The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has announced that Syria has only deployed 11 percent of their chemical weapon stockpile, falling short on the February 5 deadline. Syria was supposed to have all chemical weapons out of the country by February 5 and the failure to do so has prompted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to issue a stern reminder that force is still an option.
Syria has been slow playing the removal since the beginning of the agreement to destroy 100 percent of its chemical weapon stockpile by the February 5 deadline. The country claims to have destroyed some within its own borders but it is unclear exactly how much. The 11 percent that is known has been removed from the country via barges and shipped to a port near Italy for destruction.
Two different hazardous-waste disposal companies have been selected to destroy the weapons, one US-based and one Finnish based company. The disposal companies were selected by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and will incinerate the chemicals from Syria’s stockpile. The two companies are; Veolia Environmental Services Technical Solutions, a US subsidiary of France’s Veolia Environnement, and Ekokem OY AB from Finland. There are no details on the exact winning bids or what the overall cost will be to destroy the weapons.
Some see this as a step forward in the process others are still very concerned about Syria’s overall participation in the extraction of its chemical weapon stockpile since only 11 percent has so far been removed. The OPCW has open up lines of communication with Syrian officials in hopes of gaining more momentum in the disposal process. US Secretary of State John Kerry gave Syria a stern warning in a recent press conference that the option of “force compliance” remains available if the Assad Regime does not follow through.
In the meantime, Russia and NATO forces are creating plans for an unprecedented joint naval operation to protect the US ship that will eradicate Syria’s deadliest chemical weapons. This mission also has symbolic purposes since present relations between NATO and Russia are strained over NATO’s anti-missile shield and the ongoing incident in Ukraine. The plan calls for NATO and Russia ships to protect the Cape Ray, a US cargo vessel that is tasked with eradicating roughly 500 tons of chemicals too dangerous to be dealt with on land. NATO and Russia are still working out the details but a final plan should be announced as early as next week.
As the Assad regime slow plays the removal of its chemical weapons tension is still at an all-time high in the country. 200 more people have registered for evacuation from the city of Homs on Wednesday, according to a twitter post from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. In other parts almost two dozen airstrikes were carried out this week by the Syrian government in the Yabroud area of the city of Damascus. Syrian national television stated the strikes were against “terrorist targets.”
The removal of chemical weapons is a delicate matter and many have used that as the reason behind the slow going play from Syria. However, many officials are accusing Syria of a purposeful slow play and that only an 11 percent removal of the chemical weapon stockpile should be seen as violation of the agreement.
By Adam Stier