21 Oct, 2020

Despite assurances from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he has no chemical weapons, a Syrian general who defected, insists that his former boss has hundreds of tons stockpiled and has used them numerous times in the past.

In 2014, Syria handed over what it claimed was its entire chemical arsenal to UN’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). This was part of a deal brokered by former president Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, John Kerry. Both have gone on record as saying that Syria turned over “100%” of their chemical weapons arsenal. The deal came after hundreds of Syrians were killed in an Assad-ordered sarin gas attack.

“They [the regime] admitted only to 1,300 tons, but we knew in reality they had nearly double that,” said former Syrian Brigadier General Zaher al-Sakat to The Telegraph on Friday. “They had at least 2,000 tons. At least.”

Before defecting in 2013, Zaher al-Sakat was a brigadier general in the Syrian Army’s 5th Division, serving as head of chemical warfare.

In a televised interview last week, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the US “fabricated” the story of a nerve gas attack as a false pretext to attack.

“The West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists,’ Assad claimed.

Two weeks ago, over 80 Syrians were killed in what is believed to have been a sarin gas attack. President Donald Trump responded to the attack by ordering a missile strike on the Assad regime airbase from which the attack originated.

Sakat told The Telegraph  that the Assad regime did stop producing chemical weapons.

“They don’t need any more, they have all they need already,” he said. “Sarin degrades fairly quickly and becomes less toxic over time, so we could be looking at an attack using old sarin.”

“Eighty-six people were killed in the attack, which is not a lot for sarin. If you look at Halabja (the 1988 chemical attack carried out by Saddam Hussein’s forces against the Kurdish city) we think just five tonnes of sarin was used and more than 12,000 people died,” he said.

Sakat admitted that he followed orders and carried out three chemical attacks before he defected.

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Sakat said Assad became more brazen after the US failed to act when he crossed Barack Obama’s “red line” with impunity.

“He experimented and realized everyone was silent to all his crimes: the barrel bombing of civilians and even chemical ones,” Sakat said. “He began acting in the face of the UN and the international community.”

The Syrian government denied using chemical weapons in the attack two weeks ago, claiming its air strikes hit a warehouse the opposition had been using to store toxic materials.

Sakat said he does not think Assad will give up the remaining stockpile as long as he is in power.

“He will not let go of the chemical weapons while he is leader of Syria,” the general said. “If he is forced to leave, he might confess to where some of it is hidden only so it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.”