Below the headlines: CBW matters (19)

(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 19 – 28 June 2017.)

CBW disarmament

Blue Grass Army Depot one of state’s largest military installations (Kentucky Today, 19 June 2017): Established in 1941, this military installation, covering 14,594 acres, is the state’s third largest. The facility employs over 700 people (60 percent of whom are veterans) and adds $225 million in economic value to Kentucky. Blue Grass Army Depot fulfills a number of critical missions for the U.S. Army and the Department of Defense. Contained within the Blue Grass Army Depot is the Blue Grass Chemical Activity, which ensures the safe and secure storage of the installation’s chemical weapons stockpile. The chemical weapons stockpile is housed in 49 earth covered, concrete igloos on 250 acres within the larger Depot. In 1997 the United States signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, agreeing to eliminate all of its chemical weapons and former production facilities. The key mission of the Blue Grass Chemical Activity section stems from that treaty, namely, the safe storage of the chemical stockpile until demilitarization (safe destruction) is complete. U.S. Department of State Hosts Forum on Reinforcing the Global Norm Against Chemical Weapons (Office of the Spokesperson, 20 June 2017): On June 20, the U.S. Department of State hosted a high-level forum entitled, “The Chemical Weapons Convention 1997-2017: Progress, Challenges, and Reinforcing the Global Norm against Chemical Weapons.” Since its entry into force 20 years ago, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)—with 192 States Parties— has verified the destruction of approximately 95 percent of all declared chemical weapons stockpiles, and thereby made a significant contribution to making our world a safer place. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the CWC’s implementing body, has facilitated the destruction of chemical weapons in Albania, China, Iraq, Libya, Russia, Syria, and the United States – among others. Nonetheless, the international community’s work is far from done, and serious challenges remain. Dugway Under Scrutiny Again Over Handling of Deadly Toxins (Richard Sisk, 22 June 2017): The Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, which figured in a major scandal on the shipment of live anthrax, has come under scrutiny again in the handling and accounting of deadly toxins such as Sarin nerve agent. In a report last week titled “The Army Needs to Improve Controls Over Chemical Surety Materials,” the office of the Defense Department’s Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine found that Dugway officials failed to give immediate notice of an accounting discrepancy that showed a 1.5 milliliter shortage of Sarin. Thousands still to go but 46,000 abandoned Japanese chemical arms destroyed in China to date

read more

Below the headlines: CBW matters (18)

(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 12 – 18 June 2017.)

CBW disarmament

“Sarin chemical agent stockpiles completely eradicated in Russia”: official (Ivan Castro, 12 June 2017): All the stockpiles of sarin chemical agent in Russia have been liquidated, Russian Interfax agency reported citing Colonel General Valery Kapashin, head of the Federal Agency on safe keeping and liquidation of chemical weapons. China, OPCW pledge further cooperation (Xinhua, 12 June 2017): Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi on Monday met with visiting Director-General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Ahmeet Uzumcu, and the two pledged to enhance cooperation. Morocco Elected African Coordinator for Chemical Weapons Prohibition Organization (Ezzoubeir Jabrane, 13 June 2017): The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has elected Morocco to be the coordinator for its African state members, the Moroccan Embassy in the Netherlands announced Monday. Morocco succeeded Kenya in this annual function. Washington: Russian chemical weapons will never threaten U.S. again

read more

Below the headlines: CBW matters (17)

(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 5 – 11 June 2017.)

CBW disarmament

  • Buckley hosts intricate Chemical Weapon Convention Treaty training exercise (Nicholas Rau, 8 June 2017): Over the course of three intense training days, Buckley Air Force Base hosted a unique and carefully planned Chemical Weapon Convention Treaty training exercise to test the response of Air Force Major Command Base Assistance Teams in preparation of any possible international challenge inspection.

CW use

  • NYT’s New Syria-Sarin Report Challenged (Robert Parry, 7 June 2017): Special Report: An MIT national security scientist says the New York Times pushed a “fraudulent” analysis of last April’s “sarin” incident in Syria, part of a troubling pattern of “groupthink” and “confirmation bias.”  For U.S. mainstream journalists and government analysts, their erroneous “groupthinks” often have a shady accomplice called “confirmation bias,” that is, the expectation that some “enemy” must be guilty and thus the tendency to twist any fact in that direction. It doesn’t even seem to matter how well-credentialed the skeptic is or how obvious the failings of the mainstream analysis are. So, you even have weapons experts, such as Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who are ignored when their judgments conflict with the conventional wisdom.
  • Agency: IS target civilians with chemical weapons in Mosul’s Zanjili (Mohamed Mostafa, 7 June 2017): Islamic State militants used chemical weapons in their current battles with Iraqi forces around western Mosul’s Old City, their last stronghold in the region, causing civilian injuries, a news report said Wednesday.

