Jeanne Shaheen’s victory lap on chemical weapons in Syria exposes ignorance

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen may not have delivered the worst performance of her political career in a debate with former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, but she also provided opposition researchers and Republican ad makers with quite a bit of fodder to use against her in the remainder of the campaign.

One moment which may have gone under the radar, however, was a bizarre moment in which she sought to criticize Barack Obama’s approach to the Syrian civil war which, left unchecked, exploded into a regional conflict while simultaneously taking credit for its supposed successes. What successes, you ask? The dubious but oft-repeated claim from White House allies that Syria is today free of chemical weapons after the Bashar al-Assad regime consented to surrendering those weapons in exchange for American passivity as part of a deal proposed by Moscow.

Shaheen began by touting the fact that she, along with the members of the Foreign Relations Committee, voted in favor of a resolution authorizing the use of force in Syria in 2013 – a resolution subsequently tabled by the Senate majority leader and was never put to a vote. In this answer, she appeared to criticize the president for abandoning his “red line” for action in Syria. Bizarrely, she went on to defend the president’s alternative to acting on his “red line.”

“I think now, as a result of that action, fortunately now ISIS does not have access to those chemical weapons in Syria,” she insisted.


By the administration’s own admission, the Syrian regime misled the world and hid four chemical manufacturing facilities from international weapons inspectors. Declared or undeclared, Syria maintains its chemical weapons capability and a stockpile of unconventional munitions. As for ISIS, reports indicate that the Islamic State has gotten its hands on weapons of mass destruction, too, and the messianic militia is deploying them against Syrian Kurds.

On Tuesday, Kurdish sources told BBC reporter Güney Yıldız last night Kurdish fighters defending the city of Kobane told him “they suspect IS might have used chemical weapons against the city.”

But this is not even an especially recent development. As early as mid-September, the BBC revealed, “there have been persistent, if unconfirmed, reports that IS has been deploying chlorine gas in Iraq in recent weeks.”

One refers to an attack on Iraqi troops on 16 September in Saladin province, north of Baghdad, in which 12 soldiers were affected.

Another refers to an incident in late September where 15 IS fighters were reportedly killed while filling rockets with chemicals.

At the end of September officials from the UK, French and German governments reached the joint conclusion that it was “plausible” that IS both possessed chlorine gas and had used it against Iraqi troops although they had no hard evidence.

The images of Kurds suffering after having been exposed to chemical agents are hard enough to endure, but juxtaposed with the callous statements of American lawmakers who insist that their ordeal is not even occurring is a powerful message indeed.