Syrian Regime Again Found Using Chemical Weapons—and More May Yet Be Uncovered

Will the UN be silent on Syrian crimes? UN Press Conference Area. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

The Syrian Bashar al-Assad regime attacked a town in its own country with the chemical weapon sarin in April, an investigative team commissioned by the United Nations announced last month. On Tuesday, the top foreign diplomats of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany condemned the regime’s actions and suggested it could be guilty of more sarin attacks in that nation’s brutal civil war. The quartet of officials also called for the UN Security Council and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to respond appropriately.

“The Syrian regime violated international law, including the Chemical Weapons Convention,” said the joint statement released by the State Department. “We condemn this heinous act and demand that the Syrian regime immediately cease any and all use of chemical weapons and finally declare to the OPCW all chemical weapons that it possesses.”

Previously, Syria had pledged to remove its chemical weapons, but the joint investigation between the UN and the OPCW instead found that the regime used sarin in the town of Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017. Furthermore, the diplomats’ statement said that the OPCW believes another sarin attack in a separate village “more than likely” occurred just a week earlier. Said Tuesday’s statement, “The attack it describes bears the hallmarks of the Syrian Regime.”

The joint investigation also found that ISIS used chemical weapons in September 2016, with the four diplomats saying, “We also condemn this despicable act, and we are united in our determination to defeat this abhorrent terrorist movement once and for all. We condemn the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere.”

Despite the success of the joint investigation, its mandate was not renewed and the Americans have been urging the UN Security Council to continue its work.

“The team of experts that this Council created to investigate those horrific attacks in Syria has done its job. Now it’s time for us to do our job. Since 2012, there have been hundreds of reports of chemical weapons use in Syria. This is not something we can turn away from,” said US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley in comments released by her office.

Calling upon the Security Council to renew the investigative team’s mandate, Haley said, “Anyone who prevents us from achieving this goal is aiding and abetting those who have been using chemical weapons in Syria. They are helping to ensure, not just that more women and children will die, but that those women and children will die in one of the cruelest, most painful ways possible.”

Haley’s superior, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, also joined with the three European diplomats in calling for the Security Council to act.

“A robust international response is now essential to hold those responsible to account, seek justice for the victims of these abhorrent attacks and to prevent such attacks from happening again,” said the joint foreign official statement.

“After such a report, the Security Council and all its members have a common responsibility to protect the international non-proliferation regime and live up to their previous commitments.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, November 8, 2017)

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