Now that I can sorta breathe again, I’m recapitulating this post because I think it’s perhaps taken on new relevance.
Iran’s current FM Javad Zarif co-authored an article about Iran’s experience with the CWC which was published in the 1999-2000 issue of the Iranian Journal of International Affairs. At the time, I said that I didn’t know what Zarif was doing and I can’t say I anticipated that he’d be in his current line of work.
Anyway, these authors argued that Iran gave up its chemical weapons program partly because “Iranian religious leadership found it very difficult to condone the use of these weapons, even as reprisal.”This strikes me as important because Iranian officials, were, well before the recent controversy broke out over Iran’s nuclear program, referencing Islamic prohibitions against the use of unconventional weapons. Perhaps this bolsters the credibility of Iran’s fatwa regarding nuclear weapons.
It’s also worth noting that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini “issued a fatwa (religious edict) during the Iran-Iraq war prohibiting the production and use of chemical weapons in retaliation against Saddam Hussein’s forces.”
Whether Iran ever actually developed chemical weapons is not entirely clear to me, although there are certainly reports to that effect. Iran “got the chemical capabilities,” late during the Iran-Iraq war, according to this 2003 statement.
As I noted the other day, OPCW DG Uzumcu stated that inspectors implementing the CW destruction mission in Syria can reach the relevant sites if opposition forces cooperate and temporary cease-fire agreements are in place.
Well, Uzumcu told the BBC the other day that, although the Syrian government has been cooperative, opposition forces have not. That, I should note, is the BBC’s paraphrase…I couldn’t find a transcript of the interview. He is quoted as saying that the sites
change hands from one day to another, which is why we appeal to all sides in Syria to support this mission, to be co-operative and not render this mission more difficult. It’s already challenging.
The piece also adds one fact of which I was unaware:
He added that one abandoned site was located in a rebel-held area, and that his team was hoping to access it.
I missed this. A couple of days ago, the Post reported that, according to OPCW Director General Uzumcu, all of Syria’s CW sites are not fully in the government’s control. That’s a bit different from what the US was saying before.
Uzumcu added that inspectors can reach the relevant sites if opposition forces cooperate and temporary cease-fire agreements are in place. As I noted before, the OPCW reached an arrangement with Syrian opposition fighters back in August; one imagines that the OPCW is trying to do the same thing now.
Wasn’t on my radar, I have to say. The Nobel Committee’s announcement is here; the OPCW statement is on their front page. I was going to point out that the Nobel committee has previously recognized efforts to control weapons, but they beat me to it:
Disarmament figures prominently in Alfred Nobel’s will. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has through numerous prizes underlined the need to do away with nuclear weapons. By means of the present award to the OPCW, the Committee is seeking to contribute to the elimination of chemical weapons.
Here’s the full text of Nobel’s will. The relevant part reads:
The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts…one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.
Thought this might be of interest. According to the OPCW’s page on CW destruction,
Member countries cannot destroy chemical weapons in any way that they like. First of all, the principles and methods for the destruction of chemical weapons have to strictly follow the obligations of the Treaty: para. 12 of Part 4 A of the Verification Annex. On the second hand, the Convention stipulates that the destruction process cannot harm people or the environment.
Now, here are the most relevant portions of the Verification Annex…
Principles and methods for destruction of chemical weapons
12. “Destruction of chemical weapons” means a process by which chemicals are converted in an essentially irreversible way to a form unsuitable for production of chemical weapons, and which in an irreversible manner renders munitions and other devices unusable as such.
13. Each State Party shall determine how it shall destroy chemical weapons, except that the following processes may not be used: dumping in any body of water, land burial or open pit burning. It shall destroy chemical weapons only at specifically designated and appropriately designed and equipped facilities.
14. Each State Party shall ensure that its chemical weapons destruction facilities are constructed and operated in a manner to ensure the destruction of the chemical weapons; and that the destruction process can be verified under the provisions of this Convention.
One interesting feature of UNSCR 2118 is Paragraph 10, which authorizes governments
to acquire, control, transport, transfer and destroy chemical weapons identified by the Director-General of the OPCW, consistent with the objective of the Chemical Weapons Convention, to ensure the elimination of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme in the soonest and safest manner;
Presumably, this provision is to facilitate the CW destruction mission, despite the prohibitions contained in Article I of the CWC:
Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never under any circumstances:
To develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone;
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d like to know the contents of Syria’s declaration to the OPCW. According to the OPCW EC decision, Syria submitted
names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.
The EC decision calls on Syria to “supplement” its previous declaration with the following information:
the chemical name and military designator of each chemical in its
chemical weapons stockpile, including precursors and toxins, and
the specific type of munitions, sub-munitions and devices in its
chemical weapons stockpile, including specific quantities of each type
that are filled and unfilled; and
the location of all of its chemical weapons, chemical weapons storage
facilities, chemical weapons production facilities, including mixing
and filling facilities, and chemical weapons research and development
facilities, providing specific geographic coordinates;
I’ve wondered which Syrian delivery vehicles Damascus considers as part of its chemical weapons arsenal, since the government seems to have assigned many of them dual roles. Here’s the applicable part of the CWC definition of chemical weapons:
(b) Munitions and devices, specifically designed to cause death or other harm through the toxic properties of those toxic chemicals specified in subparagraph (a), which would be released as a result of the employment of such munitions and devices.
Not sure that helps sort it out, at least for me. According to the OPCW, Syria has provided the additional information. It’ll be interesting to see what gets made public.
Very late to the party with the report, but I thought I’d do some housekeeping.
One aspect that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere (though I can’t say I’ve looked wicked hard) is the investigators’ security arrangements with Syrian opposition fighters. That may indicate something about possibilities for the destruction operation that’s about to commence.
Needless to say, the fact that the investigators kept working after coming under fire says a lot about them.
Someone recently pointed out to me that Charles Duelfer, of Iraq Survey Group and UNSCOM fame, has a blog.
Here is the UNSCR text.
The OPCW decision is here.