Assad crosses red line again; world yawns
Last month, the US government announced that all Syrian chemical weapons had been siezed and destroyed.
The Obama administration said Monday that U.S. military and civilian personnel had completed the destruction of the Syrian government’s declared chemical weapon stockpile, heralding the neutralization of chemical agents aboard an American ship as a watershed moment in the Syrian conflict.
The completion of the effort, President Obama said in a statement, “advances our collective goal to ensure that the Assad regime cannot use its chemical arsenal against the Syrian people and sends a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community.”
Like all other Obama foreign policy "triumphs," - Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, the "decimation" of al-Qaeda - the claim that Syrian chemical weapons had been "neutralized" proved to be an illusion.
After an exhaustive investigation, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that the government of Bashar Assad had used some sort of chemical - probably chlorine - to gas people in 3 villages in northern Syria.
The conclusion, based on months of investigation by a fact-finding team, appeared to indicate that the Syrian government was continuing to use chemical weapons in the country’s civil war, despite having agreed to forswear the weapons, surrender its arsenal and tear down its manufacturing plants.
The agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said in a statement from its headquarters in The Hague that the information its team had collected provided “compelling evidence” that the toxic chemical was used “systematically and repeatedly” in Talmanes, Al Tamanah and Kafr Zet, three villages in northern Syria.
It said it had “a high degree of confidence that chlorine, pure or in mixture, is the toxic chemical in question,” based on the descriptions, physical properties, behavior of the gas, and signs and symptoms resulting from exposure, as well as the way victims responded to treatment.
The fact finders did not specify who had conducted the chlorine attacks. But its full report, which has been shown so far only to governments, is understood to leave little doubt that the Syrian government was responsible.
Michael Luhan, a spokesman for the organization, said in a telephone interview that witnesses cited in the report saw bombs dropped from high-flying helicopters that released the gas on impact. Of all the combatants in the civil war, only the Syrian government is known to have the ability to conduct such an aerial attack.
The fact-finding team said it was continuing to investigate reports of subsequent chlorine attacks, including a spate of new allegations in August.
Unlike nerve agents, mustard gas or other specially developed chemical weapons, chlorine is a common substance with many civilian and industrial uses. The international treaty banning chemical weapons does not restrict the manufacture or stockpiling of chlorine, but it does prohibit using it or any chemical as a weapon.
The organization’s report adds weight to the finding of a United Nations panel investigating human rights violations in Syria, which released a report last month saying that chlorine attacks had been carried out.
It still takes a manufacturing process to weaponize chlorine. Most likely, Assad simply hid the stockpile of Clorine gas bombs and waited until no one was looking.
Of course, after making a big deal about destroying Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles, the Obama administration isn't likely to trumpet the news that Assad is still gassing his own people. That goes for the rest of the world too, who breathed a huge sigh of relief when Obama backed off a bombing campaign against Assad when Vladimir Putin saved his bacon with his proposal to remove all Syrian chemical weapons.
We await news of further investigations to see if other chemicals that don't officially exist are being utilized by the Syrian armed forces to murder civilians.