Senators: U.S. Forces at Risk Due to Syrian Chemical Weapons

Senators warn an unstable Syria might lose control of its deadliest arms.


Several senators are raising concerns that unrest in Syria could allow that nation's chemical and other weapons to be used against U.S. forces and allies in the region.

"The growing breakdown of order and security in Syria could place its significant stockpiles of poison gases and operational chemical weapons at risk," Maine Republican Susan Collins, New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, and New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen wrote in a February 17 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. DOTMIL obtained a copy of the letter.

[See pictures of the violence in Syria]

The senators want the Obama administration to spell out the planning it has done to prepare for and "address" the potential that the Assad regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons might go missing. "In the event of a regime collapse, it is difficult to overstate the danger these weapons could pose to allies and U.S. forces in the region if they fall into the wrong hands," the letter states.

The senators pointed to the apparent seizure of Libyan shoulder-fired missiles during that nation's internal conflict. Those missing weapons show "that non-state terrorist groups will seek to secure these weapons in the midst of chaos and an apparent lack of security or custody of these weapons," the senators wrote.

[Photo Gallery: Iran Flexes Military Muscle in Exercises.]

The trio also sounded alarms about the State Department's view that Iran and Russia are supplying weapons to Syrian forces.

Asked about the administration's reluctance to intervene in the Syrian conflict, Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that officials see it as a complicated matter that requires ample caution by Washington.

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