for destruction. A second deadline may also be missed, a source speaking to the newspaper said.

“Syria has given up only about 4% of its chemical weapons arsenal, will miss this week’s deadline to send all toxic agents abroad for destruction, and probably will miss the June 30 deadline when the entire 1,300 tons of lethal chemical weapons were due to be destroyed,” said one source.

According to the newspaper, Israelis believe that chemical warheads are being hidden in the Alawite enclave — in western Syria and along the coast around Latakia up to the Turkish border. Analysts believe Assad will eventually retreat to the enclave.

“Down the line, Assad is doomed,” an unnamed Russian expert told the paper. “His plan B, C, and D is to retreat to the Alawite enclave and try to protect the Alawite community.”

An Israeli military intelligence source told the newspaper that Assad has recently stepped up efforts to guard the enclave.

“This region is now totally fortified and isolated from the rest of Syria … The most advanced weapons manufactured in Syria and imported from Russia are kept there,” the source was quoted as saying.

The Alawites represent about 12% of the Syrian population of about 22 million.


Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42