An official from the international mission overseeing the stockpile's elimination said Damascus had made an excellent start on Sunday, and the United States acknowledged its rapid compliance with a U.N. resolution on destroying chemical weapons as extremely significant.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who, a month ago, made a forceful presentation in favor of military intervention against the Syrian regime for a chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds Aug. 21, said Monday at a press conference in Indonesia, where he is attending the Asia-Pacific Conference, that he was "pleased" with the destruction of chemical arms so far and called it a "good beginning":
Chemicals experts were overseeing a second day of work on Monday, which the official described as similar to Sunday's when Syrian forces used cutting torches and angle grinders to render missile warheads, bombs and mixing equipment unusable.
However, he noted that this was only the start of work that is due to last until mid-2014 and requires the cooperation of all sides. "It was an excellent first day, with the stress on the word 'first'," the official told Reuters by telephone from Damascus, declining to be named.
“[Syria] agreed in a record period of time to follow the framework that [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov] and I negotiated in Geneva and they put it into place both in The Hague as well as at the United Nations.But later in the day, the familiar face of deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf emerged to walk Kerry's statement back a bit: "It is a fact that the [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] and the U.N. must work with [Syria]," she said, "and they have responsibilities to assist in the destruction of these weapons. That's just a fact. That's not conferring legitimacy. That's not giving praise."
“I think that was a terrific example of global cooperation. I think it's also credit to the Assad regime for complying rapidly as they are supposed to. Now, we hope that that will continue.”
Okay, okay, some hedging for the home audience is to be expected. Assad is no angel just because the regime has agreed under pressure from just about everybody to destroy what is thought to be one of the world's largest chemical weapons caches. Moreover, the civil war continues most of its brutality and atrocities committed by the regime's forces and their foes. But who can say that what's happening to these chemical arms does not represent progress?