Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction: Update 37

This past week began with an address by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem before a plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday, September 29th. Moualem reiterated Syria’s commitment to full implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined just one year ago. He claimed that the question was not of Syrian compliance but “whether those who are supplying the terrorists with this, and other types of weapons, will stop their actions and abide by international law”.

Despite this bold statement, allegations from Israeli intelligence agencies surfaced just two days later on Wednesday, October 1st, claiming that “Assad’s regime continues to maintain ‘residual’ chemical weapons capacity, amounting to perhaps a few tons”. Nonetheless a senior official of the Israeli Defense Ministry commended the international effort to remove Syrian chemical weapons, referring to it as a “non-negligible achievement carried out without the use of force”. The US intelligence community has yet to dispute these allegations.

On Thursday, October 2nd, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement congratulating the work of the UN-OPCW Joint Mission as it has now come to an end. He stated that the “Joint Mission has successfully conducted its work over the past twelve months under extremely challenging and complex circumstances.” He concluded with by stressing “the need for a world free of chemical weapons” calling upon all six states who haven’t already done so, to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

However, as the UN-OPCW Joint Mission begins its withdrawal from Syria the destruction of chemical production facilities is set to commence. The OPCW reported that all 12 facilities should be destroyed by the end of November. However, concerns linger surrounding whether or not Syria has declared all of its chemical weapons, and chemical weapons production facilities. This has become increasingly salient as ISIS continues to seize large parts of Syria: chemical weapons in the hands of terrorists needs be avoided at all costs.