Susan Rice and other former Obama administration officials are taking heat for past claims that their 2013 Syria agreement successfully led to the Assad regime purging its entire chemical weapons stockpile -- in the wake of this week's alleged sarin gas attack.
On Thursday, President Trump launched a targeted strike at a Syrian airfield in response to what he called a barbaric chemical attack on innocent civilians at the hand of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council,” Trump said.
Video footage from the chemical attack scene immediately raised credibility problems for claims made by members of the Obama administration that the prior agreement had rid the war-torn country of chemical agents.
During an interview this past January with National Public Radio, former National Security Adviser Rice touted the “success” in Syria, in striking a deal with Russia's help that resulted in the prior administration dropping the threat of military action.
“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,” she boasted. “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”
Rice has come under fire for making misleading comments in the past. Most recently, she grabbed headlines for allegedly being tied to allegations of improper surveillance of the Trump team prior to his inauguration.
Rice isn’t the only Obama-era official who made self-congratulatory statements about removing chemical weapons from Syria.
In July 2014, then-Secretary of State John Kerry went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to discuss the September 2013 deal that resulted in Russia agreeing to help confiscate and then destroy Syria’s stockpile.
“We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out,” Kerry claimed.
At the time, the fact-checking website PolitiFact found Kerry’s comments to be “mostly true.” However, given new evidence that Assad had recently used chemical weapons against his own people, PolitiFact was forced to revisit and revise its assessment of Kerry’s claims.
“We don’t know key details about the reported chemical attack in Syria on April 4, 2017, but it raises two clear possibilities: Either Syria never fulling complied with its 2013 promise to reveal all of its chemical weapons; or it did, but then converted otherwise non-lethal chemicals to military uses.
“One way or another, subsequent events have proved Kerry wrong,” the site ruled.
In August 2016, a U.N. report revealed that Assad had used chlorine gas against civilians on two separate occasions since the 2013 deal – a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Despite that report, members of the Obama administration continued to claim they had been successful in disarming Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal.
They routinely touted the diplomatic nature of the joint U.S.-and-Russia brokered deal.
Obama issued his infamous “red line” warning to Syria’s leader in 2012 not to use chemical weapons. In 2013, when reports surfaced that Assad used sarin gas to kill his people, the deal to remove chemical weapons was intended to avert military action.
The president himself on Aug. 18. 2014 said that “the most lethal declared chemical weapons possessed by the Syrian regime were destroyed by dedicated U.S. civilian and military professionals” and that it had been done “several weeks ahead of schedule.”
On Jan. 6, 2015, then-White House Press Secretary John Earnest praised Russia for its role in destroying the chemical weapons stockpile of the Assad regime.
“That was an important step, because it reduced, or essentially eliminated, the proliferation risk from that declared chemical weapons stockpile, that we could essentially destroy those chemical weapons and ensure that terrorists would not be able to get their hands on them and use them in other places.”
Five months later on June 17, 2015, Earnest said that the “declared chemical weapons stockpile that Assad previously denied existed has now been acknowledged, rounded up, removed from the country and destroyed precisely because of the work of this administration and our successful efforts to work with the Russians to accomplish that goal.”
On Thursday night, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson slammed Russia for failing to do its part in preventing the Syrian government from using chemical weapons, despite the 2013 agreement to remove weapons from the country.
“Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent,” Tillerson said.