Syria is thought to have the largest chemical arsenal in the Arab world, and the civil war has stoked international concern that the weapons could be seized by rebel or terrorist forces, or damaged and dispersed by the fighting, The Christian Science Monitor reports.
Hard data on Syria's chemical and biological warfare capabilities is scarce, but the country is believed to have one of the largest chemical agents stockpiles in the world, including VX and Sarin nerve agents. It also has an impressive number of surface-to-surface missiles, such as Scud-Ds which can be fitted with chemical warheads, and modern Russian anti-aircraft missile batteries, including portable shoulder-fired systems.
"This is unknown territory," says Charles Blair, senior fellow for State and Non-State Threats at theWashington-based Federation of American Scientists. "We have never been through the potential collapse via a very bloody ethnic civil war of a country that is likely armed with a very large stockpile of chemical weapons.”
On July 13, Assad's forces began moving chemical weapons out of storage facilities, according to US sources. Israeli officials believe this was part of an effort to secure the weapons, the Guardian reports.