In a recent speech in Washington addressing the previous or current violations of either the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or the Chemical Weapons Convention by the regimes of Syria and Iran, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Yleem Poblete said all responsible nations are challenged.
Dr. Poblete noted that the U.S. National Security Strategy under President Donald Trump calls for “the augmentation of measures to prevent the spread of and to eliminate [weapons of mass destruction] and related materials, their delivery systems, and technologies. It further underscores the need to hold state and non-state actors accountable for the use of WMD.”
Regarding chemical weapons, Assistant Secretary Poblete pointed out that the Assad regime has “brazenly violated the international norm” prohibiting their use. The Joint Investigative Mechanism of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN clearly established that the Syrian regime was responsible for four cases of chemical weapons use against the Syrian people.
Syria also remains in continued noncompliance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Assad started to construct an undeclared plutonium production reactor in the Dair Alzour region, which was destroyed by Israel in an air-strike in 2007. Syria has persistently refused to cooperate with investigators from the IAEA about the reactor or address outstanding questions about its activities at the site and other related sites.
With regard to Iran and its nuclear ambitions, the Iran nuclear deal from which the United States withdrew in May, was severely flawed. Assistant Secretary Poblete said that among its chief defects, the deal “failed to prevent Iran from ever having fissile material production capabilities that would permit it to rapidly breakout into weaponization.” In addition, its verification provisions did not go far enough; and most concerning of all, it did not cover Iran’s missile or chemical weapons programs.
Assistant Secretary Poblete cited President Trump’s assertion in the National Security Strategy that “[t]he scourge of the world today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate all principles of free and civilized states.”
The response to those states must be constant vigilance. Noncompliance and blatant disregard of international legal obligations must be thoroughly reviewed documented and assessed, Assistant Secretary Poblete emphasized. Then appropriate action and accountability can and must follow.