About the Lecture:
There is widespread public assumption that chemical weapons are morally reprehensible and that the international community would not hesitate to respond to their use. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons during the ongoing Syrian civil war has led to a debate about the appropriate response to chemical warfare: ranging from outright denial to a shower of Tomahawk missiles. Using the case study of Egypt’s use of chemical weapons in Yemen during the 1960s, this presentation will focus on the underlying strategic decisions to use poison gas and the recurring limitations to a concerted and unified international response. It will conclude with an explanation of how the chemical weapons taboo has evolved since WWI and how fleeting moral inhibitions and unenforceable international norms are insufficient to prevent future use of chemical weapons in the Middle East.
About the Speaker:
Asher Orkaby, PhD is currently a research fellow at the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department at Harvard University where he is studying the history of chemical warfare in the Middle East. His work is supported in part through a grant from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. He earned his PhD from Harvard University in International History and Middle Eastern Studies and his forthcoming book, titled Beyond the Arab Cold War: The International History of the Yemen Civil War, 1962-68 is scheduled for publication with Oxford University Press in June 2017. Over the course of the current conflict in Yemen, he has contributed regularly to Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, and other policy publications and has commented on both U.S. and international media such as CSPAN, CGTN, Waqt News and Al-Hurra.