Chemical Weapons Inspectors Miss Syria Deadline, Still Make Good Progress

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Photo: LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

International inspectors missed their first deadline in Syria, failing to visit all of the country's declared chemical weapons sites by Oct. 27. However, considering that they only started on Oct. 2, they're still doing pretty good. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Monday that it has verified information provided by the Syrian government about 21 of its 23 chemical weapons sites, but it has been unable to reach two locations, which are in areas contested by rebel fighters. Unite Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the inspectors are following the security situation at the two sites, "with the intention of visiting them as soon as conditions permit."

There aren't any consequences for missing the deadline, and Ban said the team should reach their next important milestone "with the possible exception" of the two sites. The U.N. Security Council resolution calls for Syria to complete the destruction of equipment to for mixing and filling chemical weapons by Nov. 1. For the past month, Syrian workers have been using "cutting torches and angle grinders" to dismantle the machines, and it's believed that Syria's ability to launch an attack like the one that killed hundreds of people outside Damascus in August has been dramatically reduced.

The goal is to rid the country of its entire chemical weapons stockpile by mid-2014. A State Department official told the New York Times that the plan the Syrian government presented for removing precursor chemicals "seems to be realistic," and there's "reason to be optimistic."