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 »
"Chances of a government shutdown grew Monday as Republicans concluded that they would be unable to reach a long-term spending accord by the Friday deadline. GOP leaders are now turning to a short-term funding measure in hopes of keeping agencies open while talks continue, but Democratic leaders say they are unlikely to support any deal that does not protect young illegal immigrants. Aides to key negotiators from both parties planned to meet Tuesday in an effort to rekindle budget talks, setting up a Wednesday meeting of the leaders themselves. If they cannot agree, the government would shut down at midnight Friday for the first time since 2013."
“'As a junior foreign service officer, I signed an oath to serve faithfully the president and his administration in an apolitical fashion, even when I might not agree with certain policies. My instructors made clear that if I believed I could not do that, I would be honor bound to resign. That time has come,' Feeley said, according to an excerpt of his resignation letter read to Reuters."
Sens. Ron Wyden and Rand Paul said they will oppose reauthorization of FISA's Section 702 unless the bill contains added "protections for Americans' privacy rights. The powers granted by Section 702 are only supposed to be used against foreigners on foreign soil. But an American's communications can get swept up in the NSA's surveillance dragnet if they communicate with people overseas." More robust privacy protections were voted down by the House this week when it approved the authorization, but without them, Paul and Wyden say they'll filibuster.