Skip to main content

The final part of this diary series.

In my previous life as a freelance writer, back in the 80's and early 90's, I did a lot of magazine articles on chemical weapons, particularly about the "binary nerve gas" controversy during the Reagan Administration, and the proliferation of chemical weapons in the 1980's to countries like Syria, Libya, Iraq, Thailand, and others. I had a couple sources in the Pentagon and in disarmament groups like SIPRI. I started work on a book manuscript on the subject, but in 1993, when the Chemical Weapons Convention was signed, interest in chemical weapons plummeted, and I never finished it. I stored it on a floppy disk and left it in a drawer.

Well, today, given the renewed interest in chemical weapons, I decided to look for it, and found it.  So I spent the day today reading through it, doing some research to update the parts that need updating, and preparing it to be published.

So what I am going to do is post the entire rough draft manuscript here, in a series of diaries. I hope it will provide some useful background info on CBW that people can keep in mind when reading about the situation in Syria. And I'd also appreciate any feedback from folks, especially about parts that might not be clear or are hard to understand.

Previous parts of manuscript here:


One: The History of CBW

Two: The Debate Over Binary Chemical Weapons

Three: Genetic Engineering and CBW

Four: CBW Proliferation

Five: CBW Defenses

(c) copyright 2013 by Lenny Flank. All rights reserved.


CBW Arms Control

For over a hundred years, the international community has made attempts to ban chemical and biological warfare. Some treaties were discarded, others were flawed and unenforceable. A few were simply blatantly broken.

The first attempt to control the use of gas and germ weapons came in August 1898, when Tsar Nicholas II of Russia called the First Hague Convention on Disarmament. The delegates at this meeting drew up the Hague Convention, a part of which declared, “The contracting Powers agree to abstain from the use of projectiles the sole object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases.”   Article 23 of the Convention banned the use of “poison or poisoned weapons”.

Twenty-six nations signed the Convention on July 29, 1899, including France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia. Britain didn’t sign it until 1907. The United States never signed it at all.

The Hague Convention was a complete failure. Sixteen years after signing it, the Germans began using lethal chemicals in the First World War. By using gas canisters to disseminate their chlorine, the Germans did not technically violate the Convention, since only the use of “projectiles” was banned. By the time the chambered artillery shells began to fly, both sides had already tossed the Convention aside.

The carnage of the First World War and the horrors of gas warfare spurred new efforts towards the international control of CBW weapons. In 1921, at the request of the United States, the world powers met in Washington DC to discuss a proposal to limit naval forces in the Atlantic and Pacific. By unanimous agreement, a separate section was devoted to chemical warfare.

Originally, this section was concerned with banning the use of poison gas against civilians and noncombatants. At the suggestion of the United States, however, the prohibition was extended to ban any use of chemical weapons. The resulting agreement was called the “Treaty Between the United States of America, the British Empire, France, Italy and Japan, In Relation to the Use of Submarines and Noxious Gases in Wartime.”

Article V of the Washington treaty banned “the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and all analogous liquids, materials and devices.”   The treaty was signed on February 6, 1922, by the US, Britain, France, Germany and Japan, with the understanding that it would not become binding until all of the signatories had ratified it. The US ratified the treaty in June 1925, but France objected to a portion of the treaty concerning submarines and refused to ratify it.

The failure of the Washington treaty led to another international convention in Geneva, Switzerland. One of the tasks faced by the Geneva convention was that of limiting the growing international chemicals trade. Transfer of chemical technology had important military significance, since many common industrial chemicals could also be used as chemical warfare agents.

Banning the sale or transfer of these chemicals, however, raised a new set of problems. Outlawing the production or sale of phosgene, for instance, would cripple the plastics and synthetic fiber industries, which use phosgene in their manufacturing processes. As a result, the Geneva delegates abandoned their efforts to regulate the sale of chemicals and instead agreed to outlaw the use of chemicals in warfare. The result was the “Protocols Prohibiting the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous, or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.”  The Geneva Protocols remain one of the most important documents concerning CBW.

Through the Geneva Protocols, the signatories resolved:

“Whereas the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices, has been justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilized world . . . the High Contracting Powers, so far as they are not already parties to treaties prohibiting such use, accept this prohibition, agree to extend this prohibition to the use of bacteriological methods of warfare and agree to be bound as between themselves according to the terms of this declaration.”

