The Syrian government was supposed to relinquish its chemical weapons arsenal in 2014 under a deal promoted by the Obama administration, but a recently declassified French intelligence report has proven it to be an abject failure.
France’s declassified “national evaluation” examined evidence gathered from a sarin attack, which killed more than 80 civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun April 4. The report not only determined that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was behind the attack, but also that the measures taken to ensure Assad gave up his stockpile were sorely inadequate.
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“France assesses that major doubts remain as to the accuracy, exhaustiveness and sincerity of the decommissioning of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal,” the report reads. “In particular, France assesses that Syria has maintained a capacity to produce or stock sarin, despite its commitment to destroy all stocks and capacities. Lastly, France assesses that Syria has not declared tactical munitions (grenades and rockets) such as those repeatedly used since 2013.”
The Assad regime was required to disclose and relinquish its chemical weapons stockpile as part of a 2013 agreement, partially facilitated by Assad’s ally Russia. The Obama administration promoted the agreement after Assad used chemical weapons against civilians. Obama had said such actions would force a U.S. military response, but he failed to make good on the threat. Assad killed more than 1,400 civilians in the 2013 sarin attack.
Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international body which monitors such accords, hailed the agreement as a success.
“A major landmark in this mission has been reached today. The last of the remaining chemicals identified for removal from Syria were loaded this afternoon aboard the Danish ship Ark Futura,” said Uzumcu during a press conference in June 2014.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry followed up a month later with a victory lap on Sunday morning news talk shows, touting that “we struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out [of Syria].”
“Identified” was the key word in Uzumcu’s statement, as it is now clear Syria was less than forthcoming in accounting for its stockpiles. The French report noted that several tons of a key component used to produce sarin known as methylphosphonyl difluoride (DF) was improperly accounted for.
“France informed the OPCW that Syria’s explanations on the quantities of DF declared — approximately 2o tonnes — as having been used in tests or lost in accidents were exaggerated,” said the report.
Additionally, French intelligence has observed several attempts on the part of Syria to acquire “dozens of tons” of isopropanol, the second key component in sarin, since 2014.
Perhaps most shockingly, the OPCW Declaration Team responsible for monitoring the agreement “has been unable to obtain any proof of the veracity of Syria’s declarations,” according to the report.
“The OPCW itself has identified major inconsistencies in Syria’s explanations concerning the presence of sarin derivatives on several sites where no activity relating to the toxin had been declared,” it added.
The results of the failed accord speak for themselves. In addition to the attack on Khan Sheikhoun, the report claims “there have been over 100 allegations” of the Assad regime’s use of sarin and chlorine gas.
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Image: U.S. Government.