On October 27, Syria’s citizens might finally see some justice. That day, the United Nations Security Council will meet to discuss the latest report from international inspectors who have gathered copious evidence that Syria has been a blatant violator of the 1997 treaty banning the development, production, stockpiling, and use of any toxic chemical in war.
Nothing in the report should be surprising. As I wrote in 2013, after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bowed to Russian and U.S. pressure following his use of sarin gas on civilians and joined the Chemical Weapons Convention, it was not likely that he would just “meekly” forfeit his chemical weapons capabilities “barring a miraculous personality change.” Indeed, given his merciless conduct of the war—including the calculated use of poison gas to kill, injure, and terrorize rebel civilians—Assad was practically bound to cheat.
To be sure, after joining the chemical convention, Syria at first played by the rules, declaring 1,230 unfilled chemical munitions and 1,290 metric tons of sulfur mustard and various chemical “precursors” that are used to make poison gas. The treaty’s watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), monitored the destruction of those weapons, certifying the job complete in January 2016.
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