Another 100 chemical weapons inspectors are arriving in Syria to move forward with a year-long disarmament process that begin in earnest over the weekend. UN officials warn it will be a complicated and dangerous process.
Disarming a major chemical weapons program in a single year is no small task, but the real danger comes from doing so in the middle of a civil war, with UN officials saying that they are liable to face indiscriminate shelling and mortar strikes.
Of course, the teams will be able to keep the Assad government apprised of their operations, and will presumably not face problems on that front, but the rebels are another matter, since concern of al-Qaeda or other factions trying to seize the weapons means they’re going to be carrying out much of the disarmament in a clandestine way.
“They are doing the easy bits now but the security and technical challenges get steeper from here,” noted Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former British chemical weapons forces commander.
By all accounts the early steps have focused on destroying mixing systems, and aiming to limit the usability of much of the arsenal, which is in the form of unweaponized chemical precursors. Even if this is the “easy” part, it is potentially the most impactful.
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