White Helmets rescuers treat victims of the Assad regime’s sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria, April 4, 2017
The Assad regime has finally responded to last Thursday’s condemnation, by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, of its sarin and chlorine attacks .
OPCW member states voted 29-3, with nine abstentions, for a resolution which called on the regime to give up its remaining chemical stocks and disband facilities, and which sanctioned further investigations of attacks.
Overriding the objections of Russia and Iran, the regime’s essential backers, the OPCW endorsed the findings of its Investigations and Identification Team about the regime’s use of sarin in northern Hama Province in late March 2017.
The regime has 90 days to declare “the facilities where the chemical weapons, including precursors, munitions, and devices, used in the 24, 25, and 30 March 2017 attacks were developed, produced, stockpiled, and operationally stored for delivery”. The OPCW’s Conference of States Parties, convenes in late November to consider further action, including the reporting of the regime to the UN Security Council.
Russia, which has waged a sustained propaganda campaign to undermine the OPCW, was relatively muted about the vote. The Assad regime’s Foreign Ministry finally issued a statement on Monday claiming the outcome was due to “blackmail, threat, and pressures adopted by a group of western countries, particularly the US, Britain and France”.
It maintained that the IIT, created by the OPCW in June 2018 despite Russia’s obstacles, is “illegal”. Without offering any evidence to counter inspectors, the Foreign Minister insisted that the sarin attacks on Lataminah in northern Hama were carried out by “terrorists” and White Helmets rescuers.
Days after the Lataminah attacks, a regime warplane dropped sarin on Khan Sheikhoun in neighboring Idlib Province. About 90 people were killed and hundreds wounded.
The OPCW’s Joint Investigative Mechanism concluded in October 2017 that the regime was responsible. Russia then blocked the extension of the JIM’s mandate.
UN and OPCW inspectors have founded the regime responsible for at least 33 chemical attacks since 2014.
Trying to rebuff the latest OPCW call for destruction of chemical stocks and dismantling of facilities, the Foreign Ministry complained:
The resolution will allow the US and some Western states to use that organization as a tool to make more fabrications against the Syrian Arab Republic and other states under the pretext of using the chemical weapons in order to achieve political purposes and known agendas.