Talk:Alleged Chemical Attack Khan Sheikhoun 4 April 2017/Chemical agent

From A Closer Look On Syria
Jump to: navigation, search

Chemical Questions

  • Telegraph sourced wire story Some interesting detail e.g."The smell reached us here in the centre; it smelled like rotten food. We've received victims of chlorine before – this was completely different."
FYI Rotting potatoes in basement kill four members of Russian family - a possible cause? --Charles Wood (talk) 03:24, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
Ugh. Of course vaguely rotten smells, and others ("like burning nylon") often come with use of kitchen grade sarin. A yellow plume is mentioned, etc. so clearly they don't even care they're reporting the kind of sarin their own terrorist friends are known to have. I guess? --Caustic Logic (talk) 11:57, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
From my post on the Monitor blog: Was phosphine used in the Ghouta Chemical Massacre?
For some odd reason no one has ever before suggested phosphine as the chemical agent in the Ghouta massacre. Other organophosphorus compounds have been suggested without much proof. One vital clue may be the smell. Impure "technical grade" phosphine has a highly unpleasant odor like garlic or rotting fish or rotten eggs. Witnesses in Ghouta reported the smell as unpleasant, rotten like rotten eggs.
What better way to fumigate Alawites in a cave than phosphine? -- Petri Krohn (talk) 03:57, 9 April 2017 (UTC)

For those interested in detail, I've done a frame-by-frame analysis of Shajul Islam's (SI) 10.5 minute rolling selfie. I was trying to find evidence that inculpates sarin and, not unexpectedly, found mostly the opposite. There are a number of oddities, also not unexpected. Here are a couple of observations.

  • One can tell by shifting shadows that SI's vid was made over quite a few hours. One view is well into the afternoon. There is a lot of editing, and yet the version of the vid I looked at was uploaded to YT at 4:30pm on Apr04, local time.
  • Weird demographics. Twelve victims are shown -- 10 males, 1 female, 1 infant. None of the males have beards. (So? Just a statistical anomaly.) Dozens of "workers" are milling around, grab-assing, only two women and you really have to be looking to spot them.
  • SI's entire point is showing pinpoint pupils (miosis)-- that is the only "evidence" of sarin he can come up with, and it's risible. One victim is throwing up, but SI doesn't mention it, apparently because he doesn't know enough about organophosphate toxicity to know what the symptoms are. Besides, given the red coloration of almost all of the patients in this vid, sarin is not a possibility.

Khan Sheikhoun looks like Ghouta II to me, but I've just started wading through vids. Very grateful for Petri's play-list. I'm going to wager 5-6 hours of effort that I'll be able to find a bunch of workers from SI's clinic in KS wandering around in the Kafr Batna videos.Pierpont (talk) 19:26, 6 April 2017 (UTC)

