“American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force,” President Obama claimed to scattered applause during the State of the Union address on Tuesday, “is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated.” This month, two shipments totaling 1,300 tons of chemical agents were delivered to a port on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, where they were turned over to representatives of the international organization tasked with their destruction. Secretary Kerry praised Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying he deserved “credit” for adhering to the agreement in “record time,” and that the U.S. was “appreciative” of his “compliance.”
Unfortunately for the President and the Secretary, the chemical weapons removal process appears to have aborted its takeoff. The 1,300 tons of chemical agents already delivered represent a tiny fraction of Syria’s declared chemical weapons arsenal-barely 4.1 percent, Reuters reports. The rest of it is being held up because of weather, security, and other concerns, and just about everyone agrees the figures the Assad regime supplied to the international community are “questionable.”
“The regime has been sort of stalling on the implementation of the agreement,” an unnamed senior Western diplomat told Reuters. The Assad regime is “teasing us,” said another. The operation to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons is now two months behind schedule. This struggle highlights how little influence the Obama Administration has over the Syrian conflict.
This is part of a pattern. Assad lied to Colin Powell when he asked Syria to stop stealing oil from Iraq in 2003. He lied about stopping militants traveling through Syrian territory to kill Americans in Iraq. He lied about clamping down on Palestinian insurgents based in Syria. And he lied about the Al Kibar nuclear facility that Israel destroyed in 2007. Now he’s telling the truth about how much chemical weapons materiel he has? Right…