“The United States and Libya in the past three months have discreetly destroyed what both sides say were the last remnants of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s lethal arsenal of chemical arms. They used a transportable oven technology to destroy hundreds of bombs and artillery rounds filled with deadly mustard agent, which American officials had feared could fall into the hands of terrorists.” — The New York Times, February 2, 2014
As the final deadline for the removal of all chemical weapons (CW) from Syria, February 5, 2014, comes and goes with 96% still in country, the International Community (IC) and UN/OPCW seem apprehensive about looking at alternative plans. A covert operation by the author in Afghanistan in 2007 to destroy highly toxic chemicals under attack from the Taliban, and the US effort to rid Libya of its mustard gas, prove it is possible to destroy CW in the most challenging conditions. There are only 30 tonnes of mustard gas in Syria, the remaining 1270 tonnes are precursors, toxic chemicals. An operation to destroy the mustard gas in Syria is possible, could be completed in a few weeks and at a fraction of a cost of the alleged $100m bill for the current removal plan.
No doubt there are strategic politics being played out between US and Russia to cloud this issue, but the best help the IC can give to the Syrian people is to remove the CW from the agenda and concentrate on peace and humanitarian support. To stick with the current plan could drag this charade out for another 12 months and more. // Hamish de Bretton-Gordon