UN Report Conclusive Sarin used on wide Scale, Points to Syrian Regime

When reports of a chemical weapons attack in Rif Dimashq near Damascus on August 21 first surfaced, some observers questioned whether these were really chemical weapons. Others questioned whether the force that deployed them, if that was what they were, was the Syrian army. T

The UN-commissioned Sellstrom report on the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria has been released.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that the evidence for Sarin gas use was indisputable and clearly a “war crime.” The UN inspectors were not tasked with determining who exactly used the toxic rockets. But the type of munitions and the trajectory they established pointed to the army of the ruling Baath regime in Damascus, since the rockets were in the government arsenal, came from regime-held positions and landed in rebel-controlled territory. The Syrian army chem unit that likely deployed these weapons appears to have engaged in a diabolical set of calculations, firing the warheads at a time when the winds were propitious for spreading the gas around and allowing it to seep into basements where the population of Ghouta was hiding from a regime bombing campaign.

Human Rights Watch noted,

“The rocket systems identified by the UN as used in the attack – truck-launched 330mm rockets with around 50 to 60 liters of Sarin, as well as 140mm Soviet-produced rockets carrying a smaller Sarin-filled warhead – are both known to be in the arsenal of the Syrian armed forces. They have never been seen in rebel hands. The amount of Sarin used in the attack – hundreds of kilograms, according to Human Rights Watch’s calculations – also indicates government responsibility for the attack, as opposition forces have never been known to be in possession of such significant amounts of Sarin.

The various theories claiming to have “evidence” that opposition forces were responsible for the attack lack credibility. This was not an accidental explosion caused by opposition fighters who mishandled chemical weapons, as claimed by some commentators online. The attacks took place at two sites 16 kilometres apart, and involved incoming rockets, not on-the-ground explosions. This was not a chemical attack cooked up by opposition forces in some underground kitchen. It was a sophisticated attack involving military-grade Sarin.”

As I have argued on several occasions, the Syrian regime must be punished for these severe war crime, and it is time for the US Treasury Department to close off the loopholes that allow Syrian banks to continue to interface with Western ones, if necessary by threatening Russian banks with third-party sanctions. This kind of pressure will be more effective than merely lobbing a couple of cruise missiles at Damascus, in any case.

Here are some key excerpts from the Sellstrom report:

“23. Information gathered about the delivery systems was essential for the investigation. Indeed, several surface to surface rockets capable of delivering significant chemical paloads were identified and recorded in the investigated sites . . . Samples later confirmed to contain Sarin were recovered from a majority of the rokets or rocket fragments.

24. In total, 30 environmental samples were recovered . . . According to the reports received from the OPCW-designated laboratories, the presence of Sarin, its degradation and/or production by-products were observed in a majority of the samples . . .

26. Blood, urine and hair samples were withdrawn from 34 of the 36 patients selected by the Mission who had signs of intoxication. The positive blood and urine specimens provide definitive evidence of exposure to Sarin by almost all of hte survivors assessed by the mission. These results are corroborated by the clinical assessments, which documented symptoms and signs that are consistent with nerve agent exporsure, including shortness of breath, eye irritation, excessive salivation, convulsions, confusion/disorientation, and miosis…

27. On the basis of the evidence obtained during our investigation of the Ghouta incident, the conclusion is that on 21 August 2013, chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale.

28. In particular, the environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent Sarin were used in Ein Tarma, Moadamiyah and Samalka in the Ghouta area of Damascus.

29. The facts supporting this conclusion are:

  • Impacted and exploded surface-to-surface rockets, capable to carry chemical payload, were found to contain Sarin.
  • Close to the rocket impact sites, in the area where patients were affected, the environment was found to be contaminated by Sarin.
  • Over fifty interviews given by survivors and health care workers provided ample corroboration of the medical and scientific results.
  • A number of patients/survivors were clearly diagnosed as intoxicated [poisoned] by an organophosphorous compound.
  • Blood and urine samples from the same patients wer found positive for Sarin and Sarin signatures. . .

