Early this year, the intergovernmental Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, reported that its fact-finding mission had noted evidence that chlorine gas was "systematically and repeatedly" used as a weapon in Syria.
Chlorine is not a prohibited substance, because of its many benign uses, including as a powerful disinfectant, and for water purification. But in high concentrations, it maims and kills if inhaled. It turns to hydrochloric acid in the lungs, which burns the living tissue and may cause drowning through a release of fluid in the lungs.
There is little doubt that Chlorine gas was used as a weapon against the Syrian people, said U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power after the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution 2209 that condemned the use of any toxic chemical, such as chlorine, as a weapon in the Syrian Arab Republic. She noted that numerous witnesses saw or heard the sound of helicopters over three opposition held villages, heard or saw barrel bombs falling, saw a yellow cloud released upon impact, and smelled a chlorine odor.
And there is little doubt that civilian inhabitants of these three villages were poisoned by their own government—air force units loyal to Bashar Assad, said Ambassador Power. “Who has helicopters in Syria? Certainly not the opposition. Only the [Assad] regime does and we have seen them use their helicopters in countless other attacks on innocent Syrians using barrel bombs,” said Ambassador Power.
Just 18 months ago, the Council adopted resolution 2118, which requires the Syrian regime to dismantle and destroy its declared chemical weapons stockpile under international supervision.
While the regime’s deadliest declared weapons were destroyed, the United States maintains serious concerns about remaining production facilities and declaration discrepancies. As Ambassador Power said, “Significant discrepancies remain with Syria’s declaration to the OPCW, and the Assad regime must cooperate, as per its obligations in resolution 2118, to resolve these.”