On the Draft Security Council Resolution

by Deborah Pearlstein

As Ken notes below, the draft UN Security Council Resolution regarding the disposition of Syria’s chemical weapons is now available. While it can’t be construed as authorizing the use of force against Syria to ensure compliance without further Security Council action – entirely consistent with the Council’s past practice in Iraq, Kosovo, and elsewhere with slowly escalating Security Council threats and then reality of sanctions it decides to impose – marks an obvious and large step forward in what had, until a few weeks ago, been a seemingly intractable disaster. Not that the disaster is over. Hardly. But the series of steps Syria has already taken to comply with the U.S.-Russia accords providing for the removal of chemical weapons, and the reality of any Security Council action at all given the P5’s diverse political interests in the region, is a remarkable achievement.

Beyond those Ken mentioned, another passage of the draft resolution seems worth highlighting:

Encourages Member States to provide support, including personnel, technical expertise, information, equipment, and financial and other resources and assistance, in coordination with the Director-General of the OPCW and the Secretary-General, to enable the OPCW and the United Nations to implement the elimination of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons program, and decides to authorize Member States to acquire, control, transport, transfer and destroy chemical weapons identified by the Director-General of the OPCW, consistent with the objective of the Chemical Weapons Convention, to ensure the elimination of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons program in the soonest and safest manner.

What does this mean? Without seeing the OPCW’s plan, it’s hard to tell exactly. But it leaves little doubt Member States (like chemical weapons disposal experts the U.S. and Russia) now have the authority to send personnel (including presumably support for their security) into Syria to “acquire, control, transport, transfer and destroy chemical weapons.” Do U.S. Army Explosive Ordinance Demolition teams count as “boots on the ground”? If they get killed, captured, or gassed in the course of their work, hard to see how not.


One Response

  1. Perhaps this language (“authorize Member States to acquire, control, transport, transfer”) is included out of a fear that the CWC’s restrictions (or other restrictions) would have hindered the extraction of chemical weapons and related material from Syria.  If states had such concerns (e.g. allowing such material to be imported or transported across their territory) they should be reassured by this language.

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