Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry assured the public all of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile was disposed of, in an 2014 “Meet the Press” interview.
“We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out,” Kerry declared triumphantly and falsely at the time.
Assad proved Kerry definitively wrong in early April 2017 after dropping sarin gas on hundreds of civilians in rebel held areas of Syria. President Donald Trump authorized a cruise missile strike on Assad’s air force and warned him not to use chemical weapons again.
The warning resurfaced late Monday night in an urgent message from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer saying “The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children. The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack.”
“As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” Spicer declared. “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”
Trump appeared to enforce the originally stated policy of former President Barack Obama and Kerry. Obama appeared at the White House podium in 2013 to declare “We have been very clear to the Assad regime … that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
Despite pressure from his own advisors, the international community, NATO, and U.S. allies, Obama demurred on his “red line.” Obama instead opted for a Russian-brokered deal with the Assad regime in which Assad would give up his chemical weapons arsenal. Assad did not give up his arsenal but that did not stop Kerry from trumpeting his supposed achievement in 2014.
An Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons 2016 report later confirmed that Assad repeatedly violated the Russian brokered deal and held on to some of his chemical weapons arsenal. He also repeatedly used chlorine gas against civilians, weapons which were not included in the deal. Additionally, Assad repeatedly turned to using conventional weapons against the civilian population. Hundreds of thousands have died in the ensuing years of conflict.
“I’m very proud of this moment,” Obama also told Jeffery Goldberg of The Atlantic of his decision not to strike the Assad regime in 2013. “I believe ultimately it was the right decision to make,” he said.
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