On Monday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that the last of Syria’s 1,300 tons of declared chemical weapons were out of the country.
This is an important breakthrough for the security of that nation and the world.
Syrian President Bashar Assad used these appalling weapons to kill more than 1,000 civilians in August 2013. As the civil war continues to intensify, it’s possible he would have done so again — especially if he started to feel more threatened.
The instability in Syria could have led to an outcome even more dreadful than Assad’s continued possession of chemical weapons. As the country remains embroiled in conflict, the weapons could have fallen into the hands of a jihadist faction like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
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This outcome is vastly superior to the half-measure of retaliatory airstrikes. As Secretary of State John Kerry has noted, such strikes might have been largely inconsequential because Assad would have retained control over his chemical arsenal.
This was a moral and strategic victory for the Obama administration. In forcing Assad to abandon his chemical weapons program, an essential international precedent has been upheld, making it unlikely that innocent Syrians will be subjected to the horrors of chemical warfare anytime soon.