President Bashar Assad's regime has plans to use chemical weapons against its own people, the former head of Syria's chemical arsenal told The Times.
Major-General Adnan Sillu, who defected three months ago, was quoted by the British newspaper as saying on Tuesday that he had been party to top-level discussions about the deployment of chemical weapons against rebel fighters and civilians in Syria’s second largest city, Aleppo.
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"We were in a serious discussion about the use of chemical weapons, including how we would use them and in what areas. We discussed this as a last resort — such as if the regime lost control of an important area such as Aleppo," General Sillu told The Times in his first interview since his defection.
The general said the meeting, held at Syria’s chemical weapons center five miles south of Damascus, was the "last straw" for him. Sillu said he defected because he was convinced that the regime would eventually use the weapons against the civilian population.
Chemical weapons research center at Safira (Photo: Google Maps)
General Sillu, who is now in Turkey, said Assad's regime has also considered transferring chemical weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. "They wanted to place warheads with the chemical weapons on missiles — to transfer them this way to Hezbollah. It was for use against Israel, of course," he told The Times.
In the past, he added, fear of repercussions had stopped the regime from transferring some of its chemical weapons to its allies in the region. "Now, if they have nothing to lose why not share these weapons? If a war starts between Hezbollah and Israel it will be only good for Syria," General Sillu said in the interview.
According to the general, members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard attended numerous meetings in Damascus and at a military base near the southern city of Daraa. "They were always coming to visit and to advise. They were always sending us scientists and bringing our scientists to them," he told The Times. "They were also involved on the political side of how to use the chemical weapons."
Earlier this week Der Spiegel quoted eyewitnesses as saying the Syrian army tested missile systems for poison gas shells at the end of August.
On Monday the German news magazine quoted witnesses as saying that the tests were conducted near a chemical weapons research center at Safira, east of Aleppo.
According to statements from various witnesses, a total of five or six empty shells devised for delivering chemical agents were fired by tanks and aircraft at a site called Diraiham in the desert near the village of Khanasir.
The witnesses said Iranian officers believed to be members of the Revolutionary Guards were flown in by helicopter for the testing.