In 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry raced from one talk show to the next, congratulating himself for completely eliminating chemical weapons from Syria.
“We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out,” he beamed on Meet the Press, earning a now-retracted thumbs-up from fact-checking website Politifact.
“It was an ambitious goal, particularly in the middle of a civil war. And in large measure, it was met,” Politifact assured its readers.
For extra embarrassment, take a look at the other stunning Obama foreign-policy achievements Kerry bragged about on that busy day in 2014: “gains in securing Chinese help to restrain North Korea, a ceasefire in South Sudan, the interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program and progress on the formation of a new government in Iraq.”
Kerry was still peddling his tale of Obama success in Syria well into 2017.
“President Obama never retreated from his red line. He never changed his mind about his readiness to bomb Assad to make it clear you don’t use chemical weapons. Never. There’s a mythology that’s grown up around this,” he said at a U.S. Institute of Peace event in January.
“I was asked a question at a press conference in London, ‘Is there any way that Assad could avoid being bombed?’ And I said, ‘Yes, he could get all the chemical weapons out of the country,’” crowed the man Democrats chose as their presidential nominee in 2004.
Kerry saluted his good friend Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, for the swell job he did of wiping out Bashar Assad’s chemical arsenal. Even as President Obama was supposedly on the verge of bombing Syria, Kerry said Lavrov called him with enthusiastic support for a deal to confiscate Assad’s toxins.
“I get a call from Lavrov an hour and a half later saying, ‘That’s a great idea. We should be pursuing that. Why don’t we sit down and talk and see if we can get that done?’ And within days, we got it done,” Kerry recalled.
The former Secretary of State somehow forgot to mention that he handed Syria over to Russia with one of the most notorious “gaffes” in diplomatic history – an unscripted remark in September 2013 about relieving U.S. pressure on the Syrian regime if Bashar Assad would “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.”
Russia instantly swooped in to accept Kerry’s generous offer and effectively tossed the Obama administration out of the Middle East. From that moment forward, it was very much in the Obama team’s interest to go along with Russian pretenses of cleaning up Syrian WMD. The absolutely last thing Obama wanted was to discover chemical stockpiles in Syria, which would have embarrassed Russia and endangered Obama’s precious nuclear deal with Iran. Assad received carte blanche to kill as many people as he wanted, provided he didn’t use chemical weapons. He used them anyway.
President Obama himself celebrated an “important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile” in August 2014.
Obama was speaking primarily of American efforts, but he also expressed appreciation for the “assistance of Russia and China.”
“Going forward, we will watch closely to see that Syria fulfills its commitment to destroy its remaining declared chemical weapons production facilities,” he promised.
“It turns out we are getting chemical weapons out of Syria without initiating a strike,” Obama gushed.
In one of his last interviews as president in January 2017, Obama told 60 Minutes he had no regrets about drawing the “red line” against WMD in Syria.
“I think made a bigger mistake if I had said, ‘Eh, chemical weapons. That doesn’t really change my calculus.’ I think it was important for me as president of the United States to send a message that in fact there is something different about chemical weapons,” Obama mused, having apparently forgotten what he actually did when Bashar Assad stepped across that red line.
“Regardless of how it ended up playing, I think in the Beltway, what is true is Assad got rid of his chemical weapons,” Obama added. A few months later, we learned that how it played in Idlib province was far more important than how it played in the Beltway.
One of the most notorious figures from the Obama administration, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, was also enormously pleased with her team’s success at making Syria WMD-free.
“We were able to find a solution that didn’t necessitate the use of force that actually removed the chemical weapons that were known from Syria, in a way that the use of force would never have accomplished,” Rice said in a January interview with NPR.
“Our aim in contemplating the use of force following the use of chemical weapons in August of 2013 was not to intervene in the civil war, not to become involved in the combat between Assad and the opposition, but to deal with the threat of chemical weapons by virtue of the diplomacy that we did with Russia and with the Security Council. We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile,” she claimed.