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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 65, July - August 2002

Opinion & Analysis

Preventing Chemical Warfare and Terrorism: The CWC and the Middle East

By Pamela Mills


A map of the world showing current states parties and states not party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) reveals a disturbing preponderance of non-signatory states in the Middle East.1 This paper explores options and prospects for encouraging fresh accessions in the face of formidable political obstacles, and weighs the repercussions of both success and failure for the Middle East and the CWC as a whole.

Universality of the CWC would be a tremendous boon to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) - the international organisation charged with implementing the CWC.2 Indeed, universality is an essential condition to be met if the Organisation is to fully and effectively pursue its mandate for the elimination of chemical weapons and the non-proliferation of toxic chemicals and their precursors worldwide, and/or if it is to play a key role in international anti-terrorism efforts. As long as universality eludes the OPCW, there will remain in the world safe havens for those who seek to develop, produce, or use chemical weapons; and any stockpile of chemical munitions or chemical warfare agents - anywhere in the world, for any purpose - presents both a proliferation risk and a potential target for terrorists.

Universal adherence will also grant the OPCW access to important data on the international trade in hazardous and toxic chemicals, enabling the Organisation to keep chemical weapons out of reach of individuals and non-state actors, including terrorists, who would use them for non-peaceful purposes. It is in the interest of all countries to become party to the treaty and benefit from the positive security guarantees contained therein: assistance and protection in the event of attack or threat of attack, unimpeded economic development, and increased opportunities for international cooperation.

For the benefit of the OPCW and the pursuit of worldwide disarmament, the time has come for the CWC to assume a serious role in managing and, ideally, ameliorating the conflict in Middle East. Both short- and long-term gains are on offer from such an involvement. In the long-term, any addition to the universality of the CWC adds to global stability and the elimination of chemical weapons, as well as the elimination of safe havens for those who dare to use toxic chemicals as weapons of terror. Removing chemical weapons from the Middle East arena will prevent their use and add to regional stability. In the short-term, regional trust and confidence building is in short and dwindling supply in the region, a negative trend which arms control and/or disarmament initiatives could help to reverse.

The countries of the Middle East can utilise the CWC as a vehicle for dialogue concerning their security situation; potentially, mutual efforts in this one area could lead to other initiatives and help to prop up what may remain of the peace process. While resolving the many complicated and vexed political and security issues in the region may be a process the United States and other global powers are engaged in far into the future, discussion and ratification of the CWC are tangible actions that can be taken now. I will argue that the political hurdles are not as high as most assume, and that such action would signal a strong dedication to fighting terrorism, among other perils. One extremely positive development, in my view, is the gradual erosion of the political linkage of Israeli accession to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to Arab membership in the CWC.

In short, the CWC has the potential to serve as a viable confidence-building measure (CBM) in the region and thus as a vehicle for regional and global peace and security. Rarely can such a vehicle have been more sorely needed - but will the chance be taken?

The History of the Problem

When the CWC was opened for signature in 1993, Egypt announced a policy of linking its adherence to Israel becoming a party to the NPT. Cairo further pushed for all Arab countries and the Arab League to adopt this position.3 The final communiqué of the June 1993 summit meeting of the League, held in the Egyptian capital, stated: "The Arab leaders stress the need for Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to subject all their nuclear facilities to the inspection regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency".4 Seven members of the Arab League, in addition to Egypt, still maintain such a policy - Comoros and Djibouti, both of which have signed the Convention, plus Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, and Syria. Meanwhile, thirteen League members - Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen - have become states parties and active members of the OPCW. In addition, Iran became a state party in 1997. The OPCW has held conferences and seminars in Iran, Jordan and Kuwait, the most recent being a Regional Course for Civil Protection Against Chemical Weapons in Kuwait City on April 13-16, 2002.

Israel signed the CWC in 1993, despite a long-held position not to join global arms control regimes, in the wake of optimism generated by the 1991 Madrid Peace Process and participation in the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) multilateral working group.5 However, political instability within Israel, including the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, stalled the political momentum toward ratification. At the first Conference of the States Parties (CSP) to the CWC in May 1997, the Israeli Ambassador reiterated Israeli statements at the Paris signing ceremony in 1993, and later in 1994, that Israel would "seek to ratify the Convention subject to regional concerns."6 Given the current intensity of those concerns, the CWC, and arms control in general, has again been relegated to a low priority on the Israeli foreign policy agenda.

The Middle East is one of only a few regions in which chemical weapons have been used in warfare, or their use threatened, since the end of World War Two. Iraq has used them both against Iran, during the decade-long war fought by the two countries in the 1980s, and on its own territory, in the largely Kurdish city of Halabja in 1988. Egypt used chemical weapons in Yemen in the 1960s. During the Gulf War, the prospect of Saddam Hussein launching Scud missiles armed with chemical warheads against Israel or coalition forces was taken seriously across the region. Over a million Israelis isolated themselves in sealed rooms for days and weeks.

