As the civil war in Syria grinds on, members of the Syrian opposition say they fear that an increasingly desperate President Bashar al-Assad is prepared to attack them with chemical weapons as control of the country slips away from him, according to an analyst who met with them recently.

Retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely talked with a group of Syrian fighters, including some defectors from Assad's military, who had slipped into a refugee camp across the border with Turkey.

"The military defectors said they know Assad is going to use chemical weapons against his own people as a last resort," Vallely added. "However, (military defectors) don't have the weapons or equipment they need to locate the supplies and destroy them - they were very worried and want the U.S. to know the gravity of the situation."

At least 16,000 people have died in fighting in Syria since an uprising against the Assad government began in the spring of 2011, according to the United nations. Almost 37,000 Syrian refugees have gone across the Turkish border.

In one camp visited by Vallely there were, "Thousands of Syrian military, including officers and their families living in tents," he said. "Promises made by Saudi Arabia, as well as Persian Gulf states to send weapons and money to the opposition have not been honored as of yet."

Sara A. Carter is The Washington Examiner's national security correspondent. She can be reached at