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The Emergence of ISIL in Libya Appears To Have Tipped the Balance in the War-Torn Country: New Age Islam's Selection, 03 February 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

03 February 2016

The Emergence of ISIL in Libya Appears To Have Tipped the Balance in the War-Torn Country

By Olivier Guitta

The Economic Motives behind Israeli Occupation

By Yossi Mekelberg

Breaking the Silence in Yemen

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Let the UN Take the Lead on Afghanistan and Syria

By Massoumeh Torfeh

Is Hezbollah Targeting A VP Position In Lebanon?

By Khairallah Khairallah

Syria’s Continuing Chemical Fallout

By Ahmet Uzumcu

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


The Emergence of ISIL In Libya Appears To Have Tipped The Balance In The War-Torn Country

By Olivier Guitta

02 Feb 2016

While Syria and Iraq may have grabbed the headlines over the past few years, another country has been preying on the mind of some Western officials. In private, French, Italian, British and United States defence officials and diplomats have expressed their huge concern about Libya. Now that the likelihood of a military intervention has increased, 2016 may turn out to be the year of Libya.

Back in November 2013, former Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan warned that the "international community cannot tolerate a state in the middle of the Mediterranean that is a source of violence, terrorism and killings." Only a handful of nations listened to him.

In a May 2014 interview, I stated that the US, French and Algerian special forces had been allegedly conducting operations against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) since early that year.

In August 2014, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia were on high alert after an alleged US tip-off that Libyan jihadists were planning to fly planes into buildings in these countries, in attacks similar to that of September 11.

World Leaders Push for Libya Peace to Counter ISIL

Taking the threat seriously, Morocco mobilised 70,000 soldiers across the country and installed anti-aircraft batteries in Casablanca, Marrakesh and Tangier to shoot down any civilian plane that might have been taken by terrorists.

Algeria took similar measures. In 2014, it had reportedly conducted operations for almost two months inside Libya involving up to 5,000 soldiers to root out jihadists.

As the joint Egypt-United Arab Emirates air strikes in Libya showed in 2014, regional powers are not going to sit idly by as dark clouds gather nearby, which could mean that Libya becomes the most dangerous place, not only for North Africa but for Europe. It could even shift the focus from Iraq and Syria.

A New Syria?

Libya has the largest stockpile of loose weapons in the world - according to some reports, even larger than the British army's arsenal - plus about 4,000 surface-to-air missiles and 6,400 barrels of uranium concentrate powder, known as "yellowcake", that could pass into the hands of terror groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), AQIM or al Mourabitoun which controls large swaths of territory in the south.

While the worsening situation in Libya failed to trigger an international military intervention in 2015, the emergence of ISIL in Libya appears to have tipped the balance.

Libya is ISIL's second largest 'market' after Iraq and Syria, and as it was extensively featured in the September issue of ISIL magazine Dabiq, it has the potential to become a popular training ground for European recruits.

While Italy, for example, has said that it will not attack ISIL in Syria, it has indicated that it might attack in Libya, which could mean air strikes as well as Special Forces on the ground. Italy has now taken the lead over France when it comes to "fixing" Libya, which isn't surprising when one considers Italy's colonial past in Libya, its commercial interests there, and the fact that Rome has been repeatedly threatened by ISIL.

Another nation, Canada, is actually withdrawing its fighter jets from the coalition in Iraq and Syria, so that it is ready to take part in a military operation in Libya.

Britain is actually preparing to send up to 1,000 troops and special forces to Libya. This should not come as a surprise following the June terror attack in Tunisia, in which 30 British citizens died, because the attacker was an ISIL operative trained in Libya. At the time, David Cameron, the British prime minister, said that he was ready to launch "immediate" air strikes against terrorists in Libya.

Russia could also get involved in Libya after General Khalifa Haftar reached out to them for support.

The new Saudi-led coalition against ISIL could also see more action in Libya than Syria or Iraq because of both Egypt and the UAE's interests there. Finally, both France and the US have recently been preparing public opinion for an imminent intervention.

Once initiated, the air strikes are likely to focus on ISIL's stronghold in Sirte and possibly the two large ISIL training camps in Hun, 200 kilometres south of Sirte.

