Inspectors outline plan for Syria chemical arms
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Inspectors who will oversee Syria’s destruction of its chemical weapons said Sunday their first priority is to help the country scrap its ability to manufacture such arms by a Nov. 1 deadline — using every means possible.
The chemical weapons inspectors said that may include smashing mixing equipment with sledgehammers, blowing up delivery missiles, driving tanks over empty shells or filling them with concrete, and running machines without lubricant so they seize up and become inoperable.
On Friday, the U.N. Security Council ordered the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to help Syria destroy its chemical weapons by mid-2014.
“This isn’t just extraordinary for the OPCW. This hasn’t been done before: an international mission to go into a country which is involved in a state of conflict and amid that conflict oversee the destruction of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction which it possesses,” said OPCW spokesperson Michael Luhan. “This is definitely a historical first.”
The U.S. and Russia agree that Syria has roughly 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons. External experts say they are distributed over 50 to 70 sites.
Timothee Germain, a researcher at the Center for International Security and Arms Control in Paris, who is not involved with the OPCW project, said that in the early phases of Syria’s civil war, chemical weapons were consolidated into a small number of sites in order to keep them from falling into the hands of rebels. But when the prospect of a U.S. military strike emerged, the weapons may have been redistributed over a larger number of sites to preserve them. He added that he is skeptical the current timeline can be achieved. “From a technical standpoint, it’s really a long-shot,” he said.
An OPCW expert said access to weapons sites in or near rebel-held territory would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with the U.N. possibly helping negotiate safe passage. “It may be that we are not in a position to go to some of these places,” he said. “Our inspectors are all volunteers. This is not a mission that will be carried out come what may.”