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Report: Syrian Chemical Request Pits West Against Disarmament Officials

A portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad is seen on Wednesday in downtown Damascus. The United States and other Western nations reportedly are resisting international calls for chemical-arms transport supplies that could help Syria's beleaguered government battle opposition forces (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images). A portrait of Syrian President Bashar Assad is seen on Wednesday in downtown Damascus. The United States and other Western nations reportedly are resisting international calls for chemical-arms transport supplies that could help Syria's beleaguered government battle opposition forces (Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images).

The West is resisting international calls for chemical-arms transport supplies of potential use in fighting Syria's rebels, Foreign Policy reports.

The United States and other Western countries fear Syrian President Bashar Assad could use some requested equipment to help combat opposition forces in the nation's civil war, according to a Wednesday posting on the magazine's Cable blog. Assad admitted possessing chemical weapons and agreed to their destruction in September, after a nerve-gas attack weeks earlier raised the possibility of U.S. military intervention against his regime.

The Syrian government's most dangerous chemical-warfare assets are slated to be transferred within weeks through disputed areas of the country to the port of Latakia, where foreign vessels would move them abroad for destruction. Officials charged with overseeing the disarmament effort have repeatedly aired worries about how to keep the materials secure during transport to the coastal city.

Sigrid Kaag, the special coordinator of the international mission to eliminate Syria's chemical arsenal, on Nov. 4 told U.N. member states that governments had yet to honor requests by Assad's regime for 40 strike-resistant transport vehicles, as well as more than 80 automobiles for purposes including medical evacuation and fire suppression. She added her office was still seeking provisions for 1,000 personnel who would protect the warfare chemicals and lock down their pathway to Latakia.

The disarmament mission is also still in need of financial support, the Xinhua News Agency quoted Ahmet Üzümcü as saying on Wednesday. The Turkish diplomat is director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Russia is weighing whether to supply Assad's government with 200 vehicles for moving the materials, one U.N. envoy told the Cable. However, a spokesman for Moscow's mission to the United Nations declined to offer specifics.

A document due out next Tuesday will outline the full blueprint for removing Syria's full chemical arsenal from the country, Martin Nesirky, spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said in Wednesday comments reported by Xinhua.

NTI Analysis

  • Disarming Syria of Its Chemical Weapons: Lessons Learned from Iraq and Libya

    Oct. 31, 2013

    This CNS issue brief examines the lessons learned from dismantling Libya and Iraq's chemical weapons programs and what these two cases presage for disarmament in Syria. In particular, this article explores the challenges relating to ensuring material and physical security for both inspectors and the chemical weapons stockpile itself; verifying the accuracy and completeness of disclosed inventories; and developing effective monitoring and verification regimes for the long-term. The conclusion examines recommendations stemming from this analysis.

  • UNSCR 1540 Resource Collection

    Oct. 21, 2013

    The UNSCR 1540 Resource Collection examines implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to implement measures aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring NBC weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. It details implementation efforts in all of the regions and countries of the world to-date.

Country Profile

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Syria

This article provides an overview of Syria's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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