Syrian chemical list released, evidence of nerve gas agents

Ryan Derham
Co-editor Global

As the debate with United States intervention in Syria continues, Baltimore’s own are taking to the street. The occupy movement is still present in Baltimore and they urge policy makers to focus on jobs and education, not another war. Some Marylanders believe that economic sanctions could be a solution. Others don’t see Syria as a negative influence on U.S. national security. While voters clearly advocated for no intervention in Syria, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), supported Barack Obama’s decision to go through with the resolution. Before the votes were cast, she expressed an equal desire as did her constituents for no war. Additionally, she was one of 19 senators who opposed the Iraqi war resolution in 2002. While the majority of Marylanders continue to oppose war, Mikulski, chose a different direction. Either way, the Senate has tabled Syria as a topic on the floor for 90 days. Despite this, Syria is still a hot topic in the news.  Whether or not this means war, we will have to wait.
Currently, the U.S. is waiting to see if Russia can resolve the issue. BBC News stated that the Syrian government was given until September 21 to release a document that included, “names, types and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions and location and form of storage, production and research and development facilities.” Syria submitted a partial list to The Hague. As a result the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OWCW) postponed their council meeting.  While a timetable is being discussed, investigators should be in Syria in November.  It is, however, confirmed that nerve agent sarin was used in the attacks on August 21st.  Blame was not put on neither Assad nor rebel groups.  While it is confirmed that Assad has possession of sarin, it is not known which other groups do as well. Secretary of State John Kerry says that it is up to the world to decide who is at fault. France, the UK, and the US have adamantly stated that the Syrian government was responsible for the attacks.
Sarin originated in 1939 and was developed for wartime use.  The German Army Weapons Office mass produced the chemical agent.  The Center for Disease Control explains that sarin “[prevents] the proper operation of an enzyme that acts as the body’s ‘off switch’ for glands and muscles. Without an ‘off switch,’ the glands and muscles are constantly being stimulated.” Death, which occurs at very low exposure rates, results from asphyxia. Sarin vapors can permeate clothing for up to thirty minutes.  Inhalation of these vapors can be fatal or result in permanent neurological damage. Evidence of its use was found in Iran in the 80’s and in Japan in the 90’s. In 1997, the United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention was put into effect. It banned stockpiling of many types of chemical weapons and stated that all supplies must be destroyed by 2007.
The question still remains as to how Assad should be punished for the use of chemical weapons. Use of these banned weapons is considered a war crime across the globe. At this point, the United States, even as a world power, is unsure of the correct path to take. The OPCW is currently outlining a yearlong process for the destruction of all the chemical weapons. Syria’s recent cooperation with meeting OPCW deadlines gives a hopeful spin on future actions.


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