Syria Reaches Chemical Weapons Milestone, but Hardest Part Still Ahead

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in a statement Thursday said Syria had reached a milestone by destroying its facilities for producing and mixing internationally-banned weapons of mass destruction.

Recipient of the Nobel peace prize for its work on chemical weapons disarmament, the organization said in a  statement  that its joint mission with the United Nations “is now satisfied that it has verified – and seen destroyed – all of Syria’s declared critical production and mixing/filling equipment.” This is step one in the deal brokered by Russia and the United States that apparently averted an American military response in Syria after a sarin gas attack killed hundreds of people in the suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21.

But the most difficult task lies ahead, and that is the destruction of Syria’s self-declared 1,000 tons of “category a” chemical weapons already in existence. The deadline for that is mid-2014, with the current plan being that the weapons would be hauled out of the war-torn country and destroyed elsewhere.

An I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS inquiry into the current status of efforts by the United States to destroy its own stockpiles of chemical weapons shows just how difficult that process can be. The American dismantlement, which includes a remaining 2,611 tons of  mustard agent packed into artillery and mortar shells at the Army’s Pueblo Chemical Depot, is 29 years behind schedule and $33.8 billion over budget, Defense Department documents show.

The current deadline for destruction of all U.S. chemical weapons is now 2023, the I-News inquiry found.

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