UN Security Council Resolution on Syrian CW–Good, But Who’s in Charge? | Charles Duelfer

UN Security Council Resolution on Syrian CW–Good, But Who’s in Charge?

The UN process took a good step forward with the approval of UNSCR 2118 (http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2013/sc11135.doc.htm).

It is important to remember that this will be the mechanism for eliminating the Syrian CW. The other UN activity–headed by Ake Sellstrom and presently in Syria–has the task of investigating the use of CW. These are two separate missions and sets of people–easily confused.

Timing and coordination of the new resolution was tricky since the it had to subsume/bless the action of the Executive Council of the OPCW which drafted its own mandate for implementing an accelerated Syrian CW destruction program (as desired by the UNSC). Both required negotiation between Russia, US and others. The UN Security Council resolution could not be passed until the OPCW piece was agreed and it is a formal annex to the UNSCR 2118.

Still unclear is the simple question of who will be in charge? The relationship between the Director General of OPCW and the Security Council seems still murky. The Director General is a Turkish diplomat, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü. The Syrian task is not the usual sort of matter that OPCW takes up. It may require the full-time attention of a very senior and seasoned individual. The prescriptions for reporting in the new resolution (Operative Paragraph 8) have the DG of OPCW reporting to the Secretary General who reports to the Security Council. This leaves open the possibility for the Secretary General to name a special representative for that function. In operational paragraph 8, the Council requests the Secretary General to submit to it, within 10 days “recommendations regarding the role of the United Nations in eliminating the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons program.” Stay tuned on this.

A couple of essential points in the resolution include:

The authorization of member states to “acquire, control, transport, transfer, and destroy chemical weapons identified by the Director General of the OPCW…” This is needed to allow CW agent and munitions to be removed from Syria for destruction. Under the CWC, this is otherwise prohibited.

The Security Council resolution states that Syria must provide unfettered access to all inspectors. Under OPCW procedures, an inspected country may refuse admission of certain inspectors (e.g. inspectors from hostile countries) if they choose. This removes that choice from Syria.

In Annex 1, which is the document approved by the Executive Council of the OPCW, there are a couple of key points related to timing. First, Syria must provide much more information on their program infrastructure–within 7 days. This will form the basis for inspectors to plan their work program.

Syria is also required to destroy CW production equipment (under the supervision of inspectors) by the end of October. During the same period, inspectors are mandated to complete their survey inspections of all sites provided in the Syrian declarations. They are mandated to start by October 1, this Tuesday.

Getting this done will require more people than OPCW has on hand. My rough estimate is a team of about 75 in-country. You need some basic support people for whatever base location they establish in Damascus–communications, motor pool, expeditors, linguists, etc. Maybe this is 15 people. To go through 40-50 sites in a month and do direct the follow-on destruction activities (and record in detail) I would guess 4 teams of 15 people each. Each team will need maybe five SUVs. The teams will have communications, an operations officer, safety officer, CW experts, etc. Some sites will be easy to inspect, but imagine going into a bunker with dozens or hundreds of munitions which have to be counted and recorded. Imagine making a detailed record of containers of bulk CW agents and precursor chemicals. It can be done, but it will take time and a pool of experienced inspectors. OPCW notes it needs more people and the authority to hire them in its Executive Council Decisions (para 2 e).

There will be many issues ahead. For example, who decides which munitions get destroyed and according to what criteria? In the case of UNSCOM and Iraq, we destroyed munitions that had been used to deliver prohibited agent and/or had a prohibited (long) range. In the Syrian case, will inspectors destroy all Syria’s Scuds if they can prove (likely) that Syria has produced CW warheads for the Scuds (in addition to the usual high explosive warhead)? Or, will they only destroy the CW warheads for the Scuds? There may be many such cases for other types of missiles and rockets.

I discussed these issues and others at a seminar at the Woodrow Wilson Center Friday 27 September which can be viewed at C-span:


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