Syria’s Chemical Weapons Disposal: the Worldwide NIMBY Problem

One of the U.S.'s staunchest NATO allies doesn't want to host the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons. Will anyone?

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When the international plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons was first being negotiated, few Americans would have imagined its success could hinge on the nation of Albania. Yet with a November 15 deadline looming for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to work out a detailed plan with Damascus to empty Syria of its stockpile, negotiators pinned their hopes on Albania to serve as host for the weapons’ destruction. But Friday, Albania became the latest country asked for that help to, in effect say, “Not in my backyard.”

Finding a country willing to take the weapons has been an ongoing problem. In October, Norway declined, citing “time constraints and external factors, such as capacities, regulatory requirements,” according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry. Denmark and Sweden offered to help transport the weapons, and this week, Norway’s foreign minister offered to send a civilian cargo shop and a Navy frigate to pick up the weapons and transport them somewhere else.

U.S. and OPCW officials hoped Albania would be the destination, and it’s not surprising they expected cooperation. Most Americans may know little about Albania beyond its role in the 1997 satirical political comedy Wag the Dog, in which Washington spin-doctors stage a fake war in Albania to distract from a presidential scandal. But in reality, Albania is one of the U.S.’s staunchest NATO allies; the country supported American efforts after 9/11, including granting asylum to released Guantanamo detainees.

Negotiations on the chemical weapons front reportedly got as far as discussions of economic incentives. But thousands of Albanians protested the proposal outside government offices in the capital Tirana. One of the protest organizers, Sazan Guri of the Alliance Against Waste Imports, told Radio Free Europe that he is very pro-American, but his goal was to spread the message: “We are not a dustbin.” On Friday, Prime Minister Edi Rama, who has barely been in office two months, gave a nationally-televised address where he rejected the request to accept the weapons. “It is impossible for Albania to get involved in this operation,” he said. “We lack the necessary capacities to get involved in this operation.”

So the question remains: Will any country play host to the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons? No new candidates have been mentioned, and given the generally negative response so far, it’s unclear if anyone will. All politics is inherently local, and issues ranging from where to build nuclear power plants or public housing – and even where to destroy another country’s chemical weapons – spark what political scientists call the NIMBY factor: Not in My Backyard.

There isn’t a country on Earth where hosting the chemical weapons destruction will be politically popular, and under the current plan, there isn’t much time to find one. The U.S.-Russian agreement calls for all chemical weapons and materials to be out of Syria by December 31.

9 comments
whiteathame
whiteathame

 Perhaps it's time for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (O.P.C.W),  to equip, train and compensate Syria to conduct a properly monitored business of destroying her own chemical weapons and those of other states including our own and  Russia's?  

magila1us
magila1us

The US can and should take the material.  We have a disposal facility on Johnston island in the south pacific that will not bother anyone, and can store and incinerate this poison safely and effectively.  Problem solved.  Anyone who didn't already know this is too ignorant to be commenting on this issue.

jaysmith003
jaysmith003

load it all on a big barge or bot float it out in the middle of the ocean and blow it up.  This could be done in less than a months time

jimmyjimmyjimmy111
jimmyjimmyjimmy111

by the way, the link to this story is different- its for the rise of Muslims from the West flocking to Syria to fight. 

richard.draucker
richard.draucker

Israel is the one complaining so much.  It was Israel who pushed Obama to threaten to bomb Syria if the chemicals weren't disposed of.  So, let Israel dispose of the stuff, the rest of the world has suffered enough because of them and their incessant whining while continuing to expand illegally and refusing to accept any rational peace agreement with the Palestinians. 

lapazjim
lapazjim

@jaysmith003 Did you think about what it would do to the ocean?? Most likely these chemicals will still be in the ocean after  you blow up said barge.The question you need ask is "What happens to the chemicals?" Do they dissipate in the ocean?Do they remain in the ocean and drift around or are carried by the currents and thus kill marine life.How long will it take to fully dissipate and or maybe reach a shoreline of some country and kill those people? It is better to destroy these weapons as planned and be sure of their destruction!! 

magila1us
magila1us

@richard.draucker You must be a real Neo-Nazi to spout such an ignorant hate rant against a country that has stayed completely on the sidelines throughout this entire mess.  Israel has restrained Obama and the EU because they prefer an uneasy Peace with Assad to a guerilla war with another failed state.  Do some homework before you defame.  Your hate speech will still be abhorrent but at least you won't embarrass yourself.

richard.draucker
richard.draucker

@magila1us @richard.draucker 

Boy you Israel supporters just can't stand the light of truth, can you?  Israel desperately wants rid of Assad.  Assad is aligned with Iran, which to Israel means Syria is a conduit for weapons going to Hezbollah, the political and militant group that has kicked Israel's butts repeatedly.  

Israel wants the rebels to take over Syria because the core group is aligned with Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Sunni nations with which Israel does maintain reasonably good relations. Israel would be very happy to see a Sunni Syria cut off the weapons flow and commit cross border attacks against the Shiite Hezbollah. 

Objecting to Israel's crimes against humanity, ongoing apartheid against the Palestinian people, and the real cost in dollars and lives to America is not hate, it's an obligation of any moral and patriotic American.  And, quite frankly, we're getting very tired of the "anti-semite" screeching every time someone demands Israel be held to the same standards as other nations instead of hiding behind their American U.N. Security Council veto while committing atrocities on a daily basis.