WASHINGTON–Democrats on Capitol Hill contradicted a report of a former Obama administration official who said the “U.S. always knew” that they did not clear out all of Syria’s chemical weapons, despite an agreement President Obama made with the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Although most Democrats supported the strike in Syria that President Trump ordered as a result of the Assad regime’s recent chemical attack on its people, members stopped short of any criticism of the prior administration’s previous claim that it removed Syria’s chemical weapons.
Antony J. Blinken, former deputy secretary of state under Obama, told The New York Times Sunday, “Imagine what Syria would look like without that deal.” He added: “It would be awash in chemical weapons, which would fall into the hands of ISIS, Al Nusra or other groups.”
Blinken added, “We always knew we had not gotten everything, that the Syrians had not been fully forthcoming in their declaration,” Mr. Blinken said.
Blinken’s comments come as the new administration questions remarks made last January by Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice, who contended on National Public Radio:
We were able to find a solution that didn’t necessitate the use of force that actually removed the chemical weapons that were known from Syria, in a way that the use of force would never have accomplished. … We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.
President Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry made similar remarks of the clearing out of the Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles.
However, following Assad’s chemical attacks questions arose as to how honest the administration and its allies were with the agreement with Assad.
Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said last Thursday Assad had cheated on the chemical weapons agreement made with the Obama administration.
“Remember, Obama when he did not strike, he got an agreement [from Assad] to eliminate all of the chemical weapons. That was a big accomplishment, but then Assad cheated,” Nelson said. “So now, I don’t think there’s any question if Assad does anything more, we should strike all the airfields and all of his air force.”
When asked by The Daily Caller if the prior administration truly verified that it removed all the chemical weapons it claimed to, Nelson replied, “Well, they did, and [Assad], apparently, has manufactured the other ones. And that’s what he has used.”
Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee, blamed Russia for the chemical weapons in Syria that were supposed to be removed following Assad’s agreement with President Obama.
“Well it’s a one more example of Russia not being totally straightforward with the United States. We don’t know what role they did not play but they were they were the intermediaries in regards to Assad getting rid of his chemical weapons,” Cardin told TheDC last Thursday. “Obviously, Russia didn’t do their job. And whether they misled us or just wanted to do what they wanted to do over and over again Russia has not lived up to its international commitments.”
Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, told TheDC of the chemical weapons, “Yeah. Well that’s a that’s a huge question to me. How and why were those weapons still there?”