The United States Will Destroy Syria’s Chemical Weapons at Sea

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Photo: LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images

After Syria managed to avoid a United States military strike by agreeing to give up its chemical weapons, the Nobel Peace Prizewinning Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons began overseeing the complicated process of removing and eliminating the arsenal. According to the OPCW, 35 firms have made themselves available to destroy the "800 tons of bulk industrial chemicals that are safe to destroy in commercial incinerators." However, that still leaves at least 500 tons of chemicals that have been deemed too unsafe to be neutralized in Syria using the same methods. Countries such as Norway and Albania have rejected the opportunity to host the politically sensitive and potentially dangerous work of disposing of those chemicals. So, with the end-of-the-year deadline to get the weapons out of Syria approaching, the U.S. has agreed to just deal with this itself.

On Saturday, the OPCW announced that the chemicals will be "diluted to safer levels using a process called 'hydrolysis'" aboard a U.S. naval ship somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea outside of Syria's waters. "The United States has offered to contribute a destruction technology, full operational support and financing to neutralize Syria's priority chemicals," the OPCW said in a statement. But, for that to happen, the dangerous cargo will need to be packed up and transported to Syria's port of Latakia by the Syrian army, which could very well be attacked by rebel groups. Assuming that all the chemicals make it to the ship, the U.S. will still need to figure out what to do with the 7.7 million liters of toxic waste that the dilution process will produce. The OPCW says the stuff will be "packed in 4,000 containers," but they're still looking for someone to volunteer to dispose of it.