Common Dreams & Haaretz & BBC World News – 2013-10-09 21:42:40
US Grandstands on Chemical Weapons Treaty While Violating It
Sarah Lazare / Common Dreams
(September 12, 2013) — As the Obama administration continues to threaten military intervention in Syria unless the government of Bashar al-Assad follows international ‘norms’ on chemical weapons, the US government violates those very norms by storing tons of chemical weapons at facilities in Kentucky and Colorado, breaking its own promises to the international community.
The US government keeps approximately 2,611 tons of mustard gas in a facility in Colorado, and 524 tons of a spectrum of chemical weapons — including deadly nerve agent Sarin — in a facility in Kentucky, despite commitments to have already destroyed its chemical arsenals by now.
As a ratifier of the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty, overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at the Hague, the US agreed in 1997 to destroy its chemical weapons stocks within 10 years, with the possibility of a 5-year extension. Yet, with the latest possible deadline of 2012 now passed, US officials say that they can’t destroy all of their arsenals until 2023.
Furthermore, chemical weapons inspectors have been stymied several times by US politicians since the US ratified the agreement, including President George W. Bush’s 2002 role in successfully pushing for the firing of JosÃ© MaurÃcio Bustani, the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons who pushed for thorough inspection of US facilities.
While the US is not the only ratifier that has broken deadlines for destroying weapons stockpiles, it has notably been using this treaty to build arguments in favor of military force against the Syrian government, whose use of chemical weapons has still not been definitively proven.
As the Obama administration has railed against Syria for failing to ratify the convention, it has remained silent on Israel’s refusal to ratify, even though the country is documented to possess chemical weapons, and like the US, has used them against civilians.
Syria claimed earlier this week that it would place its chemical weapons into international control, and that it wishes to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty. Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry enters into discussions Thursday with Russian officials in Geneva, as the Obama administration continues to threaten military force.
Critics charge that, given the track record of the US government, it is on shaky grounds to single out Syria. “Focusing on Syria alone doesn’t seem to be reasonable or realistic, Stephen Zunes — leading Middle East Peace scholar, told Common Dreams. “What we need is universality. Weapons of Mass Destruction apartheid, where we’ll let one country have weapons but go to war with another, is not going to work.”
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CIA Document from 1983 Indicates Israel Built Chemical Weapons Stockpile
TEL AVIV (September 10, 2013) — A newly discovered CIA document indicates that Israel likely built up its own chemical weapons arsenal. Intelligence circles in Washington believe that Israel amassed a stockpile of chemical and biological weapons decades ago to complement its alleged nuclear arsenal, Foreign Policy reported Monday on its website.
Information about Israel’s chemical weapons production appears in a secret 1983 CIA intelligence estimate obtained by Foreign Policy.
American spy satellites in 1982 uncovered “a probable CW (chemical weapon) nerve agent production facility and a storage facility . . . at the Dimona Sensitive Storage Area in the Negev Desert,” the CIA document reported. “Other CW production is believed to exist within a well-developed Israeli chemical industry.
“While we cannot confirm whether the Israelis possess lethal chemical agents, several indicators lead us to believe that they have available to them at least persistent and nonpersistent nerve agents, a mustard agent, and several riot-control agents, marched with suitable delivery systems.”
It is not known whether Israel still maintains the chemical weapons, according to Foreign Policy. In 1992, the Israeli government signed but never ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans such weapons.
The report, which was declassified in 2009, mostly deals with allegations of Soviet use of chemical and biological weapons in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. Sections on the Middle East were largely deleted by government censors.
The document has come to light as the Syrian government has accepted a Russian proposal to put its chemical weapons under international control to avoid a possible US military strike.
Israel ‘To Stop Using White Phosphorus Shells’
BBC World News
(April 26, 2013) — The Israeli military says it is to stop using artillery shells with white phosphorus to create smokescreens on the battlefield. It says shells will be replaced with types based completely on gas, which will create the same effect.
Rights groups condemned Israel’s use of white phosphorus during the Gaza conflict because of its severely harmful effects on civilians. International law restricts the use of white phosphorus during war. The Israeli military said the existing shells contained “minimal amounts” of white phosphorus, and would be “removed from active duty soon”.
Three years ago, Israel promised to draw up new rules on the use of shells containing white phosphorus, in the wake of the Gaza war. Some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the three-week conflict.
During the offensive, Israel used white phosphorus rounds in densely populated areas, the UN and Human Rights Watch said. Part of a UN compound burned down after it was hit by chunks of the burning chemical, which ignites on contact with air. Human Rights Watch said Israel “deliberately or recklessly” used white phosphorus shells in violation of the laws of war, causing “needless civilian deaths”.
Israel has insisted that its use of white phosphorus in the conflict was permitted under international law and that it sought to avoid unnecessary civilian deaths in Gaza.
As a weapon, white phosphorus is used to mark enemy targets and to produce smoke for concealing troop movements. It can also be used as an incendiary device against enemy positions. Its effects, however, can be extremely harmful. If burning white phosphorus lands on a person’s skin, it can go through to the bone. Toxic phosphoric acid can also be released into wounds, risking phosphorus poisoning.
A protocol to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons bans the use of white phosphorus as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations or in air attacks against enemy forces in civilian areas.
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