Saturday, 14 January 2017

The Henry Jackson Society| Analysis: ‘International Taboo on Chemical Weapons Frays As U.S. Steps Back’

The Henry Jackson Society| Analysis: ‘International Taboo on Chemical Weapons Frays As U.S. Steps Back’

by Kyle W. Orton


"Moreover, Assad continued to use poison gas against civilians, he just switched to chlorine, the original chemical weapon. Earlier today, news leaked to Reuters that the OPCW has Assad personally on a list of people “to be scrutinized” for their role in the chlorine attacks from 2014 onward. As mentioned above, the pro-Assad coalition has officially been found responsible for three chlorine attacks by OPCW; credible reports from inside Syria put that number closer to ten—just in 2016.

The enforcement of the international norm against chemical weapons has never been perfect. The Geneva Protocol banning chemical and bacteriological weapons was signed in 1925 in the shadow of the First World War. Since then—before Assad—five states had used chemical attacks against civilians. (Potentially one could add a sixth: the Islamic State employed the remnants of Saddam Husayn’s arsenal against the Coalition and Iraqi civilians in the mid-2000s.) Yet at least using chemical weapons used to be taboo, expected to put the user beyond the pale of the family of nations; this no longer appears to be the case.

Assad was not only able to use CWMD with impunity, steps have increasingly been taken toward normalizing the Assad regime, turning the incentive structure on its head. For example, in Sudan, the regime of Umar al-Bashir used CWMD thirty times between January and September 2016, killing more than two-hundred civilians, according to Amnesty International. Al-Bashir was already wanted for genocide, the first head of state indicted by the International Criminal Court. Yet the U.S. lifted sanctions against Khartoum yesterday."

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