The Appeal for ISIL

ISIL is believed to have between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters in Libya, but that number could rise quickly for two reasons: Firstly, some of the fighters leaving Syria could join ISIL in Libya; and, secondly, new recruits are expected to swell their ranks.

Libya is ISIL's second largest "market" after Iraq and Syria and featured extensively in the September issue of ISIL's magazine Dabiq. It has the potential to become a popular training ground for European recruits. In November 2015, two Frenchmen were arrested in southern Tunisia - reportedly on their way to join an ISIL training camp.

A North African from Brussels, Paris or Amsterdam would have much more in common with someone from Libya rather than in Syria or Iraq, making it more appealing to recruits. And while entry to Syria is getting more difficult, Libya is now seen as a possible springboard to destabilise neighbouring Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

And while ISIL would be the main target in Libya, it is interesting that it was a recent AQIM video that called on Libyans to rise up against the invaders from Italy, France, the US and Britain.

Given the situation in Libya - a failed state with three governments, no real army, a plethora of militias and several seasoned terror groups - any international military intervention force will have its work cut out..

Olivier Guitta is the managing director of GlobalStrat, a geopolitical risk and security consultancy firm with a regional specialisation on Europe, the Middle East and Africa.




The Economic Motives behind Israeli Occupation

By Yossi Mekelberg

3 February 2016

In the interminable discussion of breaking the stalemate between Palestinians and Israelis, the economic aspect of the Israeli occupation and its impact on Palestinians human rights is mostly pushed aside.

A new report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlights how Israeli and international businesses have helped to entrench the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. This is done in violation of their human rights obligations and at the expense of Palestinians’ most basic rights to their land, freedom of movement and ability to benefit from natural resources on that land.

As much as the settlers’ movement and their political allies in the Israeli government are hard at work in presenting the occupation and settlement building as a security imperative, for the survival of the Jewish state, they conveniently conceal that it is also a very profitable economic enterprise. The Israel’s security, ideological and economic motives for imposing its control over the lives of millions of Palestinians is becoming almost impossible to undo, especially in the face of an international community that ignores this triple nexus.

This HRW report indirectly also exposes the economic motives behind the decision of many Jewish Israelis to live in the occupied territories of the West Bank. If the impetus behind the first wave of settlers and settlements was anchored by mainly messianic-nationalist-religious zeal, economics played a bigger role for most those who followed them.

Occupation for economic reasons is no better than for ideological ones, but it suggests alternative remedies

Shortage of properties and increased house prices in Israel proper, coupled with a range of government financial incentives, including cheap mortgages and loans, encouraged immigration into Palestinians territories. Occupation for economic reasons is no better than for ideological ones, but it suggests alternative remedies.

Admittedly, those whose parents and grandparents moved for economic reasons to colonize the West Bank, on behalf of the Israeli government, might develop ideological, atavistic or even sentimental attachments. However, exploring the economic draw could open the door for a discourse, which is neither based on security nor ideology for the repatriation of Jewish settlers back to the Israeli side of the Green Line.

Contravention of Law

It is almost universally agreed that the Israeli settlements have been built in direct contravention of the laws of occupation. By transferring citizens into a territory occupied by Israel since 1967 and by displacing Palestinians from their land in the West Bank, the Israeli government violates the Fourth Geneva Convention that explicitly prohibits these actions. Moreover, under the provisions of the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court has the jurisdiction over war crimes, such as the one established by the Fourth Geneva convention.

The HRW report brings compelling evidence that companies, whether Israeli or international, by merely conducting business in or with settlements contribute to Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses. Most worryingly, this 162 page report demonstrates how these human rights abuses can revolve around some of the most mundane, yet significant, aspects of daily life.

On the contrary, these rights make the difference between living a free, prosperous and dignified life or not. Under these circumstances, even granting a waste management company the right to service settlements, by operating a landfill on confiscated land in the Jordan Valley, is a human rights and political issue.

