Inhofe warns against declaring ‘victory’ on Syria's weapons

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on Monday expressed doubt Syria had surrendered its entire stockpile of chemical weapons despite the assurances of an international monitor in charge of the effort.

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“It is too soon to declare victory,” Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “I don’t trust that [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin have declared all the chemical weapons in the county and Syrians have yet to demolish all of the chemical weapons facilities they originally agreed to destroy.”

The senator criticized the Obama administration for the violence in Syria and Iraq, saying the White House's “lack of strategic leadership … is creating a dangerous terrorist safe haven in the region that poses great threat to Americans and our national security.”

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Monday announced that the last 8 percent of the regime’s 1,300 tons of chemical arms had been removed from Syria. The agents will be delivered to a facility onboard the U.S. ship Cape Ray to be destroyed. Other materials will be shipped to Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The diplomatic effort to eliminate the weapons, which began last year after President Obama asked Congress to authorize military action against Syria, took nine months to complete. The deal on the weapons was struck with the support of Russia, which is aligned with the embattled Assad regime.

Inhofe cast doubt on the success of the effort, citing recent reports that the Assad regime had used “chlorine and barrel bombs” against its citizens.

The OPCW last week released a preliminary report showing that “toxic chemicals” such as chlorine were used in a number of attacks in Syria this year.

Syria did not have to declare its stockpile of chlorine as part of the disarmament deal since it is often used for commercial and domestic purposes.