On September 14th, while I was in Idaho’s back-country enjoying the last days of summer, the United States and Russia reached agreement on a detailed plan for accounting, inspection, control and elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons. When Secretary of State John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov of Russia announced the agreement they both said the agreement would be backed by a United Nations Security Council resolution, and could be backed by sanctions.
Annex B of the agreement states: “The Russian Federation and the United States of America agree on the need to achieve rapid elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, thus reducing the threat posed to the people of Syria. They are each prepared to devote high-level attention and resources to support the monitoring and destruction missions of the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), both directly and in cooperation with the United Nations and other States concerned. They agree to set an ambitious goal of eliminating the threat in a rapid and effective manner.”
“Both parties agree that a clear picture of the state of Syrian chemical weapons could help advance a cooperative development of destruction options, including possible removal of chemical weapons outside of the Syrian territory. We both agree on the importance of rapid destruction of the following categories:
1. Productive equipment.
2. Mixing and filling equipment.
3. Filled and unfilled weapons and delivery systems.
4. Chemical agents (unweaponized) and precursor chemicals. For these materials, they will pursue a hybrid approach, i.e., a combination of removal from Syria and destruction within Syria, depending upon site-specific conditions. They will also consider the possibility of consolidation and destruction in the coastal area of Syria.”
The agreement goes on to state: “The parties agree to set the following target dates:
A. Completion of initial OPCW on-site inspections by November.
B. Destruction of production and mixing equipment by November.
C. Complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.”
It should be noted that Syria had one week to compile and deliver a list of all chemical weapons and the location of storage sites.
This plan faces a Herculean task of tracking down these weapons because the inventory and destruction might involve active battlefields. In addition, these weapons are being held in some sixty different locations and securing them may require some 40,000 troops. They also must be made ready for transport and transported with absolute security. No small task.
On September 20th, in accordance with the agreement, Syria submitted a declaration of its stockpiles of chemical weapons to the OPCW.
On Monday, September 23rd, Assad told Chinese television that Damascus is dedicated to implementing the Russian-United States agreement. Assad went on to warn that some places might be difficult to reach due to ongoing fighting.
As of this writing the United Nations Security Council has not discussed this agreement or voted on a resolution allowing sanctions or other consequences if Syria doesn’t follow the entirety of the agreement.
Quote for the Week: “Make sure of the bear before you sell his skin.”----Unknown.