A specially equipped U.S. vessel departed from Spain on Wednesday to destroy the most dangerous warfare chemicals surrendered by Syria’s government.
Ending a months-long stop at Spain’s Rota naval base, the MV Cape Ray left for the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro to retrieve an estimated 560 tons of mustard blister agent and other materials extracted from Syria’s war-fractured territory. The move took place two days after President Bashar Assad’s regime delivered the last of its declared chemical-warfare stockpile into international custody, enabling the commencement of a destruction operation slated to take place in the Mediterranean Sea.
Defense Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the boat’s initial trip to Italy “is expected to take several days.”
Upon arriving at Gioia Tauro, the Cape Ray would receive chemicals shipped from Syria onboard the Danish vessel Ark Futura. The U.S. vessel would then embark for international waters, where it would employ a chemical process to render the substances largely harmless.
Earlier this year, the ship’s captain said the neutralization process could take between 45 and 90 days, depending on local weather conditions.
Kirby stressed on Wednesday that the effort would be “safe and environmentally sound.” His statement echoed months of Pentagon assurances issued as arms-control experts and residents of Mediterranean countries aired concerns about the mission’s safety.
Despite Washington’s stated confidence that the operation would proceed smoothly, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday said it would still prove “painstaking.”
The Cape Ray is expected to operate under the protection of an international armed escort, organized as part of a multilateral disarmament initiative launched late last year. The United States teamed with other governments to eliminate the Syrian arsenal following a sarin nerve-agent release that Washington believes to have killed more than 1,400 people in rebel-controlled territory.
Assad’s government acknowledged the stockpile’s existence and agreed to its destruction after the deadly incident prompted other countries to consider responding with military force. However, Damascus continues to deny responsibility for the August strike in the Ghouta suburb of Damascus.
What We're Following See More »
Donald Trump may have defeated Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential ambitions, but he wants the man he dubbed Little Marco to keep his job in the Senate. "Poll data shows that @marcorubio does by far the best in holding onto his Senate seat in Florida," Trump tweeted Thursday evening. "Important to keep the MAJORITY. Run Marco!" Trump is not the first to urge Rubio to run, though the senator has said such a move is unlikely. The filing deadline is June 24.
President Obama called for an end to nuclear weapons Friday during a somber visit to Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan, where the United States dropped the first atomic bomb 71 years ago. "That is the future we can choose,” Obama said. “A future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not for the bomb of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”
"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.
"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."