Other CBW-related incidents

U.S.-led forces appear to be using white phosphorus in populated areas in Iraq and Syria

read more

Below the headlines: CBW matters (16)

(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 29 May – 4 June 2017.)

CBW disarmament

OPCW team inspects Roxy Paints factory (BSS, 28 May 2017): A two-member inspection team of Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has visited the Roxy Paints Limited, 1st Unit at Hazaribag in the capital [of Bangladesh] and inspected the factory. Russia Destroys Nearly 99% of Chemical Weapon Stockpile Under CWC – Official (Sputnik, 30 May 2017): The head of the Russian Ministry of Industry’s Department of Conventional Obligations Realization and Trade said that Russia has destroyed nearly 99 percent of its chemical weapon stockpile over the past 20 years. Asian States Parties Pledge Closer Cooperation at Regional Meeting in Dubai=&0=&

Below the headlines: CBW matters (15)

(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 22 – 28 May 2017.)

CBW disarmament

Chemical weapons storage passes treaty inspection (The Register, 21 May 2017): Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons visited the Blue Grass Chemical Activity at Blue Grass Army Depot, May 12-17, to perform a systematic stockpile verification inspection, an annual process that has been taking place for 20 years. The inspection team assured accountability of every chemical weapon declared to be in storage at the depot as part of the U.S. compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, according to a Friday news release from BGCA. No chemical warfare training material found on ex-base (Dave Hinton, 23 May 2017): No evidence of formal chemical warfare training was found during an extensive investigation of a site on the former Chanute Air Force Base. Paul Carroll, base alignment and closure coordinator for the former base, told members of the Chanute Restoration Advisory Board at its semi-annual meeting last week that during a recent search period, 100 metallic items — or “anomalies” —  were found, but all but one were “likely related to construction debris.” Liu Lihua Meets with Director General of the OPCW (Top-News, 24 May 2017): On May 18, 2017, the Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology, Liu Lihua, held talks with the Director General of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in Ahmed Yusum, held in The Hague, the Netherlands, on the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. To Safely Dispose Of Chemical Weapons, The U.S. Army Has Developed Some Next-Level Tools

read more

Below the headlines: CBW matters (14)

(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 15 – 21 May 2017.)

CBW disarmament

Letter dated 5 May 2017 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council: Status of the implementation of the plan for the destruction of Libya’s remaining category 2 chemical weapons outside the territory of Libya (S/2017/401). OPCW’s 15th regional meeting of national authorities kicks off in Dubai (Press release, 16 May 2017): Dr. Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and President of the Committee for Goods and Materials Subject to Import and Export Control, on Tuesday launched the 15th Regional Meeting of National Authorities of States Parties in Asia, in Dubai The meeting has been organised by the Executive Office of the Committee for Goods and Materials Subject to Import and Export Control, in partnership with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OPCW, and will run until 18th May with 35 participants from 30 countries. Avignon Capital acquires OPCW headquarters in The Hague for €38m (Property Magazine, 17 May 2017): Avignon Capital has acquired a purpose-built property in The Hague, let to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), for €38m. The property is located in the International Peace and Justice District of The Hague, home to numerous UN or UN-related organisations. It comprises 16,734 sqm of leasable floor area divided over basement, ground floor and seven upper floors, having been built-to-suit in 1998. Deputy Minister Liu, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of China visits the OPCW

read more

Below the headlines: CBW matters (13)

(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 8 – 14 May 2017.)

Chemical warfare in Syria

Who to believe about Syria? (Tim Hayward, 18 April 2017): I’m no expert about Syria, so why these blogposts? The initial stimulus was realising that people of good will and similar ethics can have some markedly contrasting views of the situation in Syria.  This was a puzzle to me. And given the gravity of what’s at stake, I felt an obligation to try and solve it. The basic disagreement could not be explained by familiar sorts of political bias. It cuts across left-right and authoritarian-libertarian lines; a person’s stance on it can not even be predicted by their stance, say, on Palestine, or Cuba.  Attitudes to Russia can be a better indicator, but if my own case is anything to go by, this has nothing particularly to do with political views and is anyway an effect rather than a cause. What Putin says about Syria tends to resonate with what I’ve come to think; I have never thought that any statement was true because Putin made it. I also just don’t think it very intellectually mature or responsible to suppose that something is false because he says it! Chomsky and the Syria revisionists: Regime whitewashing (Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, 5 May 2017): Chomsky cites Postol because he is a man with credentials, giving conspiracy theories a veneer of scientific plausibility. Chomsky and the Syria revisionists: The Left’s moral cul-de-sac (Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, 5 May 2017): The paradox of Chomskyian contrarianism is that because it is a bundle of reflexes whose primary stimulus is domestic politics, it sees retreat from principle as less problematic than a lapse in adversarial posturing. Chomsky is not the worst offender on the Left; indeed, until August 2013, he even sounded sympathetic to the Syrian uprising. It was the massacre of over 1,400 people in a horrific sarin attack in August 2013 that ironically marked the deterioration in Chomsky’s position. Regional action needed to prevent Syrian chemical attacks (Daniel M. Gerstein, 7 May 2017): Last month the world watched in horror as innocent Syrian civilians were brutally attacked by chemical weapons. France recently joined the United States, Britain, Turkey and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in assigning blame for the April 5 attack to the Syrian government and President Bashar Assad. In a sense, the French announcement comes as no surprise given the incontrovertible evidence uncovered by the other investigations. The chemical used was sarin — a powerful nerve agent. The chemical formulas match those of known Syrian stocks and the aircraft that conducted the attack came from a Syrian Air Force base. Hard to argue with such facts. What has been a surprise is the tepid global response. False-flag chemical weapons attack: Re-play of an old US ploy to smash Syria?

