News / Middle East

Syria Submits Partial Chemical Weapons List

Samples brought back by the U.N. chemical weapons inspection team are checked in upon their arrival at The Hague, Netherlands, August 31, 2013.
Samples brought back by the U.N. chemical weapons inspection team are checked in upon their arrival at The Hague, Netherlands, August 31, 2013.
James Brooke
For two years, Russia gave increasingly crucial military and diplomatic support to Syria’s beleaguered President Bashar al-Assad as the Syrian civil war deepened.

Now, Russia is pressuring its ally to give up its cherished chemical weapons arsenal. In rapid succession over the last week, Syria’s government acknowledged possessing chemical weapons, signed a treaty banning their production, possession and use, and, on Friday handed over an inventory of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile to international monitors in The Hague.

How Are Chemical Weapons Destroyed?

  • Chemical agents can be destroyed by incineration or neutralization
  • The U.S. Army has 5 portable units capable of destroying chemical weapons armed with explosives
  • Operators put the weapon in a sealed container and remotely detonate charges to set off the weapon
  • Operators then add chemicals to the sealed container to neutralize the weapon
Source: US Army
In Moscow, analysts ask where the Kremlin is going.

Rene Nyberg, a former Finnish ambassador in Moscow, says he is stunned by the turn of events.

“The move has been decisive,” he said. “Actually forcing Assad to give his bomb away. By bomb, I mean chemical weapons. Now that is a major move.”

Russia, the United States and Ukraine are volunteering experts and equipment to help Syria meet a mid-2014 deadline of destroying all its chemical weapons. President Assad told Fox News this week that this destruction project could cost $1 billion.

Chemical weapons destruction is one area where Russia, heir to the Soviet Union, stands on equal footing with the United States.

Nyberg has followed Russia’s chemical weapons destruction program since the 1990s. “Russia has capability and experience in chemical weapons destruction, and, clearly, they would be able to give a helping hand here,” he said.

But some question whether the Kremlin will keep pressuring Assad to destroy such a powerful military asset. All week long, President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cast doubt on Western allegations that it was Assad's soldiers who fired sarin gas last month at opposition neighborhoods in Damascus.

Konstantin von Eggert is a Russian journalist in Moscow.

“There is no guarantee - and Putin said it himself - that Assad will actually follow or live up to all the agreements he may sign,” said von Eggert, who stepped down last month as editor-in-chief of Kommersant FM Radio. “It is a big gamble. And I think that, while today Mr. Putin is in the limelight and being treated as a political rock star, the future might not be as kind to Russian diplomacy if the deal falls apart.”

U.S. Chemical weapons - InteriorU.S. Chemical weapons - Interior
U.S. Chemical weapons - Interior
U.S. Chemical weapons - Interior
As co-signer with the United States in the disarmament accord, Russia now is a player in Syria’s weapons destruction process. Analysts wonder whether the Kremlin will take the next step: pressuring President Assad to accept a political solution to Syria’s civil war.

On Saturday, Syrian activists said government troops backed by militia fighters have killed at least 15 people during a raid on a Sunni village in the center of the country.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two women and a child were among those killed in the attack on Sheik Hadid village.

The group said the fighters used guns and knives to kill the residents, calling the raid a "massacre." It said it is not clear if the rest of the men killed were rebel fighters or civilians. 

On Friday, London’s Guardian newspaper printed what sounded like a cease-fire call by Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil. Within hours his own party disavowed his remarks.

Russia and the United States are pushing for Syrian peace talks in Geneva. The Obama administration has had a hard time getting Syria’s rebels to sit down and talk peace.

In turn, Von Eggert questions whether Russia can pressure President Assad to agree to step down at the end of his second 7-year presidential term, next May.

“Forcing a political solution on Assad is beyond the means of Putin, Obama, just as it is beyond the means of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to force anything on the Syrian rebels,” Von Eggert said.

But President Putin and other Kremlin officials have said they worry about Syria’s chaos infecting the region, and inevitably southern Russia. After two and a half years of civil war, 2 million Syrians have taken refuge in neighboring countries and another 4 million are internally displaced.

On Friday, Sergei Smirnov, first deputy director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, said that as many as 400 Russian jihadists are fighting inside Syria on the rebel side. Most of these come from the Caucasus, an overwhelmingly Muslim area of Russia that is wracked by a low level, but steady guerrilla insurgency.

“Russia’s logic must be that you do not want to have a failed state in your surroundings. Syria is so close to the Caucasus that inevitably it would reflect in the Caucasus,” Nyberg said.

Time will tell whether the Kremlin will take the decisive steps to force the Assad government to accept a plan for peace.

  • This citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network shows anti-Syrian regime protesters hold a poster depicting U.S. President Barack Obama during a demonstration in Kafr Nabil, Idlib province, Sept. 20, 2013.
  • Children sit along a damaged street filled with debris in the besieged area of Homs, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • Debris is seen on the ground after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • An injured man walks along a street after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 19, 2013.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by The Syrian Revolution against Bashar Assad shows a Syrian military tank on fire during clashes with Free Syrian army fighters in Joubar, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 18, 2013.
  • A member of the Shohadaa Badr Brigade, which operates under the Free Syrian Army, stands in shooting position behind sandbags in Ashrafieh, Aleppo, September 17, 2013.
  • Free Syrian Army fighters walk through rubble inside the old city of Aleppo, Sept. 16, 2013.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter carries his weapon as he stands on rubble of damaged buildings in al-Aseela neighborhood near Aleppo's historic citadel, Sept. 13, 2013.
  • In this citizen journalism image provided by the United media office of Arbeen, a Syrian protester chants slogans during a demonstration in Arbeen, a suburb of Damascus, Sept. 13, 2013.

You May Like

Map Shows Every US School Shooting Since 2013

There have been at least 150 school shootings in the United States since 2013, an average of nearly one per week More

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: van from: vn
September 21, 2013 9:02 AM

russia protect peace of the world, it also protects assad, protect snowden, protect apkhadia and ossesstia . in general, it protect its main interests.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs