Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Lugar Calls on U.S., Russia to Jointly Reduce Syrian Chemical Threat
Capitol Hill's most seasoned nonproliferation champion is calling on the United States and Russia to collectively seek to rid Syria of its chemical arsenal, Reuters reported on Wednesday (see GSN, Aug. 6).
It would be to both Moscow and Washington's advantage to cooperate in dealing with Syria's large chemical stockpile, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said during a trip to the Russian capital.
"I've suggested that we ought to be thinking ahead, about two great powers with great respect for each other, and considering tackling the problem of the chemical weapons of Syria," Lugar said to journalists in discussing his talks with Russian defense and foreign affairs officials.
Lugar is one of the original co-sponsors of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, which helps former Soviet states to secure and eliminate nuclear weapons, delivery systems and other unconventional materials (see GSN, Aug. 7). The successful anti-WMD initiative is being studied for potential expansion into Africa.
The Assad government is believed to hold hundreds of tons of nerve and blister agents, along with missiles and other weapons that could be loaded with the materials.
Escalation of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad has caused considerable worry in Washington that mounting violence could create an opening for nonstate actors to seize and attempt to use Syrian chemical weapons. There is also concern that the government itself could employ the warfare agents in an attempt to stave off defeat. The Assad regime has suggested it could use biological and chemical materials against foreign intruders should they enter the conflict.
Damascus has signed the Geneva Protocol, which forbids the use of chemical arms, but not the more stringent Chemical Weapons Convention, which additionally outlaws the production and stockpiling of such weapons.
Lugar, who will leave the Senate at the end of the year, said he was reminded by a high-ranking Russian Defense Ministry official that Syria is not beholden to the CWC regime and the chemical weapons in question do not belong to the United States or Russia.
The senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he countered that "it is also not very clear who in the course of events will own them. ... Everyone sees these weapons as having a potentially adverse influence on the course of peace and stability in the Middle East."
Russia is one of Assad's last remaining major allies and has used its influence in Damascus to strongly warn against any employment of chemical weapons (Timothy Heritage, Reuters, Aug. 8).
Lugar said he offered his suggestion independent of the Obama administration, the New York Times reported.
"The threats might be to both of our countries from elsewhere," the lawmaker said. "That's what I am suggesting as maybe a new chapter in our cooperative threat reduction -- that we think about our abilities really to be helpful to each other, but also to the rest of the world" (David Herszenhorn, New York Times, Aug. 7).
Jordan is extremely concerned about the danger posed by its neighbor's chemical weapons, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.
"What scares us most is weapons falling into the wrong hands," Jordanian King Abdullah told U.S. journalist Charlie Rose in an interview that is to be broadcast on U.S. networks this week (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, Aug. 8).
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