Damascus countdown: New York Times reports Syria began preparing 500-lbs bombs filled with chemical weapons in November.

In my forthcoming political thriller, Damascus Countdown, I try to envision a scenario in which the regime in Syria concludes it is in its best interests to use weapons of mass destruction and thus poses an existential threat to the State of Israel. In the novel, I focus primarily on nuclear weapons. In reality — at this particular moment –the concern is chemical weapons.

This morning we are learning just how seriously the regime in Damascus is considering using weapons of mass destruction. “In the last days of November, Israel’s top military commanders called the Pentagon to discuss troubling intelligence that was showing up on satellite imagery,” reports the New York Times. “Syrian troops appeared to be mixing chemicals at two storage sites, probably the deadly nerve gas sarin, and filling dozens of 500-pounds bombs that could be loaded on airplanes.”

“Within hours President Obama was notified, and the alarm grew over the weekend, as the munitions were loaded onto vehicles near Syrian air bases,” the Times notes. “In briefings, administration officials were told that if Syria’s increasingly desperate president, Bashar al-Assad, ordered the weapons to be used, they could be airborne in less than two hours — too fast for the United States to act, in all likelihood. What followed next, officials said, was a remarkable show of international cooperation over a civil war in which the United States, Arab states, Russia and China have almost never agreed on a common course of action….But concern remains that Mr. Assad could now use the weapons produced that week at any moment. American and European officials say that while a crisis was averted in that week from late November to early December, they are by no means resting easy.'”

Also: “Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was reported to have traveled to Jordan in recent weeks, and the Israeli news media have said the topic of discussion was how to deal with Syrian weapons if it appeared that they could be transferred to Lebanon, where Hezbollah could lob them over the border to Israel. But the plans, to the extent they exist, remain secret.”

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