Syrians moving chemical weapons for security

The United States has intelligence that Syria has moved chemical weapons for security reasons, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Friday.
Panetta said that intelligence shows movement at some sites.

There has been “limited movement” at Syria’s major chemical storage sites, Panetta said in response to questions from CNN’s Barbara Starr.

But the United States believes that the stashes remain secured by the Syrian military.

Panetta added that the sites remain monitored by the United States and other countries.

“We’ve continued to monitor that. We are working with countries in the region to ensure that we have the best information possible with regards to the sites and how they are being secured,” Panetta said.

The United States has intelligence that Syria has moved chemical weapons at some sites for security reasons, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Friday.

There has been “limited movement” at Syria’s major chemical storage sites, Panetta said at the Pentagon in response to questions from CNN’s Barbara Starr.

But the United States believes the stashes remain secured by the Syrian military, adding that the sites are being monitored by the U.S. and other countries.

“We’ve continued to monitor that. We are working with countries in the region to ensure that we have the best information possible with regards to the sites and how they are being secured,” Panetta said.

Though Panetta said he was unsure of where these movements had occurred, he said the steps were taken “for the Syrians to better secure the chemicals.”

Concern first arose in July when satellite surveillance and communications intercepts revealed some initial stockpile movements.

In August, President Barack Obama warned the Syrian government about using chemical weapons, or even moving them.

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation,” President Obama said.

Panetta said he could not say whether Syrian rebels have gained access to any chemical weapons.

“With regards to the movement of this and whether or not they’ve been able to locate some of it, we just don’t know,” Panetta said.

The existence of chemical weapons in Syria and the danger they pose in the war-wracked country has heightened a sense of urgency among world powers working to end the civil war.

Here’s the transcript:

CNN’S BARBARA STARR: Mr. Secretary, I want to ask you about Syria’s chemical weapons. You have spoken extensively about your broad concern about it. I want to ask you with some specificity this morning. Rebel groups are claiming that they have captured some military sites in Iraq – in Syria – where, in fact, they have found chemical weapons components, capability, whatever it may be, at some of the areas they now control.

So do you now believe that rebels have essentially found – do
you have concerns that they have found some of Syria’s chemical weapons capability?

Do you believe that Syria’s chemical weapons have been moved
beyond the initial incident of many, many weeks ago? And what
concerns does this now pose in the equation?

Does it raise a concern that Iranian Al Quds inside Syria could also be getting their hands on chemical capability there?

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA: First and foremost, as I’ve – as I’ve expressed, obviously we – we continue to have a concern about the security of the [chemical and biological weapons] sites, and we continue to monitor that. We’re working with – with the countries in the region to ensure that – that we have the best information possible with regards to the sites and how they’re being secured.

At – at this stage, with regards to, you know, the major sites
that we’re looking at, we do believe that those sites still remain
secured by – by the Syrian military.

There has been intelligence that there have been some moves that have taken place. Where exactly that’s taken place, we don’t know. I don’t have any specific information about the opposition and whether or not they’ve obtained some of this or how much they’ve obtained and just exactly what’s taken place.

But with regards to, you know, the movement of the – of some of this and whether or not they’ve been able to locate some of it, we just don’t know.

The main point I would make, though, is that we still believe
that, based on what we know and what we’re monitoring, that the principal sites that we are concerned about still remain secure.

STARR: I’m sorry, sir, can I just ask you to clarify? You
have for the first time, I think, are saying moves, multiple moves of chemical weapons. We knew of one incident many, many weeks ago.

Can you elaborate? And you’re not talking about the main sites.
So are you seeing things move? Just tell (inaudible) what you mean.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA: What – what we mean is that there has been some intelligence that – that, with regards to some of these sites, that there has been some movement in order to – for the Syrian to better secure what they – the chemicals. And while there’s been some limited movement, again, the major sites still remain in place, still remain secure.

But as to, you know, the movement of some of these – these
materials and what, you know, whether or not they’ve been exposed to – to possession by – by the opposition or others, that’s something we – I – I really don’t have any firm information to confirm that that’s taken place.

STARR: But if they’re still secure – that if – if you’re saying they’re secure…

(CROSSTALK)

PANETTA: Well, main sites – the main sites, as we’ve determined and monitored, still remain secure.

Source: CNN

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