To make things worse, other violations of human rights harm Palestinians’ ability to earn a living or build homes. Currently they are restricted to building on only one percent of area C in the West Bank, which is under Israeli administrative control. Israeli businesses thrive on using the country’s military might to expropriate land for building “industrial zones”, twenty of them so far, or cultivating agricultural land.

The inevitable and unacceptable product of Israeli settlement activity is the confiscation of land, water and other natural resources at the expense of the Palestinian people. This is done with the support of the banking sector, which finances these business enterprises and makes them seemingly culprits in prolonging the occupation.

In a territory where there are two different legal systems – one military law for Palestinians and another civil law for Jews – there is no justice for the occupied. Consequentially, the confiscation of land, displacement and restrictions of Palestinians’ movement has become the norm, without recourse to law or legal remedy.

Abuse of Labour

Furthermore, there is constant labour abuse of Palestinians that have very little choice but to seek employment in the settlements. They are caught between job shortage within the Palestinian economy and dwindling number of permits to work inside Israel. The alternative is jobs offered in settlements that in many cases pay less than the minimum wage and with very little social benefits.

Admittedly settlers have not invented economic exploitation and are not the only ones to use it to their economic advantage, but the political context of occupation and dispossession makes it even more unscrupulous. The involvement of international companies in aiding and abetting the Israeli occupation reflects another sad reality, as to how profits for these companies are often prioritized over their corporate social responsibility, while also ignoring the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Whether it is an international real estate company based in the United States, that operates a subsidiary in Israeli settlements, or a European company, which operates a quarry in the West Bank and pays millions of US dollars in taxes to the Samaria Regional Council; the result is the perpetuation of Israeli control over an occupied land and people.

A single report as meticulously researched and balanced might not change realities immediately, but it immensely contributes toward reminding companies of their obligations to human rights and humanitarian law. The longer the occupation continues the more it becomes economically valuable and adds another tier of difficulties in reaching a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Yossi Mekelberg is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, where he is involved with projects and advisory work on conflict resolution, including Track II negotiations. He is also the Director of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program at Regent’s University in London, where he has taught since 1996. Previously, he was teaching at King’s College London and Tel Aviv University. Mekelberg’s fields of interest are international relations theory, international politics of the Middle East, human rights, and international relations and revolutions. He is a member of the London Committee of Human Rights Watch, serving on the Advocacy and Outreach committee. Mekelberg is a regular contributor to the international media on a wide range of international issues



Breaking the Silence in Yemen

By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

By 2 February 2016

Ten months after the war began in Yemen, there are three powers now stationed in the country: the government and the Arab alliance in one front, Houthis and ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh in another front while al-Qaeda is the third front. What has changed since then is the failure of the Houthis and Saleh to take over the authority in the country as the legitimate government has returned to Yemen after it had lost every inch of it.

Ten months may not seem long in the duration of wars. However, they are enough to conclude that Yemen will not be left for the Iranians to control via its proxy, the Houthis, and will not be left to submit to Saleh’s personal ambitions of seizing power. Practically speaking, the war changed the map of power on ground just enough to give us a glimpse of Yemen’s future. Exhausted rebellious groups may have to raise their white flags later.

The time may be appropriate now to test the Yemeni powers’ desire to reach a peaceful solution outside Swiss hotels

The time may be appropriate now to test the Yemeni powers’ desire to reach a peaceful solution outside Swiss hotels, which are now occupied with receiving delegations from other conflict zones. What got me thinking about this is what my colleague Mustapha al-Noman, also a former Yemeni ambassador, wrote in the Okaz newspaper about what he called “the third Yemeni party.”

Noman, whom I met during the recent Davos forum in Switzerland, thinks that there is a number of respectable Yemeni figures who are not part of the conflict and who can play a positive role in limiting the crisis via mediating to end it.

His diagnosis of the Yemeni crisis is that warring groups, in general, may not have the political skills required to communicate and reach an understanding over a solution that takes everyone to safety and helps devise an acceptable political plan.

‘Third Party’

“The third Yemeni party” consists of Yemeni leaders who’ve stayed out of the crisis and who can form a bridge between the different parties. They are people like Major General and former chief of staff, Hussein al-Masori, former deputy prime minister, Ahmad Sofan, former minister, Mohammad al-Tayyeb, Noman himself and others.