    Appendix 5…

    Impact site number 1 (Moadamiyah) and Impact site number 4 (Ein Tarma) provide sufficient evidence to determine, with a sufficient degree of accuracy, the likely trajectory of the projectiles.”

  • 32 Responses

    1. Oh, Look! for you people who said looking for remains of the munitions used to deliver the Sarin was a waste of effort, because Heavy Bombardment had “destroyed all the evidence!” The UN guys, who were not supposed to even be worrying about Who Shot Ahmed, actually found rounds sufficiently intact to tell the types of rockets used, and a whole lot about their provenance!

      So now you can go off on how condign must be the punishment of the Syrian Regime for Violating the HaHa Norm, via blowing more stuff and people up with Our Great Big Mutha-__kin’ Made-Mostly-In-The-USA Hammer-Blow Cruise Missiles, or Arming the Sacred Allahu-Akhbar Gunman Rebels so as to Totally Level The Playing Field By Demolishing Every Standing Structure And All Comity (“Allahu Akhbar” link to youtube.com ), or whatever.

      Nothing about stepping back and examining the Folly of our profit centers and Game of RISK! Assumptions and Operating Rules of play that in the world of US-Imperial-Supremacist or Bi-Polar or Trigeminal Hegemoniacal Idiocy gets all of us to where we are, loaded down with weapons of all types and calibers, and myths of Battlespace Management, link to boeing.com, and eating ourselves out of a home, link to thinkprogress.org.

      Too bad Collective Punishment for Kleptocrats’ Guilt only gets visited on the Wretched of the Earth…

      • @McPhee: Not sure about your point. You’re making light of a documented war crime. Bad form.

        The question now – as before — is the US response. Juan, you suggested that Treasury now close off the financial spigots. But wouldn’t that also entail cracking down further on Iran, which supplies the regime? What with the first glimpses of a rapprochment with the new leadership in Tehran, that makes the task that much harder.

        The Turks are running around with their hair on fire as Erdogan looks for a way to push his agenda (yesterday’s shootdown of a Syrian chopper was telling.) But absent US-UN-NATO intervention in Syria, the likely scenario seems more fighting for the foresseable. How many more hundreds of thousands of Syrians will die – that’s anyone’s guess. But it’s going to be a lot.

      • Professor, would there be any way for your site to start displaying an icon of a pot with a crack in it beside the comments of people who spent the last month blaming the victims of the chemical warfare attack for their own deaths?

        • “Professor, would there be any way for your site to start displaying an icon of a pot with a crack in it beside the comments of people who spent the last month blaming the victims of the chemical warfare attack for their own deaths?”

          You have a good idea there, Joe. I suggest, however, that your criteria for display of the cracked pot icon be widened to include those who consistently parrot their own pet phrases over and over, regardless of the topic under discussion.

      • Well said…the results of our madness speak for themselves…now that’s settled,how about some solutions to the foreign problems facing our fine country as they are at this moment in time?

      • And why won’t the UN release the sarin shells’ long form birth certificate?

        After the Iraq War Pundits were finally forced to acknowledge that they had been utterly wrong about the Iraqi WMD question, their fallback position was “I was wrong for the right reasons, while you were right for the wrong reasons, so really, I was right.”

        History repeats itself, first as tragedy, and then as farce.

    2. This is a good report as now everyone realizes these soviet weapons used were very effective against civilians in massive quantities. Also it prevented any evidence of sarin being provided to the rebels being uncovered officially.

      The problem with the “use of force” approval by congress is that it cannot be effectively limited. Remember when Clinton got approval for Kosovo the public was told over and over that the troops would be home by Christmas. I’m still waiting. (And yesterdays massacre was carried out with a Remington shotgun. No need to buy an AR-15 when you are only going to use it once and your target already has one. Anyone who reads thrillers knows you don’t need to buy weapons.)

