Syria’s ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) has been the subject of a lot of diplomacy and rhetoric, but the process of disarming the nation’s chemical weapons program will begin in earnest on Tuesday, as the first inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have arrived and will conduct their first operations then.
The first step for the inspectors is to conduct assessments, though that should be fairly straightforward with Syria having already provided a disclosure of what it has and where. Of the 20 inspectors starting, most of the work will be logistics for a larger team that will arrive in the next few days.
And smashing stuff. With the vast majority of Syria’s arsenal amounting to unweaponized chemicals, the first step is to destroy equipment that is meant to mix the chemicals into actual weapons, and a lot of that is going to involve sledgehammers and filling mixing vats with concrete.
Most experts see Syria’s disarmament as a pretty straightforward operation physically, though the fact that it is taking place in the middle on an ongoing civil war is going to complicate things quite a bit, and may make some of the locations hard to consistently access. Still, the process is underway and Syrian officials have promised full support and cooperation with the inspectors.