The Syrian regime and government-backed militias have carried out over 300 chemical attacks in the war-torn country, according to a report published Sunday.
The research, published by the Global Public Policy Institute, shows there were at least 336 chemical attacks over the course of the civil war in Syria, with 98 percent of them carried out by President Bashar Assad’s regime. The remaining 2% of attacks could be attributed to the Islamic State terrorist group.
At least 89% of the chemical attacks were carried out by the Syrian government using improvised chlorine munitions delivered by modified barrel or lob bombs.
According to the report, the regime has targeted civilian population areas with its chemical attacks, rather than the frontline military positions of the rebels. The study said that showed that the use of chemical weapons is part of a strategy of collective punishment for opposition-held areas and the fear of attack is a major contributing factor to the country’s displaced persons crisis.
Approximately 90% of the confirmed attacks occurred after the August 2013 sarin attack on the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus the crossed what then-president Barack Obama had previously called a “red line,” saying it demanded a military response against Assad’s government.
Obama instead struck a deal in which Assad was supposed to destroy his stockpiles of chemicals; however, according to the GPPI report, many subsequent attacks utilized chlorine.
At the time of the reported destruction of the stockpiles, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons expressed concerns about omissions and discrepancies in Syria’s declaration.
US President Donald Trump has blamed Syria’s instability on his predecessor refraining to attack Assad after he used chemical weapons on his own people.
“You can’t make a threat and then do nothing. So Syria was lost long ago,” Trump said in January when expanding on his decision to pull all American troops out of Syria. US soldiers had been leading the coalition against Islamic State, while also helping to thwart a permanent Iranian infrastructure in the war-torn country.
Last September, prior to the announcement of the troop drawdown, the US warned the Syrian regime that further use of chemical weapons against civilians will be met with “a much stronger response” from Washington, in the wake of a report Assad had authorized his forces to use chlorine gas in their assault on the last significant rebel stronghold in the country.
Sunday’s GPPI report calls on the United States and international community to intervene by directly targeting any apparatus that would allow the use of chemical weapons, saying “the Syrian helicopter fleet, which has played a critical role in the delivery of conventional and chemical barrel bombs, should be a primary target.”
The Trump administration ordered a strike on a Syrian airbase in April 2017 in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack in Idlib that left at least 86 people dead, including 27 children, and which allegedly employed the nerve agent sarin.
Then in April 2018 the US, France and Britain launched a joint attack on Syrian facilities after a chemical strike on the city of Douman was reported to have killed at least 70 people. US officials said precision strikes hit a scientific research center near Damascus, a storage facility and command post also near the capital and a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs.
Agencies contributed to this report.