Can such a party succeed at creating dialog and carrying messages that may produce a political solution before the war completes its first year? It doesn’t harm to have active parallel, diplomatic, military and independent negotiating efforts.

What matters is arriving at a solution which can be implemented whenever possible, regardless of how far the alliance has progressed in Yemen, in order to end the rebellion, implement U.N. Security Council decisions which achieve Yemen’s unity and stability and establish a viable system.

It’s not necessary to wait for raising the white flags when there’s a desire to achieve these aims. In the end, the purpose of the war is achieving peace via the return of legitimacy to power.

There’s no doubt that the war in Yemen, with all the pains it caused, has prevented the rebellious team consisting of the Houthis and Saleh forces from seizing power. They would have turned Yemen into an arena for revenge and tribal and sectarian struggles if they had succeeded at controlling the country.

If Gulf countries hadn’t intervened, Yemen may have ended up exactly like Somalia where failure to intervene led to civil wars and famine. The civil war there has been ongoing for about 20 years now.

Yes, there’s a Saudi-Iranian war taking place in Yemen albeit of a different kind. For Iran, which nurtures the Houthis, its interest is to create chaos and use Yemen to target certain segments of Yemeni society and Saudi Arabia.

The only interest of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is to achieve stability in Yemen because this also ensures their own stability. This is something which Saleh could not comprehend a year ago. He thought if he topples the Yemeni government, Gulf countries will shut down their embassies in Sanaa, pack up their bags and go home. This is why he ventured with all the funds and weapons he looted and led the rebellion against the legitimate government by allying with Iran’s militias.

He was taken by surprise when Saudi Arabia acted in support of the legitimate government and launched a huge war against him. Houthis, as a militia linked to Iran, have been assigned a difficult task, and if it hadn’t been for Saleh’s forces, they wouldn’t have made it past the city of Omran. The Houthis’ seizure of Omran tempted Saleh’s forces to rebel in the capital, Sanaa, and march towards Aden.

This war has altered concepts as well as the map, and the rebels are now aware that the alliance has the determination and ammunition to resume the fight at a time when Saleh’s situation has taken a turn for the worse. This will force him and his leaders to go into hiding after a life of dignity he lived in his castle.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.


Let the UN Take the Lead on Afghanistan and Syria

By Massoumeh Torfeh

02 Feb 2016

Tajikistan, Central Asia's poorest state and Afghanistan's northern neighbour, is under dangerous pressure both internally and externally, according to an early warning report by International Crisis Group.

The peace and security that has lasted for almost 20 years in Tajikistan is now facing serious threats. Nevertheless, it could be argued that the fact that peace has lasted for two decades is in itself significant. It is indicative of the relative success of the architecture of the Tajik peace accord of June 1997, which may have lessons for the diplomatic efforts under way for peace in both Afghanistan and Syria.

Clearly the scale and details of these wars vary considerably but the essential elements that make up a successful peace process are relevant.

Syria's War: Indirect Talks Begin in Geneva

First, unlike the present examples of Afghanistan and Syria, the Tajik peace process was from the outset designed and implemented by the United Nations in cooperation with key regional powers.

Desire for Peace

Secondly, for about one year before signing, the process benefited from a strong shared desire for peace by the warring sides. This key element made compromise possible.

The peace accord was the culmination of a hard-fought, three-year-long negotiation process; a process characterised by extended periods of deadlock, often interrupted by spasms of violence between the warring parties.

It followed five years of fighting at the cost of up to 100,000 lives, devastating the economy and with dire humanitarian consequences.

The peace process must be mutually acceptable, both sides must be prepared to give concessions, leaders must agree on the accord, and, most importantly, all parties must have shared perceptions on the desirability of an accord.

An important element was the persistent demand of the people of Tajikistan for peace. Earlier, they had staged a 59-day non-stop demonstration in the capital, Dushanbe, demanding change of government in scenes not dissimilar to Syrian demonstrations at the outset. Although this did not happen immediately, it was a powerful driving force in the Tajik negotiations.

