Syria’s massive chemical weapons program is gone, and the last of the precursor chemicals left in the country boils down to 16 shipping containers, all ready to go. Under ideal conditions, UN officials say, it would take less than a week to get them to the port and shipped abroad.
When that will happen is anyone’s guess.
It isn’t, as has been alleged by some US officials, that Syria is “stalling” for some inscrutable reason. Rather, officials say the 16 containers are being kept in an area that remains totally inaccessible because of the heavy fighting.
Officially, where those 16 containers are is not public knowledge, and is supposed to be a closely guarded secret. Most reports have pointed to the Sayqal Air Base, between Damascus and the border town of Yabroud.
Syria had chased the rebels out of much of the area at one point, but the rebels have retaken some territory in recent counteroffensives, and the roads are not secure, and no place for a conspicuous convoy of chemicals.
The UN Security Council mandates the disarmament be done by June 30, and while the OPCW says that’s still possible, getting those last containers out of the country soon would be the key to the deadline, and one that isn’t necessarily in anyone’s control.
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