U.S. prepares to dispose of Syria's chemical weapons

We have learned details of how the United States will dispose of Syria's chemical weapons.

The Obama administration nearly went to war over nerve gas attacks in the Syrian civil war.

The Assad dictatorship agreed to surrender its stockpile but no country has been willing to destroy the weapons until now.

The Navy's Cape Ray, a cargo ship currently docked in southern Virginia, will soon embark on an unprecedented mission.

It will set sail equipped with two specially designed hydrolysis units.  Never used before in the field or at sea, these machines will mix the chemical agents with hot water and bleach, neutralizing all 500 tons of mustard gas, sarin and VX.

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These machines will mix the chemical agents with hot water and bleach; neutralizing all 500 tons of mustard gas, sarin and VX.
CBS News
 

Getting these weapons out of a country mired in civil war has also never been done.

"The next phase of the process is the most complex, in terms of both logistics and security," said Tom Countryman oversees the State Department's role in the operation.

He told us the chemicals will be transported in armored vehicles through the war zone under Syrian military protection, to the coastal city of Latakia.  There they will be loaded on to Danish and Norwegian ships, and taken to an Italian port where they'd then be offloaded onto the Cape Ray.

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The chemicals will be transported in armored vehicles to the coastal city of Latakia
CBS News
 

What will be done to keep the chemicals from getting into the wrong hands?

"Preventing the chemicals from getting to the wrong hands, to terrorist groups within Syria, or outside of Syria, is exactly the reason that we need to move rapidly to get these chemicals out of Syria," Countryman said. "It is a security challenge any time you move something like chemical weapons in a visible convoy; there's a risk on both safety and security."

The chemicals were scheduled to be removed by the end of the month, but that is tough to do in a civil war. Russia - an ally of the Assad regime - has offered to secure safe passage of the chemicals but their role has not yet been approved.

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The weapons will be moved out of a country mired in civil war
CBS News
 
  • Margaret Brennan

    Principally assigned to the State Department, Margaret Brennan also serves as a CBS News general assignment correspondent based in Washington, D.C.

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