Friday, September 27, 2013

Wait. What?

Disarming Syria of chemical weapons will be easier because much of their arsenal consists of precursor chemicals that are the building blocks to make weaponized chemical compounds:

Syria's stockpile of chemical agents is largely "unweaponized" and could be eradicated more quickly than initially thought, the Washington Post reported Thursday citing a confidential US and Russian assessment. ...

The Post reported that in private briefings to weapons experts, analysts had estimated Syria possesses more than 1,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, including 300 metric tons of sulfur mustard.

However, the remainder of the stockpile was made up of chemical precursors to nerve agents that were "unweaponized" and in "liquid bulk" form and therefore easier to destroy.

Well, that's good news. The chemical threat isn't imminent for a lot of their stockpile, although it could be brought on line for use with a bit of time.

Hey, remember what we found in Iraq after the 2003 invasion? This 2004 Duelfer report for the CIA (the Iraq Survey Group) assessed that at the time of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq had a limited breakout capability to produce chemical weapons:

ISG judges that the longstanding intent of the Regime was to restart WMD production once UN sanctions were lifted. Based on an investigation of facilities, materials, and production outputs, ISG also judges that Iraq had a break-out capability to produce large quantities of sulfur mustard CW agent, but not nerve agents.

• Iraq declared to the UN an experimental sulfur mustard production route from locally available chemicals—sulfur, chlorine, and ethylene, all of which Iraq had access to at the time of OIF (see Figure 2).

• Iraq retained the necessary basic chemicals to produce sulfur mustard on a large-scale, but probably did not have key precursors for nerve agent production. With the importation of key phosphorus-based precursors, Iraq could have produced limited quantities of nerve agent as well.

• Mustard production could have started within days if the necessary precursor chemicals were co-located in a suitable production facility; otherwise production could have started within weeks. Nerve agent production would have taken much longer, because of the complexity of the process, according to Dr. Mahmud Faraj Bilal, a senior Iraqi scientist and CBW expert, and the lack of advanced phosphorus precursors in country. Bilal believed a covert offensive CW program was unlikely because the program would require 400-500 witting personnel.

So Syria with chemical weapons precursors rather than chemical-filled shells is just an easier job of getting rid of Assad's chemical weapons capabilities. Mission accomplished sooner! Yay President Obama!

Saddam with chemical weapons precursors is a failure to justify a war based on "lies" about Iraq's chemical weapons capabilities. Boo President Bush!

Got it.

Syria is way different than Iraq. Can't even compare the two Baathist minority regimes. Or their chemical arsenals.

UPDATE: Here's the Post article.