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By Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham

Illustration photo (123rf)
Illustration photo (123rf)

Efforts to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons capability are running months behind schedule because the Syrian president is playing games with international inspectors. Moreover, it is far from clear that the 1,300 tons of chemical warfare agents and precursor chemicals declared by Assad when he signed the Chemical Weapons Convention represent the full amount he possesses. Furthermore, even if Assad abides by the commitment to completely jettison his chemical weapons, Syria’s equally dangerous biological weapon stocks will remain.

Despite the transfer, Syria has demonstrated deep ambivalence, if not subterfuge, regarding its commitment to comply with UN and OPCW demands to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal and infrastructure. According to the UN-OPCW timetable, the removal of chemical weapons from Syria is now running approximately two months behind schedule. Damascus did request a reformulated timetable on February 21 to complete the export, but it is apparent that the June 30 deadline will not be met.

iHLSIsrael Homeland Security

It is unlikely that 100 percent of Syria’s chemical arsenal will be removed from the country and destroyed, and the fate of the remaining chemical weapons cache will be hard to track. The complexity of the Syrian situation presents unique challenges for this ambitious program. In addition, other regional examples make the prospect of chemical disarmament in Syria unpromising. It is instructive that Libya, which voluntarily embarked on a chemical disarmament process in 2004, has yet to complete that process.

In real terms, then, the best that Western powers can hope for is the elimination of a considerable part of Syria’s actual chemical weapons arsenal. But, as outlined above, the possible disposition of the remaining weapons is a cause for deep concern.

BESA Center, Perspectives, Paper No. 239

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