If the Syrian regime falls, the US plans to deploy troops to stop its chemical weapons from becoming a first-come, first-served bonanza for insurgent groups, senior officials say. Plans are in place to secure the sites if necessary, a move that would probably involve teams of special forces operatives entering the country to guard sites as well as precision airstrikes to incinerate other locations without releasing poisons into the air, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Pentagon fears that stockpiles left unguarded could fall into the hands of rebels linked to al-Qaeda or other Islamic extremists.
American satellites and drones are already watching the sites, which are believed to hold hundreds of tons of sarin gas and other nerve agents. Earlier this week, President Obama warned Bashar al-Assad's regime that the US considers the using or moving of chemical weapons a "red line" beyond which military force could be used. Activists say hundreds of people have been killed in continued fighting this week, including many civilians in army shelling of southern Damascus, Reuters reports. (Read more Syria stories.)