Monthly Archives: September 2013

UN Report on Syria CW Use

Very late to the party with the report, but I thought I’d do some housekeeping.

One aspect that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere (though I can’t say I’ve looked wicked hard) is the investigators’ security arrangements with Syrian opposition fighters. That may indicate something about possibilities for the destruction operation that’s about to commence.

Needless to say, the fact that the investigators kept working after coming under fire says a lot about them.

UN FAQs on CW Investigation in Syria

I’ve blogged about the UNSG’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons before, but I just ran across this September 5 document from UN ODA called Frequently Asked Questions about the United Nations Mission to Investigate the Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.

ODA’s not much for brevity, it seems.

Anyhow, this portion explains one aspect of the mechanism which appears (at least to me) to be poorly understood:

What is the authority that grants the United Nations the right to investigate the
alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria?

UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/42/37C – adopted in 1987 – grants the
Secretary-General the authority to investigate alleged uses of chemical, biological or
toxin weapons. The mandate which is called the “Secretary-General’s Mechanism”
(SGM) was reaffirmed one year later by UN Security Council resolution 620 (1988).
Under the mandate, the Secretary-General is authorized to carry out investigations in
response to reports that may be brought to his attention by any UN Member State
concerning the possible use of chemical and biological weapons that may constitute a
violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol or other relevant rules of international law in
order to ascertain the facts of the matter and to report promptly the results of any such investigations to all UN Member States.

CW Destruction – Dangerous Business

Destroying Iraq’s chemical weapons was sometimes a dangerous business. Check out these stories from UNMOVIC’s compendium:

During the inspection two incidents took place, which reminded the team that Al
Muthanna was an extremely hazardous site and that the recovery and destruction of
Iraq’s chemical weapons munitions (and agents) would be a protracted and dangerous

During this destruction work, a supposedly unfilled 122mm rocket warhead burst and a
nearby Iraqi worker was exposed to nerve agen
t. Owing to the prompt action of a
member of the inspection team the casualty was very quickly taken to the site hospital
where he received appropriate and timely treatment from Iraqi medical personnel. He
recovered over a period of a few days. A separate incident occurred in the case of the 30
chemical-filled ballistic warheads removed to Al Muthanna
from Dujayl in two separate
shipments. In the first shipment, 14 warheads stated by the Iraqis to be filled with the
mixture of alcohols, and considered relatively harmless, were moved. Ten were opened,
found to contain the alcohols and were drained preparatory to destruction. At this point
the senior Iraqi official present said that the remaining four were filled with the nerve
agent sarin. Apparently these warheads had been moved during the night prior to
dispatch to Al Muthanna and the sarin-filled warheads had been confused with alcohol filled

It’ll be interesting to learn the condition of Syria’s stockpile. Lots of opinions without evidence right now.

French Intel Assessment on Syria CW

Here’s the French version. Here’s the English version.

I lack the time to do this very useful document justice. Much of this information does exist in public US intel documents, but it’s a hassle to consolidate it all and there are issues with consistency.

I would point people to the delivery vehicles section…no other public official document has such a list of vehicles, ranges, and CW agents, as far as I know. Ditto for the composition of the Syrian CW agent stockpile. Also notable is that Syria is developing another mustard agent and a nastier form of nerve agent.

Lastly, the report’s observation that the regime “is adapting its tactics and the munitions in its stockpiles to a terror use against civilian population” is perhaps the element with the most far-reaching implications. One wonders if other regimes are getting ideas; governments, including the government of Syria, produced CW arsenals in the past for quite different reasons. There’s a decent amount of detail on that point, so take a look.