Making Sense of the Syrian Chemical Weapons and Resolution 2118

The following is a guest post by Environmental Security & Sustainability intern Chloe Pasco:

The myriad of media reports concerning the Syrian chemical weapon crisis has been frenzied and, at often times, difficult to comprehend.  During my time with Global Green USA, I have been working on a report in which I endeavor to break down the more important aspects of the Syrian crisis.

When I first began my internship with the Security & Sustainability Program in Washington, D.C. in early September, I was told that I would be in charge of developing, researching, and writing a report on a topic of my choosing.  My start date unexpectedly coincided with the same day Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov proposed to have Syria place its chemical weapons under international control in order to avoid a U.S. military strike.  This proposal, which came to be known as Resolution 2118, was sure to be both remarkable and controversial.  Taking advantage of timing, I chose to devote my time to investigating this captivating issue.

In my report, I attempt to make sense of the Syrian disarmament plan by explaining the history of both chemical weapons, Syrian civil war, and timeline of Syrian chemical weapons use over the past few months.  I go on to examine the August 21st chemical strikes on Ghouta, the international response to the horrendous attack, and the ensuing resolution. I delve into the situation further by evaluating the underlying interests of critical actors invested in Resolution 2118: the United States, the Russian Federation, and Syria itself.  I also assess the challenges that the disarmament process will inevitably face and how they may obstruct the resolution’s mid-2014 destruction deadline.

Thus far, I have found that the key players necessary for disarmament in Syria have been compliant and successful in carrying out the resolution’s plan.  It remains to be seen, however, just how long this compliance will last.  While the U.S. and Russia are motivated to complete the mission by mid-2014, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does not share the same motives.  He may find it in his best interest to delay the process and subsequently prolong his immunity from a strike under the deal.  There are also several challenges that will inevitably effect the completion of Syrian disarmament.  For instance, the security of investigators, cooperation of all parties involved, and logistical and financial issues will all play a part in the outcome of the resolution. Taking these factors into account, it is unlikely that the mid-2014 destruction deadline laid out by the resolution will be met. However, despite this, investigators will likely still be effective in consolidating and securing chemical weapons facilities and subsequently safeguarding any future chemical warfare in the region.

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