U.S. of­fers to de­stroy Syr­ian chem­i­cals

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY LOLITA C. BALDOR PAULINE JE­LINEK

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is of­fer­ing to de­stroy some of Syria’s dead­li­est chem­i­cal weapons in in­ter­na­tional waters aboard a nearly 700-foot, U.S. gov­ern­ment-owned ship, U.S. of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

The plan, still sub­ject to fi­nal ap­proval, would in­volve de­stroy­ing the weapons, likely aboard the MV Cape Ray in the Mediter­ranean Sea, with U.S. Navy war­ships pa­trolling nearby.

This ap­proach would avoid the vex­ing diplo­matic, en­vi­ron­men­tal and se­cu­rity prob­lems posed by dis­pos­ing of the ma­te­ri­als on any na­tion’s soil.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has used in­ter­na­tional oceans in other sen­si­tive cases where land­based op­tions were pre­cluded. The U.S. Navy buried al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at sea to avoid his tomb be­com­ing an at­trac­tion for ex­trem­ists. The gov­ern­ment has been ques­tion­ing ter­ror sus­pects for as long as it takes aboard Navy ships since the CIA closed its se­cret pris­ons over­seas and Pres­i­dent Obama has re­fused to send more pris­on­ers to the de­ten­tion center at the U.S. base at Guan­tanamo.

The de­ci­sion to pro­ceed with the chem­i­cal dis­posal plan would be made by the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons, a global chem­i­cal weapons watch­dog agency with 190 mem­ber-states.

In a state­ment Wed­nes­day in the Nether­lands, the watch­dog agency said the ef­fort to ship Syria’s chem­i­cal arse­nal out of the coun­try “con­tin­ues to pose chal­lenges due to the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion on the ground.”

No coun­try has com­mit­ted to dis­pos­ing of the chem­i­cal weapons on its own soil, which is why the U.S. of­fer to de­stroy the dead­li­est of the chem­i­cal com­po­nents at sea is seen as a likely op­tion.

The U.S. of­fi­cials who dis­closed as­pects of the U.S. por­tion of the plan to The As­so­ci­ated Press spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to talk about it by name.

The MV Cape Ray is a Vir­gini­abased ship owned by the Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment. It would host the de­struc­tion of some of the dead­li­est of Syria’s chem­i­cal ma­te­ri­als us­ing a process de­vel­oped by the Pen­tagon but never em­ployed in an ac­tual op­er­a­tion.

The U.S. would use what it calls a mo­bile “Field De­ploy­able Hy­drol­y­sis Sys­tem” to neu­tral­ize the chem­i­cal ma­te­rial, mak­ing it un­us­able as weapons. The sys­tem was de­vel­oped by the De­fense Threat Re­duc­tion Agency, which is an arm of the Pen­tagon. The ti­ta­nium re­ac­tor uses heated wa­ter and other chem­i­cals to make the chem­i­cal war­fare ma­te­rial in­ert.

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