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Over Easy: Why Albania?

When the United States decided against a military strike on Assad’s forces in Syria and settled instead for an agreement to disarm Assad of his chemical weapons, a new problem arose. Where were the Syrian chemical weapons to be taken for destruction? Last week we learned that the United States asked Albania to accept and dismantle Assad’s chemical arsenal.

You may think, as I did, that Albania is a very strange choice. True, Albania just last month completed the long process of integrating into NATO, and it is very interesting that Albania recently set up a nifty military training facility to serve “high-level military, police and civilian officials from Southeast Europe, the Black Sea region, Turkey and Italy”.

Still, why would he United States want to deposit dangerous chemical weapons in a corrupt, famously crime ridden, and poor corner of the of the Balkan tinderbox? In fact, Albania’s massive arsenal of weapons that were destroyed per US request after the cold war still threaten the health and safety of the population today.

Waste from its own stockpiles of chemical weapons, which were also destroyed with Washington’s help, is still sitting in a poorly guarded facility and posing an environmental threat.

Albanian ruling coalition junior partner leader Iler Meta has indicated that the small country does not have the ability to destroy Assad’s weapons and “should not bear a burden larger than its shoulders.” Further, some analysts theorized,

… there was no reason for the international community to handpick such a small and impoverished country as the final destination of Assad’s weapons of mass destruction, when other NATO states have far more sophisticated disarmament technology.

Instead, analysts have suggested that Albania’s compliant government and an apathetic population would pose little opposition to the US plan.

Urban legend has it that Albania’s corrupt political class lives in constant fear that one day it might become the target of Western law enforcement agencies.

To avert those unwanted probes, Albanian politicians are happy to play ball with anything that the West, and especially the United States, throws its way.

What gives credo to such beliefs is the fact that Tirana has accepted more former Guantanamo prisoners who could not be repatriated to their home states than any other country. Only recently it agreed to take in 210 members of the Iranian resistance group, Mujahidin-e-Khalq, based on yet another US request.

Hosting the Iranian mujahedin and the former Guantanamo prisoners on humanitarian grounds provoked little resistance from the general public.

However, in this instance, analysts proved wrong. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama–leader of a fragile governing coalition–announced last Friday amid public anger and demonstrations that Albania would not accept Assad’s weapons on its soil.

So, what drove the US to try shipping the weapons in Albania? Stay tuned for Part II next week. This is one. deep. rabbit hole.

As always, off topic is on topic here at Over Easy. Lurkers are invited to delurk. Today is TPP Tuesday, so tweet about it, tell your neighbors, or join an anti-TPP event. See you in the comments around 7:30 a.m. PST.

Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

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