The terror group Hezbollah has assumed control of at least a portion of Syria’s chemical weapons cache, according to a Syrian military commander, multiple lawmakers, and rebel leaders.
A portion of Syrian President Bashar al Assad regime’s chemical weapons supply has fallen into the hands of Hezbollah, which has been fighting on Assad’s behalf, according to these multiple sources.
The latest confirmation that Hezbollah, which was founded by Iran and receives funding and support from the regime, had gotten ahold of these deadly weapons came earlier this week when a former Syrian army commander claimed that certain chemical weapons shipments had been delivered to Hezbollah.
"Some of the chemical weapons shipments are already with Hezbollah," Brig. Gen. Zaher Saket, a defector who was formerly in charge of a unit equipped for chemical warfare, said to The National Online, an Abu Dhabi-based news agency.
Saket claims that he was ordered on at least three occasions to deploy chemical weapons until he defected and went public with the regime’s crimes.
It remains unclear what exactly Hezbollah would do with chemical weapons.
Some in the region believe the group is merely holding them for Assad as he tries to skirt an international agreement aimed at disarming his regime.
At least two Syrian parliament members have publicly claimed that Assad has been smuggling chemical weapons to Hezbollah so that he can avoid international inspectors.
Syria declared for the first time on Friday that it has a chemical weapons supply as part of a U.S.-Russian deal aimed at confiscating these weapons.
One Syrian opposition leader Kamal Labwani claimed earlier this week that Assad was quietly shipping chemical weapons to Hezbollah to avoid handing them over for destruction.
The chemical weapons are being brought to Hezbollah "hidden in trucks carrying vegetables in order to escape international chemical inspection," Labwani said according to the Jerusalem Post.
"The chemical arms are set to be stored in Hezbollah-controlled mountain areas of Lebanon, where it will be difficult to find and monitor them," according to the report.
Journalists and others on the ground in Syria have reported in recent days that trucks have been carrying chemical weapons-related materials out of the country.
A day after Labwani went public with his allegation, a Lebanese lawmaker made similar claims.
Lebanese parliament member Khaled el Daher demanded that international inspectors from the United Nations force Hezbollah to hand back any chemical weapons they may have obtained.
Daher "asked the United Nations to send international inspectors to Lebanon, to inspect Hezbollah's weapons stores," Israel’s Arutz Sheva reported. "He claims that he has ‘well founded’ information, according to which Hezbollah recently received chemical weapons from Syria's president Bashar al-Assad."
"We stand before a crucial moment, in which Assad and his ally Hassan Nasrallah are trying to turn Lebanon into a shelter for the senior officials of the Syrian regime, if it collapses," Daher said, according to Arutz Sheva. "Transferring the chemical weapons to Lebanon is part and parcel of Bashar al-Assad's plan."
Daher warned that Hezbollah would deploy these weapons in Lebanon if given the chance.
"It is waiting to see what happens to the regime in Damascus, and waiting for the zero hour to begin carrying out the Middle Eastern earthquake that Assad promised to bring about if his regime falls," he said.
The anti-Assad Free Syrian Army warned several months ago that Assad had begun shipping chemical weapons to Hezbollah for storage.
At least two shipments had been sent by mid-July, according to the Syrian opposition leaders.
Iranian media outlets have made clear that Hezbollah will attack Israel if the United States launches any sort of military intervention in Syria.
"The decision to retaliate against Israel ‘has been taken at the highest levels within the Syrian state and Hezbollah," said according to Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency.
Middle East experts said that while difficult to confirm, it would not be surprising if Hezbollah got a hold of chemical weapons.
"Right now in Syria, you have a combined force of Syria, Iran, Iranian-backed militias and Hezbollah," said Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department. "It would not surprise me at all given how closely they’re coordinating and fighting together."
Former Pentagon adviser Michael Rubin said that Hezbollah has long "shown a desire to acquire this capability, and a propensity to use whatever capability they have."
"If Hezbollah gets these weapons, it is conceivable they will use them, most likely against Israel," Rubin said. "Given the number of Americans who visit or reside in Israel, this sets the United States down a very slippery slope."
Published under: Middle East