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.
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.
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