NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS
February 4, 2015: Finally, in late 2014 Syria began destroying a dozen underground facilities used to produce and destroy chemical weapons. This effort was delayed several times during 2014 but eventually the Syrians got going under the threat of air strikes on their military facilities. Meanwhile throughout 2014 a special American “chemical weapons neutralization” ship plus similar facilities on land in Finland, Britain and the United States, destroyed nearly all of the Syrian chemical weapons stockpile. That means these weapons are “neutralized” (reduced to harmless, or much less harmful chemical components).
All this began in early 2013 when 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 was not possible because of the ongoing civil war. So arrangements were made to neutralize the chemical weapons s outside Syria. All the other stockpiled (and much less lethal components) for creating more Syrian chemical weapons were also destroyed by the end of 2013. The nasty business of destroying the most dangerous chemicals (the weapons themselves, like nerve gas) was done aboard an American military transport that had two chemical weapons destruction systems installed.
The UN organized 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 took the chemicals and delivered them either to land based facilities or the American transport, which then went to some little travelled patch of the Mediterranean and destroyed the chemical weapons. The destruction process took place far out at sea so that even if there was an accident the deadly chemicals would not reach any civilian populations. That was the plan and it worked.
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.
In December 2013 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 (where the ones they already had came from). But now the equipment Syria had already accumulated over decades is destroyed and the UN has finally been able to destroy the underground bunkers where the chemical weapons were produced and stored..
Despite all this effort some fear that not all Syrian chemical weapons have been surrendered. During 2014 there were several credible reports of chemical weapons being used. It is still unclear where these came from but they appear to have been industrial chemicals (like chlorine) used as part of improvised bombs, apparently by the Syrian Air Force. Syria denies everything. There may still be underground facilities that were not declared. That cannot be confirmed until peace returns to Syria and inspectors are allowed to investigate.