Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyassah reported on Thursday that its sources in Iraq say that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s inner circle is engaged in “intensive debate” between those who advocate using chemical weapons as a last resort and those who warn of the dangers of such a step.
The debate comes amid growing Western fears that a desperate Assad could turn to chemical weapons as rebels close in on Damascus.
Al-Seyassah said its reporters spoke to a “prominent figure in Iraq’s Islamist Sadrist movement” in Baghdad. The movement, led by popular Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, is supportive of Assad but has previously denied reports it has sent fighters to Syria to help put down the uprising.
Assad’s security and intelligence chiefs believe the rebels’ convergence on the capital provides a unique “opportunity to exterminate them,” the source said.
The Iraqi Sadrist leader said the Syrian regime’s political military and security factions have become more desperate as rebel forces converge on Damascus, and therefore the regime won’t hesitate to use “any weapon” against the opposition, Al-Seyassah reported.
This faction, led by Gen. Ali Mamlouk, Assad’s special security adviser and former head of the General Security Directorate (GID); his deputy Gen. Abdel-Fateh Qudsiya; current GID chief Maj.-Gen. Mohammed Dib Zaitoun; military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Rafiq Shahada; and Gen. Rustum Ghazali, the head of the Political Security Directorate, believe such a move could help quash the uprising once and for all.
The majority of Syria’s military leaders and the Defense Ministry have warned, however, that if the army itself resorts to chemical weapons against the rebels, that move may result to the armed forces’ “complete disintegration,” since while the army does not really oppose the use of such weapons, it does not want to be directly involved in using them against the Syrian opposition, the source told Al-Seyassah.
Mamlouk, Qudsiya and Zaitoun have proposed that special units of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, rather than the Syrian Army, be asked to carry out security leaders’ orders to use chemical weapons, the source said.