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Chinese Warship to Escort Transfer of Syrian Chemical Weapons

by Richard Sisk on January 6, 2014

chemical weaponsA Chinese missile frigate was on standby in Cyprus Sunday to serve as an escort in the complex and risky operation involved in delivering Syria’s chemical weapons to the specially-outfitted U.S. ship Cape Ray for destruction.

Over the weekend, Cypriot Defense Minister Photis Photiou, accompanied by Chinese Ambassador Liu Xinsheng, inspected the 440-foot frigate Yan Cheng at dockside in the port of Limassol. It was the first time a Chinese warship had come to the eastern Mediterranean island.

Ambassador Liu said that “China supports the efforts of international community for the Syrian chemical weapons and we come to Cyprus to participate in this international operation,” the Famagusta (Cyprus) Gazette reported.

“We wish this operation success,” Liu said, but he gave no estimate for when the Yan Cheng would begin its escort duty.

Last week, the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad missed the Dec. 31 deadline set by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations for moving hundreds of tons of toxic agents – mostly precursors for mustard gas but also elements of the nerve agent Sarin – to the northern Syrian port of Latakia on Russian trucks.

The Syrian regime cited bad weather and the ongoing civil war for the delay. OPCW Director General Ahmet Uzumcu said a number of factors made it necessary to extend the deadline, “not the least the continuing volatility in overall security conditions.”

Last Friday, a convoy consisting of a Norwegian navy ship and merchant ship, and a Danish navy ship and merchant ship, weighed anchor from Cyprus and began proceeding to Latakia under escort from Russian warships to be prepared to take on board the chemical weapons agents.

On Saturday, the Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed that an Italian port would be made available for the transfer of the chemical weapons to the Cape Ray.

Without naming the port, the Foreign Ministry said Italy has provided a “port for the trans-shipment of Syrian chemicals” prior to their “destruction in international waters,” according to Rai Italia, the Italian national broadcasting company.

The chemicals will be brought over “in sealed containers, following strict technical and environmental standards” and will be destroyed through hydrolysis aboard the Cape Ray, the Foreign Ministry said.

The 648-foot MV Cape Ray was still dockside at General Dynamics Corp.‘s NASSCO-Earl shipyard in Portsmouth, Va., awaiting orders to begin the mission. “Exactly where and how that process will take place hasn’t been finalized yet,” said Frank Kendall, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Kendall said that it would take the Cape Ray about three months to destroy the weapons, once the process has begun.

The Cape Ray has been fitted with three field deployable hydrolysis systems, each costing about $5 million, designed to destroy the chemical agents in a process involving water and bleach.

Where the Cape Ray will anchor to carry out the process has yet to be determined. The OPCW also has yet to reach agreement with a nation willing take the hazardous waste that will be produced by the process.

The confirmed use by the Assad regime of chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta last Aug. 21, which the U.S. charged had killed 1,400 people, led to a U.S.-Russian agreement sanctioned by the UN to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-2014.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Tad January 6, 2014 at 10:34 am

I think it's very impressive that thousands of tons of weaponized CWA's can be destroyed on a ship. That's a pretty big engineering accomplishment, IMO. (And yeah, I know there will be comments about the-solution-to-pollution-is-dilution and the chem agents will end up in the ocean, but that is just not true.)

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hibeam January 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Maybe we could float Obama out there in a rubber raft to smile and wave and look relevant?

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Kim Scholer January 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Only if he can borrow W's 'MISSION ACCOMPLISHED' banner.

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Jeff January 7, 2014 at 8:34 am

Burn!

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Greg January 8, 2014 at 9:51 am

Again you are trolling. Do you realize you are a troll? Always commenting off coment on some political agenda that has nothing to do with the topic. Just like your brilliant affirmative action comment.

If you don't have anything intelligent to say, then don't say it at all.

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Musson January 6, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Here is a suggestion for the escort ship: Sail Up Wind of your charge.

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BlackOwl18E January 6, 2014 at 2:52 pm

I think it's great that China is taking a role in policing the world for its own interests. It takes some of the burden off us and makes them more responsible for themselves (something a good portion of Europe has yet to learn). For all their faults, I can see a somewhat peaceful coexistence with a rising China so long as our leaders respect each other and are willing to negotiate to an understanding on every issue that faces us.

What I don't like is how weak Obama was during the whole Syria Crisis. He made us look like fools. Putin was playing chess while Obama was playing checkers. It was embarrassing. Russia won a lot of clout and geopolitical ground and definitely walked away the winner in that little skirmish. We'll have to do better next time.

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blight_ January 6, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Obama didn't have a unified Congress at his back. Many are still convinced that Arabs should police themselves. Some think it is our job to be world police, and others think it's our job to go kill tinpot dictators for minimal long term impact.

We got burned once…we were told it would be easy in 2003. We'll be more wary of putting our hand in that mousetrap again; but it's too bad the next time around it'll be wariness for something like Iran annexing Iraq, or Turkey walking into Kurdistan: something bigger than the petty use of heinous weapons.

