Destruction of Syrian chemical weapons machinery underway

Posted by Matthew Schofield McClatchy Foreign Staff on October 7, 2013 

Began Sunday, expected to be complete by November

— The international team overseeing the assessing and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal and machinery has begun its work.

A United Nations report noted that the 19 member team, made up of United Nations personnel as well as inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Warfare, started destroying the machines that make chemical warfare possible on Sunday.

Officials and experts believe this phase of the destruction process, once started, can proceed quickly, and very possibly be finished within a month.

An OPCW statement posted on their website today, noted: “Under the supervision of experts …Syrian personnel used cutting torches and angle grinders to destroy or disable a range of items. This included missile warheads, aerial bombs and mixing and filling equipment. The process will continue in the coming days.”

Experts have noted that while the total destruction of Syria’s chemical war machine could be difficult to complete by the deadline of next summer, the initial phase will consist of similar sorts of low tech methods, meaning more easily attained goals.

The urgency of the international effort is the result of an OPCW report that provided scientific evidence that the chemical weapon sarin was used against civilians, including children, on August 21 in a Damascus suburb.

The OPCW report points to the completion of this phase of rendering the chemical war machinery unusable by November. While, after that point, Syria would still have the chemical components necessary for making sarin gas, it would be much more complicated for the government of President Bashar Assad to use chemical weapons.

Assad’s government has denied using the weapons, insisting that the gas attack that killed at least 300 was the work of rebels. The Russian government has backed his claims, and even produced a 100 page report on a March attack on an Aleppo suburb that they claim indicates as much.

The official OPCW report to the United Nations done last month on the suburban Damascus attack carefully avoids placing blame for the use of chemical weapons, although others have applied their findings and said it clearly points at the government, a position the United States and most western nations support. 


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