Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction: Update 44

This week reports emerged that the US government will send chemical weapons protection gear to Kurdish and Iraqi forces in Northern Iraq. It is feared that the old stashes of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons that ISIS have procured could be deployed. The stores, estimated to hold 2,500 old nerve-agent-filled rockets, contain mustard, sarin and chlorine gas. Until now it is believed that ISIS has been using chemical weapons on a small scale, the first confirmed attack having occurred in mid-September. Recently Peshmerga fighters in Iraq have reported blisters and vomiting: “tell-tale signs of chlorine gas exposure.”

In an interview published on Wednesday, November 26, Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the OPCW, surmised that by 2023 the world would be able to achieve a global zero on chemical weapons. This is the year by which the United States will complete its own destruction of its chemical weapons. Given this 8-9 year time frame, Üzümcü hopes that all countries will have joined the Convention and have destroyed their declared chemical weapons by then. And in light of the success of the Syrian chemical weapons destruction this past year, Üzümcü has high hopes for the future of chemical weapons destruction and eventual elimination.

The OPCW has reported that 85% of the world’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles has now been destroyed; this amounts to 61,600 metric tons of deadly chemical agents out of an estimated total of 72,524 metric tons. The only declared possessor states left with chemical weapons now are Russia with about 6,400 MTs, the US with about 2,860 MTs, and Iraq with an unknown quantity of old chemical weapons in its two sealed Al Muthanna bunkers. Both Syria and Libya still have small quantities of chemical precursors remaining. Those countries which have completed destruction of declared CW stockpiles are Albania in 2007, South Korea in 2008, and India in 2009; Libya also completed destruction of its CWC Schedule 1 chemical agents in 2014.