|America’s 3,000 ton chemical weapons pile includes nerve agent VX, sarin ingredients and mustard gas
Three decades after the United States started destroying its own chemical weapons, its stockpile is more than 3,000 tons _ about three times what the US now says Syrian President Bashar Assad controls.
The US also have used chemical agents in Vietnam – Agent Orange. (pictured, Agent Orange victim Nguyen Thi Hong Van, 11, of Vietnam and her mother Nguyen Thi Luu, 38. They child is suspected to have been affected)
Taken together, the remaining US arsenal weighs about as much as three dozen Boeing 737s loaded for takeoff. And while the US has made significant progress, eradicating 90 percent of the 31,500 tons it once possessed, the military doesn't expect to complete destruction until 2023.
The United States has found that complying with the Chemical Weapons Convention that banned such weaponry is not easy to do.
The US stockpile includes many of the same chemicals in Assad's possession. Syria has more than 1,000 tons of sulfur, mustard gas and the ingredients for sarin and the nerve agent VX, Secretary of States John Kerry told Congress this week.
Under a tenuous diplomatic deal being coordinated by Russia, which holds the world's largest remaining chemical weapons stockpile, Syria would join the Chemical Weapons Convention, declare its stockpiles and hand them over to the international community for destruction, all to avert a punitive U.S. military strike.
It's unclear how that colossal task can be carried out when there's distrust of Syria in the international community, uncertainty about the weapons' locations and ongoing fighting between Assad's forces and rebels. The White House says it will require extensive verification to ensure that stall tactics aren't disguised as legitimate holdups.
In the US, those holdups have ranged from environmental delays and political opposition to technical and safety challenges to tough laws restricting the transport of chemical weapons. Likewise, it's been difficult to round up the tens of billions of dollars to pay for destroying the cache.
“All of this is a slow process,'' said Dieter Rothbacher, a former UN chemical weapons inspector who has worked in Iraq, Russia and the U.S. “Falling behind [schedule] is actually relatively easy.''—AP