February 12th, 2014
06:48 PM ET

OPCW: Only 11% of chemical weapons removed from Syria

By Salma Abdelaziz and Jim Sciutto

Syria has shipped out 11% of its chemical weapons stockpile - falling far short of the February 5 deadline to have all such arms removed from the country, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told CNN Wednesday.

The slow pace of removal prompted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to warn last month that all options remain available to force compliance.

The OPCW is now in touch with senior Syrian officials to discuss a new schedule going forward.

Report: Syria to ship toxic agents
February 4th, 2014
08:55 AM ET

Report: Syria to ship toxic agents

By Alla Eshchenko and Laura Smith-Spark

Syria plans to send a large shipment of toxic agents out of the country this month, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russian state-run news agency Ria Novosti.

Syria intends to finish the process by March 1, which would be in line with deadlines set by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), he said.

Bogdanov warned against "dramatizing the situation around demilitarization."

The head of the OPCW urged Syria last week to speed up the process of removing the chemicals earmarked for destruction outside its territory.


Filed under: Chemical Weapons • Syria
Weather, time key challenges in first chemical destruction at sea off Syria
January 3rd, 2014
11:34 AM ET

Weather, time key challenges in first chemical destruction at sea off Syria

By Gabe LaMonica

Wearing a welding mask to protect from heat and sparks, a worker put the finishing touches on a system capable of a task never performed: the destruction of chemical weapons agents at sea.

The Cape Ray, equipped with chemical weapons disposal systems, should be deployed in about two weeks. Once deployed, it will take the ship 10 days to reach the center of the Mediterranean Sea and three more days to reach the coast of Syria.

But with no orders yet to sail, officials Thursday opened the 648-foot cargo ship in Norfolk, Virginia, to display two field deployable hydrolysis systems (FDHS) installed on its main trailer deck. Each FDHS costs about $5 million. They are based on machines that “have been used for about 10 years now to destroy our own chemical materials,” according to Frank Kendall, a Defense Department official.

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Filed under: Chemical Weapons • Syria
John Kerry's praise for Bashar al-Assad on chemical weapons destruction raises eyebrows
October 7th, 2013
06:35 PM ET

John Kerry's praise for Bashar al-Assad on chemical weapons destruction raises eyebrows

By Elise Labott

It was unusually positive language for a top U.S. official speaking about the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but there was Secretary of State John Kerry giving the Syrian leader a pat on the back.

Speaking to reporters in Bali on Monday, Kerry hailed the quick pace at which inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have been able to get on the ground in Syria and begin their work to destroy its vast chemical weapons arsenal, as called for in a recent U.N. Security Council resolution.

September 19th, 2013
04:05 PM ET

Syria moves chemical weapons again, motive unclear

By Barbara Starr

The Syrian regime is again moving around its stockpile of chemical weapons, leaving the United States trying to figure out what Bashar al-Assad will do next with his deadly arsenal.

CNN has learned that the U.S. intelligence community is closely watching the latest development as diplomatic efforts continue around forging a plan for al-Assad to relinquish those stockpiles to international control.

Obama administration officials at two agencies said the movement took place in recent days – since United States and Russia agreed on September 14 to a timetable for Syria to declare its chemical weapons inventory and then give them up.

“There is activity at known chemical weapons storage sites,” one official said. “What is unclear is whether they are moving them to consolidate the stockpile and then declare it, or are they moving it around to conceal it” in advance of reporting it to international inspectors.

U.S. satellites have observed truck convoys moving in and out of storage sites, but the ongoing intelligence challenge involves knowing where the trucks are headed and exactly what they are carrying, that official added.

“Call us skeptical” of Syrian intentions, the other official said.


September 10th, 2013
08:01 PM ET

President Obama asks Senate to delay military strike vote, senator says

(CNN) - As a Russian proposal to strip Syria of its chemical weapons began to take shape, the White House eased off the gas on Tuesday in its drive for congressional approval to strike the Middle Eastern country.

President Barack Obama asked Senate Democrats to delay voting on authorizing military action in Syria while the diplomatic process works itself out, according to senators in a meeting with Obama.

A White House official told CNN that during his meeting on the hill, the president said that his administration would spend the days ahead pursuing this diplomatic option with the Russians and U.S. allies at the United Nations.

Russia to Syria: Put chemical weapons under international control
Secretary of State John Kerry speaking in London on Monday.
September 9th, 2013
10:26 AM ET

Russia to Syria: Put chemical weapons under international control

By Jamie Crawford

Russia urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to put his nation's chemical weapons stockpile under international control as part of an effort to head off a possible military strike from the United States.

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said his country would urge Syria to take the action if it would avert a military response from the United States. There was no immediate reaction from the Syrian government.

Lavrov's comments came the same day Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to endorse a similar course of action.

Assad "could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week," Kerry said during a news conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague. "But he isn't about to do it and it can't be done obviously."

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Filed under: Assad • Chemical Weapons • John Kerry • Lavrov • Russia • Secretary of State • Syria
How a military strike on Syria might unfold
A U.S. Navy Destroyer launches a Tomahawk missile
August 31st, 2013
12:32 PM ET

How a military strike on Syria might unfold

By CNN's Barbara Starr and Jennifer Rizzo

The U.S. military could execute a strike against Syria very quickly, if it's ordered to, according to Pentagon sources.

President Barack Obama is still debating a limited strike after Syrian regime forces allegedly unleashed a brutal chemical attack against civilians and rebel forces earlier this month, killing at least 1,429 people, according to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Before any missiles start flying, the president would issue an "execute" order for operations to begin.

August 29th, 2013
10:09 PM ET

Sources: Intercepts show top Syrians preparing for chemical attack, discussing afterward

By Barbara Starr and Elise Labott

CNN has learned new details about what is contained in the U.S. intelligence assessment that alleges the Syrian regime was behind a deadly chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, Syria, last week.

According to senior U.S. officials, the assessment contains evidence showing senior regime officials making preparations for a massive chemical attack in the area where the incident occurred - the evidence is part of a "body of intelligence beforehand" that links the regime to the attack, as one of the officials described it.

It also includes evidence of senior regime officials discussing the attack afterward, acknowledging a realization the event was already getting massive attention and discussing that it would be wise to lay low for a while and refrain from launching such massive chemical attacks in the near future, the officials said.

In addition, the intelligence shows there was increased intensive shelling in the area after the attack, the officials said.


August 29th, 2013
06:23 PM ET

U.S. Source: Intercepts show Syrian military officials talked about chemical attack afterward

By Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent

CNN has learned the United States has intercepts of conversations among top Syrian military officials discussing the chemical weapons attack after it took place last week, according to a U.S. official.

The intercepts form a key basis for the conclusion that the Syrian regime was behind the attack. But another crucial piece of evidence about what type of chemicals may have been used remains to be determined. Tissue samples and other medical and forensic evidence taken from victims has not yet been fully analyzed, the official said. One source familiar with the latest intelligence said getting that information would provide the strongest case for the use of chemical weapons.

CNN has previously reported Israeli military intelligence provided the United States with intercepts between Syrian military commanders discussing the movement of chemical weapons to the area of the attack before it happened, according to a diplomatic source.

The administration has said it would release a declassified version of its intelligence assessment about last week's attack outside Damascus. White House spokesman Josh Ernest said Thursday the declassified version is not yet complete but should be released by the end of the week.


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