CBW Events is a project to create a record of events to enable and encourage understanding of how policies on the issues relating to chemical and biological warfare (CBW) and its prevention are developed.


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CBW Events -- November 2018 selections

Each month, entries for a small number of selected anniversaries of notable CBW-related events are posted. All will appear in the relevant final versions of the chronologies.

5 years ago | 20 years ago | 30 years ago | 35 years ago | 45 years ago | 50 years ago

5 years ago:

19 November 2013     "Unable to find a country willing to dispose of Syria's chemical weapons, the United States is considering plans to place the chemical components of the weapons on a barge where they would be dissolved or incinerated, according to senior American officials", so the New York Times writes today.[1]
     The newspaper suggests that two options are under consideration. One options would involve using five incinerators operating at high temperatures on board a barge. The second would be centred on what the paper describes as "a highly sophisticated mobile system" developed by the Department of Defense, known as the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System. The first of these options would be carried out by a commercial entity, the second would be carried out by government personnel.
     The following day, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirms that the proposed options for destruction at sea are plausible. OPCW spokesman Christian Chartier is quoted as saying: "It's still being looked at and is one of several solutions envisaged by member states and as long as a decision has not been taken, it remains a possibility".[2]
     Subsequent press comment includes occasional confusion between the concepts of destruction of chemical weapon materials within a facility installed on a ship which might operate at sea and the potential for dumping such materials at sea[3] — an activity specifically prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention [see 29 April 1997]. Paragraph 13 of Part IV(A) of the Verification Annex of the Convention reads: "Each State Party shall determine how it shall destroy chemical weapons, except that the following processes may not be used: dumping in any body of water, land burial or open-pit burning. It shall destroy chemical weapons only at specifically designated and appropriately designed and equipped facilities."
     [1] Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt (from Washington), "Options Narrowed, U.S. Is Said to Weigh Destroying Syrian Chemicals at Sea", New York Times, 19 November 2013.
     [2] Charles Onians (from The Hague), Agence France Presse, as in: "Syria chemical weapons could be destroyed at sea: watchdog", Yahoo News, 20 November 2013.
     [3] See, for example: [No author listed], "OPCW: Syria's Chemical Weapons Can Be Dumped at Sea", Arutz Sheva, 21 November 2013.

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20 years ago:

22 November 1998     Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, in an 18-page letter to the president of the UN Security Council, states that Iraq will not be providing the documents which UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler had requested [see 18 November] — in three letters dated 17, 18 and 19 November — because "we have no choice but to doubt the motives of the requests made to us".[1] An earlier letter to Ambassador Butler from Iraqi Foreign Ministry Under Secretary Riyad al-Qaysi had said that the requested documents either did not exist or were irrelevant.[2] The full Security Council meets two days later and is briefed by Ambassador Butler, but Russia, reportedly alone, blocks its adoption of a statement demanding the documents; the statement instead says that "Council members expressed their continued full support for UNSCOM in fulfilment of its mandate".[3]
     Among the requested documents is an Iraqi air force logbook containing details of the movement of chemical weapons during the Iraq-Iran war, a part of which had been found by an UNSCOM team earlier in the year but then withheld from it [see 17 July]. The London Independent quotes General Wafiq al-Sammarai [see 3 July], former head of Iraqi military intelligence, as follows: "The logbook contains details of all operations carried out by the air force and is hand-written for the sake of secrecy. It also documents the use and movement of weapons of mass destruction. ... It shows Iraq used VX in the battle of Fao on 17 and 18 April 1988"; he also says that it shows Iraq to have used sarin against Halabja in 1988. On another of the documents denied to UNSCOM, a May 1991 memorandum drawn up by Lt-Gen Hazen Abdel Razaq, Maj-Gen Mustafa Kemal and Lt-Gen Mozahem Saeb al-Tikriti, he is quoted as saying: "It gives exact information about what remained of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction after the Gulf War", including about 100 usable Scud missiles and also warheads containing VX.[4]
     [1] The full text of the letter was apparently read out over Baghdad radio: Republic of Iraq Radio Network (Baghdad), 1135 hrs GMT 24 November 1998, as translated from the Arabic in FBIS-NES-98-328, 24 November 1998, "Iraq: "Aziz letter to Security Council", via WNC.
     [2] INA (Baghdad) from New York, 1030 hrs GMT 22 November 1998, as translated from the Arabic in FBIS-NES-98-326, 22 November 1998, "Iraq: INA carries al-Qaysi letters to Butler", via WNC. The UNSCOM letters of 17, 18 and 19 November referred to here, and the letter to UNSCOM dated 19 November from Minister Al-Qaysi, can be read in UN document S/1998/1106 of 20 November 1998.
     [3] Evelyn Leopold (from UN New York), "UN council unable to decide how to deal with Iraq", Reuter, 0115 EST 25 November 1998; Michael Littlejohns (from UN New York), "Russia stays UN hand on Iraq", Financial Times (London), 26 November 1998, p 5; Patrick Cockburn, "Iraq sees hope in UN decision", Independent (London), 26 November 1998, p 18.
     [4] Patrick Cockburn, "Spy chief reveals Iraq's secret arsenal", Independent (London), 20 November 1998, p 15.

