The deal was relatively straightforward: under threat of bombardment by U.S. cruise missiles, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad agreed to give up his stockpiles of chemical weapons. The weapons would be rounded up, shipped out of the country and destroyed. Executing the plan was never going to be simple; it's now months behind deadline, and U.S. officials say that al-Assad is stalling, the Washington Post reports.
The deal to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons didn't only involve getting rid of the chemical weapons themselves, but also the facilities used to house and store the weapons and weapon precursors. Al-Assad doesn't want to let these facilities go. U.S. officials say al-Assad is holding on to the last of his stocks of a chemical precursor for the potent nerve agent sarin gas to use as leverage. The worry, of course, is that even with the weapons themselves destroyed, the facilities could be used to rebuild.
Adding to the tensions over the wavering plan to strip Syria of its chemical weapons are reports that the government may have potentially turned to using bombs laden with chlorine gas to attack rebel forces. Chlorine is not a particularly effective gas to weaponize, says New Scientist, and proving its use, let alone who used it, will be difficult.