    3. Juan It would be good if your readers were aware of NSA’S
      ‘Total Domination Center’ so they could realize how many of their elected representatives absolutely love this sort of thing. The media loves it too so they will never mention it but I think it is the most impactful revelation so far of Glenn Greenwald.

      link to theguardian.com

    4. Appendix 5 also provides photos of clearly legible serial numbers on shell casing fragments — these would presumably make identification of manufacture & provenance of the munitions fairly straightforward…

    5. I don’t much care about who, what, when, where. What I care about is the U.S. militancy and the proclivity towards being the world’s policeman.
      The U.N. is the agency declared to deal with world problems and our (U.S.’s) constant erosion of their authority is the real problem.
      We now have a U.N. head (Ban Ki-moon) who is a U.S. pawn, which obviates the spirit of the whole purpose of the U.N.
      It seems pointless at this juncture to expect a just and pointed solution to a problem facing the whole world.
      The “Syria” problem is being orchestrated by the U.S.; at least until the Russians stepped in.
      Only now is a genuine solution possible.

      • I don’t much care about who, what, when, where. What I care about is the U.S…

        It’s been apparent for quite some time that the people pushing the crackpot conspiracy theory don’t actually care about the truth, and were merely saying whatever was convenient for their political agenda. In the language of the famed Downing Street Memo, they were fixing the intelligence around the policy.

        This is probably something worth keeping in mind when considering what these people have to say in the future.

      • It’s to wonder why Ban Ki-Moon was re-elected for a second mandate as UN Secretary. Might have been for past and future excellent service rendition… After all he’s South Korean, and his country needs the US’ full protection from its Northern neighbour, who lost 5 million citizens to the armed hands of the US. So many of us seem to either not be aware of that fact or to have forgotten about it.

        • “from its Northern neighbour, who lost 5 million citizens to the armed hands of the US.”

          You are referring to North Korea’s unprovoked invasion of the South in 1950, and the US and allied efforts to defend the South and restore the status quo ante under a UN Security Council Resolution, aren’t you? Any losses suffered by the North were wholly brought about by their own initial aggression against the South.

    6. I admit to being wrong.
      I have repeatedly posted that one or another group of rebels was (or may have been) involved.
      I believed that mostly because the US govt declined to share their “evidence” with the public.
      They apparently shared it with the UN intel folks, who were convinced.
      That’s a lot better than Kerry’s “trust me.”

    7. The first puzzle has been solved: it was sarin. How did John Kerry KNOW it was sarin with no evidence?

      The second puzzle remains to be solved: the attack was staged either by Assad…or by a well planned false flag operation (maybe Qaddhafi has some weapons that found their way to the rebels?)

      Finally, if Assad did it, why haven’t rabid interventionists learned from experience that a military solution is typically counterproductive and leads to a quagmire (Afghanistan, Iraq) or chaos (Libya)?

      Why do so many in power want to resort so quickly to the caveman option for solving problems? Are they no more than pawns of a deep state?

      • How did Kerry know it was sarin? From US intelligence. You may not want to bomb before the UN report but you don’t sit around denying truth while you wait.

        • From US intelligence? What US intelligence? Has anybody seen US intelligence? Congress hasn’t. The American people haven’t.

          Where’s the beef?

      • Why do leaders turn to these foreign escapades? Because the real problems inside their own country are harder to fix than convincing people to bomb brown people and make it appear they are actual leaders with solutions. So, they create a problem they can fix to avoid fixing real ones.

    8. The 140mm munitions that were used in the chemical warfare massacre are a specialized type designed to break apart in in mid-flight, thus lending another dimension to the term “crack-pot theory.”

