By Carlo Muñoz - 11/11/13 12:10 PM EST
Western powers overseeing the dismantlement of Syria's chemical stockpiles flatly rejected Damascus' request for military assets to help move those weapons out of the country.
"There is no way that the regime will be supplied with equipment that could be used by the army to kill more innocent Syrians," one senior Western diplomat told Reuters on Monday.
"It's not going to happen," the diplomat added.
But the renewed offensive by Assad's forces against anti-government rebels battling to overthrow the longtime leader has members of the United Nations and European Union justifiably wary of providing military equipment to regime troops.
"They will not get it from us and I don't think the UN, or EU which has applied sanctions, will do so either," another Western diplomat told Reuters during a brief interview at The Hague.
One counterproposal being considered is supplying Syrian forces with commercial flatbed trucks, instead of armored combat vehicles, to move the chemical weapons.
However, the Assad government claims those vehicles do not provide the necessary protection from possible attack by rebel factions in the country, who could hijack the unprotected convoys and take the weapons for themselves.
The decision to block Western military aid to the Syrian regime comes weeks after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested NATO forces could be called in to assist with the disarmament operation.
"I think it would probably be something we would assume would occur if we can stay on track and make progress . . . . [and] that other nations would be asked for help," Hagel said in October.
Assad has already declared his regime owns more than 1,000 metric tons of weaponized chemical agents, including nerve gas, dispersed over 20 sites in the country.
Inspectors from the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have visited 22 of the 23 sites declared in Syria, and 39 of the 41 facilitates located at those sites, according to statement by the organization.
They did not visit the final remaining site, however, because of safety and security concerns.
The OPCW mission was part of a U.S.-Russian brokered disarmament plan reached earlier this year.
That plan effectively put the brakes on the White House's plans to begin targeted strikes against Assad's forces.
The strikes were planned in retaliation for Assad's use of chemical weapons against rebel forces in Damascus and elsewhere in the country.
In July, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in July told leaders of the Senate Armed Forces Committee that a significant deployment of ground troops would be needed to secure Syria’s chemical weapon sites if an operation of that kind were ordered.
"Thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces would be needed to assault and secure critical sites" in the country, Dempsey wrote in a letter to Congress.
Pentagon estimates at the time reportedly said 70,000 troops would be needed to lockdown Assad's chemical weapons program.