Report Claims Assad Held Onto Some Chemical Weapons, But White House Still Says Deal Made 'World Safer'
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration said today that they're supportive of an investigation into whether Bashar Assad actually turned over all of his chemical weapons -- after years of White House boasting that they averted a "red line" war with Syria through the Russia-brokered deal.
The White House also insisted that the WMD disposal deal was still a success.
The deal was forged in 2013, the year after President Obama declared Assad would cross a red line requiring military response if he used his chemical weapons. Months after Obama's threat, Assad used sarin against communities in the Ghouta region, killing hundreds of civilians.
"My decision not to conduct strikes against Syria after it used chemical weapons was controversial among some in Washington," Obama told the graduating class at the Air Force Academy at the beginning of June. "But because we seized a diplomatic option, backed by our threat of force, nations came together and we accomplished far more than military strikes ever could have -- all of Syria’s declared chemical weapons were successfully removed."
Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC in 2014, "We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out."
A new confidential report from the watchdog Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, according to Foreign Policy, found that a majority of 122 samples taken at “multiple locations” in Syria “indicate potentially undeclared chemical weapons-related activities," with the Syrian government's explanations for the trace nerve agents such as VX “not scientifically or technically plausible, and … the presence of several undeclared chemical warfare agents is still to be clarified.”
Asked for comment on the conclusion that Assad held onto some chemical weapons, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today that "obviously this is something that the OPCW has been carefully looking at and we believe that they should."
"What we were able to achieve a couple of years ago in getting the Assad regime to acknowledge that they had a significant quantity of chemical weapons, rounding up those chemicals and destroying them, made the world safer. It eliminated a significant proliferation risk," Earnest said.
"We have a country that is overrun by extremists. Having large quantities of chemical weapons floating around is not a good idea and not a good combination. So we've been pleased that the Assad regime's declared chemical weapons stockpile was rounded up and destroyed. But the situation in Syria has been murky for quite some time."