Op-ed: Loopholes in Obama deal on chemical weapons in Syria proved ‘deadly’

by WorldTribune Staff, April 9, 2018

Two “deadly loopholes” in a deal the Obama administration struck in 2013 to remove chemical weapons from Syria allowed the Bashar Assad regime to keep a stockpile of sarin and chlorine gas that it has since used several times in attacks that have killed scores of civilians, an op-ed said.

A crater in northern Khan Sheikhoun that was allegedly the site of a sarin gas attack on April 4, 2017.

Senior editor Kathy Gil Sinan, writing for The Atlantic on April 8, highlighted the two loopholes:

“The first was that Assad did not declare everything – a reality that (then-Secretary of State John) Kerry acknowledged publicly, including in a farewell memo to staff, in which he wrote that ‘unfortunately other undeclared chemical weapons continue to be used ruthlessly against the Syrian people.’

“The second was that chlorine gas, which has legitimate civilian uses, was not part of the deal.”

Sinan noted that the Syrian American Medical Society and the White Helmets civil-defense group “have documented 200 chemical attacks in Syria since 2012, many involving chlorine. On Saturday (April 7), the group alleged a particularly gruesome attack in the besieged city of Douma, which has reportedly killed dozens and injured hundreds. It remains unclear exactly what chemical weapon was involved in the alleged attack.”

In a 2014 appearance on Meet the Press, Kerry had said: “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.”

The deal’s failure “was evident even before last April, when sarin gas killed roughly 100 people in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun,” Sinan wrote. “By then, Assad’s renewed campaign of chemical attacks, involving the use of chlorine in barrel bombs, was well underway. But sarin was explicitly prohibited, and those weapons were supposed to be out of the country.”

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in April 2017 that the Obama administration’s deal “was not a complete failure, in that [chemical-weapons] stockpiles were indeed removed, but Assad kept enough of these weapons to allow him to continue murdering civilians with sarin gas. The argument that Obama achieved comprehensive WMD disarmament without going to war is no longer, as they say in Washington, operative.”

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