Historical use makes the threat posed by chemical weapons all the more tangible and has led to the development of chemical weapons programmes by a number of states in the region. The majority of suspected or confirmed chemical weapon possessor states - states not party to the CWC - are located in the Middle East, including Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Israel. The only other state seriously suspected of chemical weapons capabilities is North Korea. Allegations of a Libyan programme are widely regarded as proven, both within and beyond the region, while in Iraq and Syria programmes have been implicitly acknowledged by the government or their presence confirmed by international inspectors.7 The extent of any chemical warfare capability possessed by Israel and Egypt remains a well-guarded secret.8 Iran, while it has admitted to the development and production of chemical weapons in the past, is a member state of the OPCW, and therefore subject to the Organisation's inspection regime. Iran declared its non-possession of chemical weapons stocks in its initial declaration to the OPCW, indicating that all past Iranian stockpiles of chemical weapons were destroyed prior to the Convention entering into force. The results of all OPCW inspections conducted in the country so far have been favourable, and the OPCW has deemed Iran to be in full compliance with the terms of the CWC.9 Certain observers, both in the region and internationally, however, insist that Iran is evading the Convention and continues to develop and stockpile chemical weapons.10 Despite such accusations, no member state has yet exercised its right to publicly challenge Iran's compliance, or the compliance of any other state party, by calling on the OPCW to undertake a challenge inspection.

Beginning in 1991, with the Madrid Peace Conference, arms control issues were provided a forum for discussion within the context of the peace process through the multilateral working groups. These bodies were set up to address issues such as the environment (particularly water resources), the economy, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. Many of these issues later became known as "final status" issues in the post-Oslo environment. On the topic of security, the ACRS working group was established in June 1992 and continued to function until September 1995. Discussion in the ACRS stalled largely due to the divide between Egypt and Israel with regard to their respective chemical and nuclear weapons policies.11

Before the collapse of the process, the working group did manage to adopt a programme of CBMs, mainly concerning humanitarian, social, or educational issues, which have unfortunately fallen by the wayside. Although there have been calls from participants and observers both inside and outside of the region to resurrect ACRS, what has emerged instead is a series of informal "track-two" projects, attended by government and non-government officials and academics. Over one hundred such meetings have been held since 1995, involving NGOs, universities, scientists, militaries, and others.12

Much has been argued and written about the value of track-two initiatives as a tool for engaging informally with all parties to the conflict, and as a continual forum for dialogue during the increasingly frequent lapses in the current peace process. However, track-two's inherent disadvantage is the non-binding nature of any consensus or agreement, thereby limiting its utility as a CBM. The ideal strategy, in my opinion, to improve the regional security environment would be to seek to combine track-two meetings, progressively more substantive CBMs, and formal disarmament commitments.

The present violence only highlights the need for CBMs to be undertaken by all parties involved both before and during any resumption of the peace process. Dialogue and ratification/accession of the CWC has the potential to function as a major CBM, not only encouraging wider cooperation and trust between Israel and its Arab neighbours, but also serving as a deterrent to chemical weapons use in future conflict and signalling the dedication of the parties involved to prevent and combat chemical terrorism. The key question, of course, is whether the key actors in the Middle East are prepared to engage in such an initiative. Who is prepared to take the first step, and who outside the region is prepared to offer serious guidance and support?

The Present Situation: Crisis and Opportunity

The Middle East is unique when it comes to arms control and disarmament, especially as regards chemical weapons, because of its history of conflict and the past use of such weaponry in the region. Paradoxically, because the threat is so acutely felt, the argument for joining the global regime must be made all the more forcefully. This has proven difficult. There are "basic structural asymmetries in geography, demography, resources, and political systems"13 among the states at the heart of the conflict - Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The possession of chemical weapons, or an advanced CW capability, is in fact seen as possessing strategic utility for many of these states, in terms both of national security policy and political "weight". Regional observers have asserted, for example, that Egypt wishes to retain a chemical option in order to counter Israel's assumed nuclear threat.14 Thus, the perception may exist that even the mutual elimination of CW in the region might lead to a net loss in national and regional security and the wider strategic balance of power.

These basic considerations of history and context mean, in practical terms, that programmes implemented in order to foster greater security cooperation on a regional basis in Europe or in other parts of the world cannot be similarly applied in the Middle East. Any Middle Eastern paradigm for regional security must take into account not only the political conflict between Israel and the Palestinians but also profoundly related issues such as religion, economic development, and perceived threats to national survival. The question for the Middle East is not how to overcome the political vagaries of the region and the ebb and flow of the fragile peace process, but rather how to channel the unique forces at work in the region in order to facilitate dialogue on arms control and disarmament. One of these factors/forces is a dire need for trust-building initiatives and CBMs.

The violence that has gripped the region in the last two years has taken the peace process hostage and pre-empted any meaningful discussion of broader security or other issues. The unity government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, elected in February 2001, seems unlikely to initiate significant movement on arms control and/or disarmament. As the violence in the region worsens, the parties involved need to seek out and grasp any lifeline there may be.

Despite this grim reality, one bright spot in the Middle East over the last 12 months has been the ratification of the CWC by Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. These states' deviation from a policy of linkage to Israeli actions provides hope that other states - at least those comparatively removed, geographically or politically, from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - can be encouraged to become member states in the near future.15

In the course of 2001, the linkage policy suffered other blows as well. In March, at an Arab League summit in Amman, Jordan, regional leaders reissued the call for Israel to join the NPT. While they also emphasised support for establishing the Middle East as a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the final statement made no mention of the linkage policy. In November 2001, during the fifty-sixth session of the UN General Assembly, Libya announced its intention to accede to the CWC; this statement further undermines the linkage policy as Libya has historically been one of its most ardent supporters.16 It should be noted, however, that Libya has yet to follow up its declaration of intent.

Furthermore, at the Amman summit in March, the concept of a "Greater Arab Free Trade Area" was again proposed, as it has been at previous Arab League summits and meetings. The establishment of such a network would be difficult if key economies - i.e. Egypt, Iraq, and Syria - remain subject to trade restrictions under the CWC.17 Recent history, therefore, highlights the progressive eclipse of the linkage policy, signalling the removal of one of the more serious roadblocks to CWC universality in the Middle East.

Egypt still maintains that linkage is a necessary component of its support for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, thereby mitigating both the WMD and conventional threat it perceives from Israel.18 Meanwhile, continued maintenance of a strong and effective deterrent (whether WMD or conventional) remains the cornerstone of Israeli military strategy. But, there may be a way out of the deadlock. Both countries may be open to coordinated regional efforts and dialogue with regard to the CWC and other disarmament regimes, particularly the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and a possible Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).

Since 15 of the 21 member states of the Arab League have broken with the linkage policy and joined or signed the CWC - with Libya hopefully set to join their ranks - Egypt may have no choice but to pursue a WMD-free zone through other means; a good start would be regional, mutual membership in the OPCW.19 Overcoming the obstacles to such a commitment within Israel may prove more difficult, but its own desire to engage regionally20, combined with global pressure for it to accept olive branches offered by its neighbours, could help to turn both public and government opinion in Israel toward the CWC - as will, presumably, the Convention's provisions for assistance and protection if a state party is attacked or threatened with chemical weapons.

Further examination of the reasons behind the demise of the linkage policy may prove instructive. The Gulf states are all geographically removed from the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and give great priority to issues of economy. For them, the non-security benefits, such as economic and technological development and freedom from any CWC-imposed trade restrictions, combined with CWC assurances of assistance and protection should chemical attack be threatened or actually occur, seem to have outweighed the cause of Arab unity and adherence to the linkage policy. Jordan, while bordering on four of the main regional antagonists - Israel, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq - has never tried to develop a chemical weapons programme, and joined the Convention in the knowledge that the OPCW could provide assistance and protection if the chemical arsenals of any of its neighbours were to be intentionally or accidentally turned against it. Furthermore, Jordan is often seen as the key to integrating the region economically, and such development relies upon freedom from trade restrictions. Iran's reasons for joining the Convention might be similar to Jordan's, especially given the fact that it fell victim to Iraq's chemical weapons during their 10-year war. However, an added incentive for Iran's membership was legitimacy, provided by OPCW inspections, for its claim to not possess any chemical weapons stockpiles and to have halted its chemical weapons programme. Widely seen as a proliferator of WMD and WMD-technology, membership in the OPCW, and full compliance with the obligations of the CWC, is one step for Iran down the road to lifting US and international sanctions and paving the way for increased international investment.

The biggest incentive persuading Egypt and Israel, and other states in the region, to accede to the CWC could be the commercial cost of staying outside, particularly with regard to strict enforcement of the Convention's export control provisions. In April 2000, a ban on transfers of Schedule 2 chemicals to states not party came into effect; joining the ban already in effect on Schedule 1 transfers to such countries. The Conference of the States Parties to the CWC is due to decide what further measures to take with respect to the transfer of Schedule 3 chemicals to states not party to the Convention - including the possibility of a trade ban - in 2002.21 In September 2001, OPCW Director-General José M. Bustani called for such a ban, describing it as necessary for effectively ensuring non-proliferation of chemical weapons and preventing chemical terrorism.22 If such a policy were enacted, both Egypt and Israel, as large consumers of Schedule 3 chemicals, would face a difficult decision: develop a domestic production capacity or join the CWC.

