In recent days, 50 trucks and 25 armored vehicles have been delivered to the Syrian port of Latakia. According to Russian defense minister Sergei K. Shoigu, the vehicles will help with the removal of the country’s chemical weapons stockpile. Mr. Shoigu conveyed the completion of the Russian vehicle delivery to President Vladimir V. Putin by a video link, saying that the task was completed “to implement as soon as possible the transmission of equipment and supplies for the export of Syrian chemical weapons.”
In September, Syria committed to dismantle the chemical arms following American threats of a military strike. So far, the task has been an enormous security challenge. Heavy fighting in the civil war has periodically closed the main road from Damascus, where many of the chemical weapons and facilities are located. The government must secure the area to make the removal of the weapons possible.
The agreement to move the chemical weapons stockpile and the gains made towards that goal are the latest signs of progress in a country embroiled in a civil war. However, new signs of fractures in the diplomatic effort to start peace talks have emerged in recent days. The talks are scheduled to start on Jan. 22 in Geneva, but the Syrian opposition has threatened to boycott the talks for if the government did not halt a relentless aerial assault on the contested northern city of Aleppo.
According to opposition activists, nine days of air attacks have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Antigovernment activists claim that the Syrian military has fired Scud missiles and used helicopter gunships to drop barrels laden with explosives on civilian neighborhoods in Aleppo. The United States condemned the repeated bombing assaults with a statement saying, “The Syrian government must respect its obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population.”
Syrians opposed to the government feel abandoned by global powers. The opposition feels that the international community cares more about ridding the world of Syria’s chemical weapons than feels concern for the widespread killings of civilians by the Syrian government. Opponents of President Bashar al-Assad are also saying that the American goal of fulfilling the chemical weapons agreement requires the Syrian government to secure military victories against the opposition.