Despite shaky talks earlier this week between UN-Arab officials and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has announced Syria has met the chemical weapons disarmament deadline. The Syrian government has reportedly been cooperative with the OPCW and has effectively made their mixing and production facilities inoperable. The OPCW, which won the Nobel Peace prize for its efforts this month, said only 2 of the 23 chemical weapons sites were deemed too dangerous to inspect, while the other 21 have been cleared. Officials said although the other two were too hazardous to inspect, the material and chemical equipment had been shipped off to one of the sites that the experts then inspected.
“(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,” said OPCW officials.
The program has yet to reach its next phase of disarmament scheduled for November 15, which includes detailed plans for the destruction of over 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons and toxic agents.
The deal resulted after a U.S. led threat of military action following chemical weapons attacks earlier this year. During that time, Secretary of State John Kerry said in passing that if Syria dismantled in its entirety their chemical weapons program, the U.S. would cease a planned military strike. Calling his bluff, Syria signed onto the deal, with Russia taking the credit for establishing the framework for the peace deal.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 for supposed chemical weapons arsenals and WMD’s led to the eventual occupation of Iraq and produced no such evidence of weapons. Ultimately, the U.S. was dragged into a decade long conflict in the region.
Hoping to prevent another such mishap, the U.S. inquiry into the Syrian chemical weapons program was much more scrupulous, despite Obama’s push to invade Syria; which many lawmakers saw as premature and riddled with inadvertent consequences.
The mission carried out by the OPCW is underway in one of the most dangerous places on earth, with over 100,000 people killed already in the 2 1/2 year long conflict. Abductions of journalists and Red Cross workers have also proved to make the situation much more dangerous for volunteers and workers looking to help innocent civilians during this turbulent conflict. Meanwhile Islamic extremism, within the ranks of the Syrian army, have posed significant threats to western backed support groups in the region.
Despite some setbacks during the earlier stages of negotiation, Mr. Trapp, an independent chemical weapons disarmament specialist, said, “This was a major milestone in the effort to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program.”
Mr. Trapp continued by saying that a majority of the sites which Syria made OPCW aware of had been inspected. Thereafter, the equipment for chemical weapons production were dismantled.
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.”
There are still a few remaining sites left to be inspected and the OCPW is wasting little time in ensuring Syria meets the projected deadlines.
By John Amaruso