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Syria's Plan to Hand Over Chemical Weapons

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by rocketsjudoka, Sep 11, 2013.

  1. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member

    Jul 24, 2007
    Likes Received:
    I'm starting this as a new thread since the debate has shifted from whether we should strike Syria to whether the Russian / Syria deal to hand over chemical weapons will happen.

    This article goes over how the process might work and the many problems associated with it. To summarize it's not going to be easy and will probably require boots on the ground and the cooperation of the rebels and the Assad Regime.


    How would Syria's chemical weapons handover work?

    Any plan to put Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles under international control will face immense challenges — with no guarantee that President Bashar Assad will hand over his entire arsenal to inspectors, who will have to figure out how to destroy lethal toxins in the midst of a raging civil war.

    But experts say the Russian-brokered proposal now being considered by the United Nations, the White House and Congress may be the world's best shot at reducing the threat of another chemical attack from Damascus or the danger of the weapons falling into the hands of extremists.

    How many chemical weapons does Syria have and where are they?

    The French government has estimated the arsenal at more than 1,000 tons. Assad is believed to possess sarin and its more persistent form VX, the nerve agent tabun, and blistering agents such as mustard, phosgene and hydrogen cyanide. It's believed to have large stores of “precursor chemicals” that it could use to create more of the toxic agents.

    The weapons are stored in five major locations — near the cities of Latakia, Palmyra, Homs and Hama in the north and central part of the country, and at al-Safir, near the Turkish border — although they have been moved around frequently. Syria has the ability to deliver chemical warheads about 300 miles, analysts believe.

    Who would be in charge of getting rid of them?

    The most likely choice is the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the multinational body that oversees implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Based at The Hague in the Netherlands, it was formed in 1997 and says it has verified the destruction of 80 percent of the world's declared stockpile through more than 5,000 inspections.

    Only seven states have not signed or ratified the convention — including Syria. Under any deal, it would be expected to fully disclose its stockpile for the first time.

    Can we be confident that Syria's declaration would be complete and accurate?

    "Relatively little is known in open sources about the amount of bulk chemical agents or weaponized munitions Syria has in its possession," said Emily Chorley, a chemical weapons analyst with IHS Jane's.

    "This means it will be very unlikely that the international community can oversee the removal of chemical weapons from Syria with any confidence that the entire arsenal has been handed over."

    Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, noted that when the U.N. oversaw the destruction of chemical agents in Iraq in the 1990s, doubts that the job was done lingered right up to the 2003 U.S. invasion on the grounds that Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction.

    The Chemical Weapons Convention doesn't have a provision for punishing states for non-compliance, but there's a push for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would authorize the use of force to ensure Syria is following the rules.

    Would inspectors be in danger?

    Just last month, a U.N. inspection team in Damascus came under fire while trying to verify the use of chemical weapons. OPCW inspectors would face similar dangers without the full cooperation of the Syrian government and the opposition.

    "There will need to be some sort of cease-fire," said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer at the U.K.’s joint chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear regiment, who now works for the private firm SecureBio.

    What is the timetable?

    When Libya agreed to give up chemical weapons in 2003, it took less than a year for the OPCW to begin overseeing destruction activity, Kimball said.

    The volatile Syria situation — a civil war, the threat of military attacks from the West, uncertainty about how long Assad will be in power — calls for a faster track. But the fighting would probably slow down the work; an effort to destroy sulfur mustard in Libya in early 2011 was delayed for two years because of unrest there, Chorley said.

    Because the weapons are so dangerous, destruction facilities are usually built on-site, and then it can take months to get rid of even a small arsenal.

    The Times of London reported that a previous plan drawn up by the Pentagon suggested that 75,000 troops would be needed on the ground to destroy up to 500 tons of chemical weapons. Given Syria's arsenal is thought to be double that, the operation could take as many as 150,000 troops to carry out.

    To put that number in perspective, a Congressional Research Service Report prepared in 2009 estimated that the number of “boots on the ground” in both Afghanistan and Iraq in 2008 was 187,000.

    De Bretton-Gordon said that rather than burning, degrading or burying the chemicals in Syria, it may be expedient to just move the weapons to a place where they can be dismantled in peace. Keeping them in place and trying to dismantle them in the middle of a civil war would be impractical, he said.

    "It would be a big operation, it would need both the regime and the opposition to provide a cease-fire -- some arrangement of getting masses of international community troops in there would just not work," De Bretton-Gordon said. "We're talking about thousands and thousands of troops to protect this sort of thing, so it's got to be a cease-fire between the warring factions in Syria to allow, if that's what's decided, to allow movement of those chemicals to a safer area of Syria, where they can be destroyed or outside Syria."

    Chorley said that Russia could be called on to assist with the destruction, but noted that Moscow, along with the U.S., has repeatedly missed deadlines for destroying their own arsenals in accordance with the convention.

    "Russia's CW program has been ongoing for over 10 years and is unlikely to be completed before late 2015," she said.
  2. Dubious

    Dubious Contributing Member

    Jun 18, 2001
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    The process is probably undoable, but the point is, Syria won't use more and the Russians are on the hook to see that they don't. It actively (and rightly) involves Russia in the internal politics of Syria.
  3. dragician

    dragician Member

    Feb 27, 2011
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    WE need a new Obama Appreciation Thread.
  4. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member

    Jul 24, 2007
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    Syria destroys all chemical production equipment, weapons watchdog says

    BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Syria has destroyed or rendered inoperable all of its declared chemical weapons production and mixing facilities, meeting a major deadline in an ambitious disarmament program, the international chemical weapons watchdog said Thursday.

