Syria’s Chemical-Destruction Moves Prompt Cautious U.S. Praise

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Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 7, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

New chem­ic­al-dis­arm­a­ment steps by the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment promp­ted praise from Wash­ing­ton’s top dip­lo­mat on Monday, hours after Dam­as­cus des­troyed the first of its war­fare ma­ter­i­als un­der in­ter­na­tion­al su­per­vi­sion.

“I’m not go­ing to vouch today for what hap­pens months down the road, but it’s a good be­gin­ning, and we should wel­come a good be­gin­ning,” U.S. Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry said in a morn­ing press con­fer­ence in Bali, In­done­sia.

On Sunday, Syr­i­an-gov­ern­ment work­ers star­ted us­ing power tools to cut apart gear such as “mis­sile war­heads, aer­i­al bombs and mix­ing-and-filling equip­ment,” the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons said in a state­ment. “The pro­cess will con­tin­ue in the com­ing days.”

Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s re­gime faces a Nov. 1 dead­line to fully dis­mantle its cap­ab­il­ity to pro­duce chem­ic­al weapons. Des­troy­ing the gov­ern­ment’s chem­ic­al-war­fare sub­stances is slated to take longer, and the pro­cess could in­volve mass ship­ment of the ma­ter­i­als out of Syr­i­an ter­rit­ory, the New York Times re­por­ted on Sat­urday.

Chem­ic­al weapons ana­lyst Jean Pas­cal Zanders, though, said “there is no way they can get around” a ban on trans­fer­ring such agents between states parties to the Chem­ic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion, the Chris­ti­an Sci­ence Mon­it­or re­por­ted on Sunday.

Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in­siders said Dam­as­cus ap­par­ently was trans­fer­ring chem­ic­al arms to sev­er­al gath­er­ing points, a pos­sible sig­nal of its in­ten­tion to sup­port in­ter­na­tion­al plans to elim­in­ate the weapons, the Wash­ing­ton Post re­por­ted on Sat­urday.

One is­sue ex­pert, though, ref­er­enced ac­tions by Sad­dam Hus­sein’s Ir­aq to ar­gue that As­sad “could use the rights af­forded to him un­der the Chem­ic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion … to thwart the work” of in­ter­na­tion­al dis­arm­a­ment crews.

As in pre­war Ir­aq, As­sad “rolled out the wel­come mat for in­spect­ors, then stalled them while try­ing to des­troy in­crim­in­at­ing evid­ence,” said Amy Smith­son, a seni­or fel­low at the James Mar­tin Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies.

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