      • A little context, to go with the condescending, lighthearted sarcasm:

        The Story of Syria’s Chemical Artillery
        Where did the hardware Syria used in its chemical weapons attack come from? It’s a long, twisted Cold War tale.

        link to popularmechanics.com

        Another little example of what Game of RISK! ™ more-of-the-same can and will bring. “Another gift that keeps on giving…”

        As to a critical ability to distinguish one group of people from another, one wonders if Anonymous Joe is “on the ground” and able, with the CIA and other dudes who ARE “on the ground,” to distinguish, between posts, all these people in their many bands, and various “local” bands too, for purposes of figuring out how to just “arm moderates:” link to presstv.ir

        Quick: Which ones are the “moderates” on THIS ground? link to syriavideo.net

    9. Chemical warfare is despicable, but what about white phosphorous and depleted uranium?

      Secretaries Hagel and Kerry are uniquely positioned to identify and denounce those who deployed Agent Orange and napalm in the Vietnam conflict. Will they do so?

      • They are pod people now. It’s weird hearing the arguments from General Westmorland being trotted out by John Kerry.

    10. Re the “loopholes” that allow Syrian banks to interface with Western ones:

      Consider the fact that many Western commercial corporations have had vast holdings and operations within Syria, including Ernst & Whitney, Shell Oil, Nestle, the multinational mobile telephone telephone provider MTN via its Syrian subsidiary, and the Mercedes-Benz automaker to name a few.

      Syrian banks can circumvent sanctions by operating indirectly via foreign financial institutions and have historically had extensive financial ties to banking houses located in the Gulf states.

      The Council on Foreign Relations has opined that financial institutions that have ties to rogue or terrorist- sponsoring states be designated as “black banks” and be shunned from participation in the international banking community and those which comply with guidelines be identified as “white banks”. The theory being that this shall be an incentive for financial institutions to be wary who they transact loans and deposit transactions with.

    11. It is certainly a puzzle why the political left wing activists, including George Galloway and many others, were so hot to prove the rebels did the chemical gas attacks, rather than the government of Assad.

      Initially they had accepted Assad’s propaganda that the revolt did not begin in resonance with the Arab Spring in the form of peaceful protest demonstrations inspired by the Al Jazeera TV images of similar demonstrations in Tihrir Square in Cairo as well as in the Tunisian capital and surrounding countryside, but rather was the work of ‘terrorists’ and outside agitators. The political left also looked the other way when the Shibihi (Ghost militias) terrorized neighborhood thought to be sympathetic to the demonstrations leaving behind dead and often mutilated bodies.

      Even now, the left deny that there was a period of peaceful demonstrations before the violence began, and that it began with the Assad government assigning snipers to kill 20 or so peaceful demonstrators from each demonstrations.

      When the civil war began in earnest, and foreign fighters did enter Syria, their numbers were exaggerated, and the US was accused by them of fighting along side of and aiding Al Qaeda.

      And more recently the left wing has identified the rebels with the radical Islamist all but denying the existence of a more secular component. They have exaggerated the numbers of foreign fighters in Syria. The best estimates I have seen state that there are no more than between 6000 and 10,000 foreign fighters in Syria.

      I believe the left wing is no more rational than the right wing. Both adhere to the ideology that makes them feel good and relegated evidence to the distant background.

      • “I believe the left wing is no more rational than the right wing. Both adhere to the ideology that makes them feel good and relegated evidence to the distant background.”

        You have hit upon a core truth in today’s environment. Both the left and the right refuse to acknowledge any evidence that does not support their ideologically-blinkered world view. Moreover, both not only relegate such evidence to the distant background; they manufacture evidence that appears to support their ideologically preconceived positions. Their extreme position at times end up in a ludicrous converg, such as the

        • To finish my comment above, after inadvertently hitting the “reply” button.

          Their extreme positions at times end up in a ludicrous convergence, such as the Left and the Tea Party’s view that the US Government is the fascist enemy.

    12. The radicals comprise the most effective offensive fighting force on the rebel side. Wherever the rebels gain victories, you find Al-Nusra or other hardline fundamentalist elements in the vanguard.

