The civil unrest in Syria has been going on since 2011, when peaceful protestors were inspired by the Arab Spring. They rose up and stood up against their authoritarian government. The President, Bashar al-Assad fought back violently. Civilians brought in arms to defend themselves, and the military joined forces with Assad, creating a civil war.
Five major countries, including Saudi Arabia, United States, Russia, Turkey, and Iran have all joined this war for their different agendas. In addition, there are about four overlapping conflicts within Syria that the major countries side with: President Assad, the Kurds, ISIS, and the rebels. Some argue that this has become a full-blown proxy war.
With all the complicated ties and overlapping groups, many atrocities have been committed. President Assad specifically has committed the bulk of these because his government is so weak. Both Assad and his government were part of the minority group in Syria when they first went into power, thus he tries to regain control and suppress the majority through violent measures. One of the most deadly is the use of chemical weapons.
So what are chemical weapons? According to the Organization For the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, “A toxic chemical contained in a delivery system, such as a bomb or shell…applied to any toxic chemical or its precursor that can cause death, injury, temporary incapacitation or sensory irritation through its chemical action. Munitions or other delivery devices designed to deliver chemical weapons, whether filled or unfilled, are also considered weapons themselves.” Basically, any chemical that is contained and designed to cause any infliction of harm or death is a chemical weapons. Typically, they are categorized as four different agents: choking, blister, blood, or nerve agents. The choking agents include chlorine and phosgene, and this causes individuals to choke and stop breathing. Blister agents cause life-threatening skin burns/blisters and include mustard and lewisite. Blood agents includes hydrogen cyanide, which is absorbed into the blood and causes death. Nerve agents, which shut down nerves that connect messages to organs, contain sarin, soman, VX.
Clearly, chemical weapons are a dangerous and atrocious way to fight a war. The Chemical Weapons Convention, which was enforced in 1997, prohibits:
- Developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or retaining chemical weapons.
- The direct or indirect transfer of chemical weapons.
- Chemical weapons use or military preparation for use.
- Assisting, encouraging, or inducing other states to engage in CWC-prohibited activity.
- The use of riot control agents “as a method of warfare.”
About 192 countries have signed this treaty, including Syria. Once Syria signed it in 2013, after the must discussed destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons aided by the UN Security Council Resolution, they agreed to abide by these policies. By October 31st, 2013, The OPCW confirmed that Syria destroyed, or rendered inoperable, all of its declared facilities for mixing and producing chemical weapons. But actions speak louder than words.
In September 2014, Syria was back again using chemical weapons. This time, using chlorine gas, which apparently was never included on the list submitted to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon. Chlorine has a list of commercial uses. By March 6th, 2015, chlorine was added to the list of prohibited chemical weapons.
Since then, Syria continues to use chemical weapons in it’s warfare. Many nations have called upon the United Nations to act and investigate, but nothing has worked. There have been several solutions and resolution plans that have been proposed, but countries like Russia have continued to veto them.
Currently, news has surfaced that North Korea, who has not had an involvement with Syria, has been supplying chemical weapons supplies to Syria. Some of these supplies include acid-resistant tiles, valves, and thermometers.
Action must be taken to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s warfare. We must punish those who supply Syria, find a resolution in the U.N. and protect the lives of innocent civilians who are stuck in Syria before it’s too late.