Don’t Hold Your Breath for Syrian Chemical Weapons to Be Destroyed
Since the outbreak of the civil war, Assad’s chemical weapons have become the Alawite community’s best insurance policy against the threat to their physical existence and to the survival of the regime. Therefore, I am skeptical that a Syria ruled by Assad and ever-conscious of the Alawite community’s fragile future is ready to renounce its entire chemical arsenal. Frankly I can only imagine how much more difficult the job will be in a Middle Eastern country that’s ripping its own guts out while al-Qaeda and Hizbullah are loose and running wild. Color me more than a little bit skeptical
Besides, the timetable of the plan seems completely unrealistic, calling for the destruction of chemical weapons by the first half of 2014. Even with a cease-fire to allow international inspectors to do their work, the process would take (in my evaluation) three to five years.
A secret military storage base of mustard gas in Jufra, Libya, was discovered after the fall of Gaddafi at the end of 2011. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose inspectors visited the country, gave Libya a deadline of April 2012 for the destruction of the chemicals. Today, in spite of ample technical and financial support from the U.S., Germany and Canada, the mustard gas is still there.
From 1962 to 2011, the U.S. Army stored nearly four thousand tons of VX, Sarin, and mustard gas at the Umatilla Chemical Depot east of Portland, Oregon. In 1993 the U.S. signed a treaty forbidding the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons, and in 2004 began destroying Oregon’s stockpile. They did it by incinerating the chemical agents in a 2,700-degree furnace. It took them eight years.
The successful eradication of Syria’s chemical arsenal thus still seems like a distant reality. The international diplomacy surrounding the process means that Damascus has gained ample space and time to maneuver and sabotage its planned destruction. In fact, Chemical weapons are easy to hide and even easier to move around.
Syrian President Assad could cling to power for years despite having lost overall control of his country. I don’t see any force toppling him tomorrow morning – though he deserves to pass from this world, and the quicker that happens, the better. Assad’s army had suffered 15,000 fatalities, fired off 40-50% of its long-range missiles and seen some of its anti-aircraft batteries overrun by insurgents.
I warn all analysts against exaggerating the threat from the radical Sunni jihadis who make up around 10% of those fighting Assad. The Global Jihad is a bad enemy, but it is a relatively primitive enemy that does not enjoy the backing of a regional power.
The American public fully recognizes it too… According to a Pew Research, just 26% of the American public think Syria will give up control of its chemical weapons, 57% think it won’t
In the last analysis, Obama neither had nor has any serious or meaningful interest in the Syrian situation. His sole interest is in his political prospects and those of his philosophical comrades.
Wake up world….
Ziad K. Abdelnour is Founder & President of the US Committee for a Free Lebanon – America’s Pro- Lebanon lobby – and co-Author of Ending Syria’s Occupation of Lebanon.