The Syrian military has chemical weapons that are ready to go as soon as President Bashar al-Assad gives the order, according to Danger Room.
We've heard this threat before, but an official told Wired that this time, it's much more serious. Over the weekend, Wired says, engineers began mixing the two chemical agents necessary to make sarin gas—isopropanol, which you know as rubbing alcohol, and methylphosphonyl difluoride. The Assad regime has amassed some 500 metric tons of these agents, but had kept them separate—in binary form—to avoid an accidental release of nerve gas. But no longer. The troops have cooked up sarin and are ready to use it to kill Syrian people when Assad says the word.
Sarin has only been used a handful of times in history—Iraq used the weapon against Iran during the 1980-1988 war. In 1994, a Japanese religious group released sarin in the city of Matsumoto. Another Japanese group did the same in Tokyo just a year later. Then in 2004, U.S. soliders were exposed to a small amount of sarin when a shell containing its precursors was detonated in Iraq. Sarin is almost always deadly, even in very small amounts. It can be easily mixed into water and you might not even know you've been exposed because it has no taste or odor. Sarin completely breaks down the nervous system. First you'll have difficulty breathing, followed by nausea and drooling. Then you vomit, defecate, urinate, twitch and jerk, before you fall comatose and eventually die.
For the record, Syria has never actually confirmed it has chemical weapons and has even gone so far as to deny that it would ever deploy them. But the assumption is that as things are escalating and Assad's position is, according to reports, weakening, the president would drop sarin to keep Syrians from getting out of the country while preventing other forces from entering.
If Syria does use chemical weapons, it could warrant U.S. involvement. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called that move a "red line" that would cause American forces to act. The Pentagon, however, wouldn't elaborate beyond saying that any use of chemical weapons would be "unacceptable."
The internet might be back, but it's clear that otherwise things are just getting worse. The writing, as they say, is on the wall. Earlier today the U.N. began pulling all non-essential staff out of Damascus. Then airport officials in Egypt made a commercial plane en route for Damascus turn around. And the Israeli government is supposedly considering a plan to take out the sites where chemical weapons are stored. But apparently these arms are ready enough that they could be loaded intp a plane and dropped over Syria at any moment. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. [Wired]