PolitiFact Retracts 'Mostly True' Ruling That U.S. Removed '100 Percent' of Syria's Chemical Weapons

'Subsequent events have proved John Kerry wrong'

John Kerry / Getty Images
April 6, 2017

Fact-checking website PolitiFact on Wednesday retracted a 2014 article that found it "Mostly True" the Obama administration helped broker a deal that successfully removed "100 percent" of chemical weapons from Syria.

"We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out," then-Secretary of State John Kerry said on NBC's "Meet the Press" in July 2014. Kerry was referring to a deal the U.S. and Russia struck in September 2013 in which the Russians agreed to help confiscate and then destroy Syria's entire chemical weapons stockpile.

When making its ruling, PolitiFact cited a statement from Ahmet Üzümcü, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

"The last of the remaining chemicals identified for removal from Syria were loaded this afternoon aboard the Danish ship Ark Futura," Üzümcü said in June 2014.

In the end, PolitiFact called Kerry's claim "Mostly True" because there were still discrepancies between how many chemical weapons Syria claimed to have and how many outside observers claimed the country had.

"There are still 12 former chemical weapon production facilities which need to be destroyed," one human rights worker told the site.

Nearly three years after Kerry's comment, a chemical weapons attack devastated a rebel-controlled village in northern Syria, killing somewhere between 70 and 100 noncombatants, including dozens of children. The United States has fingered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as the perpetrator of the attack.

The next day, PolitiFact pulled its earlier fact-check "because we now have many unanswered questions."

"We don't know key details about the reported chemical attack in Syria on April 4, 2017, but it raises two clear possibilities: Either Syria never fully complied with its 2013 promise to reveal all of its chemical weapons; or it did, but then converted otherwise non-lethal chemicals to military uses," the site wrote.

"One way or another, subsequent events have proved Kerry wrong," PolitiFact concluded.