A report by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the OPCW, has confirmed that the Assad regime repeatedly used chemical weapons in Syria in 2014 and 2015. ISIL was also found to have used mustard gas in an attack in 2015. The year-long, UN-backed investigation looked into nine cases of use or likely use of chemical weapons, and was able – so far -- to determine responsibility for three of them.
“It is now impossible to deny that the Syrian regime has repeatedly used industrial chlorine as a weapon against its own people,” said U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price in a statement. “We condemn [these actions] in the strongest possible terms.”
In 2013, in a deal brokered by Russia and the United States, President Bashar Assad agreed to hand over his entire stockpile of chemical weapons and to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. The continued use in Syria of toxic chemicals as weapons led to the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2209 citing such use as a violation of resolution 2118 and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
White House Spokesman Josh Earnest called Assad’s weaponization of chlorine an act “of indiscriminate violence against his own people:”
“That’s consistent with the tactics we’ve seen previously, including the targeting of medical facilities and the dropping of barrel bombs out of helicopters, even in places where the Assad regime knows that civilians are located.”
In a statement, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said that the OPCW-U.N. report “has now confirmed a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime that mirrors numerous other confirmed cases of chemical weapons use across Syria. ... This horrific and continuous use of chemical weapons by Syria represents the greatest challenge to the legitimacy of the [Chemical Weapons Convention] since it entered into force, and an affront to a century’s worth of efforts to create and enforce an international norm against the use of chemical weapons.”
Ambassador Power said, “It is essential that the members of the Security Council come together to ensure consequences for those who have used chemical weapons in Syria. It is essential that all state and non-state actors immediately cease any chemical weapons use. We strongly urge all States to support strong and swift action by the Security Council.”