U.S. House Demands Data on Any Hidden Syrian Chemical Arms

Smoke rises from a reported April government strike in Aleppo, Syria. Legislation passed on Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives would require intelligence officials to supply Congress with details on any chemical-warfare materials Syria's government may be trying to conceal.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
June 2, 2014, 9:44 a.m.

The U.S. House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives is de­mand­ing a run­down of any chem­ic­al-war­fare ma­ter­i­als that Syr­ia’s gov­ern­ment may be try­ing to hide.

An in­tel­li­gence au­thor­iz­a­tion bill passed by the cham­ber on Fri­day would com­pel the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to send Con­gress an as­sess­ment of any “un­declared chem­ic­al-weapons stock­pile, mu­ni­tions and fa­cil­it­ies” held by Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar As­sad’s gov­ern­ment. The na­tion­al in­tel­li­gence dir­ect­or’s re­port — re­quired with­in 30 days of the le­gis­la­tion’s en­act­ment — must also ad­dress the ori­gin of any hid­den agents, po­ten­tial “gaps” in U.S. know­ledge about the Syr­i­an stock­pile, and re­lated “deni­al and de­cep­tion” tac­tics by Dam­as­cus.

As­sad’s re­gime has giv­en oth­er gov­ern­ments cus­tody of all but roughly 7 per­cent of a 1,300-met­ric-ton chem­ic­al ar­sen­al it ac­know­ledged pos­sess­ing last year. However, U.S. and oth­er West­ern in­tel­li­gence re­portedly sug­gests that the re­gime re­mains cap­able of de­ploy­ing chem­ic­al weapons, in­clud­ing ma­ter­i­als it may have con­cealed from in­ter­na­tion­al in­spect­ors.

Dam­as­cus has nev­er ad­mit­ted to tap­ping war­fare chem­ic­als in its 3-year-old war with op­pos­i­tion forces. The gov­ern­ment pledged to re­lin­quish its chem­ic­al stock­pile, though, after sar­in nerve agent last year killed hun­dreds of people in a rebel-con­trolled neigh­bor­hood and raised the pro­spect of an in­ter­na­tion­al mil­it­ary re­sponse.

The House-passed au­thor­iz­a­tion bill calls for a “com­pre­hens­ive as­sess­ment of chem­ic­al weapon stock­piles in Syr­ia,” as well as “a list­ing of key per­son­nel as­so­ci­ated with the Syr­i­an chem­ic­al weapons pro­gram.”

The le­gis­la­tion would re­quire up­dated re­ports to be is­sued every 90 days over an 18-month peri­od.

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