The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times

BEIRUT — The last of Syria’s declared chemical weapons material was loaded onto a Danish vessel Monday for future destruction, marking a “major landmark” in the effort to do away with the nation’s toxic arsenal, an international oversight agency said.

The action would appear to signal an end to the most difficult and controversial stage of an ambitious program to eliminate Syria’s once-imposing chemical weapons program.

Never before has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict. — Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The government of President Bashar Assad agreed to the destruction of its toxic arsenal last year in a deal brokered by the United States and Russia that averted threatened U.S. airstrikes on Syria for its alleged use of the nerve agent sarin outside Damascus on Aug. 21.

Syria denied using poison gas on the battlefield in its civil war but still acceded to an international plan to destroy its stockpiles.
A United Nations investigation found that sarin had been used but did not conclude which side in the conflict was responsible.

Many experts were skeptical that the ambitious effort to destroy the Syrian arsenal could be completed in less than a year, the time frame outlined in a United Nations-backed destruction plan. That the process unfolded as Syria was engulfed in a war greatly complicated matters.

Syrian authorities had to transport hazardous chemicals through roads subject to attack from rebels. Russia lent its ally, Syria, armored vehicles and other assistance to help with the task.

“Never before has an entire arsenal of a category of weapons of mass destruction been removed from a country experiencing a state of internal armed conflict,” Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said in a statement issued at the group’s headquarters in The Hague. “And this has been accomplished within very demanding and tight time frames.”

It was the OPCW that made the announcement confirming that the last consignment of Syrian chemical weapons material was loaded Monday onto the Danish vessel Ark Futura for shipment out of the country.

Syria will miss a June 30 deadline for complete destruction of its chemical weapons materials_about 1,300 tons of substances including mustard gas and precursor chemicals for producing sarin and other agents. As of mid-June, 8 percent of the toxic arsenal still had not been removed from the country. That final batch was put on the ship Monday, authorities said.

Assad’s government blamed the delays on rebel attacks and other war-related factors, including opposition shelling of the port of Latakia, from where the chemicals were put on ships for transport abroad. The United States and its allies, who are backing rebels seeking to overthrow Assad, accused Damascus of foot-dragging and deliberately slowing the process.

The latest shipment of chemicals is to be sent for destruction aboard a specially rigged U.S. vessel, the Cap Ray, and at commercial facilities in Europe and the United States.

Some skeptics have alleged that Syria may have failed to declare some part of its arsenal. The Syrian government has denied holding back any chemical weapons materials. The OPCW has noted that Syria’s declared stockpiles were in line with outside estimates of the size of the nation’s chemical weapons program.

Recently, the Syrian government and the armed opposition have exchanged allegations that chlorine gas, a common industrial chemical used on the battlefield in World War I, has been deployed in Syria. Chlorine is not considered a chemical weapon but international law bans the use of any toxic material on the battlefield.

The OPCW sent a team to Syria and found evidence that “irritating agents” such as chlorine may have been used there. However, the organization did not indicate who may have been responsible.

The group’s investigation was hampered by an attack on an OPCW convoy in Syria. Each side in the conflict blamed the other for the attack on the convoy.

AFP Photo

Interested in world news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

From left Reps. Paul Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Louis Gohmert

Screenshot from The Hill video

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and three other “Sedition Caucus” Republicans held a press conference Tuesday allegedly to decry the conditions at the D.C. jail, which is housing accused suspects awaiting trial for actions during the January 6 Capitol riot. But Greene and her three co-members used the event primarily to further false far-right claims about the insurrection, while wrongly claiming they are being “persecuted” by the government – a talking point Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly used.

Keep reading... Show less

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir.

x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}