From an editorial published Thursday on Bloomberg.com:
In the 15 years that the Chemical Weapons Convention banning the use or possession of such arms has been in force, 78 percent of the worlds declared stores has been destroyed, and the rest is scheduled for demolition. With the arrival in Syria this week of an international team to inspect this regimes program, there is hope that another significant stockpile will be demobilized.
Of course, the goal is to have no chemical weapons left in the world, elusive as that may be. Syria was pressed to accept the weapons ban in order to ensure that the Aug. 21 massacre in which some 1,400 people died in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta is not repeated. But what can be done to reduce the possibility of another such atrocity elsewhere?
One goal should be to improve the control of chemicals used to make weapons.
After Syria officially joins the convention on Oct. 14 as part of the U.S.-Russia plan to decommission its chemical weapons program the country will have to fully account for all the chemical arms it has ever had throughout its history, as well as detail any assistance it has received from abroad. Finding out who may have aided Syria in gathering its stockpile will help plug holes in international enforcement of the convention.
Even if Syria received no help or if the facts cant be determined, it is only prudent for all countries to improve controls on chemicals that can be used for weapons. Given the enormous volume of trade that national inspectors must police, it will always be difficult to stop proliferators who are determined to skirt the rules. But governments can work harder to prevent unintentional violations, many committed by the increasing number of small companies that arent even aware of their legal obligations.
Infractions are a special concern in Russia, China and India, where chemical industries arent well organized. Governments there should follow the example of the U.S. Commerce Department to educate companies about the law.
Intense lobbying by OPCW officials and offers of help in drafting supporting legislation have in the past turned other small states around and could do so again. However, the organization itself is hurting for funds. Its budget of $92 million was flat for several years before it was cut by 5 percent last year.
Given the potential for progress in Syria, those cuts should be reconsidered. The backlash against Ghoutas horror should work to ensure that no one is exposed to chemical weapons again.
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