The Protocols were signed in June 1925. When the USSR ratified them in 1928, it did so with the provision that the treaty was only binding between signatories, a position echoed by several other nations. Most nations have also added the understanding that the Protocols allow the use of chemical weapons in retaliation for an illegal attack using chemical or biological weapons.

The US signed the Protocols, but the Senate refused to ratify the document, saying that it was unenforceable. “We know just as certainly as we know we are sitting in this chamber,” one Congressional critic asserted, “that it is against all human nature to expect a nation to deny itself the use of a weapon which will save it.”   Another critic of the treaty was the new Army Chief of Staff, General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur argued the curious postulate that the US should accept a ban on chemical warfare only if it allowed the US to continue to prepare for chemical warfare. “The way to end war,” MacArthur concluded, “is to outlaw war, not to disarm.”  The US did not ratify the Protocols for over half a century.

The Protocols were the most important of the treaties which limit the CBW arms race, but the treaty was flawed and contained several weaknesses. It bans the use of chemical and biological weapons, but does not ban their production or stockpiling. It places no number or tonnage limits on the amount of weapons that may be deployed, and does nothing to control or limit the introduction of new agents or dissemination methods. The Protocols do nothing to prohibit or limit the transfer or sale of chemical weapons or chemical technology from one nation to another.

The Protocols do not provide any method of verifying compliance with the treaty, do not set out any methods of enforcing the provisions of the treaty and do not prescribe any punishments for violations. Italy, the Soviet Union, Egypt and Iraq, all signatories of the Protocols, have apparently used chemical weapons in combat, but have faced no punishment from the international community. Mussolini justified his use of chemical weapons in Ethiopia by announcing that, under the interpretation of the Italian government, the Protocols allow the use of chemical weapons in retaliation for any illegal acts committed by an adversary. The Italian mustard attacks, Mussolini declared, were a retaliation for Ethiopian “atrocities”. The Soviets, on the other hand, used their chemical weapons against internal Basmatchi opponents who, they declared, do not fall under the treaty.

When the  World Disarmament Convention was held in 1933, the question of chemical and biological warfare was dealt with in some detail. A Commission was appointed to study the threat posed by the newly-developed strategy of large-scale aerial attack. The Commission’s report, submitted in June 1932, noted;

“The means of warfare, intended to be dropped from the air, which are the most threatening to the civil population are those which, considered individually, produce the most extended action, the greatest moral or material effect. Among these the Commission specifically mentions poison gases, bacteria and incendiary and explosive appliances.”

The Commission warned, “Projectiles containing harmful gases or bacteria—though of small tonnage, may be highly efficient and produce a considerable moral effect.”

To deal with the threat of aerial CBW attacks, the British submitted a draft proposal on March 16, 1933, which declared: “The following provision is accepted as an established rule of international law; the use of chemical, incendiary, or bacterial weapons as against any State whether or not a Party to the present Convention and in any war whatever its character, is prohibited.”

Article 18 of the British Draft went on to say:

“The prohibition of the use of chemical weapons shall apply to the use, by any method whatsoever, for the purpose of injuring an adversary, of any natural or synthetic substance harmful to the human or animal organism, whether solid, liquid or gaseous, such as toxic, asphyxiating, lachrymatory, irritant or vesicant substances.”

Article 50 of the draft went on to outlaw all forms of biological warfare:

“The prohibition of the use of bacterial arms shall apply to the use for the purposes of injuring an adversary of all methods for the dissemination of pathogenic microbes, or of filter-passing viruses, or of infected substances, whether for the purposes of bringing them into  contact with human beings, animals or plants, or for the purpose of affecting any of the latter in any manner—for example; by polluting the atmosphere, water, foodstuffs, or any other objects.”

The British draft proposal also would have banned the development of new chemical and biological weapons:  “All preparations for chemical, incendiary or bacterial warfare shall be prohibited in time of peace as in time of war.”   Another article outlawed the “manufacture, import, export or . . . possession of appliances or substances exclusively suited to chemical or incendiary warfare.”

The draft would have allowed each nation to possess “the quantities of chemical substances necessary for protective experiments, therapeutic research and laboratory work,” as well as the construction of “material and installations intended exclusively to insure individual or collective protection against the effects of chemical, incendiary or bacterial  weapons.”  The remainder of the draft convention set out procedures for investigating alleged violations of the agreement.

