The same day the White House touted Syria's agreement to destroy its chemical weapons as a major accomplishment of President Obama's second term, the envoy to the United Nations suggested Syria may be not be fully cooperating by keeping some chemical weapons supplies secret.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told a U.N. gathering Tuesday that the international organization in charge of weapons inspections had reviewed 21 or 23 arms sites “declared by Syria” and 39 of 41 facilities at those sites.
International diplomatic successes and failures are often defined by subtle shifts in language and what officials leave out of their public statements.
Powers went on to say that Syria “completed functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing and filling plans, rendering them inoperable.”
The inclusion of the word “declared” tipped off the press and the foreign policy community that the U.S. harbors doubts that Syria is fully disclosing all of its weapons and their locations, as Syrian leader Bashar Assad agreed to do when he joined the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in September.
A reporter then asked whether the intelligence community in Washington believes Syria is producing “comprehensive and accurate” information about the location and the extent of its arsenal.
Power said U.S. officials are still reviewing a lengthy, technical document Syria submitted and then cited the Assad regime's poor track record of truthfulness with the U.S.
“We obviously bring skepticism born of years of dealing with this regime, years of obfuscation in other contexts, and of course a lot of broken promises in the context of this current war,” she said.
“You'll certainly hear from us in the event that we detect noncompliance or we detect significant discrepancies in their declaration,” she said.
A White House spokeswoman said U.S. officials are still trying to determine the latest intelligence on Syria's compliance with its international agreement to declare and destroy its chemical stockpile.
“We continue to review and assess the completeness and accuracy of Syria’s declaration to the OPCW,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Washington Examiner. “However, in accordance with OPCW regulations, Syria’s declaration is confidential, and we will not publicly discuss its details or our assessment of it.”
Earlier Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Assad's agreement to destroy its chemical weapons was “a big deal.”
Carney was asked to name some tangible accomplishments of the first year of President Obama's second term. He listed the deal struck between Republicans and Democrats late last year that made permanent tax cuts for the middle class and raised rates on millionaires and billionaires. He also pointed to the “enormous progress we've made” on comprehensive immigration reform, which passed the Senate over the summer but faces obstacles in the House.
He then held up Obama's role in pressing Syria to agree to destroy its chemical weapons as a “not insignificant fact.”
“Even though the situation in Syria remains horrific for so many reasons, that, you know, I can stand here today and say that the Syrian regime is destroying chemical weapons and the apparatus to make chemical weapons that it did not even acknowledge existed a month ago – that's a big deal,” Carney said.