Chemical Weapons Convention
Historically chemical weapons are rarely seen in combat but when they are they are used to great effect, killing thousands and injuring many more. Chemical weapons were first used in combat in May 1915 when the Germans released chlorine gas against the French in the Battle of Ypres. Over the course of WWI new chemical agents were developed including cyanide, phosgene and mustard gas. The Geneva Protocol of 1925 condemned chemical weapons but states that if a state used chemical weapons retaliation in kind was acceptable. The treaty also did nothing to stem the production and stockpiling of chemical weapons. Since 1925 the use of chemical weapons has been confirmed in such wars as the Italian-Ethiopian War, Iran-Iraq War and perhaps most infamously was Saddam Hussein’s ethnic cleansing of the Kurds in 1987. In the past there have been efforts to curb chemical weapons proliferations such as the 1976 US and Soviet Conference on the Committee on Disarmament. However it wasn’t until the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) that any significant progress had been made regarding chemical weapons proliferation. The CWC established a legally binding standard that all states that ratified would agree never to develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, transfer or retain chemical weapons or aid anyone to do so. States also agreed never to use chemical weapons and never retaliate with chemical weapons. States that have ratified must declare in writing all stockpiles, production facilities and chemical industrial facilities that could be used to a chemical weapons program and any remaining stockpiles or facilities still in place must be destroyed by April 2012. The CWC went into effect in April 1995 and so far 188 states have ratified it including countries with large chemical industries. The CWC was largely based off of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC); however unlike the BWC the CWC has a verification mechanism. The CWC created the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) which is tasked with verification and identifying violators. The OPCW conducts routine on site inspections of chemical facilities as well as commercial dual use facilities making it very difficult for states to have covert chemical weapons programs. The OPCW also allows challenge inspections where states can force an inspection on another state and the only way to block a challenge inspection is by a two thirds majority vote. So far no challenge inspections have been made. There are strong incentives for states to join the CWC because states that have yet to join the CWC have become international pariahs and have been severely restricted in their access to chemicals that have a dual use in commercial or military. This severely hampers their economies and gives them a strong incentive to join the CWC. Had the United States for some reason not ratified the CWC, it would have lost several hundred million dollars a year largely because the chemical manufacturing industry is the United States largest export. The CWC has been effective in reducing chemical weapons facilities and munitions worldwide. As of March 2005 “the OPCW has conducted several hundred inspections at chemical-weapons sites and dual-use facilities and helped eliminate about 7 percent of the world’s chemical-weapons materials and 15 percent of its chemical munitions.” By October of 2007 the OPCW had destroyed 35 percent of all declared chemical weapons stockpile. This shows that the CWC has made considerable gains towards complete chemical weapon disarmament. The CWC is gaining universal acceptance with only a handful of key states still left to ratify. As more states accept the ban on chemical weapons the likelihood of chemical weapons being used in combat will decrease significantly. One of the major shortcomings of the CWC is the budget. The OPCW has over and over again overestimated its income and underestimated its expenses. In 2000...
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