Pentagon wary of Syrian disarmament efforts

The Defense Department is wary of Syrian claims of compliance on its disarmament efforts, echoing recent concerns by the State Department the country is being less than open about its chemical weapon stocks. 

"We don't assume ... or take for granted that Syria has declared all chemical weapons-related materials or will fully cooperate" with the United Nations sanctions disarmament plan, according to Pentagon press secretary George Little. 

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"We continue to review and assess the completeness and the accuracy of Syria's declaration" to fully disarm is chemical stockpile, Little told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday. 

"We hope they do [fully comply] but we're not taking it for granted. Our eyes are wide open," he added. 

Little's comments come a week after U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power expressed her own doubts over Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical weapons disclosures. 

During a speech at the organization's New York headquarters, Power praised the work of international weapons inspectors inside Syria. 

However, she openly questioned the thoroughness of the list of chemical weapons sites submitted by the Assad regime to the inspection teams. 

“More work, of course, remains to be done to ensure that the Syrian government’s list of declared sites is comprehensive," Power said on Nov. 5. 

Concerns that Assad could be holding back a small number of chemical weapons and moving them out of the country with the assistance of the Iranian military or the Hezbollah terror group has clouded the disarmament program since its beginning earlier this year. 

On Monday, Western powers overseeing the dismantlement flatly rejected Damascus's request for military assets to help move those weapons out of Syria. 

The aid request by Syrian officials reportedly included a litany of armored vehicles and communications equipment Damascus claimed were essential to safely transport chemical weapons out. 

"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 reporters at The Hague on Monday.  

"It's not going to happen," the diplomat added. 

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 a 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.