Josh Rogin reports:
The Obama administration has refused to send gas masks and other chemical-weapons protection gear to Syrian opposition groups, despite numerous requests dating back more than a year and until the reported chemical-weapons attack that struck the Damascus suburbs August 21.
injured in East Ghouta and other Damascus suburbs, the Obama administration is contemplating a strike on the regime of Bashar al-Assad. But Syrian civilians are still trying to cope with the tragedy and treat the wounded, who include scores of children caught sleeping when the gas was dispersed. The attack zone has a fatal shortage of gas masks, chemical-weapons protection gear, and the nerve agent antidote atropine; civilians and activists have been forced to resort to crafting makeshift masks out of everyday household items.
More chemical-weapons attacks could come, and there is now an urgent demand in rebel-held areas for gas masks and other gear. But there is also anger and frustration among opposition leaders that despite more than a year of requests to the U.S. government, the Obama administration did not send any gas masks or chemical-weapons protection gear to opposition-controlled areas.
“Almost three months ago, we received intelligence information that the regime forces may use chemical weapons in Homs,” said Abo Saleem, the directing commission secretary of the Council of Homs Province and a member of the political bureau of the Revolutionary Council of Homs, in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I forward the information to the State Department telling them we are afraid of the use of chemical weapons by the regime and we need gas masks and some training to prepare for such an attack. I got no response. Two weeks after that, the regime used chemical weapons in the old city of Homs, as we were expecting. We sent the State Department reports, but nothing happened.”