Today marks a somber anniversary in the history of the Syrian conflict. In the early morning hours of August 21, 2013, in the Damascus suburbs of Ghouta, the Assad regime killed more than 1,400 Syrians, many of them children, with the chemical agent sarin.
The United States estimates – conservatively – that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on its own people at least 50 times since the conflict began. On this day we remember and honor all of the victims of Assad’s chemical weapons attacks.
The United States remains determined to drive chemical weapons use to zero and hold the Assad regime accountable for the Ghouta attacks and the many other heinous acts it has perpetrated against the Syrian people, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The United States and other responsible nations took unprecedented action last month at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by adopting a decision condemning Syria for its possession and use of chemical weapons and setting out measures Syria must take. Any failure by Syria to fulfill these measures by the deadline set will result in a recommendation to the OPCW’s full body, the Conference of States Parties, to take further action.
In addition, various authorities including Executive Order 13894 and the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act allow us to level travel restrictions and financial sanctions against those who enable the Assad regime to commit its litany of atrocities, including its use of chemical weapons. Yesterday, for example, we announced sanctions against six more of Assad’s financial, political, and military advisors. These are just some of the steps the United States is taking to promote accountability for the Assad regime and its enablers.
On this sobering day, we urge the international community to advance efforts to hold the Assad regime accountable for its heinous acts and to rid the world of the scourge of chemical weapons once and for all.