President Trump launched a massive missile strike last week in response to the chemical weapons attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib Province of Syria. At least 80 people were killed, including women and children. Wait—didn’t we get “100 percent” of the chemical stockpile out of Syria. Didn’t they turn that over? That’s what the Obama administration told us in 2014. Oh, I forgot—there was a Sarin gas attack in Ghouta, Syria that killed hundreds, possibly over 1,000 in August of 2013. Instead of enforcing a red line, which would mean military action, the Obama White House, working with the Russians, struck a deal to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a total dictator by the way, of his chemical weapons stockpile. It was a great success, they said. Trust the dictator, they said.
Yet, now, former members of the administration are saying that while the deal was sold as a success to the public, they always knew that Assad retained some chemical weapons capacity. So, they lied to us. And who better to defend that deception than former National Security Adviser Susan Rice. The woman behind the other total lie that the Benghazi terror attack was not a well-planned assault executed by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, (which it was) but a spontaneous protest of an offensive YouTube video.
Even The Washington Post rated Rice’s remarks about Syria in January on the chemical weapons agreement as a whopper. Here’s what she said [emphasis mine]
“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. Our aim in contemplating the use of force following the use of chemical weapons in August of 2013 was not to intervene in the civil war, not to become involved in the combat between Assad and the opposition, but to deal with the threat of chemical weapons by virtue of the diplomacy that we did with Russia and with the Security Council. We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”
— Susan E. Rice, then-national security adviser, in an interview with NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Jan. 16, 2017
The Post’s fact checkers said that this oversold what actually happened, and that for Rice to fail to recognize then-Secretary of State John Kerry’s exit memo—released 11 days prior to this interview—noting that chemical weapons are still in Syria made these remarks a total lie.
The removal of vast quantities of chemical weapons from Syria’s soil was indeed an achievement. When Obama contemplated attacking Syria, a major problem with his plan was that most of the chemical weapons would not have been destroyed.
But the Obama administration had a tendency to oversell what was accomplished, perhaps because Obama received so much criticism for not following through on an attack if Syria crossed what Obama had called “a red line.” We have a reasonable-person test here at The Fact Checker, and it’s doubtful many NPR listeners realized that “known” was code for the fact that Rice only was referring to chemical weapons stocks declared by Syria — or that chlorine weapons were not covered by the agreement.
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.
Rice has found herself at the center of controversy again, with her being named as the intelligence official who asked for names of at least one Trump transition officials to be unmasked. Syria, Benghazi, and now this—no wonder why Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) called her the “Typhoid Mary of the Obama administration.” When something goes disastrously wrong—she’s somehow involved.