Perhaps it is based on such experiences that before the peace talks in Geneva, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, appealed to the Syrian people: "We count on you to raise your voice, to say Khalas, it is enough," he said in a video message to Syrians. "Enough killing, murdering, torturing, prisons."

Richard Haass, who was involved in the Northern Ireland multi-party negotiations, argues that for diplomacy to succeed four conditions must be considered ripe.

All four conditions in his model are necessary, and the absence of any one is sufficient to preclude agreement: The peace process must be mutually acceptable, both sides must be prepared to give concessions, leaders must agree on the accord, and, most importantly, all parties must have shared perceptions on the desirability of an accord.

Objective Mediator

In the case of Tajikistan, all these conditions came together and the UN was trusted as the objective mediator and allowed to play its part. This was unlike in Afghanistan, where the government has repeatedly insisted on an "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned" process, discouraging the UN from participation.

Likewise in Syria, the UN itself turned into the main battlefield between the permanent members of the Security Council with veto powers.

Moreover, in the case of Tajikistan, through UN diplomacy the key neighbouring countries were encouraged to play their part. Iran and Russia, which were the primary rivals in the conflict, eventually found mutually acceptable terms. That cooperation continues today on the world stage. Other regional players were brought in to act as observers to the peace process.

Some figures with moral authority such as Prince Karim Aga Khan, leader of the Ismaili population (a sizeable community of Ismailis reside in Tajikistan) or the iconic commander of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Massoud, who did not live to see peace in his own country, were among the main peace brokers.

Twenty years ago this year, on December 11, 1996, Massoud, with the then Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, mediated the initial agreement which in turn demarcated the overall shape of the final Tajik peace accord.

So far attempts at holding peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have been mismanaged by constant secrecy, confusion suffering from a lack of objective, well-meaning diplomacy and dialogue.

In the case of Syria, too, it has taken five years and hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced for the UN to be given a mandate in December 2015 by the Security Council to act. Even as talks begin, the shadow of boycotts threatens the atmosphere and it is not clear whether there is that mutual consensus to give peace a chance.

The UN is often accused of being ineffective, and in many instances its gigantic administrative machinery causes delays. However, it remains the most qualified organisation to design and implement peace. The UN cannot, however, operate if it is not given a mandate at the outset of a conflict; if its envoys are not supported by powerful members of the Security Council; and if it does not have the power to hold to account those responsible for the continuation of bloodshed and contravention of international law.

ICG is right to warn that Tajikistan's peace must be safeguarded by the international community because as we see all around us, reaching peace is never easy.

Dr Massoumeh Torfeh is the former director of strategic communication at the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan and is currently a research associate at the London School of Economics and Political Science, specialising in Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.



Is Hezbollah Targeting A VP Position In Lebanon?

By Khairallah Khairallah

3 February 2016

Has electing a president in Lebanon become possible now that there are two candidates, Michel Aoun and Suleiman Franjieh? Or do Hezbollah’s aims extend beyond the Maronite presidential post and go as far as limiting the jurisdiction of the Sunni prime minister?

Hezbollah could have announced its support for Aoun as president, especially after Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea endorsed him even though they are bitter rivals. Hezbollah does not seem to be in a rush to elect a president. So was the 2008 Doha Agreement, which brought Michel Suleiman to the presidency, the last successful attempt to elect a president without having to amend the constitution?

There are two presidential candidates from the March 8 coalition, but Hezbollah - which leads this coalition - is refusing to attend parliament sessions to elect a president. Is there a farce bigger than this?

The next few weeks will reveal whether Hezbollah aims to bring a candidate they approve of to the presidency, or amend the constitution in order to establish a fixed Shiite post through which Hezbollah, and thus Iran, can indefinitely control Lebanon. Such a post, which no one is publicly addressing, would be that of a vice president.

From Hezbollah’s perspective, the vice president must have clear jurisdictions that grant him veto power over national decisions. Its excuse is that the Shiite sect is absent from executive authority, thus ignoring the fact that this authority is present in the cabinet.