Hi Denis, good to see you working on this. As you mention it yourself - the "Israel" thing slipped into your linked analysis as well, at least twice. While not unfunny, maybe not the best thing to have in a text directed at the intended audience that usually doesn't look into things like this. ;o) --CE (talk) 21:12, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
Denis, welcome back. I've edited the above text to use "SI" to denote Shajul Islam - using just his surname doesn't read well. Bernhard (blogger of Moon of Alabama) has speculated that SI's trial in 2013 may have been allowed to collapse as part of a deal in which he was co-opted by MI6 and allowed to return to Syria. This seems plausible. I think it's increasingly clear that this operation wasn't something the opposition did by themselves but is supported by a large scale information operation in US and UK media: for instance this article by Kareem Shaheen]. The central role of the UK-sponsored White Helmets and Hamish DBG's instant endorsement of the regime attack story also point to UK involvement.
As for whether sarin was used here, I think there are strong indications from current news reports, including Chulov's article linked below, that the planners of this operation expect that samples will be produced that test positive for sarin. This may include not just blood samples but samples taken from the bodies of victims shipped to Turkey. If they used sarin anywhere, it's likely to have been out at the quarry, where they have protective gear, rather than at the hospital site. Pmr9 (talk) 22:01, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
Any idea where the hospital/clinic is? "Ishmael" (:-) talks about victims coming from Khan Sheikhoun indicating he is some other town. --Charles Wood (talk) 21:39, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
7 of the children allegedly killed by the gas attack
Denis, I've gone over your frame by frame. It all sounds pretty good, especially point 40 and the bagging of 'evidence' - that is so twee it has to be staged! I also noted the lower level of consciousness of most. That's not a symptom I recognise. Or they were all sedated as part of treatment?
Not sure where the Cyanide bit came in. That would need dark lips and fingernails for that. Not sure I noticed any. I did notice dark lips in the photo of several youth's stacked on on a truck tray, with 'St George' underwear - but not obvious darkening of fingernails - see Dead youths on truck tray (NB - the centre kid also has rosy cheeks and thighs) --Charles Wood (talk) 22:35, 6 April 2017 (UTC)
Pmr9 -- thanks for the edit on Mr. Islam, who is, apparently, no longer a registered doctor. I like Charles' Ishmael approach.
Charles, regarding cyanide, at the end of a long analysis of the Ghouta Massacre I concluded that those folks died of either cyanide or carbon monoxide intoxication, meaning they were likely executed and used for PR purposes. The most compelling evidence was the skin color of the victims, both living and dead. I don't see much that's different in this incident.
Sarin will produce an intense blue skin color (cyanosis), and so, as far as I can see, it is ruled out here, as it was in Ghouta.
Both CN and CO produce red skin color (rubicundity). CO always does, and that's one of the few constants in pharmacology. CN can sometimes produce cyanosis, but not often. The victim has to be exposed to high concentrations in a short period of time. The US Army Medical Handbook puts it this way:
"When seen, "cherry-red” skin suggests either circulating carboxyhemoglobin from carbon monoxide poisoning or a high venous oxygen content from failure of extraction of oxygen by tissues poisoned by cyanide or hydrogen sulfide. However, cyanide victims may have normal appearing skin and may even be cyanotic, although cyanosis is not classically associated with cyanide poisoning."
The photo above is a good example of what I'm seeing in this incident: a lot of pink/red skin, like the kid right in the middle. But there are quite a few cases that are neither blue nor red, like the kid closet to the camera. There seems to be no obvious cyanosis, as you have noted. The absence of color in some bodies may be due to the passage of time after death. The red color produced by CO lasts the longest, but eventually in all types of poisoning the blood turns blue, sinks to the bottom of the body, and the pallor is produced, like that kid close to the camera.
As Trump, Spicer, Clinton, McCain, and Tillerson are screaming for Assad's head for this "sarin attack," I can't over-emphasize how important the color of the victims' skin is to understanding what toxin killed them. The evidence supporting the hypothesis that they were executed with CN is a lot stronger than the evidence supporting the hypothesis that Assad dropped sarin on them. Nevertheless, there will undoubtedly be "signatures of sarin" detected in the samples collected. As long as there are spray-bottles and ghoulish Wahhabis with political agendas, sarin can show up anywhere.
--Pierpont (talk) 01:48, 7 April 2017 (UTC)


Michael Savage says complete “false flag in Syria.” No sarin gas, most likely phosgene gas. (audio) -- Petri Krohn (talk) 12:46, 10 April 2017 (UTC)

Phosgene symptoms are similar to Chlorine. Only difference is pleasantish smell rather than a Chlorine smell. Certainly no miosis. I put the Phosgene theory as wildly unlikely. --Charles Wood (talk) 13:28, 10 April 2017 (UTC)
FYI I researched Phosgene as a possible explanation for the R22 cannisters. While R22 can create Phosgene when exposed to flame the amount is very small and virtually non-existent in an explosion. I can only guess the new Phosgene theory is somehow derived from earlier speculation on R22. --Charles Wood (talk) 13:32, 10 April 2017 (UTC)


"Dr Islam reported the "evidence" of a sarin gas poisioning and ran from patient to patient with a diagnostic lamp to show the pinpoint pupils. "See, no reaction to light" I'm an anethesiologist and emergency and intensiv care doctor, trained in disaster medicine. First, maximum contracted pupils cannot react to light because they are allready closed. So this light test is bullshit. Second, after anesthesia with morphine or fentanyl (standard procedure) for intubation and respirator ventilation the pupils are allways contracted. Third, if the patient on this intensive care were treated against sarin they would have gotten the antidote ATROPIN by the bucket which is causing dillated pupils. Most of what I saw in this pictures was fake-reanimation and fake-ventilation of lifeless people while still living children were lying on the floor and instead of treatment with an oxygen mask got a video camera in their faces. This was a staged action and the helpers showes no urgency or compassion for any of the dying children. Never saw this kind of mal and non treatment in my professional dealing with emergency or disaster situations."

