US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert has slammed former President Barack Obama for not taking action against the Syrian government after the chemical weapons attack on Eastern Ghouta in September 2013.
During a phone interview with Al Jazeera on Saturday, the senior US official said the Obama administration’s reluctance to intervene militarily had allowed subsequent chemical attacks to take place.
“President Obama’s administration by many accounts never did enough to try to stop this,” she said, adding Obama had drawn a “red-line” and let Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “run right through” it.
Up to 1,417 people died in the 2013 and US-led intervention against Assad was averted after Western states agreed to a Russian-brokered agreement to force Syria to give up its chemical weapons arsenal.
However, the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government continued, and multiple attacks have been reported since, using toxic agents, such as chlorine, mustard gas, and sarin.
After the Trump administration took the reins of the White House in January 2017, the US took a harder stance on the use of chemical weapons than the one adopted by Obama.
Nauert said President Donald Trump had tried diplomatic approaches to get Assad to relinquish his chemical weapons after the US strikes in April 2017, but the approach had not worked because of Moscow’s diplomatic backing for Syria.
“They (Russia) are not serious about peace and stability, and we know that because they continue to support the regime of Bashar al-Assad as he kills his own people,” she said.
According to Nauert, one of the State Department’s most senior officials pending Secretary of State-nominee Mike Pompeo’s confirmation, the US, UK, and France on Saturday had taken a leadership role in countering the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad government.
The US official said Saturday’s missile strikes had achieved their goal of degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capacity.