Over the last six years, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and his regime are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Syrians. Perhaps one of the most horrific means of slaughter employed by the regime has been its repeated use of chemical weapons.
In a recent blog post, Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Thomas Countryman called for the Syrian regime to be held to account.
“The United Nations Security Council,” he said, “needs to vote soon on a resolution to hold accountable individuals involved in the Syrian chemical weapons program.”
Following the brutal sarin gas attack of August 21, 2013, the United States worked with the international community to broker the framework for the Elimination of the Syrian Chemical Weapons Program. Under this framework, Syria committed to join the Chemical Weapons Convention and to fully eliminate its chemical weapons program. All told, the international community removed and destroyed over 1,200 metric tons of Syria’s declared chemical weapon stockpile.
An independent international panel established by the UN Security Council in 2015, concluded at the end of 2016 that Syrian Arab Armed Forces used chlorine barrel bombs on civilians in three separate attacks in Syria in 2014 and 2015. The panel also determined that the Islamic State used mustard gas in Marea in August 2015.
As President Obama said, there are those who “are trying to obfuscate the truth” about what is happening in Syria. But the evidence that the Assad Regime and Islamic State used chemical weapons is overwhelming. “No person, group, or nation,” said Under Secretary Countryman, “should ever be allowed to use chemical weapons with impunity. Now it is time for the UN Security Council to act.”
The United States will defend the principles, laws, and norms laid out in the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Treasury Department recently announced sanctions designations for 18 senior Syrian regime officials, in response to the international panel’s findings. Announcing the sanctions, the White House condemned “in the strongest possible terms the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons.” We have also been making concrete progress towards the goal of degrading and ultimately destroying the Islamic State and its chemical weapons capability, in partnership with the global counter-ISIL coalition.
The U.S. is prepared to take further action to pursue accountability and promote the norm against chemical weapons and we call on other members of the international community to do the same.