This remarkable document would have closed nearly all of the loopholes in the 1925 Protocols by banning, not only the use of chemical weapons, but also their production, stockpiling and transfer. Incredibly, however, the British draft proposal was never even put to a vote. The World Disarmament Convention failed to produce any significant progress in arms control, and was shortly after swallowed up by the Second World War.

In the United States during this period, a conflict arose between the military and the civilian government concerning CBW policy. On the eve of World War II, MacArthur enunciated the Pentagon’s policy:  “The United States will make all necessary preparations for the use of chemicals from the outbreak of war. The use of chemical warfare, including the use of toxic agents, from the inception of hostilities is authorized.”

The policy of the US government, however, differed from that of the War Department. In 1943, President Roosevelt announced that the Allies would use poison gas only in retaliation for an Axis chemical attack. “I state categorically,” Roosevelt declared, “that we will under no circumstances resort to the use of such weapons unless they are first used by our enemies.”

Sometime after 1943, however, the War Department seems to have gotten its point of view across, and the official US CBW policy was changed. By the mid-1950’s, chemical and biological warfare was being considered by the Pentagon as an effective offensive weapon. Army Field Manual 27-10, for instance, pointed out that the US had not ratified the 1925 Geneva Protocols and was therefore under no legal limits in its use of chemical and biological weapons.

For instance, the Pentagon declared, the US was permitted to “destroy, through chemical or bacterial agents harmless to man, crops intended solely for consumption by the armed forces (if that fact can be determined).”

The Pentagon’s decision to use starvation as a weapon was  accompanied by a massive buildup in the United States CBW arsenal, and it was no secret that this arsenal gave the US a first-strike capability. Washington repeatedly refused to rule out the option of a chemical or biological first-strike. When, in 1959, a joint House/Senate resolution was introduced which renounced the first use of CBW weapons and asserted that the US would only use such weapons in retaliation, the proposal ran into heavy opposition from the State Department and the Pentagon. The resolution was defeated, and the US retained its unlimited CBW option. As Field Manual 27-10 noted, the US at that time was “not a Party to any treaty, now in force, that prohibits or restricts the use in warfare of toxic or nontoxic gases, of smoke or incendiary materials, or of bacteriological warfare.”

Apparently it was this policy of unrestricted use that led to the introduction of lachrymators and herbicides in Vietnam. The United Nations objected vigorously to American use of chemicals in Vietnam, but was powerless to stop it.

The international attention produced by the American use of herbicides and lachrymators in Vietnam, however, focused new efforts towards producing a CBW treaty, and in 1969 Britain submitted a new “Draft Convention for the Prohibition of Biological Methods of Warfare” to the UN. The British draft required nations to renounce the “use of chemical and biological methods of warfare, never in any circumstances, by making use for hostile purposes of microbial or other biological agents causing death, damage or disease by infection or infestation to man, other animals, or crops.”

This, in fact, had been largely covered already in the Geneva Protocols. A Soviet draft submitted in September 1969 would have outlawed the development and deployment of CBW weapons:  “Each State Party to this Convention undertakes not to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire chemical and bacteriological (biological) weapons.”

Neither the British nor the Soviet drafts produced any tangible results, but in 1969 President Nixon decided to make sweeping changes in American CBW policy:

“As to our chemical warfare programs, the United States; reaffirms its oft-repeated renunciation of the first use of lethal chemical weapons. Extends this renunciation to the first use of incapacitating chemicals. . . The United States shall renounce the use of lethal biological agents and weapons, and all other methods of biological warfare. The United States will confine its biological research to defensive measures such as immunization and safety measures.”

The impact of this statement was really not as far-reaching as it sounded. The US had not “oft-repeated” a no-first-use policy, and in fact had repeatedly affirmed the opposite. The incapacitating chemicals renounced by Nixon had already proven to be unreliable and unpredictable, and the biological warfare program was considered by most military circles as being uncontrollable and more trouble than it was worth. Nixon also announced that the United States would impose an indefinite moratorium on the production of lethal chemical weapons—another empty gesture, since the US already had a stockpile of more chemical weapons than it could use.

