Night Watch

China: At least one person was killed and eight wounded in the city of Taiyuan in Shanxi Province - west of Beijing -- on 6 November when explosions hit near a Communist Party building. Witnesses reported up to seven explosions, and ball bearings found at the scene indicated the use of improvised explosive devices. At least 20 vehicles were damaged.

Comment: The ability of dissidents to acquire explosives is a sign of weak internal security controls. The importance of the explosions is that they occurred. This is the second significant security lapse this month.

Syria: The Damascus government has presented the United Nation's chemical weapons watchdog with a detailed plan for the transfer of chemical materials abroad for destruction, according to press reports.

The Syrian plan reportedly calls for equipping at least eight platoons of up to 35 soldiers each to secure the road between Damascus to the port city of Latakia, from which the weapons would be shipped overseas for destruction.

It also includes requests for tens of millions of dollars in equipment, including 40 armored 15-ton transport trucks, advanced cameras, computers, radios, 13 power generators, five construction cranes, five forklifts, packing materials, and 20 Teflon-lined 2,000-liter metal crates for storing controlled chemicals, including phosphoryl chloride and phosphorus trichloride, a precursor chemical used in the production of sarin and tabun.

The Syrians have also asked the OPCW to secure safety equipment, including 10 ambulances, 10 fire trucks, and "ten 10,000 liter water tanks to be transported together with the convoys for use in the event of chemical contamination." The plan also calls for the construction of housing for Syrian security personnel, including 32 prefabricated bedrooms and eight field kitchens.

Comment: The focus of recent press reports is the cost associated with the destruction or removal of Syria's chemical weapons, agents and precursors. More than a month ago President Asad said that the cost would be more than Syria could pay.

The less covered aspect of the arrangements is that all of them depend on the survival of the current government. If the Ba'athist government collapses, the OPCW deal and many other agreements become unenforceable.

A second less covered issue is that no other country -- including the US, Russia, North Korea and China - has subjected its military establishment to the kind of intrusive weapons inspections that Syria has.


Night Watch

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