from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

More Chemical Weapons in Syria

August 02, 2016

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The Assad regime continues to attack its own population with chemical weapons. The weapon now is chlorine gas, the very thing outlawed after its use in World War I.

Here is Reuters:

 

A Syrian rescue service operating in rebel-held territory said on Tuesday a helicopter dropped containers of toxic gas overnight on a town close to where a Russian military helicopter had been shot down hours earlier.

 

The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) accused President Bashar al-Assad of being behind the attack. Assad has denied previous accusations of using chemical weapons.

A spokesman for the Syria Civil Defence said 33 people, mostly women and children, were affected by the gas, which they suspect was chlorine, in Saraqeb, in rebel-held Idlib province.

The group, which describes itself as a neutral band of search and rescue volunteers, posted a video on YouTube apparently showing a number of men struggling to breathe and being given oxygen masks by people in civil defense uniforms.

"Medium-sized barrels fell containing toxic gases. The Syrian Civil Defence was not able to determine the type of the gas," said the spokesman.

 

This was supposed to be impossible. On July 20, 2014 Secretary of State Kerry told us that "We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out."

Defenders of that claim by the administration say it really didn’t refer to chlorine, but to sarin and other chemical agents. But it seems the Assad regime may have used sarin this year as well. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on May 2d that "A little over a week ago, Syria’s embattled Assad regime used chemical arms against ISIS east of Damascus, despite the 2013 agreement to dismantle the regime’s chemical weapons. The regime apparently decided to use the lethal gas sarin after ISIS fighters attacked two Syrian air force bases considered vital military assets." If there was an aggressive American investigation to determine if this report was true, I must have missed it.

The Obama administration’s reaction continues to be inaction. Assad gets away with murder, literally. The use of poison gas as a weapon is denounced in principle, but permitted in practice. If President Obama had reacted strongly to previous uses of poison gas by Assad, this would not be happening in Syria today. It is yet another reason why, as I said in my last blog post on Syria, his inaction will be a permanent stain on his presidency.

 

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