In addition to suspending the chemical armaments program, Nixon announced that he would re-submit the 1925 Geneva Protocols to the Senate for ratification. But even this step had a very large string attached;  Nixon added the understanding that the Protocols did not prohibit the use of lachrymators and herbicides such as were being used in Vietnam.

This reservation brought a sharp protest from the United Nations, which affirmed that the Protocols prohibited the use of any chemical in combat, including nonlethal herbicides and irritants. On December 16, 1969, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 2603, which:

“Declares as contrary to the generally recognized rules of international law, as embodied in the Protocols signed at Geneva on 17 June 1925, the use in international armed conflict of;

(a) Any chemical agents of warfare—chemical substances, whether liquid, gaseous or solid—which might be employed because of their direct toxic effects on man, animals or plants.

(b) Any biological agents of warfare—living organisms, whatever their nature, or infective material derived from them—which are intended to cause death or disease in man, animals or plants, and which depend for their effects on their ability to multiply in man, animal or plants attacked.”

The resolution passed by a vote of 80-3, with only Portugal and Australia (both of which were using similar weapons in combat at the time) voting with the US against it.             

In 1971, efforts began in earnest to form an international agreement outlawing CBW weapons. These efforts were hampered by the Nixon Administration, which was willing to talk about a ban on biological weapons, but had no intention of signing any treaties which would limit the use of chemical weapons such as the ones it was using heavily in Southeast Asia. The US, therefore, insisted on negotiating separate treaties on chemical and biological warfare. The Soviet Union and others argued for a joint CBW treaty, but eventually gave in to US demands.

After this concession, bilateral US-USSR negotiations focused on BW, and soon afterwards produced the “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and On Their Destruction.”   The Convention was signed in April 1972.

Article I of the Convention states;

“Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile, or otherwise acquire or retain;

(i) Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins, whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;

(2) Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.”

Seventy-one nations signed the Convention in 1972, and more have signed since. The US signed the treaty in 1972 and ratified it in January 1975. In December 1974, the Senate had ratified the Geneva Protocols, making the US the last world power to do so.

The Biological Weapons Convention, though, has a number of serious flaws and loopholes. The original treaty contains no provisions for verification and sets out no punishments for violators (international negotiations are currently under way for an appendix to the treaty laying out verification and inspection procedures). The Convention is also vague in its distinction between prohibited offensive biological weapons research and permissible defensive research. Since, in the area of CBW, the distinction between “offense” and “defense” is a murky one at best, the standards which are followed are largely up to the discretion of the nation doing the research. The US, like the USSR, apparently took the position that the treaty allows any research up to the actual production of weapons or agents, and does not prohibit research into offensive methods if this information is used solely to develop defenses against them. Thus, nations remain able to breed new bugs and produce (on paper) new weapons systems. Each is able to justify its research by asserting that other nations “might” develop a similar weapon and “might” decide to utilize it.

The largest loophole in the 1972 Convention, as it was written, dealt with the area of recombinant DNA technology. Using new genetic techniques, potential aggressors can induce harmless bacteria to manufacture the chemical enzymes which are necessary for the artificial synthesis of any number of lethal protein toxins. This, it could be argued, was a chemical process rather than a biological one, and was thus not prohibited by the Convention. Nations using DNA techniques could produce bio-toxins without technically violating the treaty.

The US position on this question was clear. The 1969 Nixon directives prohibited the United States from making or utilizing any type of bio-toxin, “whether produced by bacteriological or any biological method or by chemical synthesis.”   Similar prohibitions, the US concluded, are implied in the 1972 Convention. “The language of the Convention,” said a Defense Department spokesman, “is quite specific in this area; ‘toxins, whatever their origin or method of production’.”

This passage, however, was subject to interpretation which, in this case, was complicated by the word “toxins”. It had been generally agreed that the 1972 Convention would apply only to those poisons which are natural biological products, and not to artificial chemical toxins. Thus, the DNA controversy centered around whether the production of chemically-synthesized toxins using genetically produced biological enzymes (which are not in themselves biological agents) results in a naturally-produced bio-toxin or a chemically-produced synthetic analogue. Until some international authority settled the matter, the US position on the matter remained only Washington’s opinion.

