The Syrian military is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own people and is awaiting final orders from President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday.
The military has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped onto the Syrian people from dozens of fighter-bombers, the officials said.
As recently as Tuesday, officials had said there was as yet no evidence that the process of mixing the "precursor" chemicals had begun. But Wednesday, they said their worst fears had been confirmed: The nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs.
Sarin is an extraordinarily lethal agent. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces killed 5,000 Kurds with a single sarin attack on Halabja in 1988.
U.S. officials stressed that as of now, the sarin bombs hadn't been loaded onto planes and that Assad hadn't issued a final order to use them. But if he does, one of the officials said, "there's little the outside world can do to stop it."
“Creating additional capabilities on the border does not defuse the situation but on the contrary exacerbates it,” Putin said in a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after talks in Istanbul on Monday.
“You know, as they say, if a gun is hung on the wall at the start of a play then at the end of the play it will definitely fire,” the Russian president stated.
“Why should we need extra shooting at the border? We are urging restraint.”