US President Barack Obama, though widely expected to pursue direct action against Syrian ruler Bashar following the Houla atrocity, is preoccupied with what he regards as a greater threat to the world: a potential grab for the huge Syrian stock of chemical and biological weapons by Al Qaeda’s or other terrorist organizations. This is reported exclusively by debkafile’s Washington and intelligence sources.
The US president is trying to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to accept his new plan for the immediate assignment by the UN Security Council of 3,000 armed monitors to Syria to take charge of the six chemical and biological stores. Another 2,000 will join the team later.
To allay Putin’s suspicions of a trick to insert Western armed forces into Syria against Moscow’s will, Obama suggested that most of the monitors would be Russian or nationals of governments lining up with its support of the Assad regime.
Obama warned Putin that the jihadists have never been so close to getting hold of large quantities of such deadly unconventional weapons, especially now that the Syrian army’s 4th Division, commanded by Assad’s brother Maher, which guards those stores, is additionally assigned with suppressing the revolt and therefore inadequately manned for securing them.
If the Russian President buys his plan for 5,000 international monitors to take over the security assignment, Obama hopes he will also persuade Assad and even Tehran to accept it.
Early Thursday, May 31, the US president held a video-conference call on the subject with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, to brief them on his initiative and his talks with Putin.
The Russian president has not yet given Obama his answer, still suspecting an American ruse for placing Western troops inside Syria. Hence his spokesman’s statement Wednesday: “Russia is not considering changing its stance on Syria and any attempts to apply pressure on Moscow are hardly appropriate.”
Tehran, taking this to mean that Putin has not rejected Obama’s proposal, was put out enough for a forceful threat: “Western intervention in Syria would result in a regional upheaval that would undoubtedly engulf Israel,” said Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani. “It would spread to Palestine and ash rising from the flames would definitely engulf the Zionist regime…US military officials should be aware of their dangerous game.”
This was taken by sources in Washington as an Iranian threat to burn Israel if Obama’s plan to post 5,000 armed monitors in Syria goes through. Iranian sources told debkafile that the threat was aimed equally at deterring Putin from cooperating with it.
Full article: Exclusive: Obama weighs action to prevent Al Qaeda grabbing Syrian WMD (DEBKAfile)