In September 1986, the signatories of the Convention met in Geneva for a Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference. One of the topics discussed was the application of DNA technology to biological warfare and the grey area which this created in the Convention. To close the genetic loophole, the Review Conference declared, “The Convention unequivocally applies to all natural or artificially created microbial or other biological agents or toxins, whatever their origin or method of production. Consequently, toxins (both proteinaceous and non-proteinaceous) of a microbial, animal or vegetable nature and their synthetically-produced analogues are covered.”

This declaration effectively ended the DNA controversy and closed the loophole concerning genetic bio-toxins. The Review Conference did not, however, solve all of the problems associated with the Convention. No further limits were placed on the types of “defensive” research which can be carried out. Signatories remained free to carry out research on offensive biological weapons technology, provided that this knowledge was used solely to produce defenses against these new weapons.

The Conference also pointed out that new genetic engineering technology and more modern laboratory methods made it possible for a nation, if it chose, to abrogate the 1972 Convention and produce a wide array of microbes synthesized bio-toxins and workable delivery systems, allowing it to wage biological warfare within a very short time. The Conference was unable to implement new verification procedures to guard against this possibility.

The success in reaching the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, however, brought about new efforts to negotiate a similar ban on chemical weapons. By 1977, the US and the Soviet Union were conducting bilateral negotiations for a ban on the production or stockpiling of chemical agents.

One of the major obstacles to such an agreement was the problem of verification. While nuclear weapons facilities are readily detectable by satellite surveillance, chemical weapons facilities are not so easily distinguished. Lethal nerve gases can be produced in a modified insecticide factory. The only sure way to make certain a suspected plant is making bug spray instead of nerve gas is to go inside and look.

In 1979, the US and USSR reached a tentative agreement that accepted the principle of on-site inspections for verification. This potential breakthrough, however, fell victim to international politics. In mid-1980, in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the United States, citing “fundamental disagreements” and “Soviet intransigence”, broke off the bilateral CW talks.

In an effort to get the stalled talks moving again, Senator Mark  Hatfield offered an amendment to the 1983 Defense Department budget that mandated a total of 300 days of negotiations before any binary nerve gas production funds could be spent. Senator William Proxmire  introduced a resolution proposing amendments to the 1972 Convention, giving the UN the authority to investigate alleged violations of the treaty and to conduct inspections to distinguish between permitted defensive work and prohibited offensive work. Both amendments were opposed by the White House and ultimately failed.

The Reagan Administration’s attitude stemmed, in part, from questions concerning Soviet compliance with the 1972 Convention. In April 1979, an explosion tore up part of a Soviet military facility at Sverdlovsk, 875 miles east of Moscow. In the weeks after the explosion, hundreds of people in the surrounding villages were killed by an outbreak of anthrax.

The Soviets lamely explained that the outbreak was caused by some contaminated meat that had been illegally sold on the black market, but US officials concluded that the epidemic had resulted from the release of pulmonary anthrax spores during the explosion at Sverdlovsk. The US had long suspected that the Sverdlovsk facility was used for BW research, and the anthrax outbreak strengthened these suspicions. The Soviets, the White House now charged, were producing illegal biological agents at Sverdlovsk. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian Republic confirmed that the Sverdlovsk outbreak had resulted from an accident at a biological warfare research center. The Soviet Union, it turned out, had produced a large number of several different potential BW agents, and although it's unclear whether any actual deliverable weapons were produced, the sheer volume of agent was far in excess of anything needed for “defensive research”.

The mere fact that the USSR possessed biological agents, however, was not in itself a violation of the Convention. The Convention prohibited the production of actual weapons, but allowed the retention of agents for use in defensive research. The vagueness of the treaty, moreover, leaves it up to the individual nation  to decide how much is “enough” for its “defensive” research. The US also at the time retained large  quantities of potential BW agents, and used “substantial volumes” of these agents in its biological research. Presumably, an accidental explosion at one of the US biological research labs would have produced much the same result as at Sverdlovsk.

At the November 1985 summit meeting in Geneva, President Reagan and President Gorbachev discussed several aspects of chemical disarmament. The joint statement released after the summit sounded cautiously optimistic;

“In the context of discussing security problems, the two sides reaffirmed that they are in favor of a general and complete prohibition of chemical weapons and the destruction of existing stockpiles of such weapons.

They agree to accelerate efforts to conclude an effective and verifiable international convention on this matter.”

The two sides agreed to intensify bilateral discussions at the level of experts on all aspects of such a chemical weapons ban, including the question of verification. They also agreed to initiate a dialogue on preventing the proliferation of chemical weapons.