Also, is it my imagination, or does it seems like everyone S.I. shows with miosis also has green eyes? --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:47, 10 April 2017 (UTC)

It's possible to produce miosis with opiates like morphine, as Dr Schmitz points out, or with pyridostigmine eye drops (used to treat closed-angle glaucoma). As someone with medical training has a key role in this operation, we should expect more competence in faking clinical signs and emergency procedures than in Ghouta or Sarmin. Although atropine causes dilated pupils, I'm not sure if it reverses the miosis caused by organophosphate poisoning - there was some discussion of this at the time of the Ghouta investigation. If they are faking miosis, I'd expect them to use opiates on captives who they don't want to talk, and pyridostigmine on jihadis who will later be presented as survivors. Pmr9 (talk) 18:10, 11 April 2017 (UTC)

Impure Sarin?

I had enough points, mainly from here, to slap together this blog post on the sarin evidence. It's a A bit short on test results, just taking it as likely but not sure sarin was involved, at least in that tested section. So if we take that sarin was released, and that's the main thing people dealt with (as alleged) odd that the resultant fog is described a having a smell that's "foul," "Strange," hard to place, but "like rotting food," perhaps with a yellow color, and causing irritation to the eyes. (any others that I missed?) This compares poorly to Syria's expected military-grade sarin, with no color or odor or irritating impurities. It compares well with terrorist-improvised sarin as used by terrorists in earlier cases with similar smells and signs of impurity (Khan al-Assal, Otaybah, Ghouta, Daraya). --Caustic Logic (talk) 01:12, 17 April 2017 (UTC)

Yet another Postol Theory

Postol in yet another article posits Bhopal style insecticide poisoning --Charles Wood (talk) 12:08, 27 April 2017 (UTC)

Autopsy findings

Banned Nerve Agent Sarin Used in Syria Chemical Attack, Turkey Says

The Turkish statement said the sarin conclusion had been based on autopsies on three victims performed at Turkey’s Adana Forensic Medicine Institution with the participation of representatives from the World Health Organization and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a group based in The Hague that monitors compliance with the global treaty that bans such munitions.

The Turkish statement did not elaborate on how the sarin had been identified in the assault on Tuesday, but it said some of the telling symptoms seen in the victims included “lung edema, increase in lung weight and bleeding in lungs.”

Reading this made me remember that there were rescue workers/witnesses who described symptoms that indicated lung damage, like here at 00:40 and here at 00:36. --Q (talk) 13:04, 21 April 2017 (UTC)

The findings of pulmonary edema (increase in lung weight is one way to quantify the build-up of fluid in the lung) and bleeding in lungs are clear indications of acute inhalation injury. This would be caused by exposure to a gas like chlorine or phosgene in a confined space. It definitely wouldn't be caused by a nerve agent like sarin, which kills by causing respiratory paralysis. Somehow the pathologist managed to get these findings into a report and to get the Turkish Health Ministry to quote them without realizing that they were debunking their own story.

The OPCW DG confirmed that OPCW FFM had collected biomedical samples during these autopsies which tested positive for "sarin or a sarin-like substance", whatever that means.

