President Barack Obama last month warned the Syrian government that using or moving chemical weapons would be seen as a step that was so serious it could trigger a U.S. military response.
Amid ongoing concerns about the fate of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, officials in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East are making plans to secure it once the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad falls.
Libya has set a target date of December 2013 for complete destruction of its most potent chemical weapons, according to documents circulated at a May 1-4 meeting on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
Although there has been “substantial progress” in organizing a planned conference on creating a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it is “clear that further and intensified efforts are needed,” the conference’s facilitator said last month.
Destruction of the last elements of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile could take two years longer than previously planned, the Army’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program said in an April 17 press release.
Although the goal of ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is receiving increased attention, it remains a distant prospect. Achieving such an ambitious goal will require a series of incremental steps even to begin the process. An agreement that bans the development and possession of ballistic missiles capable of flying more than 3,000 kilometers and includes members of the Arab League, Iran, Israel, and Turkey is a reasonable first step toward a WMD-free Middle East.
A number of U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern that political instability in Syria threatens the security of the country’s chemical and conventional weapons stockpiles as well as its nuclear material. Administration officials have acknowledged the threat and say they will continue to monitor the situation.
Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) voted overwhelmingly on Dec. 1 to approve a document that reaffirms the importance of the treaty’s April 2012 deadline for destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles but does not say countries that failed to meet the deadline would be violating the terms of the pact.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is preparing to send inspectors to two previously undeclared sites in Libya, the organization said in a Nov. 4 press release.
With a treaty-imposed deadline for destruction of all chemical weapons stockpiles less than seven months away, diplomats are scrambling to avoid a crisis over the officially acknowledged fact that Russia and the United States, the holders of the world’s largest stockpiles of those weapons, will not eliminate them by that date.