Iranian Control

Iran seeks to control Lebanon officially - not only via a sectarian militia - by amending the constitution before electing a president. This could be achieved by the constituent assembly, which Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah called for before issuing a retraction.

At last week’s joint press conference Aoun and Geagea turned a new page, putting behind intra-Christian disputes that lasted for more than 25 years and benefitted no one in Lebanon. Geagea was right to say the ball is now in Hezbollah’s court, and that the path has now been paved to elect a president within days.

Meanwhile, I believe Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s son in law, does not miss a chance to show that he is Iran’s foreign minister. Therefore, Hezbollah thinks time is on its side and the situation is turning in its favour, particularly given the country’s bad situation in all fields, particularly the economy.

What will Aoun do if Hezbollah prevents him from achieving his dream of becoming president, considering that the Iranian project in Lebanon goes beyond certain figures and as far as controlling the country via state institutions and the constitution, and through adopting a new electoral law that suits Hezbollah but not its rivals or pluralism?

Lebanon is confronting a new and unprecedented situation. There are two presidential candidates from the March 8 coalition, but Hezbollah - which leads this coalition - is at the top of the list of those refusing to attend parliament sessions to elect a president. Is there a farce bigger than this? Is there a clearer exposure of Iran’s role in Lebanon?

Khairallah Khairallah is an Arab columnist who was formerly Annahar’s foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat’s managing editor (1988-1998).



Syria’s Continuing Chemical Fallout

By Ahmet Uzumcu

3 February 2016

The international community’s failure to bring the Syrian civil war to an end is a tragedy. In one respect, multilateral action has had a clearly positive impact: The elimination of the Syrian government’s chemical-weapons program. And yet there are persistent reports that chemical weapons continue to be used in Syria.

The stakes could not be higher. The perpetrators of these attacks must be identified and brought to justice. Allowing the use of chemical weapons to go unpunished not only could reverse one of the few promising developments in the Syrian conflict; it also threatens to undermine international norms on the use of toxic gas and nerve agents, increasing the possibility that they will be used in terrorist attacks.

In August 2013, rockets containing deadly sarin gas struck Ghouta, a rebel-controlled suburb near Damascus. Horrific images of women and children dying in agony mobilized international consensus against the use of these types of weapons. In October 2013, following Syria’s accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention, a joint mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations was tasked with eliminating the country’s chemical arsenal and production facilities.

Less than a year later, the mission accomplished what no military intervention could have achieved; the strategic threat from Syria’s chemical weapons was effectively eliminated. Work to clarify certain aspects of the government’s initial declaration about its weapons program is ongoing; but 1,300 metric tons of chemical weapons, including sulfur mustard and precursors for deadly nerve agents, have been accounted for and destroyed under the watchful eyes of OPCW inspectors.

This achievement must not be allowed to be rolled back. The continued use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict is not only causing terrible suffering among the country’s civilian population; it also risks eroding the convention’s credibility.

A fact-finding mission established by the OPCW in April 2014 found “compelling confirmation” that a toxic chemical — most likely chlorine gas — was used “systematically and repeatedly” as a weapon in villages in northern Syria. It was on the basis of these findings that the UN Security Council agreed in August 2015 to create a joint investigative mechanism of the OPCW and the UN and task it with identifying those responsible for the use of chemical weapons in the conflict.

The fog of war cannot be allowed to create a fog of responsibility. The perpetrators of chemical attacks must be held to account, whoever they are.

Persistent allegations that non-state actors are using chemical weapons in Syria and northern Iraq are of particular concern. Manufacturing nerve agents is a complex process, but extremists can easily deploy toxic industrial chemicals — such as chlorine gas — if they have them in their possession. A conventional attack against a chemical facility is another potentially devastating risk — one that is not beyond the capabilities of a well-funded terrorist group.

Nearly two decades after the Chemical Weapons Convention entered into force, the treaty is facing a major test. The threat that toxic gas or nerve agents will be deployed in a conflict between countries has been all but eliminated. Failure to punish their use in the Syrian civil war risks undermining the regime that has brought us to the threshold of a chemical weapons-free world.

Ahmet Uzumcu is Director-General at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. ©Project Syndicate