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NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS

December 9, 2013: Earlier this year Syria agreed to identify what chemical weapons it had and where they all were, as well as allow the UN to destroy these weapons. The problem was actually carrying out the deed. Destroying the chemical weapons inside Syria is not possible because of the ongoing civil war. So over the last few months’ arrangements were made to destroy the dangerous chemicals outside Syria. All the other less lethal components have already been destroyed. The nasty business of destroying the chemicals will be done aboard an American military transport that has had two chemical weapons destruction systems installed. But first the UN will organize armed convoys to get the chemicals from some twenty storage sites inside Syria to a port on the Syrian coast. There a joint Danish-Norwegian task force of transports and warships will take on the chemicals and deliver them to somewhere else in the Mediterranean where they will be transferred to the American transport, which will then go to some little travelled patch of the Mediterranean and begin destroying the chemical weapons. All this is supposed to be completed in the next few months. 

Meanwhile, some destruction has already taken place, at least to the special containers that the deadly chemicals are in while they are delivered to their targets. Chemical weapons are corrosive and unstable, so they are kept in special containers until just before use, when they are poured into the bombs, shells, and rocket warheads specially built to handle them. Once in these warheads the chemicals are more likely to eventually corrode the warhead and leak if just left there. So chemical weapons are rarely left in the warheads very long. Moreover, many chemical weapons degrade over time and after a few months or years have to be destroyed and replaced with a fresh batch.

On December 7th the UN verified that the special chemical plants that produce fresh Syrian chemical weapons had also been destroyed, along with all associated equipment. Of course Syria can rebuild these plants and produce fresh supplies of nerve gas and other noxious chemicals. New special shells, bombs, and rocket warheads can also be manufactured or bought from Russia. But now the equipment Syria had already accumulated is destroyed, and the UN hopes to have the chemical weapons still in their special storage containers moved out of the country by the end of the year and destroyed. The destruction process will take place far out at sea so that even if there is an accident the deadly chemicals will not reach any civilian populations. Or at least that is the plan.

 


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