Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Going, Going, Gone?
By: Sharon Squassoni
Syria may be one of the few success stories in recent memory for international disarmament of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Under foreign pressure for having used chemical weapons (CW) in its own war-torn country in August, the Syrian government managed in a few short months to: (a) agree to eliminate its weapons and production capacity; (b) accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention; (c) make an initial declaration; (d) destroy production capacity; and (e) begin to destroy some weapons (154). By the end of November, the United Nations plans to identify locations outside of Syria for destroying chemical weapons, agents, and precursors with the aim of completing destruction by mid-2014.
But the story is not over. Even as UN inspectors braved the fog and fire of war to catalogue inventories at more than 20 sites, rumors circulated that elite Syrian military forces had moved chemical weapons, that guards on the Turkish border interdicted chemical agents, and that CW had been transferred to Hezbollah groups. Certainly, verification is tough in areas under siege, possibly tempting the Assad regime to conclude that a few dozen munitions would not be missed. Russia will need to continue its tough-love approach with Syria and the Nobel-prize- winning Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will need steady vigilance and even bravery to maintain pressure on the Syrian regime. Finally, governments around the world need to fund this effort so that the OPCW can do its work without distraction.