Syrian Chemical Factories May be Saved Under Global ‘Compromise’

A Syrian rebel fighter prepares to fire an anti-tank gun on government forces last month. A potential international "compromise" may allow President Bashar Assad's government to retain certain components of its shuttered chemical-arms factories, a U.S. envoy indicated on Tuesday.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
July 9, 2014, 10:54 a.m.

Syr­ia’s re­gime may be able to re­tain parts of its shuttered chem­ic­al-arms factor­ies un­der “com­prom­ise” terms de­vised by a glob­al watch­dog agency.

The United States could en­dorse the concept in or­der to fi­nal­ize a plan this week for deal­ing with the dozen con­tested sites, even though do­ing so would re­quire mak­ing “ser­i­ous” con­ces­sions to Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment, said Robert Miku­lak, Wash­ing­ton’s en­voy to the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons.

“We are not, however, pre­pared to go fur­ther or en­gage in fur­ther hag­gling,” Miku­lak told the agency’s 41-na­tion gov­ern­ing board on Tues­day.

He in­dic­ated that the plan from the agency’s Neth­er­lands-based staff would im­pose new “tun­nel peri­met­ers” and “more ef­fect­ive mon­it­or­ing meas­ures” for at least some of Syr­ia’s five un­der­ground fa­cil­it­ies, while de­mol­ish­ing sev­en for­ti­fied hangars.

Miku­lak did not elab­or­ate fur­ther on the pro­pos­al. Ad­di­tion­al de­tails were not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

Wash­ing­ton pre­vi­ously re­jec­ted pro­pos­als by As­sad’s re­gime to neut­ral­ize the 12 sites through meas­ures short of full de­moli­tion. In­ter­na­tion­al au­thor­it­ies last year called for de­struc­tion of the sites by March, as part of a glob­al ef­fort to dis­mantle the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment’s chem­ic­al-weapons ar­sen­al.

“From the start, Syr­ia has en­gaged in a con­cer­ted ef­fort to re­tain these 12 former chem­ic­al weapons pro­duc­tion fa­cil­it­ies,” Miku­lak said. “If Syr­ia re­jects this com­prom­ise pro­pos­al and con­tin­ues its in­transigence, there must be con­sequences.”

As­sad’s re­gime last month fin­ished hand­ing over hun­dreds of tons of war­fare agents as part of the in­ter­na­tion­al dis­arm­a­ment op­er­a­tion. The gov­ern­ment agreed to re­lin­quish its chem­ic­al stock­pile in the wake of a 2013 nerve-agent at­tack that killed more than 1,400 people, ac­cord­ing to U.S. es­tim­ates.

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