According to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Syria met a big deadline this week in a plan to rid the country of chemical weapons. As of Thursday, Syria "has completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable," according to a statement from the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization.
That's after inspectors visited 21 of the 23 sites where Syria says it produced the weapons, Reuters explains. The other two sites were apparently too dangerous to visit, but inspectors were satisfied that the equipment there had been moved and destroyed. Syria had until November 1st, Friday, to either render inoperable or destroy its ability to make new chemical weapons. By November 15th, the country must agree to a plan to destroy its 1,290 tons of declared chemical weapons by the first half of next year.
The OPCW's announcement doesn't mean that the fight over those facilities is over, however. Foreign Policy's The Cable reported on Thursday that the Syrian regime asked the organization to let them keep 12 facilities in order to convert them into commercial chemical factories. The OPCW does occasionally allow for this, pending a "compelling" case to do so — such as for the production of life-saving drugs.
So far, Syria's met every deadline in its surprise agreement to disarm itself after an August 21st chemical attack in the country.That attack prompted the U.S. to consider bombing the country, but eventually Syria agreed to a U.S. and Russian-drafted plan for its weapons stash. And that might seem surprising, that cooperation. But the New York Times notes that staying within the lines of the agreement is very much in the interest of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad:
By doing so, Mr. Assad’s government can claim success in what it said would be a key benefit of the accord — seizing a new measure of credibility and portraying itself not as an outlaw regime but as a reliable and legitimate international player.
Many in the Syrian opposition feel that the accord primarily serves this purpose, districting from a larger goal of removing Bashar al-Assad and his administration from office. The accord, in a way, secures his leadership through the terms of the agreement, in 2014. Earlier today, the death toll from the years-long conflict in the country topped 120,000, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.