National Security & Defense

The Corner

Obama’s Syria Deal Failed; Why Should We Believe Assurances About Iran?

This morning, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler fact-checked Susan Rice’s defense of the Obama administration’s chemical weapons deal in Syria. On January 16, 2017, Rice said:

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. … We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.

Kessler chronicles Syria’s repeated use of chemical weapons since the “deal” and concludes:

The reality is that there were continued chemical-weapons attacks by Syria — and that U.S. and international officials had good evidence that Syria had not been completely forthcoming in its declaration and possibly retained sarin and VX nerve agent. Yet Rice said: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.” She did not explain that Syria’s declaration was believed to be incomplete and thus was not fully verified — and that the Syrian government still attacked citizens with chemical weapons not covered by the 2013 agreement. That tipped her wordsmithing toward a Four [four “Pinocchios”].

Media accountability is worthwhile, but we don’t need fact-checkers to tell us that the Obama administration’s Syria policy was a miserable failure. We saw the evidence in the bodies of the children slain by sarin gas. However, we do need to remember the sorry recent track record for WMD deals with hostile countries. The Clinton administration was supposed to have stopped North Korea’s nuclear program. North Korea has nukes. The Obama administration was supposed to have stripped Syria of chemical weapons. Syria gassed its citizens.

And that brings us to the Iran nuclear deal. As the editors of the New York Post asked last night, “Why should anyone still believe the same team’s assurances on Iran’s ability to produce nukes?” Vicious liars like the North Koreans, Syrians, and Iranians tend to be vicious liars no matter the documents they sign. That’s a truth worth remembering as another WMD deal collapses and further destabilizes an already-dangerous world. 

(Update: I misread Kessler’s piece and originally wrote that Rice made her statements in January 2016, not January 2017. I’ve revised the post with the correct date. I regret the mistake and deserve any Pinocchios that I receive.)

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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