    The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace prize this month, said its teams had inspected 21 out of 23 chemical weapons sites across the country. The other two were too dangerous to inspect, but the chemical equipment had already been moved to other sites that experts had visited, it said.

    Syria "has completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable," it said, meeting a deadline to do so no later than November 1.

    The next deadline is November 15, by when the OPCW and Syria must agree to a detailed plan of destruction, including how and where to destroy more than 1,000 metric tons of toxic agents and munitions.

    Under a Russian-American brokered deal, Damascus agreed to destroy all its chemical weapons after Washington threatened to use force in response to the killing of hundreds of people in a sarin attack on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21.

    It was the world's deadliest chemical weapons incident since Saddam Hussein's forces used poison gas against the Kurdish town of Halabja 25 years ago.

    "This was a major milestone in the effort to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons program," Ralf Trapp, an independent chemical weapons disarmament specialist, said.

    "Most of the sites and facilities declared by Syria to the OPCW have been inspected, their inventories verified, equipment for chemical weapons production disabled and put beyond use, and some of the unfilled weapons have also been disabled."

    At one of those locations the OPCW said it was able to verify destruction work remotely, while Syrian forces had abandoned the other two sites.

    Trapp said it was "important to ensure that the remaining facilities can be inspected and their equipment and weapons inventoried and prepared for destruction as soon as possible."

    The United States and its allies blamed Assad's forces for the attack and several earlier incidents. The Syrian president has rejected the charge, blaming rebel brigades.

    Under the disarmament timetable, Syria was due to render unusable all production and chemical weapons filling facilities by November 1 -- a target it has now met. By mid-2014 it must have destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical weapons.

    The OPCW mission is being undertaken in the midst of Syria's 2-1/2 year civil war, which has killed more than 100,000 people. The unprecedented conditions had raised concerns that the violence would impede the disarmament, but the OPCW says Syrian authorities have been cooperating with the weapons experts, who have been able to visit all but three of the chemical sites.

    Syrian authorities said that "the chemical weapons program items removed from these sites were moved to other declared sites,"an OPCW document said. "These sites holding items from abandoned facilities were inspected."

    The OPCW has not said which sites it has been unable to visit, but a source briefed on their operations said one of them was in the Aleppo area of northern Syria and another was in Damascus province.

    One major chemical weapons site is located close to the town of Safira, south-east of Aleppo. Assad's forces have bombarded the town in recent weeks in an attempt to expel rebel fighters including al Qaeda-linked brigades.
  5. Major

    Major Member

    Jun 28, 1999
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    But treeman told us with 100% certainty that Syria would never follow through. :confused:
  6. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Contributing Member

    Jul 24, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Some good news out of the Middle East.

    Syria’s Chemical Arsenal Fully Destroyed, U.S. Says

    WASHINGTON — The United States said Monday that it had completed the destruction of the deadliest chemical weapons in Syria’s arsenal, a rare foreign policy achievement for President Obama at a time when the Middle East is embroiled in violence and political turmoil.

    The announcement comes a year after President Bashar al-Assad of Syria used sarin gas to kill more than 1,000 people in a Damascus suburb, crossing what Mr. Obama had called a “red line” that would force the United States to respond. Facing the prospect of an American military intervention, the Syrian government agreed to a deal brokered by the United States and Russia, promising to destroy its chemical weapons program by the middle of this year.

    On Monday, Mr. Obama said that the destruction of the weapons, several weeks ahead of schedule, “advances our collective goal to ensure that the Assad regime cannot use its chemical arsenal against the Syrian people and sends a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community.”

    The destruction of Mr. Assad’s 1,300-ton stockpile of chemical agents was a complicated process. Amid the continuing Syrian civil war, the United States and allies transferred them to the Cape Ray, an American military ship where nearly half were destroyed.

    The Defense Department said last month that Syria gave up the last of its stockpiles in June and that a team of experts aboard the Cape Ray was busy neutralizing stocks of methylphosphonyl difluoride, which is used to make sarin, and sulfur mustard in the eastern Mediterranean. The toxic chemicals were rendered inert during a 60-day process in a titanium reactor aboard the Cape Ray.

    Italian officials helped to load 600 tons of the chemicals to the ship, which was built in 1977 to move vehicles to war zones, and the rest were sent to Finnish, German and British facilities to be destroyed.

    Secretary of State John Kerry said that the destruction of the chemicals was a milestone, but that Mr. Assad’s arsenal still presented a threat.

    “The international community has important questions with regard to discrepancies and omissions related to Syria’s chemical weapons declaration,” Mr. Kerry said.

    Syria still faces a mandate to destroy its chemical weapons production facilities. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons recently reported the use of chlorine gas in areas where opposition to the government remains strong.

    The destruction of the weapons comes as Mr. Obama’s foreign policy has been under fire from critics and allies. This month, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that his reluctance to arm Syrian rebels had “left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.”

    The Obama administration did ask Congress for $500 million to train and equip “appropriately vetted” members of the Syrian opposition, and Mr. Kerry said on Monday that the United States would provide “political, financial and other support” to the moderate forces there.

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