Syria has deployed their third shipment of chemical weapons to be destroyed in accordance with the UN resolution today. Despite missing several deadlines recently the Assad regime continues to insist that it will continue to comply with and meet the deadline set by the UN council. The weapons were shipped on board a cargo vessel from Norway with an accompaniment of ships from other countries including Russia and China.
The resolution, backed by the US, calls for Syria to destroy all of its 1,300 tons of chemical weapons by summer of this year, a timeframe that Syria has pushed to the limits time and time again. However, one organization is blaming the slow play on security reasons and that this type of destruction must be handled very carefully.
This latest shipment comes in the shadow of round two of the peace talks in Geneva between the Assad regime and the rebel opposition. Russia seems quite content with this and the recent evacuations of the besieged city of Homs as signs that Syria is committed towards the peace effort. The US and other allies are not so certain and point to the latest barrel bombing raids as signs that the Assad regime is using “smoke and mirrors” to hide it’s true intent.
Some US officials believe that the UN plan is failing dangerously behind schedule; priority one chemical weapons were scheduled for removal no later than December 31 of last year. The deadline for priority two level chemical weapons was due February 5. Syria’s one strong ally, Russia, is trying to sooth the situation by promising that Syria will have deployed all their chemical weapons for destruction by March 1st and that this third shipment should be seen as that goal being well within reach.
The UN resolution for Syria to transfer their chemical weapons for destruction came after the Assad regime used them to attack rebels in Damascus. The chemical attacks then claimed the lives of 1,400 Syrian citizens and rebels alike. The US joined the rebels in blaming the Assad regime for the attack even though they deny all responsibility.
Only about five percent of Syria’s total chemical weapon stockpile has been removed so far making some wonder how they can reach the goal of total eradication in less than twenty days. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as confirmed that the Assad regime has destroyed some of its chemical stockpile within its own borders, however, they did not say what type or how much was destroyed.
The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, is allied with Russia in assuring the world that Syria will meet the March 1 deadline and that it’s “still within reach” even though the US and other allies are not quite so optimistic. The international community is still putting pressure on Syria to pick up the pace and to make sure that a “significant” amount of the stockpile is handed over by the March 1 deadline.
Monday’s third shipment of chemical weapons by Syria is but a small portion of what is believed to still be in the country and without having exact figures on what was destroyed within their borders it’s anyone’s guess on how much is left to deploy from the region.
By Adam Stier