So these victims died of acute inhalation injury, but were also exposed to something that caused biomedical samples to test positive for something sarin-like. If we had a proper report of the OPCW lab results, we might be able to work out how this could have been done. Pmr9 (talk) 07:45, 21 April 2017 (UTC)

Whoah ... could sarin with right irritant properties alone explain this? Again and again, people hit with terrorist sarin report burning eyes or itching, chest tightness, etc. - same as they describe in Khan Sheikhoun (not that words are proof of anything). To me, this still seems consistent my working hypothesis, which seems to be theirs as well - something like the Ghouta type of sarin was used on people. If that can't work, then we have to suppose a scenario with "also exposed." --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:13, 21 April 2017 (UTC)

I think what the autopsy findings tell us is that these three were not killed by sarin. Even with impure sarin, the respiratory paralysis would kill you before you could inhale enough of the impurities to develop pulmonary edema. Pulmonary edema is an advanced stage of acute inhalation injury, when the lung airspaces fill with fluid and the victim effectively drowns, as in the descriptions of fatal chlorine injury from WW1.

We can cross-reference this with the OPCW version:-

The bio-medical samples collected from three victims during their autopsy were analysed at two OPCW designated laboratories. The results of the analysis indicate that the victims were exposed to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance. Bio-medical samples from seven individuals undergoing treatment at hospitals were also analysed in two other OPCW designated laboratories. Similarly, the results of these analyses indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance.

Director-General Üzümcü stated clearly: “The results of these analyses from four OPCW designated laboratories indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance. While further details of the laboratory analyses will follow, the analytical results already obtained are incontrovertible.”

I don't think you can get sarin into people after they're dead.

Possible explanations:-

(1) the biomedical samples taken during the autopsy and from the seven survivors were substituted by samples from other people, or were spiked with sarin. This would implicate OPCW staff in the operation

(2) these individuals (before death), and the seven survivors were exposed to low levels of sarin, enough to make them test positive but not enough to cause serious symptoms. As discussed earlier, this could easily be done, preferably under medical supervision so that the dose could be titrated. We know that a jihadi with British medical training had a key role in this op.

If we had the quantitative lab results (concentrations of sarin in the fluoride ion regeneration test) we could distinguish between these two explanations: lethal doses would point to (1), low doses would point to (2). I'm assuming here that they detected sarin itself, not just IMPA. I think Üzümcü has dug himself into a hole. Pmr9 (talk) 16:23, 22 April 2017 (UTC)

The dead of zombified boy from the water hosing scene takes ride through the Idlib countryside, changing hearses in each hospital. Somewhere along the way he gets fresh diapers and a catheter in his arm. Could this be a way of administering sarin to half-dead patients? -- Petri Krohn (talk) 18:58, 22 April 2017 (UTC)
Indeed, could be. Or not, of course. It's the kind of thing to watch for. --Caustic Logic (talk) 07:51, 23 April 2017 (UTC)
"the respiratory paralysis would kill you before you could inhale enough of the impurities to develop pulmonary edema." Unless the sarin dose was fairly low and breathing continued, and the caustic parts were in high concentration. Point taken though. If breathing gets too stuttery and loses its rhythm, little new gas will be pulled in. --Caustic Logic (talk) 07:51, 23 April 2017 (UTC)

Denis O'Brien: You're Being Spoofed

Denis O'Brien, PhD in neuro-pharmacology, author Murder in the SunMorgue, and ACLOS member, with his amusing and irreverent tone, is readable as ever in this long-as-ever (not that long) exploration of science vs. images, showing what's wrong with the alleged sarin victims of April 4, as shown off. (I gave it a hearty skimming so far) --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:21, 21 April 2017 (UTC) and Caustic Logic (talk) 14:42, 21 April 2017 (UTC)

Sample collection and lab tests

Martin Chulov in the Guardian reports that samples are being collected.

Rescue workers have gathered soil samples from the scene of a chemical weapons attack in northern Syria and sent them to western intelligence officials, who are seeking to determine precisely what nerve agent was used in one of the worst atrocities of the country’s six-year war.

Samples taken from the scene in Khan Sheikhun, as well as biological specimens taken from survivors and casualties, will be compared with samples taken by intelligence officials from the Syrian military stockpile when it was withdrawn from the country in late 2013. Syria’s stores of sarin are known to have particular properties which experts say can be forensically matched to samples taken in the field.

