Just 4.1 percent of Syria’s estimated chemical-weapons arsenal has been moved out of the country, multiple deadlines have been missed, and the operation is running six to eight weeks behind schedule, but White House chief of staff Denis McDonough assured Major Garrett this morning that the U.S. and Russia’s deal with Syria is “not falling apart.”
“We’d like to see it proceed much more quickly than it is,” McDonough said, but he maintained the deal still remains a “very important development,” in part because it involved Syria’s acknowledging that it had a chemical-weapons arsenal.
When Garrett asked McDonough whether the deal in part depends on Russia’s exerting influence on the Syrians, McDonough disagreed: “We’re not dependent on anybody in particular. We’re going to make sure that the Syrians live up to their obligations.”
“Or what?” Garrett asked. “I’m not going to get into any or-whats here,” McDonough said.
The White House official maintained that the deal has to keep happening “along the timeline that the Syrians agreed,” but U.S. officials have acknowledged that it already is well behind that timeline. The American representative to the international body regulating the agreement, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said in a recent statement to the group that “the effort to remove chemical agents and key precursor chemicals from Syria has seriously languished and stalled.”