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Iran Scrambles to Respond to Claims It Supplied Chlorine Bombs to Assad

The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday angrily denounced reports printed by Western outlets alleging that the Islamic republic had supplied Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime with chlorine-filled chemical weapons (CWs):

In a statement on Wednesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry described the news as “a lie”, and said the fact that the news comes from media affiliated to the Zionist regime makes it all the more evident that the report is a “fabrication”.

“This is not the first time that this Zionist news outlet spreads lies to deviate the world’s public opinion from realities,” the statement said.

Observers have become increasingly vocal in condemning what analysts describe as a coordinated campaign by Syrian to target rebel-heavy areas with the weapons. The campaign had – per The New York Times – “overshadowed” reports that progress was being made in eliminating other parts of Assad’s nonconventional arsenal.

Syria had agreed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and destroy its CW stockpile as part of a deal hammered out last September to avert what seemed to be impending U.S. strikes, after the regime had widely been accused of crossing a red line set by the Obama administration against the use of such weapons. The CWC does not ban possession of chlorine, which has industrial uses beyond the battlefield, but weaponizing the substance let alone deploying it is prohibited.

The Chinese had been quick in announcing an investigation into whether the weapons had a link to Beijing, and had subsequently denied involvement. The controversy over chlorine weapons comes as progress has stalled in destroying even the CWC-proscribed portions of Syria’s arsenal. The chief of the mission charged with destroying those weapons said this week that the last unsecured containers were currently inaccessible on account of nearby fighting. Washington has traditionally shown little patience for such arguments, accusing Damascus of dragging its feet and manipulating the situation on the ground to avoid handing over its weapons.

The Americans believe that Syria has been looking to retain portions of its nonconventional arsenal:

The months-long effort to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons program has ground to a halt because Syria is holding on to 27 tons of sarin precursor chemicals as leverage in a dispute with the international community over the future of facilities used to store the deadly agents, according to U.S. officials.

[Photo: euronews (in English) / YouTube]