Stimson in the News

Brian Finlay is quoted in Foreign Policy on crisis in Syria

in Program

Bashar al-Assad has signed onto a decades-old international treaty banning chemical weapons. Now comes the hard part: making sure he doesn’t exploit its loopholes to find ways of holding onto the weapons anyway.

On its face, the decades-old Chemical Weapons Convention seems fairly straightforward. Signatories agree to halt the production of new chemical weapons, allow international inspectors to visit all of its storage sites, and then begin to gradually destroy them. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is responsible for implementing the treaty, estimates that 57,740 metric tons of chemical agents, or 81.1 percent of the world’s declared chemical weapons stockpiles, have been destroyed since the agreement went into effect in 1997. 


According to the terms of the treaty, Syria would then have 30 days to reveal the precise locations of all of its chemical weapons production and storage facilities, a timetable Secretary of State John Kerry has already dismissed as far too slow. Damascus would have to allow international inspectors unfettered access to each of the sites and give the OPCW, the oversight body, a detailed plan for how, and when, it would destroy all of its chemical weapons stockpiles. Syria would have 10 years to do so. That gives Assad plenty of time to seek out ways around the treaty.

“It’s not inconceivable that he adopts the Saddam Hussein playbook from the 1990s — refusing access to facilities, having the inspectors run around the country chasing their own tails — as a way of playing out the clock,” said Brian Finlay of the Stimson Center. “The more time that passes, the more the shock of the chemical weapons attack will fade away and the more the momentum for a strike will begin to disappear. It’s clearly in his favor for this stretch out as long as possible.” 

To rea the full article, click here.


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