Nine months after Syria agreed to give up its entire chemical-weapons stockpile, almost all of it has left the country, headed for destruction in the open sea.
But nearly 8 percent, or some 100 metric tons of chemicals, remain at a single site in Syria. Reaching that site has not been easy, and it looks like the country will miss its target date of June 30 for the total destruction of its arsenal. The other 92 percent has been carted out of the country on Norwegian and Danish ships traveling to Italy. There, the chemical weapons were handed over to U.S. Navy vessels, which have been tasked with destroying them in international waters.
The last shipment out of the country took place around June 8. The remaining 8 percent is packed up and ready to go, but Syrian authorities now say that the security situation near the storage site would make any attempt to remove the chemicals too dangerous.
They have reason to worry. On May 26, a team of experts and officials from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the lead group in the disarmament effort, and the United Nations was ambushed while traveling to the city of Kafr Zita to investigate allegations of chlorine use against civilians. The militants responsible had ignored a local cease-fire that had been “carefully negotiated” with the Syrian government and armed opposition groups in the area for that specific day. The team made it back to safety in Damascus; one driver sustained minor injuries.
But the Obama administration says that Syria is using safety concerns as an excuse to stall the OPCW investigation into its chemical-weapons use. When the disarmament operation began, the area surrounding the site was much safer than it is now, officials say. “From the beginning, we have pressed the Assad regime and we will continue to press the Assad regime to complete expeditiously removal operations,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said a few days after the attack near Kafr Zita.
The question is whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will listen to the U.S. on that score — and whether Russian President Vladimir Putin, his primary sponsor, will push him to do it.
What We're Following See More »
If a new poll is to be believed, Hillary Clinton has a big lead in the all-important swing state of Pennsylvania. A new Suffolk University survey shows her ahead of Donald Trump, 50%-41%. In a four-way race, she maintains her nine-point lead, 46%-37%. "Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the past six presidential elections, going back to Bill Clinton’s first win in 1992. Yet it is a rust belt state that could be in play, as indicated by recent general-election polling showing a close race."
"President Barack Obama has chosen Jackson Park, a lakefront park that once hosted the world’s fair on the city’s South Side, for his $500 million presidential library, according to a person familiar with the matter."
Wednesday was the third night in a row that the Democratic convention enjoyed a ratings win over the Republican convention last week. Which might have prompted a fundraising email from Donald Trump exhorting supporters not to watch. "Unless you want to be lied to, belittled, and attacked for your beliefs, don't watch Hillary's DNC speech tonight," the email read. "Instead, help Donald Trump hold her accountable, call out her lies and fight back against her nasty attacks."
The Clintons will retain their Secret Service "code names from the last time they lived in the White House. Hillary Clinton is EVERGREEN and Bill ClintonEAGLE. Donald Trump is MOGUL, according to reports, and Melania Trump MUSE. The vice presidents get code names, too: Mike Pence is HOOSIER—a little on the nose—and his wife HUMMINGBIRD. Tim Kaine is DAREDEVIL, somewhat ambitiously. His wife's? To be determined."