While restrictions on the transfer of Schedule 2 chemicals to states not party to the Convention have had little impact on the region, both Egypt and Israel are major producers/consumers of Schedule 3 chemicals, which are used in the production of fertilisers, in oil refining, and in the construction industry.23 Egypt's chemical industry is one of the largest in North Africa and comprises 6.7% of the country's industrial activity. Furthermore, Egypt consumes seven million tons of fertilisers per year. Much of Egypt's chemical production is consumed domestically, and for this reason it is thought that any CWC-related trade restrictions (on either Schedule 2 or 3 chemicals) would not impose a significant economic cost on the country. Yet, any obstacle to economic growth in Egypt and in the region needs to be taken seriously.

The economic argument and the imposition of trade and transfer restrictions may eventually force Israeli ratification of the Convention. Nearly 15% of Israel's exports are organic or inorganic chemicals and fertilisers, and other chemical-related products account for 10% of the country's imports. Israel's large textile and construction industries import 5,000 tons of Schedule 3 chemicals every year.24 The economic damage that could be inflicted by verifiable, OPCW-imposed bans on the trade in Schedule 2, and especially Schedule 3, chemicals is of significant concern to Israeli industrialists. The estimated economic cost to Israel of a ban on the transfer of Schedule 3 chemicals has been placed at $100-200 million.25 Within Israel, support for ratification of the CWC has come largely from sectors of society concerned about the economic consequences of trade restrictions on Schedule 3 chemicals, most notably the Ministry of Trade with some backing from the Foreign Ministry. The Defence Ministry, however, has mounted resistance to a government-wide review of the decision not to ratify the Convention.26

The question for all states in the region not party to the CWC, but particularly for Egypt and Israel, is whether they can be convinced to follow the example of the Gulf states, Iran, and Jordan, and reap the non-security benefits of CWC membership while at the same time building confidence in regional stability and maintaining avenues of dialogue on security and cooperation issues. Progress on arms control and disarmament is key to the successful conclusion of a comprehensive peace. Regional trade and economic development have nearly as much impact on whether sustainable peace can be achieved as do the political issues of statehood and Jerusalem. If the region were free of all CWC-imposed trade restrictions on states not party to the Convention, the chances for economic development in all the states concerned, if not guaranteed, would be significantly increased.

Egypt, Israel, and other key states in the region are not blind to these facts and to the benefits they and the region stand to gain from the CWC - nor are they unaware of the urgent need for CWC universality. The presence of chemical weapons programmes presents a proliferation and diversion risk that in today's global environment countries are increasingly neither able nor willing to tolerate.

Furthermore, the positions taken by states such as Egypt and Israel are not so far apart as to be irreconcilable. Israel's preference for solving regional security problems before joining global regimes such as the NPT or CWC fits with Egypt's promotion of a Middle East WMD-free zone. As we have seen, the process would not have to start from scratch; calls have been made for the resumption of the ACRS talks and interest has been expressed in using the CWC and other arms control and disarmament treaties as CBMs in the absence of political progress among the parties.27 However, vague statements and calls for support from certain segments of Middle Eastern society need to be turned into real action.

Both before and during any renewed peace talks, a security dialogue will work not only to build regional confidence but also, possibly, to forestall the use of chemical weapons or other WMD in the region or elsewhere. Membership to the CWC would be a giant leap forward in the trust Middle Eastern leaders - especially those in Egypt, Israel, and Syria - place in each other and thus help to fill one more gap in the region's security puzzle.

Trust is clearly a precious commodity in the region, and is certain to remain a crucial element in the search for peace. Whatever the scenario on the ground, it is clear that the OPCW and the international community will have to intensify outreach efforts in order make membership of the CWC desirable and feasible for those states remaining outside of the Convention. Placing emphasis on the confidence-building nature of multilateral regimes is one way to accomplish this goal.

Prospects for a Breakthrough

The prospects for key regional states not party to the Convention to join the regime are outlined in the accompanying box. With Libya on the verge of joining, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, and Syria remain the major obstacles to Middle East universality. Since the 1990-91 Gulf War, Iraq has been a special arms control case, and although still an obstacle to universality it should be considered separately. Certainly, the adherence of the other Middle East holdouts is not contingent upon Iraqi compliance. It can be reliably assumed that if Egypt were to join, both Lebanon and Syria would soon follow suit. Israel has long said it will ratify the Convention only after other regional states accede. Compared to the larger security dilemmas looming dangerously over the region, mutual adherence to the CWC now seems a comparatively straightforward and obvious course of action.

