Syrian dictator Bashar Assad said Thursday that allegations that his military carried out a chemical weapons attack last week against a rebel-controlled portion of his own nation are “100 percent fabrication.”
In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Assad also said his nation “gave up” its stockpile of chemical weapons, consistent with a 2013 agreement brokered by the Russian government after the Syrian military used chemical weapons in a suburb of the nation’s capital, Damascus. That deal staved off the threat of military intervention from former U.S. President Barack Obama, who had drawn a so-called “red line” on the use of chemical weapons on which he did not ultimately follow through.
Last week’s chemical attack, which the U.S. and other Western nations have blamed on the Assad regime, left more than 80 people dead, including children young enough to still be wearing diapers when they were killed. Images and videos from the attack showed victims with symptoms consistent with a chemical weapons attack, and Turkish officials have said Sarin gas was found in the systems of those killed.
The attack prompted President Donald Trump, who had in the past publicly opposed intervention in Syria, to launch a retaliatory missile strike against the Syrian air base where aircraft that delivered the chemical weapons are believed to have taken off. The move was widely praised by U.S. allies but drew criticism from Syria’s chief international partners, Russia and Iran.
The Russian government, in particular, has denied that Assad’s government was to blame, arguing instead that the attack was the result of a conventional airstrike that hit a rebel cache of chemical weapons. The U.S. has argued that its evidence shows otherwise.
Russia, through its foreign minister and ambassador to the United Nations, has called for an independent and objective investigation into the attack but has been critical of the type of non-governmental organizations that would typically carry out such an inquiry. In his Wednesday interview with AFP, Assad similarly said his nation would allow only an “impartial” investigation.