By Kathryn Maureen Ryan Impunity Watch Reporter, Managing Editor
DAMASCUS, Syria – On Monday U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration announced that U.S. military and civilian personnel had completed the destruction of the Syrian regime’s declared chemical weapons stockpile. In a statement President Obama said that the neutralization of these chemical agents “advances our collective goal to ensure that the Assad regime cannot use its chemical arsenal against the Syrian people and sends a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community.”
American ship MV Cape Ray docked at Naval Station in Rota, Spain, on Thursday, February 13. The ship was used as the cite where Syria’s most dangerous chemical weapons would be neutralized. (photo courtesy of The Washington Post)
On Monday morning, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called the captain of the Cape Ray, the ship chosen to oversee the neutralization of chemical weapons in international waters, , to congratulate him and the crew for eliminating the stockpile. President Obama thanked Denmark, Norway, Italy, Finland, Germany, and the United Kingdom for key contributions to the mission. He also noted Russia’s and China’s assistance.
“While the international community’s work to completely eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program is not yet finished, the secretary believes this is a clear demonstration of what can be achieved when diplomacy is backed by a willingness to use military force,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.
The effort was conducted with the support of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as the United Nations. While the Obama Administration acknowledgment the milestone of destroying Syria’s declared stockpile it acknowledgement that the Syrian regime was likely less than forthcoming in declaring the exact extent of its chemical weapons stockpile. “In record time, even amid a civil war, we removed and have now destroyed the most dangerous chemicals in the regime’s declared stockpiles,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “But much more work must be done.”
Kerry said there are still “discrepancies and omissions related to Syria’s chemical weapons declaration.” Secretary Kerry expressed concerns over the continued use of chlorine gas against Syrian civilians by the regime forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Kerry also reaffirmed the United States’ support of moderate rebels.
“The United States,” Kerry said, “will continue to provide political, financial, and other support to the moderate opposition because we are committed to help those who seek the right of all Syrians to choose a future of peace and oppose the violent extremists who exploit the chaos and ruin that Assad has brought to Syria.”
The announcement comes almost a year after more than 1,4000 people were killed by sarin gas attacks On August 21 2013 in the Ghouta suburbs of the Markaz Rif Dimashq district outside of Damascus, which were struck by rockets containing the chemical agent sarin.