How are chemical weapons developed and why

A poison gas attack on the Syrian city of Duma left dozens dead. It is the most recent and most momentous incident in the past twelve months. Since then, volunteers and medics have reported several times about chlorine gas attacks on opposition areas in Syria.

The fact that the Syrian regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons against its own population since the beginning of the war was the result of a UN commission of inquiry in August 2016. The UN Security Council must now unite in a "struggle for existence" against weapons of mass destruction, said the French UN Ambassador - but a sanctioning of the "war crimes" could again fail because of the veto of the Assad ally Russia.

Assad had once undertaken to destroy all chemical weapons: In 2013, Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention that came into force in 1997. With this, the killing with the means of mass destruction should finally come to an end. Almost all countries in the world sign this unique multilateral treaty. To date, over 80 percent of the declared chemical weapons stocks have been destroyed, but the deadlines are not always met.

Incidentally, chemical weapons are by no means a weapon of modern times: Even in the battles of antiquity, people were suppressed, eliminated and killed with the poisonous gas. During the industrialization of war, new methods of warfare were developed, which were responsible for more and more deaths. For states, chemical weapons were seen as a kind of compromise: they are more deterrent than conventional weapons, but not as devastating as the atomic bomb. During the First World War and later during the Cold War, the toxic chemicals were produced in bulk. Even if these weapons were used particularly in World War I, they were also produced by all warring factions during World War II. Later on, several other countries joined in the chemical armament, especially Middle Eastern countries.

ARTE Info traces the history of chemical weapons, from the beginning of the 20th century to the present, from their invention to their destruction.