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SYRIA/2: THE PERILOUS CHEMICAL DISARMAMENT

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In the past few days, a Chinese national has also joined the Joint Operational Planning Team that the UN and OPCW have created to neutralize the Syrian chemical threat. A support headquarters has been set up in Cyprus, where about one hundred people are closely following the situation.

The working group – which also includes delegates from the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France and Italy – is continuously evaluating and re-evaluating the situation.

In one of the more recent meetings they took stock of the situation and noted that after the deployment of the experts in the field, Phase II is proceeding with some major concerns, certainly, but without hiccups. The destruction of essential equipment for the production of chemical weapons was completed before the deadline. The rest of the material has to be put out of use by March 31, the deadline given to the Syrians for repurposing some machinery and buildings.

Phase III is certainly extremely delicate and involves the transfer of the most dangerous (on a 3-level priority scale) chemical agents out of the war-torn country. A well-informed source reveals that more than half of the arsenal that terrified the world is actually made up of “binary-key precursors” that have to be destroyed by hydrolysis. In Assad's depots there is also a large amount of organic and inorganic chemical products, like chloroethanol, phosphorus trichloride and hydrofluoric acid, which “can be destroyed” in “commercial” plants. Only “two percent of the examined material is made up of true chemical agents.”

One of the classified documents in the dossier obtained by WikiLao specifies that the process cannot begin before November 15. “Optimistically speaking,” someone in The Hague added.

According to what is written in one paper, Syria will have to provide the personnel who will be responsible for the transfer, including workers, drivers and soldiers (around five hundred, the equivalent of a battalion). However, Damascus has listed a series of requests – for men and vehicles – in order to keep the operation as risk-free as possible.

The security nightmare doesn't only include the terrible fear of possible enemy attacks. Considering the nature of the materials that have to be evacuated from Syria, in the worst case scenario even the smallest accident could cause “significant” damage. Suffice it to say that a leak of chemical agents from the containers inside the stocking plants is considered probable, even if in very small amounts.

November 7, 2013