A high-ranking IDF officer revealed that it was his estimate, based on the intelligence in Israel’s possession, that the Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army has only a few tons of chemical weapons left in its arsenal, which he described as the Syrian army’s “vestige capability,” a relatively limited capacity compared to recent reports that claimed the Syrian military had tens or hundreds of tons. The Syrian regime maintained that capability after successfully hiding those chemical weapons from the international observers who were sent to Syria to remove its chemical weapons in 2013 and 2014. The high-ranking IDF officer further noted that he was certain, based on the information held by Israeli intelligence, that the order to use the sarin gas a month ago in the fighting near the city Idlib was issued by “high-ranking commanders.”
That said, the officer said he could not say with absolute certainty whether Assad was aware of the order, but noted that “it is hard to believe he didn’t know.” The high-ranking officer also could not say with certainty whether Russia had been informed in advance about the regime’s intentions to use chemical weapons. Nevertheless, the high-ranking officer assessed that the decision to use the chemical weapons in Syria stemmed from the “distress and frustration” felt by President Assad and his top commanders as a result of their inability to win the war despite the military and political achievements in the past year. The officers noted that the civil war in Syria was still a long way away from being won militarily, and that the chances of reaching a political arrangement in the country were also slim, which means that the war is likely to drag on.