Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction: Update 47

While last week was characterized by more accusations that the Syrian government was employing chlorine barrel bombs on ISIS—the reverse is true of this week. Data submitted to the OPCW by the Syrian government allegedly provides grounds to suspect that ISIS too has been using chlorine in its attacks. This fulfils the greatest fears for those countries that have yet to sign the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons—that if chemical weapons are present in a country, they may come into the hands of terrorists.

On Friday, 19 December, Richard Weitz published a policy analysis of the future of the chemical weapons regime through the IFRI Security Studies Centre. The paper makes for a very interesting and worthwhile read. Not only does it analyse past efforts, with a focus on Syria (what went wrong, and what was successful), it also offers problems and solutions that the chemical weapons prohibition regime may encounter in the future. The main criticism focuses on the American-issued “red line”—coercive foreign diplomacy tactics—and how this may not be a conducive policy approach in the future. Moreover, as Weitz argues, Syria represents a case where a nation was not hostile to the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile. Should we be faced with such a case in the future, tactics may have to change dramatically.

The burgeoning issue of chemical weapons entering the hands of terrorist groups—such as ISIS—may also demand a reform in the mandate and operations of the chemical weapons prohibition regime. The report thus succinctly explains, questions, and engages with the recent past and future of the chemical weapons prohibition regime. It provides a relevant and interesting read as the conclusion of Syrian chemical weapons destruction approaches.