Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad still has the capability to launch chemical weapon attacks, according to a summary of a confidential watchdog report provided to the United Nations.
Inspectors with the UN-backed Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) working in Syria discovered the presence of previously undeclared chemical weapon agents, notes Foreign Policy (FP).
In a two-page summary of the classified report given to the UN, Ahmet Uzumcu, the director-general of OPCW wrote that most of the 122 samples that it collected at multiple sites in Syria “indicate potentially undeclared chemical weapons-related activities.”
The OPCW also determined in the summary that Assad used chlorine in at least two separate instances — once in April 2014 and again in March 2015 — in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2235, which calls for international action in the case of continued chemical weapons use by the Syrian dictator.
“The Secretariat considers that many of the explanations provided by the Syrian Arab Republic are not scientifically or technically plausible,” noted the OPCW director, Bloomberg reports. “At present, Syria has not yet adequately explained the presence of indicators of four chemical warfare agents.”
FP points out that Kenneth Ward, the U.S. representative to the OPCW, added that the Assad regime has launched “a calculated campaign of intransigence and obfuscation, of deception, and of defiance” and noted that the samples were “indicative of production, weaponization, and storage of [chemical warfare] agents by the Syrian military that has never been acknowledged by the Syrian government.”
The Syrian regime has “failed to provide sufficient access to senior leaders in its chemical weapons program or to adequately account for 2,000 aerial bombs that Syria acknowledges were designed to deliver mustard gas,” also found the OPCW.
U.S. and European officials have expressed concern about the use of chemical weapons by the Assad government, which is known to attack Syrian rebels backed by the United States. Assad is backed by Russia and Iran.
The UN-backed OPCW has accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons multiple times now. Assad reportedly used chemical agents against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and Syrian rebels.
In late October 2015, the OPCW issued a confidential report that highlighted the first official confirmation of the use of sulfur mustard, or mustard gas, in Syria since Assad agreed to destroy his chemical weapon stockpiles.
“The sad reality is that chemical weapons use is becoming routine in the Syrian civil war,” declared the OPCW in November.
ISIS has also been accused of using chemical weapons against its enemies in Iraq and Syria.