The US Department of Defense says Cape Ray, the 37-year-old American vessel assigned to degrade Syria’s chemical weapons at sea, is “ready to go.” The project has been stalled for days (December 31 was the target date to start moving the weapons) allegedly due to weather and rebels threatening vehicles along the contested highway the 700 tons of lethal chemicals must travel to reach the port of Latakia. The US says getting the weapons out of the country is “a Syrian responsibilty.” (A reader can be forgiven for being less than comforted by this, given the Syrian government’s recent record of responsibility.) But Russia has said it will provide armored vehicles for transport and security for loading at the port. So perhaps things are ready to go, but go where?
The disposal of toxic waste is already a world calamity, with developed nations customarily paying poor (and sometimes not poor) nations to take the poison off their hands. Ever tighter restrictions govern the practice–no one wants hazardous chemical waste–but these restrictions are often illegally skirted and the fact remains that the waste needs to go somewhere. The White House National Security Council declares itself “confident that we can meet the milestones for destruction set out by the OPCW.” That’s the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize winner. But once the Cape Ray’s Field Deployable Hydrolysis System–which wasn’t operable a year ago and which workers continue to “fine-tune” (it went through “final testing” this summer)–degrades Syria’s cache of chemical weapons at some as yet undetermined location at sea, some nation must take the stuff. As yet, there are no reported volunteers. But compensation will be high.