read more

Building A WMD-Free Zone on Existing Treaties and Conventions Syrian CWC-Adherence and Reactions, Especially in Israel

Speaking notes for the side event to the 2017 Preparatory Committee of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), organised by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and Academic Peace Orchestra Middle East (APOME), Vienna, 8 May 2017.

It builds on and updates an earlier posting of 13 March 2015.

Operation of the CWC in the Middle East

  • As of 1 May 2017, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) comprises 192 states parties. The CWC entered into force 20 years ago, on 29 April 1997. It has the largest number of parties of any weapon control treaty.
  • Four states, including two from the Middle East, are still outside the convention: Egypt, Israel, North Korea and South Sudan. (Israel did sign but not ratify the convention.)
  • Given the armed conflicts in different parts of the Middle East, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has intervened in Syria and Libya to secure declared chemical weapons (CW) and have them destroyed in other parties to the CWC so as to prevent their use by any one of the belligerents in either country. The Libyan operation took place in August 2016. It drew on the precedent set by and experience gained from the evacuation of chemicals from Syria.

Situation in Syria

read more

Below the headlines: CBW matters (12)

(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 1 – 7 May 2017.)

Chemical warfare in Syria

U.S. Pushes Back Against Reports Russia Knew of Syrian Chemical Attack (Paul D. Shinkman, 10 April 2017): U.S. investigators are not yet certain that Russia was complicit in the April 4 chemical attack in Idlib, Syria, that prompted a U.S. strike in retaliation. The Associated Press reported that Russia knew in advance of Syria’s April 4 chemical weapons attack in the city of Idlib, citing an unnamed U.S. official. The claim represents a serious accusation tying Russia to an internationally recognized war crime that prompted the U.S. to launch Tomahawk missiles on the Syrian base that officials say launched the strike. It also complicates opportunities for Moscow to cooperate with the U.S. on peace talks ahead of hosting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later this week. Almost a month after Trump’s airstrike, Syria remains a barbaric battlefield (Jackson Diehl, 30 April 2017): Syrian and Russian planes have been pounding civilian targets across Syria on a daily basis with bunker busters, cluster bombs, phosphorus and barrel bombs packed with shrapnel. On a typical day last week, between 70 and 80 people were killed in the civil war, according to reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights — about the same number as died from the gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun. Inside Assad’s Shadowy Chemical Weapons Factory (Russ Read, 30 April 2017): Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (CERS) may sound benign in name, but the recently sanctioned organization is almost single-handedly responsible for developing the country’s chemical and unconventional weapons programs. Syria: New Evidence Shows Pattern of Nerve-Agent Use

read more

Below the headlines: CBW matters (11)

(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 24 – 30 April 2017.)

Chemical warfare in Syria

The chemical strike against Khan Sheikhoun

Perpetrator of second largest chemical attack in Syria identified (Orient Net, 5 April 2017): Observatories operating in the provinces of Hama and Idlib revealed the identity of the commander of the aircraft that carried out the massacre on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib countryside, which marked the second largest chemical attack in Syria after the August 2013 attacks on both eastern and western Ghoutas in Damascus. Evidence Contradicts Russia’s Account of the Syria Chemical Attack (Jeffrey Marcus, 5 April 2017): The Russian government has sharply contested accounts by international leaders and witnesses that a deadly chemical attack in northern Syria last week was carried out by Syrian government forces. Here’s what the available evidence, including a declassified four-page American intelligence report, tells us about the reliability of the Russian account. Syria’s government helped create a rebel bastion — then attacked it with poison gas, the U.S. says

read more