The New York Times reported yesterday that the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, “expressed concern on Thursday that Syria’s government might be harboring undeclared chemical weapons.” Syria agreed to get rid of all of its chemical weapons last year after it was implicated in carrying out a chemical weapons attack against civilians in an eastern Damascus suburb last August.
Power made the accusations after a briefing given by Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations (UN) official in charge of coordinating the international effort to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.
Under Ms. Kaag, 96 percent of Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile, including all of the most lethal materials, have been destroyed.
But Ms. Kaag told reporters after the briefing that Syria had yet to address what she described as “some discrepancies or questions” about whether it had accounted for all of the chemical weapons in its arsenal. She also said Syria had yet to destroy seven hangars and five tunnels used for mixing and storing the weapons — which is required under the chemical weapons treaty that Syria has signed. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Hague-based group that collaborated with the United Nations in overseeing the Syrian chemical disarmament, is now responsible for ensuring that Syria honors its promise.
Power also raised concerns that the Syrian chemical arsenal could fall into “the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the group that has seized parts of northeast Syria, invaded northwest Iraq and bragged about mass killings, beheadings and other atrocities.”
In the middle of August, when the Obama administration declared that the “most dangerous chemicals in the regime’s declared stockpiles” were destroyed, Secretary of State John Kerry cautioned that there were still “discrepancies and omissions related to Syria’s chemical weapons declaration.”
Prior to the international agreement to rid Syria of its chemical weapons, the regime of Bashar al-Assad was detected moving them around, perhaps as a means of concealing a portion of its arsenal. Syria’s actions have often raised questions as to whether the regime was committed to keeping its end of the agreement.
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