I think President Obama got pretty lucky in Syria when his saber rattling ended up being backed down by an unexpected agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons with the help of Russia and other countries. But apparently the inspections and beginning stages of destruction of those weapons and means to produce them are going well.
The United Nations’ coordinator for destroying Syria’s chemical weapons on Tuesday announced that the process was going smoothly with the full cooperation of Syria, a prospect that many of the most hopeful of the deal hadn’t deemed likely…
The 60-person OPCW team has been on the ground for several weeks now andbegan the process of destroying equipment related to Syria’s chemical weapons on October 6. “Inspections have been conducted at 17 sites,” the OPCW said in an update on its website on Monday. “At 14 sites the inspectors carried out activities related to the destruction of critical equipment to make the facilities inoperable.”
Since the deal between the United States and Russia was formalized in late September at the United Nations, there’s been an outpouring of international assistance to aid in the mission. The State Department announced on Mondaythat the U.S. sent ten armored car Chevrolet Suburbans to help the team conduct its inspections, bringing the total American aid to the mission to $6 million. The German military’s U.N. Training Centre has been providing simulations and exercises for OPCW members to help prepare them for working in the midst of a combat zone, while Norway has been tapped to possibly help destroy the actual chemical weapons compounds.
Even states that have backed Syrian president Bashar al-Assad have proven eager to aid in ridding his regime of its weapons of mass destruction. China wasquick to announce that it was recommending 10 chemical weapons experts to aid in the dismantling process as well as financial support. Russia has also reportedly offered to provide security to the inspectors as they carry out their task. The first U.N. team to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria was met with sniper fire; the current joint OPCW/U.N. mission has thus far avoided such a fate.
This is all very good news, but there’s a long way to go. If this agreement, which is pretty much unprecedented, is successful in eliminating the threat of using chemical weapons in Syria, that’s a significant improvement of the situation in any number of ways. And it took away the excuse for intervening that some were clamoring for.