The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced that 26% of Syrian chemical weapons have been removed including mustard gas, and set a new deadline of end of April 2014.
The OPCW announced yesterday that 26% of the Syrian chemical weapon (CW) stockpile has left Syria, nearly 3 months behind schedule, and that the remaining 74% ‘will’ be out in the next 4-6 weeks according to the regime. There will then be a 3-4 month timeframe to destroy these chemicals on the MV Cape Ray and at commercial facilities around the globe. This announcement comes despite the knowledge that there are two CW sites that are currently unreachable by Syrian regime forces. Is this more evidence of the Syrian regime ‘stringing along’ the international community to mask atrocities elsewhere? Or has the regime now genuinely decided to comply with UN and OPCW pressure to honor the UN resolution of 2013 (enshrined in the Chemical Weapons Convention) to destroy their chemical weapons capability? We don’t yet know–yet the Syrian government’s intent may not matter, as long as measurable progress continues. (This is all assuming, of course, that the regime has actually declared all their chemical and biological weapons and that there has been no proliferation.)
So has the OPCW achieved what appeared to be impossible and prevented further use of chemical weapons in Syria? Again, nothing is certain. But all facilities for making and mixing chemical weapons have been verified destroyed, and 30 tonnes of mustard agent–the only declared mixed chemical weapon in the stockpile–is now out of Syria. In addition, 100 tonnes of precursor Isopropanol has been destroyed in Syria, by the Syrian regime. In warfare, 100% solutions are very, very rare and those who strive for perfection in this most imperfect environment [warfare] generally fail. 80% is usually good enough–and we have an 80% solution now. The focus should now be on getting aid in rather than industrial chemicals out– and direct some of the $100m plus funds aimed at chemical removal and destruction to the starving and ailing Syrian civilian population. The other priority needs to be preventing chemical and biological weapons proliferation in the region and globally. Taking aim now at the reversing the human devastation and preventing proliferation rightly targets two of the greatest crimes of this desperate conflict so far.