It was just weeks ago that President Barack Obama was celebrating a major diplomatic victory in Syria. In September of last year, Obama seemed as though he was committed to a course which would result in the execution of airstrikes against Bashar al-Assad’s forces for using chemical on rebels and civilians. At the last minute, Obama accepted a Russian proposal which would preserve Moscow’s client in Damascus and peacefully allow Assad to surrender his chemical weapons stockpiles.
While Assad continued to use “undeclared” chemical weapons like chlorine gas on civilian and rebel positions alike, Obama reveled in the supposed success of the deal to remove chemical weapons from Syria.
“Today we mark an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile,” the president said on August 18 while vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard.
Obama further hailed this diplomatic victory as a success which “sends a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community.”
It came as little surprise to Syria watchers on Thursday when the administration expressed concerns over the revelation that Assad’s government had hid some of its chemical arsenal and weapons manufacturing facilities from inspectors.
“[United Nations official Sigrid] Kaag told reporters after the briefing that Syria had yet to address what she described as ‘some discrepancies or questions’ about whether it had accounted for all of the chemical weapons in its arsenal,” The New York Times reported. “She also said Syria had yet to destroy seven hangers and five tunnels used for mixing and storing the weapons – which is required under the chemical weapons treaty that Syria has signed.”
“There is the possibility that there remains a small quantity of some type of material that the Assad regime has held back,” the Washington-based Arms Control Association’s Executive Director Daryl Kimball said in a teleconference with U.N. officials in Brussels.
The Times noted that chlorine, “while not on the list of prohibited chemicals,” is still prohibited by the treaty Assad’s government signed and its use constitutes a crime of war. The report was also clear that United Nations Amb. Samantha Power, whose position is not dependent on securing and eliminating Syrian chemical weapons, was clearer about Damascus’s treaty violations and provocations.
Hopefully you have recovered from the shock of this revelation.