      The radicals usually provide the shock troops on the attack and suffer heavy losses. However, their prestige ensures that they seldom lack recruits. After all, nobody ever joins an elite fighting force for the sake of a longer life expectancy or better portfolio returns.

      If the radicals are the cream of the rebel fighting forces, then the foreign volunteers, especially the Chechens and Afghans, have been the creme de la creme. Hezbollah (itself a battle-hardened foreign force participating in the war) considers some of the Chechens to be the best enemy infantry they have yet faced (i.e. man-for-man better than the Israelis).

      The significance of the foreign volunteers for the rebel cause belies their numbers. Without Al-Nusra, without AQI, without the Chechens and the Afghans, the rebellion would probably have been suppressed by now.

      Also, foreign-recruited fundamentalist elements were critical to getting the civil war heated up. These men desired a war much more than most of the protesters in the Syrian streets. They made sure they got that war.

      • The radicals comprise the most effective offensive fighting force on the rebel side. Wherever the rebels gain victories, you find Al-Nusra or other hardline fundamentalist elements in the vanguard.

        There was a time when that was true, but it doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

        Just before Assad’s forces loosed chemical shells against non-radical forces in Goutha, forces they has been unable to dislodge through conventional means, they drove forces lead by the Nusra Front out of Homs.

    13. Rania Masri is an extremely well informed expert on the Syrian conflict.
      The supplied link is an interview with her, conducted by Paul Jay of TRNN.
      IMO, it is a must listen; Ms. Masri is an amazing listen and a great adjunct to Juan’s thread.

      link to therealnews.com

      • Rania is a beautiful, charming, and articulate spokesperson for left wing activism. She is by no means a ‘Syrian expert’.

        The following from yesterday’s NY Times, is very compelling evidence, which is also supported by other responsible organizations – Human Rights Watch, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to name but a couple to name but a couple of organizations who drew thoughtful conclusions from the UN report.

        “In two chilling pieces of information, the inspectors said that the remnants of a warhead they had found showed its capacity of sarin to be about 56 liters — far higher than initially thought. They also said that falling temperatures at the time of the attack ensured that the poison gas, heavier than air, would hug the ground, penetrating lower levels of buildings “where many people were seeking shelter.”

        “The investigators were unable to examine all of the munitions used, but they were able to find and measure several rockets or their components. Using standard field techniques for ordnance identification and crater analysis, they established that at least two types of rockets had been used, including an M14 artillery rocket bearing Cyrillic markings and a 330-millimeter rocket of unidentified provenance.

        “These findings, though not presented as evidence of responsibility, were likely to strengthen the argument of those who claim that the Syrian government bears the blame, because the weapons in question had not been previously documented or reported to be in possession of the insurgency.

        “Moreover, those weapons are fired by large, conspicuous launchers. For rebels to have carried out the attack, they would have had to organize an operation with weapons they are not known to have and of considerable scale, sophistication and secrecy — moving the launchers undetected into position in areas under strong government influence or control, keeping them in place unmolested for a sustained attack that would have generated extensive light and noise, and then successfully withdrawing them — all without being detected in any way.

        “One annex to the report also identified azimuths, or angular measurements, from where rockets had struck, back to their points of origin. When plotted and marked independently on maps by analysts from Human Rights Watch and by The New York Times, the United Nations data from two widely scattered impact sites pointed directly to a Syrian military complex.

        “Other nonproliferation experts said the United Nations report was damning in its implicit incrimination of Mr. Assad’s side in the conflict, not only in the weaponry fragments but also in the azimuth data that indicated the attack’s origins. An analysis of the report posted online by the Arms Control Association, a Washington-based advocacy group, said “the additional details and the perceived objectivity of the inspectors buttress the assignment of blame to Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government.”

        • Military expert and analyst for The Center for International And Strategic Studies. The evidence that the Assad army is responsible for the Sarin gas attack is overwhelming. The evidence to which Cordesman refers was ignored by Ms Masre above.

          link to npr.org

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