Assad Regime Still Hasn’t Declared All Its Chemical Weapons

Young victims of the April 7, 2018 chemical attacks on Douma, near Syria's capital Damascus, take oxygen for breathing difficulties

Almost five years after it was commanded to dismantle all chemical weapons facilities and give up all stocks, the Assad regime has not complied fully.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has issued its latest report on the elimination of the chemical weapons program, ordered after the regime’s August 2013 sarin attacks near Damascus.

The OPCW has verified that the regime finally destroyed the last of 27 declared production facilities, Tel Kurdi and al-Maliha, on June 7 and June 23 — more than four years after the deadline.

Al-Maliha, on the eastern outskirts of Damascus, was the site of ricin production that the regime did not declare until July 2014. Damascus claimed the program was a failure and the toxin was destroyed before it joined the Chemical Weapons Convention. Tel Kurdi was reportedly dormant since autumn 2013.

But despite the belated compliance, the regime has undeclared production facilities for air-dropped chlorine bombs, rockets armed with chlorine and sarin, and hand grenades and aerial bombs filled with sarin. These have been used for numerous chlorine attacks and at least two sarin assaults since 2014.

The OPCW implicitly refers to this by saying that the regime has not acted to “resolve all identified gaps, inconsistencies, or discrepancies” over the chemical weapons program. And the organization says those gaps have increased since 2014.

The inspectors specifically name the facilities at Barzah and Jamraya near Damascus. They say that the necessary inspection will be quicker to carry out now because of April’s US attacks on the complexes, a week after the Assad regime used chemical weapons on the town of Douma near Damascus.

The OPCW said it is also hoping to conduct inspections of undeclared sites associated with chlorine-laden barrel bombs.

The inspectors were recently given the mandate by UN members — after an eight-month suspension because of a Russion veto — to assign responsibility for chemical attacks. A report by the OPCW on how it will carry out the mission is due by July 28.

Hat tip to Professor Gregory Koblentz of George Mason Unversity for his commentary on the report

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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