Last week Reuters reported, “International inspectors have found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that had not been declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog, diplomatic sources said on Friday. Samples taken by experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition and Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in December and January tested positive for chemical precursors needed to make the toxic agents, the sources told Reuters . . . OPCW inspectors have been to Syria eight times to verify the accuracy of the details of the chemical weapons program provided in an initial report, but keep returning with more questions than answers, the diplomats said.” After Syria was required to turn over its entire chemical weapons program, we now are told gas was “systematically and repeatedly” used. How did Syria do it? “Syria has begun destroying a dozen chemical weapons production and storage sites, but also last year added several new facilities it had not initially disclosed to the OPCW.” It cheated.
Presidential hopeful and former Texas governor Rick Perry certainly noticed the report. In a written statement he declared, “It is disturbing but not surprising that the OPCW has found traces of sarin and other nerve agents at military sites that the Syrian regime has left undeclared. We have long doubted the completeness of Assad’s initial disclosure of Syria’s chemical weapons capability, and today’s revelation is further proof of the atrocities committed by his regime.” He added, “Tragically, the Syrian people continue to suffer at the hands of this dictator because the Obama Administration’s empty words did nothing to stop Assad. We cannot afford to continue to blindly trust dictators who attack their own people to uphold international agreements without penalty.”
We have not heard about Syria’s noncompliance because the administration never publicly let on that massive cheating was underway. So much for our “success” in disarming Bashar al-Assad, and so much for the notion of policing WMDs in closed societies runs by psychopaths. If its junior partner behaves in such a fashion, can we expect anything better from Tehran?
We already know the Iranians have violated international agreements and resolutions for decades. And even during the Joint Plan of Action, contrary to the Obama administration’s assertions, they have not fulfilled their obligations. When Iran was caught testing an advanced centrifuge barred by the JPOA, the administration wrote it off as a low-level employee’s doing, probably a mistake. British sources recently provided the United Nations with evidence Iran was attempting to buy nuclear technology from banned companies. The White House brushed this off. And, of course, if the administration capitulates again, allowing Iran to avoid disclosing past military dimensions of its program or to block anytime/anywhere inspections, we will be giving Iran a road map to further violations. On top of that, consider that the administration seems inclined to set up a laborious procedure for finding violations, reporting them and then having the U.N. Security Council (including the Russians who brokered the Syrian deal, which was brazenly violated) be the final arbiter.
In short, not only can we not trust the Iranians to comply with whatever is in a final deal but we also cannot trust the administration to call them on it when Iran again cheats, as we know it will. In big ways and small, the administration has already signaled it will have a high tolerance for violations so as not to upset its diplomatic goals. Imagine how much more tolerant the Obama administration will be when cheating would spell the demolition of the president’s “legacy.”
As Congress moves forward, it should demand explanations for Syrian and Iranian violations to date and full disclosure as to when the administration became aware Syria was not in compliance. With regard to Iran, Congress will have a variety of tools at its disposal, including additional sanctions and prohibition on opening diplomatic offices, as the administration has been inclined to do. It can enact a flat-out prohibition on lifting sanctions against Iran if, for example, it does not disclose its WMDs. Recently, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) suggested he would be amenable to all sorts of bipartisan efforts to prevent a bad deal. It is now time for him and the rest of the Senate Democrats to make good on their promises. A good place to start should be WMD cheating and the administration’s habitual refusal to admit it.