“Devil’s stuff,” the chemical weapons Syria agreed to destroy with international partners, including the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. A schedule has been set for the most dangerous of them, mustard gas and sarin gas, with collection before 31 Dec 2013 and destruction before 30 Jun 2014.

Update on 16 Nov 2013: Protesters in Albania succeeded in getting their president to promise not to use Albanian facilities to destroy Syrian chemical weapons. Their concern was understandable. Everyone’s reluctance is understandable. Albania had been asked by the U.S.A. if they would take on the job because Albania had experience destroying its own chemical weapons. Germany still has some facilities that have been used to destroy old munitions and unexploded bombs that keep turning up from the world wars. Syria’s weapons might be destroyed by incineration at very high temperatures or by chemical “hydrolysis” cleavage, said ARD tagesschau.de correspondent Rolf-Dieter Krause. “Both are quite dicey methods whose control requires experience and very safe technical systems.”

Update on 30 Nov 2013: The U.S.A. offered to destroy 500 tons of the most dangerous of these military materials on board a ship and to pay for it. The O.P.C.W. announced that after that another 800 tons would be destroyed by specialist companies. The elimination is a little behind schedule because many countries that were asked to help destroy the chemical weapons regretfully declined to do so.

Update on 13 Dec 2013: All chemical weapon production sites in Syria are said to have been destroyed. Deadly chemicals from Syria’s arsenal will be transported on volunteered Danish and Norwegian ships to a huge U.S. Navy vessel that will destroy them via chemical cleavage and neutralization, in about two weeks, said Jan van Aken, former U.N. weapons inspector, environmentalist and now bioweapons and chemical weapons-specializing Bundestag member (Leftists party). “Helicopters, aircraft carriers and fighter jets will have to secure the Cape Rae” during the destruction process, said ZDF heute journal correspondent Roland Strumpf. The process will create >7 million liters of toxic waste water. The other residues left over from the substances will be stored in drums. The current cold snap in the Middle East, which just dumped forty cm of snow on Jerusalem, is a problem for the initial truck transport of the >1000 tons of poison gas; presumably the U.S. and other countries will be monitoring those transports via satellite imagery and other tracking.

Update on 10 Jan 2014: A company owned by Germany’s federal government in Munster will be participating in the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons by eliminating some of the degradation products produced by the breakdown of mustard gas. Several hundred tons of the diluted residues will remain after combustion on the Cape Ray, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons asked Germany for help with them in addition to the 5 million euros the country pledged to the project. The chancellor’s new defense minister told reporters Germany has the methods and technology to combust these residues down to nothing, with equipment still being used to dispose of unexploded bombs still being dug up from W.W.II.

Reporting on the methods and quantities involved in this project is starting to contradict itself, but the spirit of cooperation, multiplicity of partners and good intentions on all sides to “unsharpen” the conflict in Syria is wonderfully welcome.

Update on 23 Jun 2014: The Syrian government announced that all the chemical weapons scheduled to be destroyed have been destroyed.

(TOY fells TSOY g.)

Fluorwasserstoff, Ammoniumhydrogendifluorid, Natriumfluorid

Hydrogen fluoride, ammonium hydrogen difluoride, sodium fluoride.

What did your country’s companies export to the Assads’ Syria that could have been used to hurt civilians?

These are three of the chemicals German companies exported tons of to Syria between 2002 and 2006 that could have been used to make chemical weapons, at a time when the Assad regime was known to have a chemical weapons program.

The German government’s Ministry for the Economy [Bundeswirtschaftsministerium] drew up and published a list of such chemicals, including quantities, dates and prices, that could have been used to manufacture chemical weapons and for which the government issued export permits, in response to a question submitted by the Leftists party (Die Linken) and by Bundestag member and former U.N. weapons inspector Jan van Aken (Leftists) in particular. The government supplied this information one week before a national election.

Update on 30 Sep 2013: After the national election the government supplied more information. German companies were issued export permits for “dual-use” chemicals even until 2011, after the Assads were killing peaceful Syrian protestors. From 1998 to 2011, ~300 tons of such chemicals, which could be used for civilian or military purposes, were delivered from Germany to Syria. Klaus Barthel (S.P.D.) criticized the Bundeswirtschaftsministerium for, among other things, phased provision of the truth. The Bundeswirtschaftsministerium said they reviewed the investigation and remain convinced of the plausibility of the civilian uses cited, but the C.D.U. said plausibility is not enough when dealing with regimes like the Assads’. Reporter Arnd Henze said Germany has to be especially careful in these matters because the world knows that chemical weapons were produced in Libya and Iraq “with German support.”

On 01 Sep 2013 it was announced that Britain had issued licenses to export sarin gas precursors potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride to Syria in January 2012, ten months into the uprising against the Assad family. The export licenses were revoked in July 2012 after the European Union agreed to sanctions against the Assad regime. Prime Minister David Cameron (Tory)’s office initially responded by saying the U.K. has the the most rigorous export control regime, with a computer system called C.H.I.E.F., which is how they know that though the export permits were issued at that unfortunate time no chemicals were exported under the permits. Later it was indicated this was not so. Following up, Business Secretary Vince Cable (LibDem) subsequently reported that other licenses to export sarin precursor chemicals to Syria were issued by previous U.K. governments between 2004 and 2010 (the year Mr. Cameron’s Conservative-LibDem government came to power).

Update on 09 Jul 2014: U.K. foreign minister William Hague sent a written statement to the British parliament announcing that British companies had probably exported hundreds of tons of chemicals to Syria in the 1980’s that could have been used to make chemical weapons such as sarin and VX.

(FLEW or voss ah SHTOFF,   a MOAN ee oom hee dro GAIN dee FLEW oar EAT,   NOT ree oom FLEW oar EAT.)

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