The United States has accused Syria of hiding undeclared chemical weapons from the international inspectors overseeing the destruction of the country’s chemical arms. Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations official appointed last year to coordinate the Syria chemical weapons disarmament effort, gave a private briefing to the United Nations Security Council that stated that the destruction of 96 percent of Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile has been accomplished. However, according to the briefing, there are some discrepancies between what has been declared and what Syria may actually have available for the manufacture of chemical weapons.
Some are wondering whether Syria has accurately accounted for all of the chemical weapons in its arsenal. During the country’s civil war, the Syrian government was suspected of using a number of indiscriminate weapons, including bombs filled with chlorine, against the rebels challenging the established authoritarian rule of President Bashar al-Assad. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is now responsible for overseeing the Syrian chemical disarmament.
The Syrian government has a shaky history regarding the destruction of its chemical arsenal under the chemical weapons treaty signed earlier this year. Delays by the Syrian government have pushed the completion date for the destruction of the weapons well past the initial June 30 target date. The undertaking has now been going on for nearly a year and the process of destroying the rest of Syria’s chemical weapon stockpile is expected to take six or seven more months.
The U.S. expressed concerns that any hidden chemical weapons could fall into the hands of the Islamist militant extremists that are waging war across Syria. In recent months, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the militant group that has taken over areas of northeast Syria and northwest Iraq, have released photographs and videos of mass killings, beheadings and other atrocities. If they were to get their hands on sophisticated chemical weapons, it would be a catastrophe.