Political Issue of the Issue: Syrian government uses chemical weapons

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Political Issue of the Issue: Syrian government uses chemical weapons

Claire Moylan, Features Editor

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The use of chemical weapons in warfare was first banned after World War Ⅰ through the passing of the Geneva Gas Protocol in 1925. However, this protocol never prohibited countries from stockpiling these weapons within their borders. In response, other international treaties, like the Chemical Weapons Convention, have been signed to prohibit the use of chemical weapons in warfare and to prohibit the stockpiling, production, acquisition and transfer of them as well.

In recent years, though, there has been evidence of Syria using chemical weapons within its borders. Syria claimed in 2012 that their chemical weapons would only be used on external aggressors and not the Syrian general public. However, in December of that same year, there were allegations of a gas used in Homs that caused nausea, relaxed muscles, blurred vision and breathing difficulties. As time moved on, there were similar incidents between 2013 and 2018.

For example, there was a sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017.  According to the U.S. Department of State, this attack killed 100 Syrians. Another attack used sulfur mustard, also known as mustard gas, in Marea in 2015. In most instances, chemical weapons were said to be used against Syrian rebels. Several other situations like the one in Khan Sheikhoun primarily came from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other Syrian opposition.

Towards the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) began the process of removing Syria’s chemical weapons out of the country, destroying and neutralizing Syrian facilities using a process called hydrolysis. As this process was being carried out, other attacks were reported and traces of sarin gas, chlorine gas and some others were found.

In total, the United States has accused Syria of using chemical weapons at least 50 times since the start of the Syrian civil war. As more attacks surface and come into the light, it is easy to assume that Syria’s actions defy some of the United Nations’ treaties including the Chemical Weapons Convention they acceded to in September of 2013. Syria never truly denied their use of chemical weapons, but they never clearly stated whether or not they were targeting civilians in particular.

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Political Issue of the Issue: Syrian government uses chemical weapons