Rick Perry, the former Republican governor of Texas and a potential presidential candidate, assailed the Obama administration for failing to achieve the full dismantlement of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal after traces of toxic agents were recently found at a military facility in the country.
In a statement to the Washington Free Beacon, Perry said the discovery of more toxic agents in Syria was "disturbing" and "further proof of the atrocities committed" by the Assad regime. Western officials accuse the Syrian military of launching sarin gas attacks in August 2013 on a rebel-held area near Damascus that killed more than 1,400 people.
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"Tragically, the Syrian people continue to suffer at the hands of this dictator because the Obama Administration's empty words did nothing to stop Assad," Perry added. "We cannot afford to continue to blindly trust dictators who attack their own people to uphold international agreements without penalty."
Reuters reported on Friday that investigators for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) discovered chemical precursors for sarin and VX nerve agents at the Scientific Studies and Research Center, a Syrian military research site where it is believed the government developed biological and chemical weapons. While the government of President Bashar al-Assad has relinquished most of its chemical arms as part of a U.S.-Russian brokered deal in 2013, the presence of the toxic agents suggests that the Assad regime might not have disclosed the extent of its chemical weapons stockpile.
President Obama said in 2013 that he was prepared to order airstrikes on the Assad regime for the alleged chemical weapons attacks, but he reversed his decision after reaching the agreement with Russia to destroy the Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpile. The revelation that Assad still has toxic agents raises questions about the United States and international community’s ability to prevent him from initiating more chemical weapons attacks.
"This is a pretty strong indication [the Assad regime has] been lying about what they did with sarin," one diplomatic source told Reuters. "They have so far been unable to give a satisfactory explanation about this finding."
The Assad regime has also launched nearly 40 chemical weapons attacks with toxic chlorine gas in the last two years, according to reports. Chlorine was not included in the 2013 deal because it also has civilian uses and is only lethal in concentrated doses, but employing it as a weapon violates international laws.
The Syrian government is reportedly blocking OPCW investigators from visiting the villages where the alleged chlorine gas attacks occurred.