Syria Surrenders Last Chemical Arms, But Key Questions Persist

Syrians celebrate President Bashar Assad's re-election in Damascus earlier this month. Assad's government on Monday finished handing over its declared arsenal of chemical-warfare agents, an international watchdog said.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
See more stories about...
Diane Barnes
June 23, 2014, 7:12 a.m.

A top in­vest­ig­at­or said Syr­ia has sur­rendered the fi­nal chem­ic­al arms it ad­mit­ted to hold­ing, but any secret ar­sen­al may al­low gas at­tacks to con­tin­ue.

“The last of the re­main­ing chem­ic­als iden­ti­fied for re­mov­al from Syr­ia were loaded this af­ter­noon aboard the Dan­ish ship Ark Fu­tura,” said Ah­met Üzüm­cü, dir­ect­or-gen­er­al of the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons. The fi­nal tanks of po­ten­tially leth­al war­fare sub­stances re­portedly had been locked in place by fight­ing around Dam­as­cus.

Monday’s de­vel­op­ment bookends a months-long in­ter­na­tion­al cam­paign to re­move roughly 1,300 met­ric tons of chem­ic­al-war­fare ma­ter­i­als from the vi­ol­ence-racked Middle East­ern na­tion. Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment agreed to re­lin­quish the stock­pile last year, after nerve gas killed hun­dreds of people in a Dam­as­cus sub­urb and promp­ted threats of for­eign in­ter­ven­tion in Syr­ia’s civil war.

“Nev­er be­fore has an en­tire ar­sen­al of a cat­egory of weapons of mass de­struc­tion been re­moved from a coun­try ex­per­i­en­cing a state of in­tern­al armed con­flict,” Üzüm­cü said in a state­ment to re­port­ers. “And this has been ac­com­plished with­in very de­mand­ing and tight time­frames.”

The dis­arm­a­ment ef­fort en­countered months of delays, though, and an in­ter­na­tion­al man­date to des­troy the stock­pile this month is now out of reach. Üzüm­cü last week said ex­tend­ing the dead­line is out of the ques­tion, and the U.N. Se­cur­ity Coun­cil would con­sider how to re­spond, the Daily Sa­bah re­por­ted on Monday.

The chem­ic­al-arms watch­dog chief ad­ded that his agency still has work to do in Syr­ia. It re­mains un­clear wheth­er As­sad’s re­gime may be hid­ing more war­fare chem­ic­als, and Üzüm­cü urged the gov­ern­ment to con­tin­ue sup­port­ing an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to pos­sible strikes with un­declared tox­ic gas.

“We hope to con­clude soon the cla­ri­fic­a­tion of cer­tain as­pects of the Syr­i­an de­clar­a­tion and com­mence the de­struc­tion of cer­tain struc­tures that were used as chem­ic­al-weapons pro­duc­tion fa­cil­it­ies,” he ad­ded in his Monday an­nounce­ment. Dam­as­cus denies it ever used chem­ic­al agents in com­bat, and blames op­pos­i­tion forces for any at­tacks with sub­stances con­trolled un­der an in­ter­na­tion­al treaty it signed last year.

Mean­while, a ship­ment of Syr­i­an chem­ic­al-war­fare stocks ar­rived in Fin­land on Sat­urday, Yle Uutis­et re­por­ted. The stock­pile’s dead­li­est por­tion is slated for de­liv­ery to the south­ern Itali­an port of Gioia Tauro, where it would be moved onto a spe­cially equipped U.S. ves­sel for de­struc­tion.

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
4 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
4 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×