Pentagon civilians wait as Assad delays chemical weapons delivery

The Pentagon's plan to destroy hundreds of tons of Syria’s chemical weapons material at sea could be delayed, due to Syria's failure to deliver the material on time. 

Per the plan, Syria agreed to deliver the materials to its port of Latakia, where they would be picked up by Norwegian and Danish ships, and brought to Italy's port of Gioia Tauro, then transloaded onto the U.S. vessel Cape Ray. 


The Cape Ray would then head to into the Mediterranean Sea, where its crew would destroy the weapons onboard, taking between 45 to 90 days. The ship would then go to another location to dispose of the leftover waste. 

The entire mission was be expected to take no longer than nine months. Now, it could take longer. 

Syrian President Bashar Assad has missed by more than a month his deadline to transport the all "priority one" chemical weapons material to the Danish and Norwegian ships, and has only delivered five percent. 

Meanwhile, the Cape Ray left on its mission last Monday, and is slated to arrive in a few days at a port in Rota, Spain, where it may stay until all the weapons materials are ready, and can be resupplied. 

Although Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelInterpreter who helped rescue Biden in 2008 escapes Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE bid adieu to the Cape Ray last Sunday in a letter wishing them good luck, most of the civilians on the mission did not depart with the ship, according to a defense official. 

Only a dozen of the roughly 60 Army civilians departed with the ship. The rest will be flown out to Rota or Gioia Tauro closer to when the materials are delivered, the official said.  

At some point, there could be a decision made to rotate out the civilians who departed on the ship, if the delay continues.  

“If we did need to rotate, we certainly have a pretty deep bench of people who are familiar with the chemical demilitarization process,” said the official. 

However, U.S. officials are becoming increasingly concerned by the delay. Syria is poised to miss another deadline to get rid of all "priority two" weapons materials by Feb. 5. 

“It is the Syrian government’s responsibility to live up to their commitments, and they need to get those chemicals into Latakia and aboard the Danish Norweigan ships within the deadlines that have been established,” Defense spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said on Friday.