The best approach to securing progress toward universality would be to coordinate, and ideally synchronise, the ratifications or accessions of the states in question, thereby lifting the CW sword of Damocles from the entire region in one single move. Nearly all interested parties are likely to be amenable to such a scenario.

The one exception would be our "special case", Iraq. Iraqi capabilities are the source of most of the proliferation concerns in the region, and ultimately cannot be ignored. They need not, however, present an insurmountable obstacle to a serious dialogue among other states in preparation for a full-scale regional embrace of the CWC. Such coordination will necessarily require a broader security dialogue and a cooperative spirit sorely needed in the region. The OPCW could help arrange and structure these efforts, together with other relevant international, regional and non-governmental organisations.


The Middle East cannot be written off as a disarmament no-man's land. According to recent estimates, Middle Eastern military expenditure accounts for over 5% of the world total, and arms sales form a significant percentage of regional exports.28 Highlighting arms control and disarmament issues as part of the effort to revive the Middle East peace process may serve to focus dialogue on less divisive and ultimately cooperative security issues rather than the complex and acutely sensitive topics of Jerusalem and refugees. Furthermore, domestic consensus on WMD should be easier to find and to cultivate.

The security deficit29 in the region has been accumulating for decades and cannot be balanced in a matter of months or possibly even years. Persistence, patience, and hard work need to be exercised by all regional actors in respect to the traditional peace process and all the factors influencing regional stability, including security and disarmament. The CWC should be utilised as one, potentially powerful, tool in the difficult work that is Middle East peacemaking by helping to bring about a chemical-weapons-free zone in the region. The future of the CWC, its universality, and its legitimacy as a viable promoter of peace and stability depends upon its adoption and successful implementation in the Middle East.

Notes and References

1. There are five non-signatories in the Middle East: Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya; Israel is a signatory state. Although seven island states in the South Pacific are also non-signatories, their reasons for not joining the Convention are more economic and procedural than political in nature. The rundown for other regions is as follows: one in Europe (Andorra), three in Africa (Somalia, Angola and Sao Tome and Principe), one in Northeast Asia (North Korea), and three in Latin America/Caribbean (Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Barbados). In addition, 28 states in addition to Israel have signed, but have yet to ratify, the CWC.

2. While I will not - because of its complexity and unresolved nature - address the subject in the body of this paper, the removal of José M. Bustani, the Director-General of the OPCW, in April 2002, by a Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the CWC, will have a serious impact on the role the OPCW plays, not only in the Middle East but internationally. While there were many reasons behind the vote to dismiss the Director-General, the reason most prominent - and, some would say, blown out of proportion - in the media was the Director-General's overtures to Iraq and his claims that if Iraq were to accede to the Convention, OPCW inspectors could assume the mandate of UN inspectors (UNSCOM and UNMOVIC) with respect to the chemical weapons 'file' of Iraq's disarmament responsibilities. The United States accused the Director-General of trying to undermine the UN Security Council and seeking inappropriate roles for the OPCW. The Director-General countered that the United States was seeking to oust him from office because his conciliatory approach to Iraq stood to prevent US military action against Saddam Hussein. For more information on this controversy, see selected statements and documentation on the Special Session on the OPCW website, particularly OPCW document C-SS-1/DG.1, http://www.opcw.org. See also "Preserving the Chemical Weapons Convention: The Need for a New Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Director-General", Fact Sheet, US State Department Bureau of Arms Control, April 1, 2002, http://www.state.gov/t/ac/rls/fs/9120.htm.

3. Previously, Egypt had been an active and constructive participant in the negotiations and its entry to the Convention was widely assumed.

4. Final Communiqué, Arab League Summit Conference, Cairo, June 23, 1993; cited in Steinberg, Gerald, M. "Peace, Security and Deterrence in the Middle East: The Obstacles to a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone," draft workshop paper, 1996.

5. Steinberg, Gerald, M., Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Developments in the Middle East: 1998-99, The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Ramat Gan, Israel, 2000, p. 35. See also, Cohen, Avner, "Israel and Chemical/Biological Weapons: History, Deterrence, and Arms Control," The Nonproliferation Review, Monterey Institute of International Studies, Fall-Winter 2001, pp. 27-53.

6. "Statement by the Ambassador of Israel at the First Session of the Conference of the States Parties", May 1997.

