As rebels in Libya begin to take control of the country, the United States is concerned about the stockpile of weapons and mustard gas remaining in the region. Who will control the Libyan government's weapons?
From mustard gas to nuclear chemicals to shoulder-fired rockets, the weapons available in Libya will become a hot topic once the rebels fully oust the pro-Gaddafi regime. The transition to democracy could be bumpy, but Sen. John McCain said recently America's "highest priority" must be securing "the arms depots so that the weapons don't spread and fall into the wrong hands," the Atlantic Monthly writes.
The U.S. is worried small arms munitions could be smuggled out of Libya and the intense conflict "has left much of the country's ammunition storage areas unsecured and open to looting," the Atlantic reports. In May, the Obama administration promised to provide $1.5 million to collect and protect weapons found in Libya.
"Terrorist groups are exploiting this opportunity, and the situation grows more dangerous with each passing day, a situation that directly impacts U.S. national security," a report from the Congressional Research Service reported [PDF].
The U.S. is particularly concerned about 25,000 pounds of mustard gas remaining in Libya. Stored in corroding drums, this mustard gas can cause severe blistering and death, and experts are unclear about the security of containing the gas. United Nations inspectors are expected to survey the site once the fighting has eased.
It's also predicted that a cache of hundreds of tons of raw uranium yellowcake is stored at a small nuclear facility east of the capital, the AP writes.
AP adds, "State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday the United States is working to ensure that 'the governing forces in Libya have full command and control of any WMD or any security assets that the state might have had.'"