Friday, 13 June 2014 11:39
The Assad Regime & Chemical Weapons
June 13, 2014
- Ghouta: On August 21, 2013, the Assad regime fired rockets filled with Sarin gas on rebel-held Ghouta, rural Damascus killing at least 1400 civilians including women and children.
- Red lines: Western as well as Arab states condemned the attacks and as it was crossing a “red line” drawn earlier by US President Barack Obama, the United States prepared for a "punitive strike” moving its warships in the Mediterranean closer to Syria.
- Strikes: On October 9, 2013, US Foreign Secretary John Kerry made a hint at the possibility of averting the strike if the Assad regime were to hand over its chemical arsenal. Early in September 2013, the United States and Russia reached the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons, which was endorsed later on by the UN Security Council with resolution 2118.
- OPCW: On 15 November, 2013, the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) decides: “for all other declared chemicals: beginning of destruction as soon as possible with completion of destruction not later than 30 June 2014.” The OPCW-UN Joint Mission was formally established on 16 October 2013.
- Missed deadlines: Since then, the Assad regime has been widely accused of dragging its feet having missed a series of deadlines including a deadline to ship the most lethal of chemical components out of Syria by the end of 2013, a February 5 2014 deadline to move all chemicals abroad for destruction, and a deadline to destroy all of its chemical weapons production sites by 15 March 2014.
- 15 poison gas attacks: The Assad regime has used poison gas at least 15 times in recent months. The OPCW announced on Tuesday, April 29, 2014, that it will send a fact-finding mission to investigate the recent use of chlorine gas in Syria.
- Discrepancies: On June 4 2014, Reuters reported the head of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission, Sigrid Kaag, revealed during a briefing to the UN Security Council that there were "discrepancies" in the original declaration of the Assad regime’s stockpile. This declaration suggests Assad might be able to keep chemical materials.
- Chemical warheads: Recently, activists reported that the regime keeps rockets with chemical warhead in a mountainous area west of the central city of Hama.
- Warehouses & bunkers: Falling short of its international obligations, the regime has proposed to seal off seven warehouses and five underground bunkers instead of dismantling them. Having discussed outstanding issues with the Assad regime, experts from the OPCW-UN Joint Mission are supposed to brief the OPCW's executive council on their findings on June 17 in The Hague.
- Missing June 30 deadline: In the eighth and latest letter from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council, dated 23 May 2014 , the UNSG observes: “It is now evident that some activities related to the elimination of the chemical weapons program of the Syrian Arab Republic will continue beyond 30 June 2014.”