7. The Syrians have implicitly confirmed the existence of a CW arsenal on a few occasions since the 1980s. The most explicit statement was made in November 1996 by the Syrian Ambassador to Cairo, Issa Darwish, who was quoted to have said that Syria would retaliate with CW if Israel attacked with nuclear weapons. The Ambassador hurried to issue a denial the day after his remarks were reported. See M. Zuhair Diab, "Syria's Chemical and Biological Weapons: Assessing Capabilities and Motivations", The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 5, No. 1 (Fall 1997), p. 105. More guarded statements were made by Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara at the 1989 Paris Conference, and by President Hafez al-Assad himself in April 1997. See Gordon M. Burck and Charles C. Flowerree, International Handbook on Chemical Weapons Proliferation (N.Y.: Greenwood Press, 1991), p. 209.

8. For information on both the Israeli and Egyptian programmes see Cohen, Ibid.

9. Statement by Director-General of the OPCW, José M. Bustani, December 8, 2000, http://www.opcw.org.

10. See, "The Proliferation Primer", A Majority Report of the Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation, and Federal Services, Committee on Government Affairs, US Senate, January 1998; CIA Nonproliferation Center, "Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 January through 30 June 1998," released February 1999, http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/bian/bian.html; Statement by CIA Director George Tenet, Director of US Central Intelligence (DCI), before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, March 21, 2000, http://www.state.gov/www/global/terrorism/00033321_tenet_terrorism.html; Statement by Deputy Director of the DCI Non-Proliferation Center, A. Norman Schindler, before the International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services Subcommittee of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, September 21, 2000, http://www.odci.gov/cia/public_affairs/speeches/
; testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation Robert Einhorn before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, October 5, 2000, http://www.state.gov/www/policy_remarks/2000/001005_einhorn_sfrc.html; Cordesman, Anthony H., "Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East: Regional Trends, National Forces, Warfighting Capabilities, Delivery Options, and Weapons Effects," Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C, June 2001, and revised January 2002; George Tenet, Director of US Central Intelligence, "Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to WMD and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 January through 30 June 2001', released January 2002, http://www.ocdi.gov/cia/publications/bian/bian_jan_2002.htm.

11. Yaffe, Michael D., "Promoting Arms Control and Regional Security in the Middle East," Disarmament Forum, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), Geneva, Issue No. 2, 2001, pp. 9-25.

12. For extensive details of the track-two process since 1995 see, Yaffe, Ibid. See also, Nabil Fahmy, Ambassador of Egypt to the United States and Chairman of the UN Secretary-General's Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters, "Special Comment", Disarmament Forum, UNIDIR, Issue No. 2, 2001, pp. 3-6.

13. Steinberg, Gerald, M., "Starting Over: the Prospects for Regional Security and Arms Control in the Middle East in the Next Decade," Disarmament Forum, UNIDIR, Issue No. 2, 2001, pp. 69-76.

14. El Fayoumi, Moukhtar, "The CWC in the Present Middle East Environment: An Egyptian View," OPCW Synthesis, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, The Hague, November 2000, pp. 26-28.

15. The Comoros, Djibouti, and Somalia, as Arab League members, claim to adhere to the linkage policy. In reality, however, their non-accession or non-ratification of the CWC is due largely to the political, economic, or bureaucratic problems that plague these states. Libya has politically aligned itself with the Middle East and the cause of Arab unity and solidarity with the Palestinian people. In the realm of economics and trade, however, Libya is more involved with the other states of the African continent.

16. See UN document, A/56/PV.49.

17. Final Statement of the 13th Ordinary Arab Summit, Amman, 27-28 March 2001, http://www.al-bab.com/arb/docs/league/summit0103.htm. It is unclear, however, how CWC trade restrictions should be interpreted in the context of the provisions and regulations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which does not allow trade barriers.

18. El Fayoumi, Ibid.

19. These states are: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

20. Despite the level of political violence, Israel has shown undoubted willingness to engage with its neighbours informally and in the economic sphere. This attitude is manifested in Israeli participation in the MENA (Middle East North Africa) economic forums and in its continued participation in track-two discussions on numerous issues.

21. The CWC distinguishes between three categories - known as "Schedules" - of CW-related toxic chemicals and their precursors. Schedule 1 chemicals are considered the most dangerous, having few peaceful applications and a record of use and development as weapons. Schedule 2 chemicals pose a lesser but still significant risk as candidate substances for weapons or precursors of weapons-usable chemicals; commercially produced substances in this category include thiodiglycol, which is used for production of textiles, inks, elastomers, lubricants, stabilisers, antioxidants, dyes, anti-static agents, epoxides, coatings, metal plating, and photographic and copying processes. Schedule 3 chemicals - including those as common as phosgene, hydrogen cyanide, and triethanolamine - are even more widely produced and used for a range of commercial applications, but nonetheless remain capable of misapplication as CW-precursor substances.

