Sunday, September 14, 2014

Syria Has Circumvented Its Deal to Give up Its Chemical Weapons

Syria’s Assad dictatorship circumvented its deal to turn over for destruction its acknowledged stockpile of chemical weapons and their chemical precursors, as well as its promise not to use chemical weapons.  Syrian Baathist regime forces reportedly dropped chlorine on rebel-held towns earlier this year, according to a global chemical weapons watchdog. 

The report validates allegations by a human rights organization I had posted about in May in my post, Syrian Civil War Update: The Assad Regime Used Chemical Weapons Again:  Chlorine, a deadly poison gas, is not classed under international standards as a weapon of mass destruction.  The lethal weapon was first used by the Germans in the First World War.

Syria made a deal to turn over its chemical weapons and chemical precursor stockpiles in order to avoid American-led airstrikes, in a deal brokered by its ally, Russia.  The Assad regime thus avoided punishment for having used its chemical weapons against civilian targets.  It is not surprising that Syria made the deal, now that it is apparent the dictatorial regime could circumvent the deal by using chlorine, in addition to its continued indiscriminate shelling with conventional weapons of civilian areas.    

I shall take this opportunity to note the significance of the removal not only of Syria’s acknowledged chemical weapons arsenal, but also their chemical precursors.  Not only were weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq after its liberation from the Baathist regime in 2003, in the form of hundreds of artillery shells filled with lethal chemicals in their warheads, but also their chemical precursors in the form of mustard gas, sarin and VX, which are nerve gasses and blister agents.  The point is that even absent chemical weapons, both Iraq and Syria’s stockpile of chemical precursors were dangerous, as they could have relatively easily been weaponized by filling warheads with them.  In addition to chemical weapons of mass destruction and precursors, the Iraqi Baathist regime under Saddam Hussein also possessed missiles of a longer range than permitted under United Nations resolutions.  Regardless, Syria’s use of chlorine underscores that there are many dangers beyond WMDs from terrorist-sponsoring states that commit crimes against humanity.  

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