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WASHINGTON, AUG 30:
You simply cannot safely bomb a chemical weapon storehouse into oblivion, experts say. That is why they say the United States is probably targeting something other than Syria’s nerve agents.
But now there is concern that bombing other sites could accidentally release dangerous chemical weapons that the US military did not know were there because they have lost track of some of the suspected nerve agents.
Bombing stockpiles of chemical weapons purposely or accidentally would likely kill nearby civilians in an accidental nerve agent release, create a long-lasting environmental catastrophe or both, five experts told The Associated Press. That is because under ideal conditions and conditions would not be ideal in Syria explosives would leave at least 20 to 30 per cent of the poison in lethal form.
“If you drop a conventional munition on a storage facility containing unknown chemical agents and we don’t know exactly what is where in the Syrian arsenal some of those agents will be neutralised and some will be spread,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a non-profit that focuses on all types of weaponry. “You are not going to destroy all of them.”
“It’s a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease,” Kimball said. He said some of the suspected storage sites are in or near major Syrian cities like Damascus, Homs and Hama. Those cities have a combined population of well over 2 million people.
When asked if there is any way to ensure complete destruction of the nerve agents without going in with soldiers, seizing the chemicals and burning them in a special processing plant, Ralf Trapp, a French chemical weapons consultant and longtime expert in the field, said simply, “Not really.”
Trapp said to incinerate the chemicals properly, temperatures have to get as hot as 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Experts also say weather factors especially wind and heat even time of day, what chemicals are stored, how much of it is around and how strong the building is all are factors in what kind of inadvertent damage could come from a bombing.
There is one precedent for bombing a chemical weapons storehouse. In 1991, during the first Persian Gulf War, the US bombed Bunker 13 in Al Muthanna, Iraq.
Officials figured it contained 2,500 artillery rockets filled with sarin, the same nerve gas suspected in Syria. More than two decades later the site is so contaminated no one goes near it even now.