Destroying Syria’s Chemical Arms Would Be Complex Undertaking

Global Security Newswire Staff
See more stories about...
Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 11, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

Were Syr­ia to agree give up its siz­able chem­ic­al ar­sen­al, des­troy­ing the weapons and veri­fy­ing that no trace ma­ter­i­als or mu­ni­tions re­main would be a highly com­plic­ated and dan­ger­ous un­der­tak­ing that likely would take years to fin­ish, the Los Angeles Times re­por­ted on Tues­day.

Bashar As­sad’s re­gime has said it is open to sur­ren­der­ing its chem­ic­al weapons to the in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity in or­der to avoid a threatened U.S. mil­it­ary strike. However, a spe­cif­ic agree­ment on the mat­ter is far from be­ing reached.

A ma­jor con­cern of the United States and its al­lies is mak­ing sure that Dam­as­cus re­veals all of the de­tails of its chem­ic­al-weapons pro­gram. Those in­clude its pro­cesses for ac­quir­ing, re­search­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing chem­ic­al tox­ins as well as the loc­a­tions and types of all the mu­ni­tions used to de­liv­er the agents.

“The Syr­i­ans would have to tell us ba­sic­ally everything,” Uni­versity of Mary­land chem­ic­al arms spe­cial­ist Markus Bind­er told the Times.

Des­troy­ing the chem­ic­al-war­fare ma­ter­i­als can be ac­com­plished by in­cin­er­a­tion or neut­ral­iz­a­tion — a chem­ic­al pro­cess that renders the tox­ins no longer dan­ger­ous. Both op­tions pose phys­ic­al risk to the work­ers hand­ling the bulk agent and chem­ic­al-filled mu­ni­tions, as there could be leak­age or ac­ci­dent­al ex­plo­sions. Some ma­ter­i­als could be des­troyed in­side Syr­ia and oth­ers could be trans­por­ted to an­oth­er coun­try for elim­in­a­tion.

Syr­ia is a not a sig­nat­ory of the Chem­ic­al Weapons Con­ven­tion but might agree to ac­cede to the non­pro­lif­er­a­tion ac­cord un­der a pos­sible deal to avoid U.S. at­tacks. The CWC treaty re­quires that chem­ic­al dis­arm­a­ment be over­seen by spe­cial­ists from the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons — the body that im­ple­ments the ac­cord — but that the ac­tu­al elim­in­a­tion work be car­ried out by the state it­self, the Bo­ston Globe re­por­ted.

The Ar­ab na­tion presently does not have the ne­ces­sary tech­no­logy and in­fra­struc­ture to safely des­troy its chem­ic­al ar­sen­al. For­eign na­tions such as the United States and Rus­sia, which both have con­sid­er­able ex­pert­ise in chem­ic­al-arms dis­arm­a­ment, might provide help in this area.

“It’s a gar­gan­tu­an task for the in­spect­ors to moth­ball pro­duc­tion, in­stall pad­locks, in­vent­ory the bulk agent as well as the mu­ni­tions,” Amy Smith­son, a chem­ic­al-weapons ana­lyst at the Monterey In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tion­al Stud­ies, told the New York Times. “Then a lot of it has to be des­troyed — in a war zone.”

A con­sid­er­able quant­ity of for­eign-mil­it­ary per­son­nel likely would have to be de­ployed to Syr­ia to pro­tect the OP­CW in­spect­ors as they go about their work, ac­cord­ing to ana­lysts.

“We’re talk­ing boots on the ground,” an an­onym­ous one­time U.N. weapons in­spect­or with ex­per­i­ence in Ir­aq said. “We’re not talk­ing about just put­ting someone at the gate. You have to have lay­ers of se­cur­ity.”

A 2012 es­tim­ate by the De­fense De­part­ment con­cluded it could take in ex­cess of 75,000 mil­it­ary per­son­nel to se­cure Syr­ia’s chem­ic­al weapons.

“Whichever coun­try would be sent in there to try to get the ac­count­ab­il­ity and do the se­cur­ity, and maybe even­tu­ally get to the de­struc­tion — they will be a tar­get for someone, for one group or an­oth­er,” the ex-U.N. in­spect­or said. “Be­cause no mat­ter who you are, you get mortared some­where by one of the parties” in the Syr­i­an civil war.

A great­er num­ber of OP­CW weapons in­spect­ors likely would have to be hired.

An­oth­er chal­lenge is find­ing and des­troy­ing all of the spe­cial­ized rock­ets that were util­ized in the Aug. 21 large-scale gas at­tack in the Dam­as­cus sub­urbs that pre­cip­it­ated threats of a re­tali­at­ory U.S. at­tack. The rock­ets seem to have been newly built and of a make not pre­vi­ously known about. Thus far, it has not been pos­sible to find out which fa­cil­ity man­u­fac­tured the weapons and Dam­as­cus con­tin­ues to claim that it has noth­ing to do with the rock­ets.

Cor­rec­tion: An earli­er ver­sion of this art­icle in­cluded an er­ror in its ini­tial ref­er­ence to Syr­ia’s siz­able chem­ic­al ar­sen­al.

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
2 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
3 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
3 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?
3 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
3 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:
×