Monthly Archives: November 2013

Allegations of CW use in Syria revisited

Since acceding the the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) last month, Syria has submitted detailed declarations about its chemical weapon (CW) holdings and activities. While confidential, details of the composition of the CW arsenal have emerged from documents published by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In particular, the publication of a request for expression of interest (EOI) by the commercial industry to dispose of certain toxic materials or their effluents has shed some light on Syria’s declarations. read more

Not so dead lines

If ever you had the impression that things had calmed down over the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons (CW), you may be in for a bad surprise. The already frenzied pace of developments has just picked up again.

On 15 November the OPCW decided on the timelines for the destruction and removal of Syria’s chemical weapon (CW) capacity. In parallel developments, countries that had been hoped to host the destruction operations kindly thanked the United States for the honour and politely refused. It basically left the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)—aka the global community—with very few options: destruction operations inside Syria or move them to the sole space on this planet not controlled by a government, a risk-adverse parliament or a NIMBY civil society, namely the high seas. In practice, it looks increasingly probable that the United States will take charge of out-of-Syria destruction operations using off-shore facilities (ships or platform). read more

Syria’s declared precursor chemicals

Nitrogen mustard
Triethylamine 30 tonnes
Monoisopropylamine 40 tonnes
Mustard agents (general)
2-chloroethanol 5 tonnes
V-agents
Di-isopropyl aminoethanol 5 tonnes
Sodium-o-ethyl methyl phosphonothionate 130 tonnes
N (2-chloroethyl)-N-isopropyl propan 2 amine (salt) 40 tonnes
N (2-chloroethyl)-N-isopropyl propan 2 amine (solution 23-64%) 90 tonnes
N (2-chloroethyl)-N-ethyl propan 2 amine (solution 23-64%) 25 tonnes
Sarin
Propan-2-ol (= Isopropyl alcohol or isopropanol) 120 tonnes
Hydrogen fluoride (used in the production of DF, a sarin precursor) 60 tonnes
Hexamine 80 tonnes
Nerve agents (general)
Trimethyl phosphite 60 tonnes
Dimethyl phosphite 5 tonnes
Phosphorus pentasulfide 10 tonnes
Phosphorus trichloride 30 tonnes
Phosphorus oxychloride 15 tonnes
Other chemicals
Butan-1-ol (alcohol) 5 tonnes
Methanol (alcohol) 3 tonnes
Hydrogen chloride (common chemical, but also early WW1 warfare agent) 45 tonnes

Detailed calendar for the elimination of Syria’s CW

2 December 2013 The Director-General is to report to the Executive Council on progress with the implementation of the decision of 15 November.
9 December 2013 The Technical Secretariat of the OPCW is to submit for consideration by the Executive Council the combined plans for the destruction and verification of the destruction of each declared Syrian CW production facility.
15 December 2013 Facilities with mobile units/systems designed for mixing and filling, and mixing and filling facilities where the specialised equipment is not yet dismantled, collocated with storage sites for binary components and/or empty munitions.
17 December 2013 Consideration by the EC of destruction plans for the chemicals moved outside Syria.
31 December 2013 Removal from Syrian territory of Priority 1 CW (mustard agent and key binary components, identified as DF, A, B, and BB, including BB salt, as declared by Syria).
1 January 2014 Latest date for Syria to submit its plans for the destruction on its territory of isopropanol and residual mustard agent in containers previously containing mustard agent.
15 January 2014 Destruction of facilities with disconnected or intact (not yet dismantled) equipment train/lines for the production of chemical agent or binary components.EC to review Syrian destruction plans submitted by 1 January.
31 January 2014 Destruction of unfilled chemical munitions on Syrian territory.
5 February 2014 Removal from Syrian territory of all declared chemicals, other than the ones that need to be removed before 31 December and isopropanol.
15 February 2014 Facilities with dismantled equipment for production and dismantled equipment for mixing and filling.
1 March 2014 Finalisation of destruction of isopropanol and residual mustard agent in containers previously containing mustard agent.Latest date for the development of an agreed detailed plan for the verification and draft facility agreement for each destruction facility outside of Syria.Latest date by which the state party hosting destruction operations must provide the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW with detailed information on the destruction facility for verification purposes.
15 March 2014 Facilities for production of other chemicals (e.g., thiodiglycol, acetic acid, etc.); as well as facilities that do not hold specialised or standard equipment.Latest date by which the EC must complete its review of the detailed plan for the verification and draft facility agreement for each destruction facility outside of Syria
31 March 2014 Latest possible start of effective destruction of mustard agent and the key binary chemical weapon components DF, A, B, and BB, including BB salt.
30 June 2014 Ultimate date for completion of destruction of all declared chemicals other than the ones that need to be removed before 31 December and isopropanol.
Unspecified date Destruction of any reaction mass resulting from the effective destruction of mustard agent and the key binary chemical weapon components DF, A, B, and BB, including BB salt. (Such a date may be considered at the EC meeting of 17 December 2013.)