Today, the Chemical Weapons Convention enters into force in Syria, a victory made manifest by international inspectors on the ground, neck-deep in the urgent business of dismantling nearly 1,000 tons of sarin nerve agent and other poison gasses. This comes days after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organization for the Prohibition Against Chemical Weapons, the body tasked with overseeing the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.
Much is striking about that.
Like many, I watched in horror while images flooded the news in the wake of the August 21 chemical attack outside Damascus. And I watched as world powers poised themselves for greater conflict. But as tensions mounted, so, too, did public attention and political will. At the 11th hour, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reached a stunning agreement: Chemical weapons were deemed "a threat to international peace and security," and Syria must permit the international community to destroy its chemical stockpile.
Not some -- all. Not over years -- but in just nine months. In the midst of a civil war.
That agreement took two committed leaders only 30 hours to negotiate -- overcoming what many claimed were impossible obstacles. In just days, the United Nations Security Council adopted the plan, and right now an intrepid team is putting that plan into action. Those weapons are being dismantled as you read this.
What inspectors are doing right now in Syria shows that the international community can expediently and verifiably eliminate weapons of mass destruction. What Kerry, Lavrov and the Security Council achieved, in the most challenging of political and diplomatic circumstances, demonstrates that the barriers to eliminating WMDs are not technical, but political -- and surmountable.
Perhaps most striking of all: Syria's accession to international law refutes the zealous skepticism that insists countries will never give up their most horrific weapons of war.
Syria's chemical weapons are being dismantled because 1,400 civilians were poisoned and the world was rightly outraged. We must not wait for another weapon of mass destruction to be unleashed upon the world -- where deaths could number not in hundreds but in hundreds of thousands -- before we act with the same urgency. What was accomplished in Syria can and must be repeated, not just with chemical weapons, but with all WMDs: chemical, biological and nuclear.
Because that is the world we want, and we know it can be done.
The Security Council should act now to bring key countries to the table to develop time-bound, actionable, verifiable plans to eliminate all WMDs globally, before another such weapon is used -- not after.
That world is within reach. If there was ever a moment to call for the leadership to take us there, it's now.
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