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30 years ago:

23 November 1988     A documentary film presenting new evidence of Iraqi CW in Kurdistan is screened on British independent television.[1] In addition to accounts of a chemical weapons air attack on thousands of fleeing Kurds sheltering in a gorge 20 miles from the Turkish border on 28 August, the film presents findings from chemical analyses of environmental samples. The film-maker, Gwynne Roberts, had himself collected the samples from another such attack site during a clandestine visit to Iraqi Kurdistan earlier in November. A mustard-gas degradation product, 1,4-dithiane, had been positively identified; so had others,[2] namely 1,4-oxathiane and 1,1-thio-bis-ethene.[3]
     [1] Gwynne Roberts, "Winds of Death", screened on UK television Channel 4 Dispatches, 23 November 1988, 2030 GMT; Harvey Morris, "Kurds describe massacre in Iraqi gas attack", Independent (London), 22 November 1988, p 1; Edward Mortimer, "The perils of being stateless", Financial Times (London), 22 November 1988, p 29; Nancy Banks-Smith, "Death in the air", Guardian (London), 24 November 1988, p 28.
     [3] Hazhir Teimourian, "Chemists prove mustard gas use", Times (London), 28 November 1988, p 9; [no author listed], "Poison gas traces are found in Iraq", New York Times, 4 December 1988.
     [4] Alastair Hay and Gwynne Roberts, "The use of poison gas against the Iraqi Kurds: analysis of bomb fragments, soil and wool samples", Journal of the American Medical Association, vol 263 no 8 (23 February 1990) pp 1065-6.

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35 years ago:

24 November 1983     An "International Medical Seminar" in Tehran receives presentations on the allegations that chemical weapons have been used against Iran in the Iran–Iraq war. The seminar consists of some 700 delegates from 65 countries including some European doctors who visit casualties in hospital.[1] The conference, being held at the Hilton Hotel, issues a final statement recommending the establishment of a permanent commission to survey damage caused by "chemical and biological" bombardment of Iranian areas and calls on the United Nations and the "International Red Cross" to dispatch fact-finding committees to Iran in order to investigate the results of Iraqi chemical attacks.[2]
     The following day, The Guardian newspaper reports: "Iran is obviously hoping that one by-product of the conference will be publicity and perhaps endorsement of its allegations on gas warfare" and concludes that the gathering: "has enabled some independent doctors to look at the evidence, and in the opinion of three British specialists, it has not been faked". One of these (unnamed) specialists is quoted: "I do not think there is any doubt that the Iraqis are using gas", and another: "It looks like nitrogen mustard gas".[3]
     [1] Judith Perera, "Britain aids Gulf chemical warfare", New Scientist, 22–29 December 1983, pp. 867–68.
     [2] IRNA (in English), 0930 GMT 25 November 1983, as reported in "Iraqi Use of Chemical Weapons Condemned", BBC-SWB, 28 November 1983, ME/7502/A/1.
     [3] Andrew Veitch, "British doctors back Tehran claims that Iraq uses poison gas", The Guardian (London), 25 November 1983, p 8.

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45 years ago:

23 November 1973     In the United States, the army reveals a new plan for destroying its stockpiles of chemical weapons that will cost $1 billion and take twelve years. This plan is later described in the following terms: "That is more than it cost to manufacture the poison gas in the first place. Three-quarters of the money would go to build a portable poison gas disposal factory called CAMDS (Chemical Agent Munition Disposal System). CAMDS will dispose of poison gas at one army base, then be detoxified and moved to another base. Twelve years are needed because the poisons must be disposed of slowly to avoid damage to the environment".[1]
     [1] Sterling Seagrave, Yellow Rain: a journey through the terror of chemical warfare, New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1981, p 275.

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50 years ago:

13 November 1968     In London, GN Gadsby, Head of the UK's Chemical Defence Establishment, tells a seminar that defence scientists believe that between 15 and 20 per cent of Soviet Munitions stockpile is chemical [see also 30 October]. The seminar, held at the Royal United Services Institute, is also addressed by Gordon Smith, head of the Microbiological Research Establishment — the other defence establishment at Porton — who describes a simulated attack on Britain in which a harmless agent was sprayed off the east coast; measurements from which showed that the agent effectively blanketed the south of England below the line from Birmingham to the Wash.[1]
     [1] [no author listed], "Gas war build-up by Russia", Times (London), 14 November 1968, p 12.

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