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Title: Obama Warns Syria on Chemical Arms

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Arms Control Association

Obama Warns Syria on Chemical Arms
Author(s): KELSEY DAVENPORT and DANIEL HORNER
Source: Arms Control Today, Vol. 42, No. 7 (SEPTEMBER 2012), pp. 27-28
Published by: Arms Control Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23629298
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Obama
Obama
WarnsWarns
Syria on Chemical
Syria
Arms
on Chemical Arms

m

stocks of WMD or any unconventional
Bashar al-Assad's hold on power appears
warned the Syrian government that

President
Barack
using or moving
chemicalObama
weapons last month

weapons that the Syrian Arabic Republic
to be increasingly tenuous. The situation

has led governments and independentpossess would never be used against
or against the Syrian people
experts to worry about the possibility civilian,
that

would be seen as a step that was so serious

during this crisis at any circumstances....
Syrian government forces might use the

it could trigger a U.S. military response.

weapons or that the weapons could spread
All the stocks of the weapon that ^

At an Aug. 20 press conference, Obama
said "at this point" he has "not ordered

to other states or nonstate groups, by the Syrian Arab Republic possess are

military engagement," but emphasized

monitored and guarded by the Syrian
Syrian design or inability to secure them.

that "[w]e cannot have a situation where

The U.S. military reportedly has

chemical or biological weapons are falling

completed the "initial planning" for

into the hands of the wrong people."

operations in Syria, including securing
similar formulation, but added a qualifier: ^

He said the United States "has

chemical weapons, in the event of a

army."

-n

30

Later in the press conference, he used a

"Any stocks of any unconventional

regime collapse. (See ACT, July/Augustweapon, any chemical weapon, If it exists,

communicated in no uncertain terms

2012.)
with every player in the region that that's
a redline for us and that there would be

Obama made his comments about a

it won't be used—never, ever—against
civilian, against the Syrian people." The

weapons would be used only against
enormous consequences if we start seeing month after remarks by Syrian Foreign
movement on the chemical weapons
Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi "external aggression," he said.
front or the use of chemical weapons.

were widely interpreted as confirming According to the Associated Press, the

That would change my calculations

Syrian government subsequently sent a
for the first time that Syria has chemical

significantly."

weapons. After reading a statement in statement to journalists, saying that "all of

Obama's comments came as the civil

Arabic at a July 23 press conference,

these types of weapons—IF ANY—are in

storage and under security."
conflict in Syria worsens and PresidentMakdissi recapitulated it in English: "Any

>

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2

cn

O

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z

H

JO

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JimWatson/AFP/Get yImages

During an August 20 press briefing at the White House, President Barack Obama warned Syria against using chemical weapons.

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27

^ A report A
sent
report
to sent
Congress
to Congress
earlier
earlier
thisthis

U

year
year by
by the
theOffice
Officeofofthe
theDirector
Director
of of

cc

supporting
supporting[biological
[biological
weapons]
weapons]
agentagent been a staunch ally of Syria; along with
China, it has blocked efforts in the UN
development."
development."
In In
thethe
Aug.
Aug.
23 e-mail,
23 e-mail,
the the

StateDepartment
Department
official
official
said said
SyriaSyria
"may "may
Security Council to apply pressure on the
National
National Intelligence
Intelligencesaid
saidSyria
Syria
has
has
had
had State

be engaged
engagedinin
activities
activities
thatthat
would
would
violate
violate
Assad regime.
a chemical
chemical weapons
weaponsprogram
program
"for
"for
many
many be
years"
years" and
and possesses
possessesa astockpile
stockpile
ofof
agents
agents its
its obligations"
obligations"
under
under
the the
Biological
Biological

^ that "can
that
be"can
delivered
be delivered
by aerial
by aerial
bombs,
bombs,
ballistic
ballistic missiles,
missiles,and
andartillery
artillery
rockets."
rockets."

^ The

The program
is dependent on
on "foreign
program
is dependent
"foreign

In a July 25 interview with the ITAR

Weapons
WeaponsConvention
Convention
(BWC)
(BWC)
if itif
were
it wereTASS news agency, Russian Deputy
party
partyto
tothe
the
convention.
convention.

Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said

Russia had conducted "urgent work with
Syria
Syriaisisnot
not
a party
a party
to the
to the
BWCBWC
or the
or the

sources
sources for
forkey
keyelements,"
elements,"
the
the
report
report
said.
said.Chemical
ChemicalWeapons
Weapons
Convention.
Convention.
SinceSincethe leadership of Syria so that reliable
In
In an
an Aug.
Aug.23
23e-mail
e-mailtoto
Arms
Arms
Control
Control

1968,
1968,however,
however,
it has
it has
been
been
a party
a party
to theto the
protection of chemical weapon storage

1925
1925Geneva
Geneva
Protocol,
Protocol,
which
which
prohibits
prohibitssites could be guaranteed. And from
Today,
Today, aa State
StateDepartment
Department
official
official
saidsaid
that
that
Damascus
"Syria
"Syria has
hasa astockpile
stockpile
composed
composed
of of
nerve
nerve"bacteriological
"bacteriological
methods
methods
of warfare"
of warfare"
and and

we received firm assurances

that the security of these arsenals is fully
agents
agents and
andmustard
mustardgas"
gas"
and
and
that
that
thethe
U.S.U.S.
the
the "use
"useofof
asphyxiating,
asphyxiating,
poisonous,
poisonous,
or
or

1X1

government
governmentmonitors
monitors
Syria's
Syria's
chemical
chemical
weapons
weapons activities
activities"very
"very
closely."
closely."
During
During the
theJuly
July2323press
press
conference,
conference,

guaranteed."

other gases."
In a statement on July 24, the day after

Makdissi's press conference, the Russian

He said that the situation in Syria,

however, makes it "impossible to rule out"

Makdissi
Makdissi also
alsoalluded
alludedtoto
biological
biological

Foreign Ministry noted Syria's ratification

the possibility that chemical weapons

weapons.
weapons.According
Accordingtoto
the
the
intelligence
intelligence

of the protocol and said it was "confident"

"can somehow fall into the hands of the

report
report sent
sentto
toCongress,
Congress,
"Syria's
"Syria's
that Syria would "henceforth keep to its
biotechnical
biotechnicalinfrastructure
infrastructure
is is
capable
capable
of of international commitments." Russia has

armed
armed opposition
oppositionasaswell."—KELSEY
well."—KELSEY
well."—KELSEY
DAVENPORT and DANIEL HORNER

Future
Future of
ofIran
IranTalks
Talks
inin
Question
Question
pressed for Iran "to address the issues" now in order to "build
six world powers remains unclear after several rounds of

confidence" and that she and Jalili were planning to talk again

The future
senior-level
between Iran and
lower-level of
discussions
in July and Augustnegotiations
appear not to

at the end of August "after further reflection." Jalili told Iranian

have made decisive progress toward an agreement that addresses

news outlets that, during the conversation with Ashton, he

international concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
The parties had agreed on the sequence for the July-August
lower-level talks at the end of the last round of senior-level

requested a "clear and specific response" from the P5+1 to
Tehran's proposals. Neither side mentioned a resumption of the
high-level political talks.

Nevertheless, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney
meetings, which took place June 18-19 in Moscow. (See ACT,
said
on Aug. 13 that there is "every reason to continue" the
July/August 2012.) At that time, EU foreign policy chief

P5+1 negotiations "while time and space remains." Carney's
Catherine Ashton, who led the six-country delegation in its
comments
came the day after Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister
talks with Iran, said "significant gaps" existed between the
positions of the two sides.

The six-country group is known as the P5+1 because it
includes the five permanent members of the UN Security

Council—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the
United States—plus Germany.
Talks between Iran and the P5+1 resumed in Istanbul last

April after a 15-month hiatus. They were followed by two other

rounds of senior-level negotiations, a May session in Baghdad
o and the June talks in Moscow.
The first of the lower-level talks, a technical-level meeting,

n

£ took place July 3 in Istanbul. The purpose of the meeting,
according to the EU Foreign Office, was to provide further

details on the technical aspects of the proposals made by Iran

^ and the the P5+1 during the earlier senior-level talks. Russian
P Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that although the
o talks were not a failure, they did not produce a breakthrough or
cc
t; "decisive progress."

The experts meeting was followed by a July 24 deputy-level

meeting in Istanbul and an Aug. 3 phone conversation between
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and lead Iranian
^ Ashton and Saeed Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator. nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili meet in Moscow on June 18.
Ashton released a statement after the call, saying she The two officials spoke by telephone on August 3.
28

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Kirl Kudryavtsev/AFP/Get yImages


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