The 100 day delay in the removal of Syrian chemical weapons increases the spectre of regional and global CW proliferation
On January 21, 2014, in the Hague, the Syrian Regime produced a new ‘improved’ plan to remove its chemical weapons (CW) and precursors from its territory in a further 100 days. Already 54 days late, this would represent close to a half-year delay in the plan to destroy all Syrian CW. With the expectation that it will take at least another 100 days to destroy these weapons on the MV Cape Ray and at commercial facilities, the end game, at best effort will be hauntingly around August 21, 2014, the first year anniversary of the Ghouta gas attack which killed around 1400 people and precipitated this international effort. The delay is perhaps most significant to the innocent Syrian civilians on the ground, as it promises them another six months of uninterrupted assault by the regime with the international community held at arm’s length while trying to encourage the Syrian regime to comply.
However, if the international community is suffering from Syria fatigue, it should take note that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons capability is now a reality, [James Clapper and Michael Flynn. directors of US National and Defense Intelligence Agencies], and exacerbates each day the Syrian CW stockpile remains in place. Loosely guarded in war-torn Syria, a CW facility was overrun by the opposition only last week, highlighting the prospect of Al-Qaeda and others obtaining useable amounts of chemical and biological weapons to threaten New York, Paris, London, Moscow, etc. The unprepared populations of these Western cities are increasingly at risk, an unintended consequence of pursuing a failing plan for the destruction of Syria’s weapons cache. The international community is not reacting sharply or strategically to the changing circumstances in this most complex conflict, a situation made doubly troubling because in Syria we see signs of the shape of future conflicts that Western and other security forces need to be constructed to deal with. If the Russians, US, UK and the rest go along with the 100 day plan they need to properly prepare their citizens for the impacts of chemical weapons proliferation. And the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) needs to redouble its efforts to ensure this is the last ‘foot dragging’ effort by the regime. Otherwise we will be in the same position in 12 months time with tens of thousands more succumbing to this conflict in–and possibly outside–Syria.