Syrian Chemical Attack: A Summary

This post is predominantly a  compilation of   commentaries on  the gas attacks on  the  Damascus  suburb of Ghouta  on 20th  (or the 21st ) August 2013. Given  the huge implications of an aerial  attack on Syria by  the US France and the UK , using the chemical attacks as justification, it is vitally important that  the truth of the allegations by the Syrian  rebels is established.

There is no  question that  the Assad regime is brutal  enough  to have launched the attacks , but is it stupid enough  to  do  so and why  would it launch  chemical  attacks?

What is not discussed here is the likely catastrophic  fallout from  an aerial  attack   on Syrian infrastructure as we have seen  relatively recently  in Iraq and  Libya.

Russian news media  state that  the YouTube uploads by  Syrian  rebels of the chemical  attack  were uploaded a day  before the chemical  attack  was supposed to have occurred. However they appear to be back-tracking on  that issue. Russian media and state agencies also claim the previous gas attack  was  proved by  their analysis to have been primitive sarin  chemicals  manufactured by  the rebels. It should be noted that  Adnan Silu, Major General and former head of Syria’s chemical weapons programme,  defected to the rebels in July 2012.

While Western media and Western  government leaders are saying the  agreement Sunday  between the Syrian government and the UN to enter Ghouta is “too little, too late”, presumably  because evidence will have gone of  the sarin gas ,  experts note that  while sarin  evaporates in  a similar way  to  water, the residues and  impacts on  body  tissue remain  for some weeks and months:- one wonders therefore at  the  urgency  with which  France, UK and the United States are  threatening to  bomb  Syria now.

The YouTube videos show doctors and others trying to  treat the chemical  victims  without removing their clothing (which  would mean the chemical  residues retain  their impact on the victim (and rescuer) for a considerably longer period of time) ,  and the medical  teams  are not covered in  protective clothing ,  which  would be essential  for the medical teams’  safety in  such  a situation. While the videos show some of the victims’ limbs twitching  as would be expected from neurotoxin  poisoning,  in the video  seen, only the victim’s legs are spasming, which  would be somewhat unusual.

While  a number of  chemical  weapons  experts are saying the videos of the victims is consistent with sarin gas poisoning, t here are  no  signs of the dead victims having soiled themselves ,  one of several key signs of neurotoxin poisoning.

The analysis by by  Rogue Adventurer here shows the rockets the rebels allege to have been fired by  the Syrian government containing sarin. Given that the Assad regime has considerable technical  engineering skills,  the rockets appear  to be relatively unsophisticated, almost “handmade”   weapons;  this could of course be part of the attempt by  the Assad regime to implicate the rebels.  A more  in-depth analysis of the rocket  attacks can be found here.

Doctors without Borders press release here  of 24th August  states that  the three hospitals in Syria’s Damascus governorate that are supported by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have reported to MSF that they received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on the morning of Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Of those patients, 355 reportedly died. Angry  Arab notes  “there was internal conflict within Doctors without Borders’ unprecedented political announcement about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  There were people within the leadership of the organization that opposed the statement but the pro-US lobby prevailed.”

The timing of these attacks, coinciding with the arrival of UN  weapons inspectors in Damascus  to  investigate previous chemical  weapons attacks in  Syria   seems  an  unusual  strategy  for the Assad government- but again  – as some reporters have noted, not an impossible piece of bravado  for a dangerous and brutal regime  such  as Assad’s. And would Assad launch  a chemical  weapon attack  so  close to other areas of Damascus where support for  the regime remains, and where chemical  contamination would be highly likely,  as in  this article by Reuters?  PressTV  in  Iran  notes that its government had warned the US that  rebels were  importing sarin  gas into  Syria 8 months ago .

An in-depth  analysis by  Dan Kaszeta of Strongpoint Security here,  whose analysis suggests that  the attack  was not Sarin  or another neurotoxin, and might be the result of other chemical releases. What for instance has happened to this pharmaceutical  factory in Jaramana, Damascus on  the Ghouta plain? Note also this pharmaceutical  factory recently bombed by  either  the Syrian  regime or rebels.

