Chemical weapons team arrives in Syria; Blair on our options

In the last 48 hours, chemical weapons inspectors have crossed the border into Syria, reaching Damascus last night. The 19-member inspection team, sent from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague, will be responsible for verifying and dismantling the 1,000 tonne Syrian chemical weapons arsenal. The team will have approximately nine months to conduct their investigation and help the Syrian government destroy their arsenal by the middle of next year.

Charles Blair, GMU adjunct professor and columnist at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, recently published a piece on the fundamental issue at stake here – will it make any difference?

“Regardless of how Lavrov-Kerry fares, the Obama administration faces a high-stakes dilemma. If the agreement is successful, the Syrian civil war still threatens to metastasize—further destabilizing the entire region and, due to the West’s dependence on oil from the Middle East, threatening the world economy. In short, even without a Syrian chemical arsenal, and apart from the normal winter ebb in fighting, the civil war shows no signs of slowing down.

“But failure to rid Syria of the stockpile could result in additional chemical weapons use by the Assad regime and hastens the day when extremists acquire these arms, too. If Syria does not abide by the agreement, the United States would likely resort to air strikes, amid strong calls for a redoubling of efforts to quickly arm opposition forces with more weaponry. Both actions are inherently risky. Indeed, significant sections of Syria could fall under the rule of violent Islamists armed with chemical weapons. As an authority on terrorism at the RAND Corporation, Michael Jenkins, recently wrote me, ‘the Syrian civil war has significantly raised the risk that its chemical weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists, creating a greater international crisis than the one we think we have just solved.’”

Read more at the Bulletin.

(image: Steven Damron/Flickr)

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