22. See OPCW document EC-XXVI/DG.11, September 25, 2001; www.opcw.org.

23. Although the trade ban on transfers of Schedule 2 chemicals to states not party to the Convention came into effect in April 2000, the OPCW's decision-making bodies have not yet made provision for enforcing the new regulations. With regard to Schedule 3 transfers, the same organs are currently exploring the need for stricter measures, including the possibility of a trade ban. Currently, the CWC only requires that end-user certificates accompany transactions involving Schedule 3 chemicals.

24. Benn, Aluf, "Israel's Decision Time", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April 2001, pp. 22-24.

25. Cost figures cited in Cohen, Ibid.

26. See both Benn, Ibid, and Cohen, Ibid.

27. El Fayoumi, Ibid, and Steinberg, Gerald, M., "Israeli Policy on the CWC," OPCW Synthesis, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, November 2000, pp. 29-31.

28. Cordesman, Anthony, H., "Arms Sales, Arms Control and Regional Security in the Middle East," Disarmament Forum, UNIDIR, Issue No. 2, 2001, pp. 41-48.

29. Jean Pascal Zanders, "Security Through Universality: Some fundamentals Underlying Article X of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention", October 8, 2000, published on the Internet at http://projects.sipri.se/cbw/research/sec-uni-X-BTWC.PDF; prepared for the International Conference on the "Peaceful Use of Biotechnology and Convention on Biological Weapons", organised by the Italian government, Trieste, Italy, June 25-26, 1998.

Pamela Mills is a Hague-based researcher for the Harvard Sussex Program on CBW Armament and Arms Limitation, following and reporting on the implementation of the CWC by the OPCW.

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Prospects for CWC Ratification in Specific Middle Eastern Countries

Egypt has lost most of its allies in the attempt to link Arab membership in the OPCW to Israeli accession to the NPT. As such, it may be re-evaluating its own approach to chemical weapons and regional disarmament, and could be made to view mutual adherence to the CWC as a first step toward the establishment of a WMD-free zone. However, such a political U-turn would require a major lobbying effort by outside powers and possibly international organisations and NGOs, as well as the resumption of an official security dialogue in the region. Egypt feels that a WMD-free zone is the only way to mitigate both the conventional and unconventional threat posed by Israel. And, in the meantime, Egypt seems to believe that a chemical weapons programme, or the perception of one, is the best deterrent in lieu of regional, mutual, disarmament.

Iraq is a unique case given the extensive WMD programmes built by Saddam Hussein and the history of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), charged with the oversight and verification of Iraq's disarmament.1 The perceived failure of the international community to disarm Iraq is widely cited as justification for Israeli suspicion of the value of multilateral regimes like the CWC. Moves toward accession should not be expected in the country as long as the UN inspectors forming the new, reconstituted Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) team, are denied entry by the current or future Iraqi governments. However, the OPCW, due to its previous interactions with Iraq,2 may have the potential to serve as an objective party in any negotiations on the CWC that might come about between the international community (separate from UNSCOM or UNMOVIC) and the government of Saddam Hussein. Furthermore, like Iran, Iraq stands to gain a measure of international legitimacy for its claims to have abandoned its chemical weapons programmes if it were to join the OPCW and allow inspections. This would lend support to its campaign to have US and UN sanctions against it lifted, opening the door to large-scale economic investment. However, unless Iraq's general disengagement from even its Middle Eastern neighbours is reversed - which appears more likely, if not yet probable, after the Arab League Summit in Beirut in March 2002- it is unlikely to join the CWC, despite any mutual decision that might be taken by other states. In fact, the need or desire to further isolate Iraq can be seen as another argument for common adherence to the CWC in the region.

The general position of Israel on multilateral arms control is a barrier to CWC universality in the region. Israel is the only state in the region, and one of only a few in the world (together with Cuba, India and Pakistan), that is not a member of the NPT. Neither has Israel ratified the CTBT, although its one of 44 named states whose membership is required to enable the accord to enter into force. It is widely assumed to possess a nuclear capability, yet has never officially admitted to such a programme, preferring to maintain a policy of "nuclear ambiguity", ostensibly to strengthen the deterrent power of its presumed arsenal.3 Israel has remained steadfast in its position on the CWC because it views the ability to respond to a chemical attack in kind as critical to an effective deterrence policy. Stripped of the power to launch a chemical response to a chemical attack, Israel would be forced to decide between responding either with a nuclear strike or a massive conventional attack. In the words of one Israeli analyst, "the former is perceived as not credible because it is disproportionate, while the latter is considered too weak for deterrence purposes."4 Israel is in general hesitant to take any action in the global arena that its Arab neighbours, and perceived foes, are not willing to follow, but at the same time is eager to cooperate with the West, particularly with the United States. For reasons both political and economic, Israel would benefit greatly from regional adherence, but has little to gain from ratifying unilaterally.