The UN has previously accused Syrian  rebels of small  scale manufacture and  delivery of sarin gas, as in the Daily Telegraph  report from  6th  May  2013 here. However the Assad regime is the only agency  currently  deemed able to  manufacture and deliver such  a large quantity of sarin gas (if that is what the chemical is ) . A detailed list of alleged chemical  attacks over the past two  years is  noted  here

It should also be noted that there are very  large number of  vested interests  (ie controlled by   right wing corporate interests) American  and UK “think-tanks”  gunning for the Assad government.  One of only many examples is the  UK’s Royal  United Services Institute whose motto is ” Independent Thinking on Defence and Security”  whose Research Director, Malcolm Chalmers solemnly stated, with  presumably a straight face , that  My view is that the Syrian government’s apparent agreement to the U.N. inspection has been triggered by the growing possibility of military action, I think that is why they are doing it.” -somewhat ignoring the fact that  the  UN inspectors had been  given approval  to visit Damascus several months ago, and that the  frontline in  the Damascus suburb of Ghoutta is highly volatile as the recent sniper attacks on UN vehicles attempting to reach East Ghoutta appear to  show.

Note also  that  some (but not all) “human rights” groups, are actively involved in  mobilising  the Western  populace’s support for more gungho  adventures in  foreign lands . See this extraordinarily foolish  article by  Amnesty  UK here.

Interesting to note that  it is Israeli  security who  have provided the “information”  to US officials that the Assad government authorised the chemical  attack . And of course we know that  Israel has absolutely no  axe to  grind with  the Syrian  government and is a reliable source of dis- information! See Craig Murray’s analysis of the likelihood of the Mossad information being truthful here.

Postscript

The December 2013  article by  Seymour Hersh entitled “Whose Sarin” appears to  substantiate the claims by  the Assad regime that   Syrian rebels were responsible for the attack.

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Links

The US “Centers for Disease Control   and Prevention”   commentary on Sarin  and required  safety measures, is listed here

A very  fair and reasonable analysis (surprisingly ) by Stars and Stripes on  the situation as at  26th  August  here

A somewhat  dubious but plausible analysis of the rocketry  used in  the attack  by  Rogue Adventurer here

A vast  leap  to  assumptions of guilt by  Brown  Moses here  and used by  Peter Beaumont of the UK Guardian to  cheerlead  the US France and UK launching air attacks on  Syria.

A short sane  commentary  on chemical  weapons issues by  New Scientist here

A Syrian government  supporter view of the  attacks from  Moon of Alabama

A recent article on  the  Syrian chemical  attack at  Antiwar, by Justin Raimondo

Perhaps also  useful  to note this December 10th 2012 article in Antiwar  about US defence contractors training Syrian rebels in ‘securing chemical  weapon stockpiles”.

An old June 2013, but nevertheless very relevant piece, on  the implications of US “no-fly”  zones, by  the always reasonable  Helena Cobban at Just World News

A somewhat  US-hostile  (perhaps justified) view of the issue from Counterpunch here

Truthout’s version of events by  Gareth Porter here

Gareth  Porter’s assessment  via IPS of the US Government Intelligence report on  the chemical  weapons attack here

Some speculation from  the Strategic Culture Foundation by  Wayne Madsen on  a possible alternative source of the chemical  weapons

A further blog from  Moon of Alabama on  the  hypotheses about the origin  of the sarin  gas, as the UN team has verified the chemical  to be.

A post UN observer assessment  by  Sharmine Narwani and Radwan Mortada  of Al Akhbar

A post UN assessment by Dan Kaszeta  at  Strongpoint Security (pdf)

A Scribd critique of the UN report on chemical  weapons by  Denis R O’Brien (PhD,Esq) can be downloaded  here   (pdf)

A further Moon of Alabama report  based on analysis  by the MIT missile expert Theodore Postol which argues that  the range of  the  chemical  projectiles indicates that  the Syrian regime could not have fired them. The report by  Postol  and Lloyd entitled Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus  Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013 can be found here

The Red Line and the Rat  Line-Seymour Hersh

 

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