Senator Tom Cotton took to the Senate floor to discuss new reports of sarin gas being used in Syria:
"It’s been nearly two years since the Syrian tyrant, Bashar al Assad, attacked his own people with sarin gas, crossing President Obama’s so-called red line. At the time, President Obama grudgingly called for airstrikes against Assad, but hesitated at the moment of decision. When Secretary of State Kerry opened the door to a negotiated solution, Vladimir Putin barged in, allowing Assad the pretext of turning over his chemical weapons to avoid U.S. airstrikes. The president’s Amen Chorus proclaimed a strategic masterstroke," said Cotton.
"But it wasn’t so. Street-smart observers were on to Assad’s game. He only needed to keep a tiny fraction of his chemical stockpile to retain its military. Syria thus could open most—but not all—of its facilities at no cost to the regime. In fact, because most of Syria’s chemical agents were old, potentially unreliable, yet still dangerous, the regime actually benefited by getting the West to pay for removal of the old stocks.
"And where are we now? Exactly where a few my colleagues and I warned that we would be. News reports just this week indicate the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has discovered new evidence of sarin gas and VX nerve agent—nine months after the Organization declared Syria had disposed of all its chemical weapons. In the meantime, Assad has simply shifted to chlorine gas for chemical attacks against his own people—which is also prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention, even though Syria signed the Convention as part of President Obama’s 2013 deal.
"I am appalled by these reports that the Syrian regime has retained stocks of chemical weapons, but I cannot say I am surprised. Anyone with eyes to see knew the message President Obama had sent. When he flinched in 2013 in the face of Assad's brazen and brutal use of sarin gas on civilians, it only emboldened Assad to continue testing U.S. resolve.
"Of course, the fallout goes far beyond Syria. The failure to enforce the U.S. redline against the use of chemical weapons in Syria has severely damaged U.S. credibility around the world. I hear this message from leaders of countries not only in the region, but across the globe. The message sounds most loudly with Iran, where the ayatollahs continue their headlong pursuit of nuclear-weapons capability with impunity. Regrettably, then, we are reaping the bitter fruits of President Obama's weakness.
"There are two simple lessons we must draw from this sad sequence of events. First, our country's word on the international stage must be good and it must be credible. When a president draws a redline and fails to back it up, it only emboldens our enemies and makes America appear as the weak horse. Remember Osama bin Laden famously said that when given the choice between a weak horse and a strong horse, people will always root for the strong horse. Under Barack Obama, America increasingly looks like the weak horse.
"Second, we cannot trust tyrannical regimes to abide by agreements unless we force them to do so. This means that any agreement with Iran about its nuclear-weapons program must contain the most stringent conditions, impose the most intrusive verification procedures, and ultimately prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear-weapons capability. The framework agreement President Obama has reached with Iran meets none of those standards. Moreover, the administration’s concealment of Syria’s cheating surely foreshadows how it will look the other way when Iran cheats on any final deal.
"Assad's cheating on his chemical weapons agreement today is devastating for the people of Syria. But Iran's cheating on a nuclear agreement in the future could be catastrophic for the United States and the world at large."