Below the headlines: CBW matters (6)

(A weekly digest from the internet on chemical and biological warfare issues. Emphasis is on incidents and perspectives, but inclusion of an item does not equal endorsement or agreement with the contents. This issue covers items collected between 20 – 26 March 2017.)

CBW disarmament

  • Poroshenko replaces Ukrainian ambassador to the Netherlands (Interfax, 18 March 2017): Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has dismissed Oleksandr Horin from the post of Ukrainian Ambassador to the Netherlands and the post of permanent representative of Ukraine in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
  • King to attend OPCW’s 20th anniversary commemoration in The Hague (Royal House, 23 March 2017): On Wednesday 26 April, His Majesty the King will attend a commemorative ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the founding of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), at the Hall of Knights in The Hague.
  • His Majesty the King of the Netherlands and High Dignitaries to Attend OPCW 20th Anniversary Commemoration (OPCW, 24 March 2017): The Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, is honoured to announce the attendance of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands at the Commemorative Ceremony marking the 20th Anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the founding of the OPCW on Wednesday 26 April at the Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) in The Hague.
  • Russia Presents Draft UN Resolution against Chemical Weapon Use by Terrorists (Almanar, 25 March 2017): Russia has once again introduced a draft resolution on the fight against the use of chemical weapons by terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vladimir Safronkov told journalists.
  • Russia, China suggest for UN SC to adopt resolution on chemical terrorism threat (Tass, 25 March 2017): Russia and China have reiterated their suggestion that the United Nations Security Council adopt a resolution aimed at preventing poisonous substances from falling into the hands of terrorists active in Syria and Iraq. Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Vladimir Safronkov told reporters that a draft resolution had been put forward at a close-door meeting initiated by Moscow.

CBW armament

Chemical warfare in Iraq

  • Suspected Mosul Mustard Gas Victims Recovering; Foul Smells Remain (Heather Murdock, 24 March 2017): Shortly after the attack early this month, local officials said the Hamad home and at least four other civilian houses in eastern Mosul were bombed by Islamic State militants with weapons containing homemade chemical poisons. International Committee of the Red Cross doctors said patients’ symptoms indicated mustard gas. Some Iraqi officials later said that they had not seen evidence IS has the capacity to deploy chemical weapons. Others in Mosul qualified that statement, saying IS has only the capacity to use crude homemade chemical weapons that emit non-deadly poisons.

Chemical warfare in Syria

  • Victims of Syria chemical attacks seek justice (Anadolu Agency, 14 March 2017): Civilians from Syria’s northern city of Aleppo have called for bringing Bashar al-Assad to justice for using chemical weapons against opponents in the war-torn country. Last month, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Assad regime had carried out “coordinated chemical attacks” in opposition-held parts of Aleppo between November 17 and December 13, 2016. Anadolu Agency spoke to witnesses who contributed to the HRW’s report.
  • How chlorine gas became a weapon in Syria’s civil war (Dorian Geiger, 20 March 2017): Chemical weapons have been a recurring footnote in the bloody narrative of Syria’s civil war, which has robbed hundreds of thousands of lives, and displaced roughly 11 million more. But amid this troubling saga of chemical weapons use in Syria, it has been sarin nerve gas, and to a lesser extent mustard gas, that have punctuated this ongoing storyline.Following the 1,300 tonnes of sarin nerve gas and its precursors being removed from Syria, chemical attacks persist there nearly four years later, but most notably in the form of chlorine, which has emerged as the most heavily used chemical weapon in the war.
  • Use of chemical weapons in Syria: EU imposes sanctions against 4 high-ranking military officials (Council of the EU, 20 March 2017): On 20 March 2017, the Council added 4 high-ranking military officials to the list of those targeted by EU restrictive measures against the Syrian regime. The EU added these 4 persons for their role in the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population, in line with the EU’s policy to  fight the proliferation and use of chemical weapons.
  • Jared Kushner Struck Out in His First Foray Into Middle East Diplomacy (Colum Lynch, 21 March 2017): Trump’s son-in-law succeeded in coaxing the U.K., America’s closest ally, into thwarting the Obama administration. Obama administration officials viewed the Trump administration’s efforts to block the settlements resolution as a flagrant breach of diplomatic protocol and a violation of the tradition of having one president at a time. American officials in New York and Washington soon began to notice that Britain was becoming an obstacle on other fronts, delaying action on a U.S.-backed resolution threatening sanctions against Syria for using chemical weapons.
  • Holding Bashar al-Assad Accountable for Chemical Weapons Use in Syria (Natasha Lander, 21 March 2017): Efforts to hold the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accountable for persistent chemical weapons use were dealt another major blow recently when the UN Security Council failed to pass a resolution punishing Syrian officials for their roles in chlorine attacks in 2014 and 2015. Absent UN action, the United States and its allies have only the findings of a joint Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN investigation to sustain the drumbeat for punishing Syria.
  • Breaking: Syrian Doctor Killed By Chemical Weapon While Operating On Patient (Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, 25 March 2017): A doctor was killed today by a chemical agent while operating on a patient. A barrel bomb with a chemical agent hit the front entrance of the Latamneh Hospital in Hama and entered causing severe respiratory and neurological injuries to many staff members.

