Sunday 15 July 2012

Syria's ex-chemical warfare chief to head military opposition

Maj. Gen. Adnan Salou
The highest-ranking officer to defect to the Syrian opposition is a Syrian Kurd who was the country’s chemical warfare chief of staff for five years.
Retired Maj. Gen. Adnan Nawras Salou has just been tasked to head a single rebel military command based in Turkey.
Salou, a 1971 graduate of the Syrian Military Academy in Homs who served in various armored divisions and the Special Forces, was promoted to major general and named Syria’s chemical warfare chief of staff in 2003, a position he held until his retirement in 2008.
He defected to Turkey in mid-June together with eight other officers.
Salou believes the international community’s alarm over reports that Syria has begun moving some of its massive chemical stockpiles out of storage facilities for safekeeping in Iran or the good hands of Lebanon’s Hezbollah is unwarranted. “The regime is incapable of doing that,” the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat quotes him as saying crisply.
Syria, one of the few countries that never signed the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, is believed to have, among other things, mustard gas, a Sarin nerve agent, and even VX.
In a video posted overnight on YouTube, Salou announced he would be heading “The Joint Military Command of the Syrian Revolution,” which will include representatives of all armed opposition groups as well as 18 brigadiers who have defected so far.
The announcement by the Kurdish major general is the second prod in five weeks to Syria’s Kurds (estimated at about two million or 9% of the population) to throw their full weight behind the uprising against the regime of President Bashar Al Assad. The first prod was last month’s election of another Syrian Kurd, Abdulbaset Sieda, president of the opposition umbrella group known as the Syrian National Council (SNC).