Lebanon is well placed to accede, but is unlikely to do so until one of its larger neighbours, Egypt or Syria, takes the first step. For decades, Lebanon has been used as a battlefield by other countries engaged in the Arab-Israeli conflict - principally Syria and Israel, but also Egypt and Iran (through Hizbollah) - and its domestic rivalries have been exploited by outside powers leading to civil war, violence, and continual unrest. Lebanon has not had an independent foreign or security policy for much of the last two decades. A fundamental revival of sovereignty may, however, be underway. In 2000, Israel withdrew from its self-declared security zone in Southern Lebanon, which it had occupied since the 1980s, in response to a wave of terror attacks. In June 2001, Syria pulled its troops out of Beirut for the first time in more than a decade, and there is talk of a corresponding withdrawal from the entire country. The new Lebanese government of Rafik Hariri has pledged to make economic development a priority. Given these shifts in the political and economic landscape, Lebanon might very well conclude that it has little to fear directly from its neighbours' chemical weapons arsenals, and seek assurance from the CWC's clauses to provide international assistance and protection. Moreover, Lebanon could benefit greatly from being free of trade restrictions, and from access to OPCW programmes in support of technological and economic development - desperately needed to repair an infrastructure devastated from the years of civil war and chaos. If a viable chemical industry were established in Lebanon, it could play a key role in the country's economic recovery. Few Lebanese continue to believe that the Egyptian linkage policy is still viable, and thus Lebanon would likely be one of the primary proponents of using CWC membership as a regional CBM.

Until recently, Libya showed little interest in the CWC. Its recently announced intention to deviate from the linkage policy has effectively undermined any efficacy the one-time Arab League policy had retained. President Qaddafi has spent most of the last decade transforming the former "pariah-state" into a political and economic leader in Africa, both above and below the Sahara. Qaddafi's desire to be a leader for the continent seems to have won out over dedication to the remnants of Arab unity. Two-thirds of African states have already joined the CWC. Although many African signatories are yet to ratify, there are only three non-signatory states besides Libya on the African continent: Angola, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia. With Libyan accession a near-term possibility, if the other Middle Eastern states were to join in conjunction with Libya or in its wake, the region as a whole would benefit greatly.

Syria might be tempted to accede to the CWC in order to promote economic development, a major area of concern for the young government of Basher Al-Assad. There is a real prospect for extensive growth in the Syrian chemical industry. Arab unity, a cause ardently championed by Assad, will likely deter Syria from acceding in the absence of similar action by its neighbours. Syria has in the past shown a willingness to join international regimes in conjunction with Israel, as evidence by their mutual ratification/accession of the Geneva Protocol in December 1968 and January 1969, respectively.


1. Under the terms of resolution 687 (1991), the UN Security Council established UNSCOM to oversee, alongside the IAEA, the elimination of Iraq's WMD capabilities and the ability to reproduce WMD. What was initially expected to be a short-term task developed into an eight-year operation to uncover the full extent of Iraq's WMD programmes. In December 1998, UNSCOM inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq by its Executive Chair, Richard Butler, in the expectation of large-scale US and British airstrikes. Once these attacks had duly materialised, Iraq announced UNSCOM would not be allowed to resume its work. The UN officially closed its laboratory in Baghdad in July 1999. Before the inspections ceased, UNSCOM inspectors seized and destroyed an extensive CW arsenal, including 38,537 munitions, 690 tons of bulk CW agents, over 3,000 tons of CW precursor chemicals, 426 pieces of chemical production equipment and 91 pieces of related analytical instruments. In December 1999, Security Council resolution 1284 created UNMOVIC to replace UNSCOM. However, UNMOVIC, headed by former IAEA Director General Hans Blix, has yet to carry out any inspections in Iraq, a result of Iraqi intransigence with respect to its refusal to allow any inspectors to return.

2. In July 1999, a team from the OPCW travelled to Iraq, with the support of the government, to aid in the closure of UNSCOM's laboratory there.

3. Because of the policy of ambiguity, it is hard to know for certain the true size of Israel's nuclear deterrent. By the late-1990s, US intelligence sources estimated that the country possessed up to 130 nuclear weapons and it is thought to have developed at least two nuclear bombs during the Six-Day War in 1967. Some reports claim that Israel might have as many as 400 nuclear weapons in its arsenal ("Federation of Atomic Scientists Nuclear Forces Guide," http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/nuke, accessed on November 14, 2000).

4. Steinberg, Gerald, M., "Starting Over: the Prospects for Regional Security and Arms Control in the Middle East in the Next Decade," Disarmament Forum, UNIDIR, Issue No. 2, 2001, pp. 69-76.