Former Syrian Chemical Weapons Chief Defects
The Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat is reporting that Major General Adnan Silu, former head of Syria’s chemical weapons program, has defected to the Free Syrian Army. Silu is also quoted as saying that rebels are in control of 60% of the country and that a brief NATO assault would be sufficient to topple the regime. Syria is believed to have significant quantities of chemical weapons, including mustard gas and various nerve gases. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is thought to be in control of these weapons, but reports indicate that he is moving chemical weapons out of stockpiles, sparking fears that he may be preparing to use them.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross declared Monday that it considers the conflict in Syria a civil war. The change now applies international humanitarian law throughout the country, which allows appropriate use of force but not involving civilians or detainees. This comes in the midst of reports of intense fighting between government forces and the Free Syrian Army in Damascus. The government has allegedly deployed the highest number of troops yet in the capital to take back gains made by rebels. For the first time, the international airport was briefly cut off from the city due to violence on the road linking it to the capital.
Also, the Russian foreign minister announced his country would not support new British-sponsored U.N. sanctions on Syria, calling the action naive and dangerous. The proposal would invoke Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which allows for military action to enforce sanctions, in extending the U.N.’s mission in Syria. Additionally, Morocco expelled its Syrian ambassador, joining Tunisia and Libya who did the same this winter, to which the Syrian government responded immediately by declaring their Moroccan ambassador persona non grata.