U.S. plans to ‘corner’ Russia on Syria’s chemical weapons

Christopher Dickey and Noah Shachtman report: Syria continues to develop chemical weapons it is supposed to have destroyed, and to use chlorine gas it agreed not to use on the battlefield. This, according to reports from United Nations agencies that have been leaked in recent days by Obama administration officials and were confirmed in part by public statements from U.S. officials on Wednesday and Thursday.

“It is now impossible to deny that the Syrian regime has repeatedly used industrial chlorine as a weapon against its own people,” said a statement from U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price. (Chlorine was the first gas used in the trenches of World War I. When it mixes with the moisture in human eyes and lungs, it turns to acid with potentially fatal effects.)

Also very disturbing is the conclusion in the same report that the so-called Islamic State has used sulfur mustard gas, which causes skin and lungs to blister painfully, or fatally.

These leaks and statements are part of an administration effort to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian backers before an Aug. 30 meeting by the U.N. Security Council to look at the issue of chemical weapons in Syria, a U.S. intelligence official told The Daily Beast.

Why now? According to this official, the answer goes back to 2014, when the Assad regime was accused of repeated chlorine attacks, and the world shrugged its shoulders.

“We weren’t getting enough political oomph when the chlorine attacks first came to light. So we figured the best option was to work through the slow UN process, get the Russians to a place where they’re cornered diplomatically,” the intelligence official said.

Plus, the official added, finger pointing by the United States alone wouldn’t be nearly as effective as collective action.

“You know the way the Russians treat anything Syria-related,” the official said. “If we bring it forward, the Russians would reject it out of hand. So we helped OPCW [the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] uncover it on its own.”

In fact, the timing is politically problematic for President Barack Obama, and potentially for his favored successor, Hillary Clinton, since she is so closely identified with his administration.

We are looking at the third anniversary of Obama’s Great Syria Failure, as many of his critics see it: the debacle in which he drew a red line against the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, and the regime stepped right across it, killing more than a 1,000 men, women, and children with sarin nerve gas on Aug. 21, 2013, in a Damascus suburb called Ghouta. [Continue reading…]

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