The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has drawn up a timeline for the destruction of Syria's poison gas and nerve agent program by mid-2014.
The most toxic chemicals are to be destroyed on a U.S. ship. Denmark and Norway are providing ships to transport the chemicals out of Syria and more than three dozen private companies have offered to destroy less toxic chemicals.
Tuesday’s sign off on the details of how exactly the unprecedented disarmament operation will happen is one of the few positive stories coming out of the country still engulfed in a bloody civil war.
Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and the author of the widely-consulted blog Syria Comment, says the United States is now torn after American-supported moderate rebels were driven out of Syria by more radical jihadists.
“They're worried that if [Syrian President Bashar]Assad falls, Syria could turn into a Somalia, but not only just a Somalia, one where a trans-national threat - al-Qaeda - could take root,” Landis says. “Saudi Arabia says "And we're hearing lots of American ex-CIA people come out and say ‘Maybe we don't want Assad to go.’ Saudi Arabia is saying, ‘Yes, we do.’ And this is the tug-of-war going on right now.”
Landis says even though it’s possible Assad could hold back some chemical weapons from inspectors, “tons” will be destroyed that likely wouldn’t otherwise had the U.S. intervened militarily in Syria.
“Russian-U.S. cooperation has led to a great deal,” Landis says. “And the hope is that a Geneva II process, which is supposed to take place next month… could lead to some kind of peace process. Today, it looks very iffy.”
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