Alleged chlorine gas attacks expose loophole in Syria

The Syrian opposition recently alleged the use of chlorine gas by the Syrian government in three April attacks, which could expose a loophole in the international deal to remove the country's chemical weapons.

Syria vowed to hand over or destroy its entire chemical arsenal by the end of this week. The country submitted a declaration of its chemical weapons to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Chlorine gas that was never included on the list is allegedly being used on the battlefield, Reuters reports.

Attacks in several areas of Syria shared certain characteristics, and analysts think it may be part of a coordinated chlorine campaign by the Syrian government.

The U.S. State Department is examining the allegations and said the use of chlorine would violate the Chemical Weapons Convention. Syria joined the CWC in September as part of the Geneva agreement.

"The use of any toxic chemical with the intent to cause death or harm is a clear violation of the convention," Jen Psaki, the spokesperson for the State Department, said, according to Reuters.

Amy Smithson, a chemical weapons expert at the Monterey Institute, said that without tests being run, it cannot be certain that chlorine was used or a similar agent.

"Once the Syrian government gets the remainder of the declared chemicals out, pressure should mount for Syria to revise its declaration again, to cough up the remainder of their offensive chemical program," Smithson said, according to Reuters.

If the chlorine attacks are proven, chemical warfare could endure after the removal operation is complete, Reuters reports.