France: Too Bad Obama Didn't Strike in Syria
The Syrian regime is believed to have used chemical weapons, including chlorine, in 14 attacks since late 2013, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday, according to AFP.
Fabius, who is on an official visit to Washington, also voiced France's regrets that President Barack Obama failed to unleash strikes on the Syrian regime as punishment for a sarin gas attack last summer, saying it could have changed things on the ground.
Obama had threatened strikes after Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad crossed a red line by launching a sarin attack in August near Damascus in which hundreds died.
Ultimately, however, the United States and Russia reached a deal to remove Assad’s chemical arsenal from Syria, and Obama cancelled the attack.
"We regret it because we think it would have changed lots of things ... but what is done is done, and we're not going to rewrite history," Fabius told a press conference in Washington.
He alleged, however, that "we have credible witnesses for the use, at least 14 uses ... of chemical agents since October 2013."
While Assad has handed over some 92 percent of his chemical weapons stockpile for destruction, "we have lots of elements which lead us to believe that a certain number of these chemical weapons have been hidden," Fabius said, according to AFP.
The 14 reported incidents showed that "in recent weeks, new, smaller quantities of chemical arms have been used, mainly chlorine," he said, adding that France was currently examining the evidence.
U.S. officials asked about Fabius' allegations said they would have to check into the reports, but stressed they took any such accusations seriously.
Last month, activists said that over 100 people were killed in a chlorine gas attack in the town of Talmenes in Idlib Province.
The Islamic Front, an opposition forces coalition, claimed that victims of the attack were suffering from the effects of inhaling chlorine gas, listed the names of 17 victims, and even released video footage of the aftermath of the attack.
The United Nations Security Council has since called for an investigation into the alleged chlorine attack, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which is overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical arms stockpile has sent a mission to Syria to investigate the allegations.
A scientific analysis recently conducted for the British Telegraph newspaper found that Assad was indeed chemical weapons against civilians.
As part of the analysis, soil samples from the scene of three recent gas attacks in Syria were collected by trained individuals and analyzed by a chemical warfare expert.
The results show sizeable and unambiguous traces of chlorine and ammonia present at the site of all three attacks.