How does one destroy a country's chemical weapons equipment? In Syria, currently an active war zone, a team of international inspectors are using anything on hand to get the job done. Starting on Sunday, a U.N.-backed team of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons ordered the start of that process. Workers are using blowtorches, saws, and even vehicles to destroy the equipment used to manufacture chemical weapons in the country.
The team has until November to eliminate Syria's ability to destroy chemical weapons. So despite the quick time table and the dangerous conditions of the country, the 20-person inspection team is moving fast. Officials haven't said where the work has begun, according to the Washington Post. But here's the general process going forward:
Work to dismantle delivery and production equipment is relatively straightforward, according to experts, using simple tools, or even vehicles to run over and crush items. It is the later phases — disposing of highly corrosive precursor chemicals and filled warheads — that will pose the biggest challenge. Some precursors are expected to be transported out of the country to be destroyed.
The international team includes both U.N. staffers and OPCW experts. They arrived earlier this week to begin work on a U.N. Security Council-approved plan to destroy the Assad regime's entire chemical weapons supply by the first half of 2014. But two big deadlines approach in November. Along with the in-progress destruction of equipment, the entire stockpile must be under international control by then, too. The OPCW team is only directing and overseeing the destruction process. Syrians are doing the actual work.