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BlackOwl18E January 6, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Obama's faults were all avoidable and all stupid. First of all, he should not have made that "red line" statement that tied us to the conflict in the first place. Second, he should not have committed US forces to posturing for an assault before CLEAR EVIDENCE of the chemical weapons attack being carried out by the Syrian government was available. (In fact, the more time goes on the more the attack looks like it was carried out by the rebels in order to play us to their advantage)

Obama's pride is the sole reason we almost got trapped into that conflict. He did that all on his own. Putin rushed into to protect Russian assets in Syria. His Foreign Minister waited for us to make a mistake, which we did. Kerry said that Syria would avoid war by giving over their weapons and did that without thinking about it. Sergei Lavrov jumped on it and the plan for Syria to give up its weapons was soon being touted by Russia as a path to avoid a whole lot of violence in the Middle East (and the truth is that it was). Our administration was looking for a way to save itself and Putin tossing out that plan seemed like him throwing them a life line.

Right now, Russia is known as the country with the real world class leaders and the rest of the world knows it. The United States' current leaders are second rate. What we really need here in the states are term limits for congressmen and senators and a president who is sharp enough to go toe-to-toe with the best. That president is not Obama, but maybe we can do better in the next election.

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Kim Scholer January 6, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Could you offer your list of things that Obama did NOT do wrong? I'm sure you'll make it a pretty short one.

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Nadnerbus January 6, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Criticizing Obama on this topic does not make him a bad person, or even a bad President. It just means he screwed up this particular issue. I think Blackowl illustrated why pretty well. If you disagree with his points, let us know why.

Nadnerbus January 6, 2014 at 5:29 pm

You summed it up about perfectly. I was more than happy that the US did not end up getting involved militarily, but the Administration's handling of the whole thing was pure amateur hour. The rest of the world saw Obama step on his junk and know it. His political supporters downplay it, saying the fact that we didn't go to war is enough, but that is just spin. We looked bumbling and clueless while Putin looked like a senior statesman.

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oblatt2 January 7, 2014 at 4:32 am

The problem is that when Obama called on our military they baulked at losing another war in the middle east.

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Mambo January 7, 2014 at 9:09 am

The Iraqi Armed Forces were destroyed in about 20 minutes. If you want to blame anybody for "losing" a war in the ME blame the politicians who thought we should spend trillions of dollars and 10 years in Iraq trying to reform the country. It had nothing to do with the US military. It did what it does better than anyone, destroy military targets.

Greg January 8, 2014 at 9:57 am

I have to diverge somewhat. I do agree that he should not have that he did not handle this correctly, but I like the fact that he was man enough to take the out. I am not sure other presidents would have taken the out, I tend to think the challenge would have made them go gung ho harder.

With that said, I disagree with the sharpness or not sharpness of the president. IMHO I think Congress needs to be fixed first and foremost. It is hard to tell if the presidesnt is sharp or not because ever iniative that he starts is just flat out road blocked by congress, take sequestion for example. I am certainly not making excuses for the president, but it would be nice to see a congress just a little more patriotic then their party line on both sides.

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Goober January 8, 2014 at 10:00 am

Pretty much sums it up right here, that "Red Line" statement locked him in to SOME action, then he stumbled when the line was crossed, and didnt know what to do. The president has been under the impression that the world leaders view him with respect when in fact in large part its contempt. Putin certianaly does, he jumps up to thumb his nose at Obama any time he can.

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Praetorian January 6, 2014 at 3:32 pm
Kim Scholer January 6, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Given the choice, would you prefer a 'dictator light' running the country, over a former community organizer?

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Nadnerbus January 6, 2014 at 5:31 pm

I suspect most people would prefer neither, but rather a third option of someone with some knowledge and experience in statecraft that would have avoided the whole debacle.

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Christopher Bloom January 7, 2014 at 9:13 am

Like lieing the US into a war in Iraq by choice that got hundred thousand service men and women maimed and traumatised and 6000 dead!!!!

Nadnerbus January 6, 2014 at 5:38 pm

I'll second the China sentiment. They might have ulterior motives for this move, but on the surface it is good to see. We watch them throw their weight around in the South China Sea, and see their pitiful response to the disaster in the Philippines, and and many of us have criticized them for being a bully and not a leader with their new found power. So a move like this looks, at least on the surface, as a step in the right direction to be more of a member of the world community, such as it is.

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Greg January 8, 2014 at 10:02 am

China and Russia have been playing trying to play the good guy ever since oru name was smeared in mud over Iraq. Let's be honest, we looked real stupid starting the iraq war. Don't get me wrong, I support our troops. And when we were there I supported finishing in order to make the country a better place, plus you can't put the cat back in the box. With that said, our intel was not as accurate as it needed to be to start a war, and ever since we have been compared to the bad guy over and over. It sickens me when foreigners that our fathers brothers grandfathers and uncles who fought and died for are now viewed as the villans. It's almost as if the world forgot about or 50 years of good deeds over the one war. It's also like the world now thought that Saddam was such a good guy. How ironic things turned out.

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Argospete January 31, 2014 at 5:35 am

I totally agree. And in the spirit of cooperation, I volunteer to inspect all the Female Miltia recently on Military Parade. (No Charge)

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retired462 January 6, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Good job for "LCS-1"

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Nadnerbus January 7, 2014 at 4:48 pm

You're right, Bush screwed up. So that means Obama can't?

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Greg January 8, 2014 at 9:59 am

Great point

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