John Gilbert, a senior science fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington DC, says the SSRC’s connection to Syria’s chemical weapons programme has been well-known and widely reported for many years. However, Gilbert notes that sanctions of this nature have not been in place, and the implied threats of sanctions appear to have been ineffectual. ‘It obviously did not deter them from maintaining what knowledge or material they have had since 2013,’ he tells Chemistry World.
‘By themselves, these sanctions might not be effective,’ Gilbert says, noting that they deal mostly with the financial transactions of the named individuals. He suggests that the Syrian government or its allies could decide to cover the financial loses of the named individuals, thereby rendering the new sanctions meaningless.
‘I don’t think that the sanctions themselves would encourage any of these people to resign from the institute, even if they were allowed to,’ adds Gilbert, who previously headed the US Department of Defense’s chemical and biological inspection division. ‘They may have personal and professional commitments to the regime,’ he adds, suggesting that wide international support for the Syrian sanctions would be more likely to change behaviours.