International monitors begin to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons equipment

The Washington Post reports: Personnel overseen by a team of international monitors took blowtorches and high-speed saws to Syria’s chemical weapons equipment Sunday, the first step on the road to dismantling what is believed to be one of the world’s largest arsenals of the weapons of mass destruction.

The destruction of mixing equipment, missile warheads and aerial bombs was carried out by a team of Syrians under supervision from experts from the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the United Nations said in a statement.

The mission, which received the backing of a U.N. Security Council resolution last week, faces a daunting task, dealing with a tight timetable with the added logistical and security challenges of working in the midst of a raging civil war. The 20-member advance team has been quick to get to work since arriving in Damascus on Tuesday.

The pressing schedule sees the elimination of Syria’s ability to produce chemical weapons by the beginning of November, before the complete destruction of its stockpiles within nine months.

Work to dismantle delivery and production equipment is relatively straightforward, according to experts, using simple tools, or even vehicles to run over and crush items. It is the later phases — disposing of highly corrosive precursor chemicals and filled warheads — that will pose the biggest challenge. Some precursors are expected to be transported out of the country to be destroyed. [Continue reading…]

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