The Syrian government is reportedly preparing to use chemical weapons on its own citizens, as President Bashar Assad considers doing whatever is necessary to put an end to the civil war raging in the Middle East country.
U.S. officials shared with NBC News on Wednesday that soldiers have been loading up precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs that could be dropped by fighter bombers. Sarin is one of the most lethal weapons used in warfare – back in 1988, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein killed over 5,000 Kurds in a single attack in Halabja.
"Ultimately, what we should be thinking about is a political transition in Syria and one that should start as soon as possible," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Wednesday at a NATO meeting in Brussels. "We believe their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people have to die before that occurs."
She added that if President Assad decides to use the chemical weapons, he would be crossing a "red line." The Syrian leader has called the rebel forces who have been opposing the government "terrorists," while the liberation groups are claiming they are trying to free their country from the grasps of an oppressive dictator.
The Associated Press added that Clinton will be meeting with Russia's top diplomats to discuss a possible response to the crisis in Syria. President Barack Obama has stated that he does not want the U.S. sending troops into the region and getting America involved in another war, but the situation for Syrian's civilians becomes more critical each day the conflict rages on.
Clinton, along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and mediator Lakhdar Brahimi, will attempt to see if any compromise can be made between the rebels and Assad's government. But after almost a year of assassinations, bombings, gunfire and entire cities being shelled that, according to rebel forces, have resulted in over 40,000 deaths, a peace deal seems an unlikely development.
It is unclear what exactly Western countries will do if Assad does decide to use chemical weapons, but the U.S. and its allies have said that such a scenario would be "unacceptable" and would trigger a more prompt response.
The AP notes that the Syrian government has remained mum on whether or not it actually has chemical weapons in its possession, although it has said such weapons would not be used against its own people.
The 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention that outlawed the production, stockpiling and use of such weapons was signed by all but seven nations in the world – Syrian being one of them.
Fears escalated in the Mideast country last week after the government issued a blackout of the Internet across Syria, shutting down all 84 of Syria's UP addresses. Connection was down for days, with many fearing what the government was preparing to do. Media access in Syria is already greatly limited, and a lack of Internet access could almost entirely conceal the ongoing battle in the war-torn country.