A former top general in Syria's chemical weapons program says he doesn't doubt for a moment that President Bashar al-Assad will deploy his chemical weapons arsenal as he tries to hold onto power and crush the uprising that started almost two years ago.
"The regime started to fall and deteriorate. It's coming to its end," said retired Major General Adnan Sillou in an interview in a hotel near Antakya, on Turkey's southern border with Syria. "It's highly possible that he'll start using [chemical weapons] to kill his own people because this regime is a killer."
Sillou told ABC News that until September 2008, he was chief of staff on the defensive side of the chemical weapons program. He said he was in charge of training soldiers against attacks and contact with the weapons, as well as procuring safety equipment to guard against them.
He listed mustard gas along with the sarin, VX and tabun nerve agents as the main elements in Syria's chemical arsenal, whose existence Syria doesn't even acknowledge. Foreign intelligence officials and analysts have focused on the first three as the main threats, and last week U.S. officials said there was evidence sarin had not only been moved, but its binary components, usually stored separately, had been combined and placed into bombs for use.
Sillou accuses Assad's forces of already spraying pesticides and dropping white phosphorous, claims also made by opposition activists.
"They're idiots, crazy. Simply they are killers," he said.
Sillou believes the regime could step it up to more serious chemical weapons if Aleppo, Syria's most populous city where fighting has raged for months, falls to the rebels.
In July, Sillou left Syria for Turkey almost four years after he said he retired from the military. Sillou told ABC News that in his last post, which he held for six years, he was second in command behind a man named Said Ali Khalil, a member of Assad's ruling Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
After defecting, Sillou said he was debriefed by an Arabic-speaking agent from the Central Intelligence Agency in Turkey's capital, Ankara. The meeting lasted three hours and was the last contact he said he had with them or any other intelligence agency.
Fighting is raging around the capital, Damascus, notably on the airport road where rebels are trying to take the airport to hamper outside support and deal a highly symbolic blow to the regime. The uptick in violence near the seat of Assad's power has raised American fears that he could resort to using his chemical weapons.