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Karim Makdisi, Associate Professor of International Politics, The American University of Beirut

In March 2013, the UN SG deployed the “Sellström” fact-finding mission to investigate specific allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria. Following dramatic August 2013 chemical attack in Ghouta, the US and Russia forced Syria to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and UN Security Council took an unprecedented decision to establish an OPCW-UN Joint Mission (JM). Despite confronting huge political, legal, administrative and technical challenges, the JM ultimately exceeded all expectations by fulfilling its mandate and verifying that by 30 September 2014 all Syrian chemical weapons had either been destroyed or removed from Syrian territory. This paper presents the findings of a yearlong study aiming to contextualize and analyze in depth the JM and the reasons behind what has been widely deemed its success. It explores the unique circumstances under which JM was created; roles of member states, JM personnel and UN and OPCW secretariats; and reasons behind Syria’s willingness to cooperate. It then draws lessons. This study uses content and discourse analysis; and a wide range of in-depth interviews conducted with actors closely involved in the design, establishment of the JM or in its mandate implementation of its mandate.