Syrian Regime Did Not Relinquish All Chemical Weapons, U.S. Intelligence Officials Say

Children receive oxygen in village attacked with poisonous chlorine gas
Children receive oxygen in village attacked with poisonous chlorine gas / AP
July 24, 2015

One year after the Obama administration celebrated the removal of chemical weapons from Syria, U.S. intelligence agencies have determined that Bashar al-Assad’s regime did not relinquish all of its chemical weapons.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

An examination of last year’s international effort to rid Syria of chemical weapons, based on interviews with many of the inspectors and U.S. and European officials who were involved, shows the extent to which the Syrian regime controlled where inspectors went, what they saw and, in turn, what they accomplished. That happened in large part because of the ground rules under which the inspectors were allowed into the country, according to the inspectors and officials.

For one, the U.S. and European officials did not prevent the Assad regime from continuing to operate weapons-research facilities, which in turn allowed the regime to create a new type of chemical weapon using chlorine.

Back in May, the Syrian government was accused of launching close to 40 chemical weapons attacks--many of which were chorine bombs--since Assad agreed to hand over his chemical weapons war chest in 2013. In fact, chlorine gas has become a staple of Assad’s battlefield tactics.

Officials were also unable to force Assad to turn over the kinds of short-range rockets that U.N. investigators supposed were used in the August 2013 chemical weapons attack during which government forces are believed to have killed 1,400 people.

Robert Ford, who served as U.S. ambassador to Syria from 2011 to 2014 during the Obama administration, is not surprised that the Assad regime found a way to defy the chemical weapons agreement.

"Nobody should be surprised that the regime is cheating," Ford explained.

The former ambassador told CNN last June that he left his post because he was "no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy," noting the "growing extremism threat" on the ground in Syria, which has since become a hotbed for Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) terrorists. 

The White House and State Department have, nevertheless, described the mission to harvest the chemical weapons from Assad’s regime a success, even if the regime has been able to conceal parts of its arsenal.

President Obama received significant scrutiny when he failed to retaliate with military response after Assad crossed over the president's "red line" by using chemical weapons against his people in August 2013.

Assad was directed to relinquish his stockpile of chemical weapons as part of a deal brokered between the U.S. and Russia in September of the same year following the chemical weapons attack.

Published under: Barack Obama , Syria