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Arms Agency: Syria Has Shipped Out Just 11% of its Chemical Arsenal

CNN last week conveyed reports from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons assessing that the Bashar al-Assad regime has shipped out just 11% of its chemical weapons (CW) arsenal.

Syria has shipped out 11% of its chemical weapons stockpile — falling far short of the February 5 deadline to have all such arms removed from the country, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told CNN Wednesday. The slow pace of removal prompted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to warn last month that all options remain available to force compliance. The OPCW is now in touch with senior Syrian officials to discuss a new schedule going forward.

The U.S. appeared primed to strike regime facilities last September, after the Syrian army reportedly crossed a red line set by President Barack Obama and deployed chemical munitions against opposition elements, when Secretary of State John Kerry declared in London that Assad could avert a strike by ceding his CW arsenal “in the next week.” The remark was treated as a throwaway line – the State Department stressed that it was rhetorical, deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken described it as a hypothetical, a U.S. official told CNN it as a “a major goof,” and even Kerry himself initially downplayed it – but Syria’s Russian allies seized on it to maneuver the U.S. into an agreement that foreclosed militarily degrading Syria’s assets.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov his comments about Syria averting a U.S. military strike by turning over its chemical weapons within a week were rhetorical and not meant to be a proposal, a senior U.S. Official said on Monday. Kerry also voiced “serious skepticism” when Lavrov offered to explore the idea, saying that the United States would take a look at any serious proposal, but this could not be a reason to slow the White House’s efforts to secure congressional authorization to use force against Syria, the official told reporters traveling back from London with Kerry.

Critics quickly noted that the deal functionally invested the U.S. in helping Assad re-secure Syrian territory so as to safely transfer CWs into international custody. Earlier this month Kerry publicly acknowledged that the deal had improved Assad’s position, and reportedly went further in private remarks by stating that the administration’s Syria policy had failed.

[Photo: CBS Evening News / YouTube]