Hersh has reported that samples of the sarin binaries destroyed on the MV Cape Ray were found not to match the Ghouta sarin. This report suggests that some new deception is being planned. It's possible that some intelligence agency has got hold of a small quantity of sarin binaries from the Syrian stocks that were destroyed on the Cape Ray, and that this will be used to generate a false match. Pmr9 (talk) 17:54, 6 April 2017 (UTC)

The entire chain of custody of both samples and survivors will be exclusively in the hands of various anti regime bodies. Withnail (talk) 18:12, 6 April 2017 (UTC)

The UK's UN Ambassador claims the UK has tested something or other from the scene and found traces of Sarin [1] Withnail (talk) 19:25, 12 April 2017 (UTC)

Chemical weapons scientists at Porton Down in the United Kingdom have analysed samples obtained from Khan Shaykhun, these have tested positive for the nerve agent Sarin, or a Sarin like substance. The United Kingdom therefore shares the US assessment that it is highly likely that the regime was responsible for a Sarin attack on Khan Shaykhun on the 4th April. (Matthew Rycroft, UK's ambassador to the UN)
This doesn't make sense. Whether the samples are physiological or environmental, Porton Down should be able to identify sarin as present or absent, not "a sarin-like substance". Does this mean they found sarin adulterated with DFP as a sort of poor man's CW agent as the Russians did in 2013? If these are environmental samples, the chemical profile may turn out to be a perfect match for the DF destroyed on the Cape Ray under OPCW supervision in 2014. It sounds as if Chulov was told to expect this. But in that case they won't match the samples from Khan-al-Assal and Ghouta. I'm pretty sure that the planners of this op can't fabricate the GC/MS results obtained on the Cape Ray - too many people know these results, and some have talked off the record. Pmr9 (talk) 21:24, 12 April 2017 (UTC)

Same phrase, without the comma is used by OPCW's Turkish DG

"The bio-medical samples collected from three victims during their autopsy were analysed at two OPCW designated laboratories. The results of the analysis indicate that the victims were exposed to sarin or a sarin-like substance. Bio-medical samples from seven individuals undergoing treatment at hospitals were also analysed in two other OPCW designated laboratories. Similarly, the results of these analyses indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin like substance. " Pmr9 (talk) 21:22, 19 April 2017 (UTC)

Boris Johnson

"Signature" here usually means the combination of retention time in the GC step and mass-charge ratio in the MS step

Possible interpretations:

  1. Johnson is making it up, as with his statement about satellite pics of the Um-al-Khubra convoy attack.
  2. DSTL has matched the Khan Sheikhoun sarin to the Ghouta sarin and Johnson claims that this implicates the regime because he knows that the regime were responsible for Ghouta. This is consistent with the phrase "used by the regime" - implying that he doesn't mean stocks that hadn't been used.
  3. DSTL has matched samples purportedly from Khan Sheikhoun to the Cape Ray DF,as anticipated by whoever briefed Chulov. It would have been easy for the US, or OPCW, to retain a small quantity of this DF. But how will they then explain how the Cape Ray DF didn't match the Ghouta sarin?

This is getting seriously weird. Pmr9 (talk) 23:58, 18 April 2017 (UTC)

(DSTL being Defence Science and Technology Laboratory) 1 is quite possible, but I lean towards 2. And it's not even a real match, quite likely, just a similar type with some of the same impurities - smells bad, burns the eyes, has been used, allegedly by Syria, in an allegation that's *universally accepted.* (and it may be an exact match, from the same big batch, widely used for four years now.) But of course really that would confirm the same type of impure sarin terrorists have fired again and again. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:19, 19 April 2017 (UTC)
As for "how will they then explain how the Cape Ray DF didn't match the Ghouta sarin?" - they would claim all three matched, as they (at least implicitly) maintain. Despite any acknowledgment of a known mismatch, they'd still tell you, somehow, all 3 match. It doesn't matter if it makes sense or not. So ... they just won't acknowledge that, let alone explain it. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:19, 19 April 2017 (UTC)
Oh and for option 3, it's possible too. But I suspect if Boris has the choice of saying matched Syria's seized stocks, he'd prefer to say that. But he seems to be relying on prior allegation instead, and calling on circular supports like it fell from a regime jet. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:45, 19 April 2017 (UTC)

