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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

Gaming the OPCW and the UNSC?

Yesterday I reflected on the hybridisation of coercive and cooperative disarmament arrangements regarding the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons. I argued that President Bashar al-Assad is seeking to challenge the coercive elements in the CW disarmament project, but that he will not defy the overall obligations assumed under the CWC.

In a session on 6 February, the UN Security Council reviewed progress thus far. According to an Agence France Presse report, it rejected several of Syria’s explanations for the delays and concluded  that the country should speed up the process to remove the precursor chemicals from its territory. Unsurprisingly, some Western countries – notably the USA and the UK – offered the harshest criticism, while Russia parried read more

Draft decision of the OPCW Executive Council on Syrian CW destruction

The Executive Council (EC) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to meet tonight, 27 September, at 10pm CET.

Below is the text of the draft decision. Some of the highlights of the document are:

  • The OPCW believes that the ultimate destruction deadline of mid-2014, as foreseen in the US-Russian Framework Agreement is achievable. The organisation recognises the need for a surge capacity in order to fulfil its own tasks, and will draw on past personnel with appropriate expertise as well as on voluntary contributions by states parties.
  • The OPCW will work according to modified timelines relative to the ones foreseen in the CWC. In particular, the countdown to deadlines and interim milestones are to be counted from the day the EC has adopted the decision.
  • As already became clear with its submission of initial declarations last Friday and Saturday, Syria has accepted as binding upon itself the US-Russian Framework Agreement. It will therefore cooperate with the OPCW according to the timelines decided by the EC, including the EC decisions on requirements to be met by Syria even before it has fully become a party to the convention (i.e., 14 October 2013).
  • The document grants state party rights to Syria (e.g., confidentiality of its declarations and inspection reports, to which all states parties are bound). At the same time, it also emphasises the various compliance enforcement tools in the CWC.
  • A very interesting passage is 2(d), which hints strongly at the challenge inspection process without naming it as such (Article IX of the CWC is not mentioned, in contrast to the references to specific articles and paragraphs in other parts of the draft decision). I seems different from a challenge inspection in several respects: each challenge request requires an independent decision by the EC, each time with the possibility of a refusal and negotiations with the challenged party on inspector rights (managed access) would take up time, something in very short supply in view of the tight final destruction deadline.  However, the passage also contains a tool to avoid sending the inspectors on fool’s errands: the Director-General can determine whether a claim is unwarranted and state parties can use the bilateral consultation procedure to clarify certain matters before requesting an inspectors’ visit.
  • Syria receives another week inaddition to the deadline in the US-Russian Framwork Agreement to be counted from the day of the EC decision to finalise its inital declaration. It has to submit very detailed data on its munitions (among other things), which will remove any existing ambiguity concerning the ownership of te rockets used in the Ghouta attacks.

DRAFT DECISION

The Executive Council,

Recalling that following its Thirty-Second Meeting, 27 March 2013, the Chairperson of the Executive Council (hereinafter “the Council”) issued a statement (EC-M-32/2/Rev. 1, dated 27 March 2013) expressing “deep concern that chemical weapons may have been used in the Syrian Arab Republic,” and underlining that “the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances would be reprehensible and completely contrary to the legal norms and standards of the international community”; read more