Tag Archives: USA

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

Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons – Annotated commentary

This is a very quick reaction to the agreement between Russia and the United States to address Syria’s chemical weapons. My interpretations may change as more background information becomes available. I am sure that over the next few days there will be many background briefings to add texture to the individual paragraphs in the agreement. I welcome comments challenging or supplementing my views, and will revise this posting accordingly.

Generally speaking, the bilateral agreement takes the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the fact that Syria has just submitted its instrument of accession to the UN Secretary General as the point of departure. The Executive Council (EC) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will play its full role in the determination of the of the specific destruction timeframes, even though Russia and the USA are likely to press their case very strongly. The EC comprises 41 states parties. They are elected within and proposed by their respective regional caucuses. All voting in the OPCW decision-making bodies is on the basis of one state party/one vote. Under normal circumstances, states parties strive for consensus in their decision-making, but given the urgency with which Russia and the USA wish to have the Syrian question addressed, one should not be surprised to see majority voting results emerge from the EC meetings. Such majority voting should also not be viewed as undermining the legitimacy of the process, because it is foreseen in the treaty text. read more

US assessment of chemical weapons attack near Damascus

The US State Department has just published the Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013 and a map of the suburbs affected.

This is the first credible account of events released by any government. Credible, because it contains assertions and caveats, but most importantly, because its details are falsifiable. The elements can be verified against other sources, most notably the preliminary report of the UN investigative team, which should be with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon within the next 72 hours or so (Sunday or Monday). read more