Don’t Spike the Ball in Syria

The international effort to remove chemical weapons in Syria is continuing towards its goal “with some fits and starts,” although important compliance work with the Chemical Weapons Convention must continue even after all declared chemicals are destroyed, said Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller. Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., on May 9, Gottemoeller said the Syrians have delivered 92.5 percent of declared chemicals under very difficult circumstances; however, some 100 tons remain at what is dubbed “site two” near Damascus. “I wouldn’t say (Syrian President Bashar Assad) is withholding them,” Gottemoeller said, but Syria has demonstrated it could move faster. “We saw what they did in April. They removed chemicals from a number of sites and could do it in a very difficult security environment,” she said. “Let’s not look to June 30 as the date, let’s focus on the near term.” She stressed that once the chemicals are out, though, Syria has to destroy its chemical weapons facilities as well. That could mean the destruction of a number of hangars and tunnels. “I’ve been urging people not to declare victory when the last chemicals leave … there’s still more work to be done,” she added.