Deadline met

OPCW achieves its first target of destroying Syria's declared chemical weapon production equipment.

The destruction of Syria's declared equipment for the production and mixing of chemical weapons within the deadline is a significant achievement for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). This was part of the US-Russia deal on Syria brokered recently, after allegations of chemical weapon use by the regime. The OPCW, awarded the Nobel peace prize last month, worked under difficult conditions.

Having achieved their first target, however, the OPCW's next task is meeting the mid-November deadline for working out a detailed plan to destroy Syria's entire stockpile of chemical weapons and agents. Damascus has until mid-2014 to complete that process, monitoring which will be a much bigger challenge for the OPCW. Syria reportedly possesses more than 1,000 tonnes of chemical agents and pre-cursor chemicals. Besides, success is conditioned by the fact that the international community is, for the moment, taking the regime at its word. Should it be the case that some stockpiles have been concealed, the OPCW's challenges will be compounded, calling for intelligence on the hidden locations.

Meanwhile, even as the OPCW figures out where the eventual destruction of the chemical weapons will be carried out and the logistics of transporting the necessary equipment for doing so, the situation on the ground remains hostile. More than 100,000 people have been killed and more than two million rendered refugees since the conflict began. Syrian suffering is unlikely to be over any time soon. But beginning to get the chemical weapons out of the way is an important step towards securing them against the most lethal enemy they have out there.

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