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US Intelligence Chief Warns of Desperation Moves by Syria

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. director of national intelligence warned on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be preparing to use chemical weapons in a last-ditch effort to hold onto power.

James Clapper told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that "the opposition is gaining in strength; it is gaining territory.  At the same time, the regime is experiencing shortages in manpower and logistics."

Clapper's statements underscore what international observers have been saying for some time that the longer the conflict lasts, the greater the chances al-Assad won't last.

However, the Syrian president could presumably strike back at opposition forces with biological and chemical weapons, a move the Obama administration finds untenable although the White House hasn't revealed what the U.S. response would be if that happens.

Adding to the confusion of the two-year conflict that has cost well over 70,000 lives is the rise of al-Qaeda’s al-Nusrah affiliate in Syria, which is mixed in with pro-democratic forces with decidedly different goals.

Clapper says that al-Nusrah has been able to ingratiate itself with ordinary Syrians because of its talent for providing essential services as people cope with a deepening humanitarian disaster.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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