Remarks at the Fourth Special Session of the Conference of the States Parties to Review the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (Excerpts)

November 22, 2018

Weapon Program: 

  • Chemical

Ambassador Kenneth D. Ward 
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons 
The Hague, Netherlands  
November 22, 2018

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Director-General, distinguished ambassadors and delegates,

It is an honor to join you today as part of the Fourth Review Conference of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to evaluate the implementation of the Convention and address significant developments over the last five years. Without a doubt, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has undergone more change and faced more challenges in the last five years than in the preceding fifteen years combined, greatly deserving its Nobel Peace Prize.

Indeed, the OPCW is a Nobel Peace Prize winning organization for a reason. As highlighted by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan at the historic special session of the Conference of the States Parties in June, the Organization has proven, again and again, its ability to adapt readily to change, to respond ably and quickly to wide-ranging crises, and to remain relevant to the ever changing security environment, with its highly professional and dedicated experts. It is essential that the Organization retain this adaptability. Responsible states parties must continue to find ways to deter future CW use and restore the international norm against the use of chemical weapons.

One of the founding principles of the CWC is to “exclude completely the possibility of use of chemical weapons, through implementation of the provisions” of the CWC. The success of this principle depends entirely on all States Parties’ compliance with their obligations. When States Parties fail to meet these obligations, they must be held accountable. No one should think that they can develop, retain, use, or transfer chemical weapons and get away with it. Unfortunately, there are States Parties in this room that think their conduct has no consequences and that they can act with impunity. Today, I would like to focus on non-compliance by those States Parties and highlight what we have done and what we need to do to take on the challenges posed by these States. Member States should join together, just as we did in June, and hold those responsible accountable.


Next, I will turn to two states that are enabling Syria’s chemical weapons use by shielding the Assad regime from consequences in international fora, while at the same time pursuing their own offensive chemical weapons programs.

Iran. The United States has had longstanding concerns that Iran maintains a chemical weapons program that it failed to declare to the OPCW. The United States is also concerned that Iran is pursuing Central Nervous System-Acting Chemicals for offensive purposes. These efforts are especially concerning because Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and remains the most significant challenge to Middle East stability. I would like to highlight three examples of Iran’s declaration failures:

  • First, Iran failed to declare its transfer of chemical weapons to Libya in the 1980s. When the post-Gadhafi Libyan government found these weapons in 2011, Iran never declared the transfer of the weapons, despite OPCW formal requests to States Parties about their origin. They were clearly of Iranian origin as evidenced by the Farsi writing on the boxes containing the artillery shells.
  • Second, Iran has not declared all of its riot control agents. Iran has marketed delivery systems and chemicals, including CR at defense expos. Iran has not declared any holdings of CR.
  • Third, Iran failed to submit a complete chemical weapons production facility declaration, specifically a CWPF filling capability. In light of the discovery of chemical-filled artillery projectiles and aerial bombs that Iran transferred to Libya and assessed Iranian-origin chemical-filled 81mm mortars found by Iraq during United Nations Special Commission inspections, the United States assesses that Iran filled and possessed chemical weapons. Iran, however, did not declare a CWPF filling capability.