Other allegations of CBW use

  • For this Russian dissident, holding Putin accountable was almost deadly — twice (Jackson Diehl, 19 March 2017):  Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza felt a horrific and all-too-familiar sensation: His organs were beginning to shut down. He concluded immediately that he had been poisoned, just as he had been once before, in May 2015. His family rushed him to a hospital, where a doctor who helped save his life in the previous instance was waiting. Within hours he was in a coma, where he remained for a week.
  • Sudan’s New Post in Chemical Weapons Organization Draws Criticism (Jill Craig, 24 March 2017): Sudan has been elected to the deputy chairmanship of the executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The move concerns some analysts, who point to a September report released by Amnesty International that accuses Sudan’s government of using chemical weapons against people in Darfur’s Jebel Marra region from January to August 2016. The report alleged that as many as 250 people, including children, might have died as a result of chemical attacks, and hundreds more were injured.

Riot control agents

Other poison incidents

History

  • Lessons From the Deadliest Chemical War (That Never Happenned) (Paul Iddon, 25 March 2017): Since the end of World War I, the only substantial chemical attacks in warfare have occurred in East Asia and the Middle East. Japan poisoned Chinese troops with gas in the 1930s. Egypt dumped poison gas on Yemen in the 1960s, and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein killed thousands with chemical weapons in the 1980s. Most recently, chemical attacks have occurred in Syriaand Iraq. But how is it that chemical weapons were rarely used during World War II in Europe, when both Nazi Germany and the United Kingdom possessed vast stockpiles of these weapons of mass destruction?

Commemoration

Preparedness

  • House, Senate committees approve agroterrorism bill (Homeland Security News, 19 March 2017): The U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee and U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act, clearing a key hurdle for the bill’s consideration by the full House and Senate. The Securing our Agriculture and Food Act requires the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), through the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, to lead the government’s efforts to secure the U.S. food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and high-risk events.
  • Russian Scientists Create Powerful Antidote For the Most Deadly Chemical Weapons (Sputnik News, 21 March 2017): Chemists from Moscow State University created nanoparticles capable of neutralizing the most powerful types of chemical weapons, such as the VX gas and others similar highly toxic pesticides.
  • Singapore develops quick diagnostic tools to deal with chemical attacks (Lee Li Ying, 21 March 2017):  Defence research organisation DSO National Laboratories has developed a tool that uses weather data to inform decisions to move the public away from toxic plumes, and a rapid diagnostic kit that can ease the load on hospitals in the event of an attack.
  • Chemical weapons trapped the swell way (Hugh Cowley, 21 March 2017): UK researchers have shown that polymers can absorb chemical warfare agents.
  • “Lab on a glove” could help hunt for deadly nerve agents (Michael Franco, 22 March 2017): A new rubber glove developed by the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and CSIRO Manufacturing in Australia could not only help first-responders detect dangerous nerve agents like sarin and VX, but it could also help ensure a safe food supply.
  • The Real Threat to National Security: Deadly Disease (Michael T. Osterholm And Mark Olshaker, 24 March 2017): While the Trump administration is proposing significantly increased military spending to enhance our national security, it seems to have lost sight of the greatest national security threat of all: our fight against infectious disease.

Industry news

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About JP Zanders

Jean Pascal Zanders (Belgium) has worked on questions of chemical and biological weapon (CBW) armament and disarmament since 1986. He was CBW Project Leader at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Director of the BioWeapons Prevention Project and Senior Research Fellow responsible for disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation questions at the European Union Institute for Security Studies. He now owns and runs The Trench.