In this article Wyn Bown, Jeffrey Knopf, and Matthew Moran examine Syria’s possession and use of chemical weapons (CW) and third-party response.  In this context, they assess how compellence succeeded in Syria when deterrent efforts had initially failed.  President Barack Obama had set a ‘red line’ that signaled U.S. commitment to punish the Syrian regime if it used CW.  Although the president did not follow through on his deterrence approach, the Syrian regime agreed to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) after its attack on Ghouta in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people.[1] The destruction of a sizable portion of its CW stockpile followed.  However, the Bashar al-Assad regime ordered additional CW attacks that included the use of chlorine and sarin agents from 2014-2018, some of them on a large scale.  The authors ask why compellence succeeded after the easier task of deterrence had failed?  Based on the case study and existing literature,[2] the authors identify conditions of effective and ineffective coercion.

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Geoffrey Chapman, Hassan Elbahtimy, and Susan B. Martin test a framework for assessing the security implications of chemical weapons (CW) use in the twenty-first century in their recent Security Studies paper. The authors state that they were motivated by the erosion of a norm of disuse, commonly known as the chemical weapons taboo.[1] In this context, they assess the strategic and tactical utility of CW by the Syrian state as part of its ongoing civil war. Two incidents of CW use are analyzed in detail; one in which a nerve agent was used and another in which gas chlorine was employed. Overall this work has important implications for a more rigorous and better understanding of the use of unconventional weapons in modern warfare.

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