Speed Reads

Some news is good news

Syria's declared chemical weapons have all been destroyed, U.S. says

In a bit of rare good news from the Middle East, the Pentagon announced Monday that the U.S. has destroyed Syria's entire declared arsenal of chemical weapons. Since no nation agreed to accept the collected chemical agents, U.S. military and civilian personnel neutralized them in international waters aboard the M/V Cape Ray, a specially outfitted 647-foot cargo ship.

The roughly 600 tons of methylphosphonyl difluoride, or DF — used to make sarin and other nerve gasses — and 20 tons of mustard gas were destroyed with water and bleach in custom-built hydrolysis machines. The byproduct is hazardous waste, but not particularly toxic, U.S. officials say. In another pleasant surprise, the work was completed weeks ahead of a deadline set by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

President Obama hailed the news as "an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction," but he warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the U.S. and its allies "will watch closely to see that Syria fulfills its commitment to destroy its remaining declared chemical weapons production facilities." He also expressed concern about the suspected undeclared chemical weapons Syria is likely still holding on to.

Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons after a suspected government chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb killed more than 1,000 people, and Obama threatened to launch retaliatory airstrikes against Syrian government targets.