A team of 20 engineers, paramedics, and chemists stopped over in Beirut, Lebanon on Monday. The is group preparing to arrive in Damascus this week in order to find, inventory, and dismantle Syria's chemical weapons arsenal. The team is from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and they have a very serious job ahead of them. The group is responsible for helping Syria meet its deadlines when it comes to the new agreement that would end the country's ability to manufacture chemical weapons by Nov 1, and then destroy existing weapons by mid-2014.
While the process for getting rid of existing chemical weapons will be complex, the methods for disabling the equipment used to create them may wind up being pretty simple. Tanks can be used to crush shells, while others may be covered in concrete. Other equipment can be disabled by draining oil or taking a sledgehammer to machines used in the process of creating and filling the warheads.
The methods might seem archaic, but compliance with the tight deadlines set by the UN chemical weapons resolution is critical in preventing the situation from once again escalating to the point of military intervention.
The agreement to hold off on military intervention, which was reached with the help of Russia, is meant to avert a punitive strike on Syria by the U.S. in response to evidence that sarin gas was used by President Asaad in August. A UN resolution calling for Syria's estimated 1,000 ton chemical weapon store to be destroyed by 2014 passed unanimously on Friday.
Meanwhile, efforts to further talks about the political future of Syria may have hit a road bump when Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said that government officials would not sit down to talks with the Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition group that supported a Western Strike on the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.