One of the most serious problems with a chemical weapons treaty was the same as that faced by the Geneva delegates in 1925—how to ban the production or transfer of chemical weapons while at the same time allowing the production and sale of industrial chemicals, many of which had potential CW significance. A US State Department paper noted, “Many countries have access to the technology and chemicals required for the production of CW, and many nations have developed civilian chemical industries which could be converted to CW production.”  The Arms Control and Disarmament Agency echoed, “A worldwide ban on chemical weapons would be difficult to verify and we do not yet have solutions for many critical verification problems which remain, including;  a militarily significant stockpile could be concealed in a small area; the fact that many chemicals and equipment used in chemical weapons are also used for industrial and agricultural purposes; the ease and speed with which chemical weapons could be produced clandestinely using new emerging technologies.”

By 1990, however, glasnost and perestroika had produced sweeping changes in the Soviet Union, and Soviet-American relations improved remarkably. Arms reductions agreements were given priority, and high on the list was a treaty to eliminate chemical weapons. Those efforts continued even after the USSR collapsed in 1991.

By 1993, the details had been worked out, and the Chemical Weapons Convention was signed in Paris by 38 nations. The treaty was to go into effect after two years, or six months after 65 nations had ratified it, whichever was later. The treaty outlawed the production, stockpiling, transfer or use of chemical weapons:

“1. Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never under any circumstances:

(a) To develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone;

(b) To use chemical weapons;

(c) To engage in any military preparations to use chemical weapons;

(d) To assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.

2. Each State Party undertakes to destroy chemical weapons it owns or possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

3. Each State Party undertakes to destroy all chemical weapons it abandoned on the territory of another State Party, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

4. Each State Party undertakes to destroy any chemical weapons production facilities it owns or possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.”

To help prevent weapons proliferation, the Convention regulates the international sale of “dual use” chemicals. There is also a regimen of inspections provided, including routine inspections for declared chemical warfare sites, and “challenge inspections” for any plant suspected of illegally making chemical agents.

The Chemical Weapons Convention, however, recognizing that illegal use of CW is still possible, allows for “defensive” research, along the lines of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. This, in effect, opens up the same loopholes which plague the BW treaty. The Chemical Weapons convention does, however, limit the amount of any potential agent that can be possessed, to one ton.

The Chemical Weapons Convention has other flaws and loopholes. The United States, worried about possible infringements of trade secrets, had the inspection and verification provisions significantly weakened. No surprise inspections are provided for under the treaty; instead, suspect plants are to be given a five-day notice. The treaty sets up a new international agency (the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) to perform inspections and to monitor the uses and transfers of potential CW technology, but no penalties for violators are specified in the treaty.

Nations that possessed chemical weapons stockpiles were obligated by the treaty to "declare" them and identify all of their chemical warfare facilities and sites, and then destroy them, under OPCW supervision, within a specified timetable, but several nations, including the US, ran into technical or political difficulties which have delayed this process. Only India has been able to meet its timetable.

The biggest problem with the CW treaty, however, is that several potential chemical aggressors, including Syria, Egypt and North Korea, have flatly refused to sign it.

The past 100 years of chemical and biological arms control, then, achieved only a qualified success. The Hague Convention was ignored during the First World War, and the post-war Washington treaty was never even put into effect. The 1925 Geneva Protocols are flawed and have been violated with impunity. The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention is hampered by loopholes which allow nations to continue essentially the same research programs as before. The same is true of the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.

Nevertheless, it remains true that, for the most part, the international efforts to control and eliminate chemical/biological warfare have worked. There are three major treaties covering CBW, and nearly every nation in the world has signed them. Since World War One, there have been dozens of accusations of the use of lethal chemical or biological weapons, but only a handful of actual confirmed uses (Italy in Ethiopia, Japan in China, Egypt in Yemen, Iraq in Iran and the Kurdish provinces, and Syria in its civil war). As of 2013, only three nations—Syria, North Korea, and Egypt—who have not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention are still suspected of possessing chemical stockpiles. Other nations who used to have stockpiles—the US, Russia, India, Libya, Iraq, South Africa, Iran, China—have either already destroyed their CW capability or are in the process of doing so.

The history of the chemical and biological arms race may, therefore, be coming to a close.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site