Assad's chemical weapons


On January 17, with italic fury, the media gave news of the ships laden with poisons that were approaching the Italian coasts and granted ample space to Premier Letta's meeting with the Governor of Calabria and with the mayors of the towns that gravitate near the port of Gioia Tauro.

Then the absolute silence fell on a topic that, instead, was announced with words that worry. In fact, there is talk of a ship loaded with 500 tons of chemical weapons that will dock in the Calabrian port to transfer its load of death on an American ship.

That same morning, the writer was asked to explain the nature of the problem in the context of RAI television broadcast "Uno Mattina", a three minute synthesis, very modest to provide a complete picture and that certainly did not help to recall the attention to a problem that should not be underestimated.

The communication flow on the specific topic has now ceased. We are firm at the first scant news that surely does not help to understand the exact connotation of the problem, rather they induce doubts and perplexities and suggest to those who have minimal expertise in the specific sector, conclusions different from the contents of tranquilizing official communications.

Absence of inappropriate clarifications and which does not help to understand the nature of the load about to reach our coasts and does not provide necessary information to the resident populations or to the local authorities responsible, in the face of an emergency, for the management of civil protection .

In fact, it was absolutely not clearly specified what the ship from Syria actually carries. A decisive element to connote the real dimension of the possible threat and fundamental to prepare desirable and necessary security measures. The Premier, and in particular the Foreign Minister, spoke of "chemical weapons"; the Head of the Farnesina also used the word “triggers” in a recent interview with a national newspaper, a term that leads us to think of ammunition designed for use, even if not “armed”. The only certain thing is that there are more than 500 tons of substances stored on board that come from Assad's chemical military arsenal. Assad certainly had Sarin nerve gas and mustard gas and therefore this material could be contained in the drums transported. Sarin is a lethal nerve gas capable of acting in a few seconds, the Inrite is an aggressive chemical that, on contact with the body or if inhaled, causes fatal burns. Both lethal agents whose effects can be dealt with only by having adequate equipment, suitable to guarantee effective countermeasures to face the emergency and consequent damages. In what state the materials are transported has not been clarified, perhaps because it is unknown even to those who should prepare appropriate security measures. Mustard gas, commonly known as mustard gas, should travel in appropriate containers, probably already active, or already inserted into missile warheads or unconventional shells. Sarin gas, which is known to have been used against Syrian civilians, is generally aggressive. freshly prepared as it is not very stable. It becomes the aggressive lethal when two basic components are mixed, one with low toxicity and the other with greater toxic effects. On the same ship, therefore, the two separate components could be transported, with the risk that any unforeseeable event that could involve a vessel in navigation, could bring the two components in contact and the formation of deadly clouds.If instead, as is repeatedly written from the media and also announced by the institutional managers, chemical ammunition without quills is transported on ships (separated from the triggers as specified by Bonino to the Corriere della Sera), the risk of a serious accident is even greater, it would in fact be missiles and grenades of artillery with ogive containing or ready to use gas or the two basic components separated by a light septum of modest resistance. Devices that for any reason were attacked by a fire or subjected to violent shocks could disperse the mortal Sarin into the environment. Moreover, no one makes it clear whether those whom the Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls triggers are transported separately or are on the same ship, in the which case would greatly increase the percentage of overall risk in the event of an accident. With clarity it is known only that the chemical weapons coming from Syria will be moved to a titanium container of the American ship Cape Ray and the transfer will take place from ship to ship without docking at the dock . A choice that might seem safer as it would preserve the territory from possible pollution, but which, on the other hand, is believed to involve greater risks in the event of a collision between ships, perhaps induced by simple and unpredictable changes in the direction of the prevailing winds in the area. they still say that the material will be destroyed in the open sea by the chemical process of hydrolysis, but they do not inform us about how the chemical materials derived from the transformation of basic substances will be disposed of. The destruction should take place in a sea area west of Crete, with the connivance of the Greek, Italian and Maltese authorities. The alarm is given by the scientists of Democritos (NdT National Scientific Research Center) of Athens and the Polytechnic of Crete, which speak of "complete destruction of the ecosystem and tourism". The toxicity of the resulting chemicals is not irrelevant and if spilled into the sea they could cause irreversible damage to the marine eco system, to the point of causing a real irreversible necrosis. The fish could be poisoned by the contamination that would spread through the food chain to all consumers of the fish.The choice of hydrolysis therefore leaves us perplexed because it is dangerous as the USA admits and the effects could be even greater than expected considering that the operation will be carried out in the sea such as the Mediterranean, where the change of water is not as rapid as in the great oceans that lap the American continent, the Asian one and Northern Europe. The decision to resort to a difficult and risky chemical process is not understandable. In fact, generally, the destruction of dangerous chemical substances takes place through combustion processes, carried out in factories and equipped areas of the type that already exist and have been operating for some time in the USA, Germany, China and Russia, a country where, moreover, part del Sarin stored in Assad's chemical arsenals. A picture therefore hardly decipherable, also due to the absence of a clear position of the International Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which, directly involved in the problem only a few months ago, strongly advised against neutralization of these substances at sea. In this context, it is not possible to exclude, as instead stated at various institutional levels, that the operation does not incur any risk. On the other hand, it is undeniable that a percentage of risk, albeit minimal, characterizes the entire operation, in particular if the ship that is about to enter the port of Gioia Tauro carries both the basic components of the Sarin in the hold or, worse, chemical ammunition already ready to use even if without trigger.A reality that cannot be underestimated and that should have suggested the preparation of adequate planning to face the threat and deal with any collateral damage, to people and things, which accidental causes could cause . Plans that provide for immediate medical evictions on structures prepared to welcome and treat personnel who may be affected by noxious fumes which, as in the case of the Sarin, leave very little time to guarantee appropriate assistance: at most just fifteen minutes from inhalation or only from epidermal contact with the gas! Programming that also involves the population, who should be informed even about the most remote of the possible risks that an operation of this kind entails, applying consolidated models already operational as for example in Israel. No one tells us whether all this has been foreseen, if the local health structures have been appropriately organized, if the health personnel know in detail the nature of a possible threat, albeit remote and how to face it and manage it. It is beyond any doubt that the specific need must absolutely be addressed and resolved, but he understands why the choice fell on Italy after, for example, Albania destined as the first hypothesis to host aggressive chemicals, gave up under the pressure of the population. An Italian decision whose reasons have not been explained. Perhaps yet another act of subjection of our Government to the international context.