Thinking about it overnight I agree that (2) is the most likely because officially the UK has not been given the results from the GC/MS profiling of the DF on the Cape Ray, and an international agreement would be required for OPCW to disclose these results. So though the UK probably has access to the Cape Ray results, this can't be acknowledged officially. It's just a continuation of the circular reasoning used so far: previous sarin attacks were used to blame the regime for Ghouta, then the match of the Khan-al-Assal sarin to Ghouta was used to attribute the earlier attack to the regime.
However I think they've dug a hole for themselves by talking about "signatures" - this opens up a line of questioning about sarin quality, reconstruction of the synthetic pathway, presence of DFP, and comparison with the Cape Ray DF (on which they foolishly briefed Chulov). Unfortunately the general election means that Parliament will be dissolved within two weeks, and any parliamentary questions can now be buried. --Pmr9
So they might have to address that (and fail) but it would take some setting up. And anyway, it 's worth sorting out and explaining, for everyone else. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:45, 19 April 2017 (UTC)

Some more info from an exchange on Twitter between Charles Shoebridge and a British "diplomat" in DC. CS asks the key question, but doesn't get a clear answer:-

Charles Shoebridge‏ @ShoebridgeC 20m20 minutes ago Replying to @BenJarlath @OPCW Thank you. I look fwd to your reply re the 'markers', and if this means same as Assad sarin @OPCW destroyed, or same as sarin used at Ghouta

Benjamin Norman‏ @BenJarlath 2h2 hours ago Replying to @ShoebridgeC @OPCW You're welcome! Think it's a question of same markers, but will check. Re: airbase, US placed officials involved in CW programme there. 1/2

Charles Shoebridge Retweeted Charles Shoebridge‏ @ShoebridgeC 5h5 hours ago Replying to @BenJarlath Thanks for reply. To be clear, CW from 4.4.17 an exact match of @OPCW samples of old Syria govt sarin stocks? Also, the evidence re airbase?

Benjamin Norman‏ @BenJarlath 6h6 hours ago Replying to @ShoebridgeC @BorisJohnson Got cut off by Twitter character limits, but analysis of samples shows chemical markers of Assad's sarin supply. -- Pmr9

A David Habakkuk has written an open letter to British government officials urging Boris Johnson to clarify his statements. Published at Pat Lang's blog. --CE (talk) 13:45, 23 April 2017 (UTC)
David Habakkuk despite the surname is of Welsh Descent and acquired the name as a result of a forebear adopting it from the bible (crazy Taffies!). He's the son of Sir John Habbakuk a relatively famous British Economic Historian. David is a former television current affairs producer with all the appropriate establishment connections, so his letter will at least get name recognition. --Charles Wood (talk) 14:02, 23 April 2017 (UTC)
Awesome. I brought our concern/assessment into that Shoebridge tweet thread (so it's @BenJarlath @ShoebridgeC @BorisJohnson) and then followed-up by bringing Habakkuk's better and better-placed rendering of the same basic question, and Charles at least hearted both tweets. The others ... not so hearty I'll guess. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:15, 24 April 2017 (UTC)

French claims

The French statement reveals the circular reasoning behind the allegations. The samples are similar to those from the Ghouta CW attack in 2013.

  • France reveals 'proof' Bashar al Assad carried out Syria chemical attack - Jon Sharman, The Independent, April 26, 2017
    France has said it has proof Bashar al-Assad's government was behind the recent sarin chemical weapons attack in Syria.
    Foreign affairs minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said France had made the determination based on comparing samples from another attack in 2013.
    He said: "We know, from a certain source, that the process of fabrication of the samples taken is typical of the method developed in Syrian laboratories.
    "This method is the signature of the regime and it is what enables us to establish the responsibility of the attack. We know because we kept samples from previous attacks that we were able to use for comparison."

Actually this is good news. One more indication that Khan Sheikhoun fakers and murderers are the same people that murdered the children in Kafr Batna. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 11:15, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

This started seeming like a possible misunderstanding, but it's quite clear now. At first, the Guardian was reporting

Samples taken from the scene in Khan Sheikhun, as well as biological specimens taken from survivors and casualties, will be compared with samples taken by intelligence officials from the Syrian military stockpile when it was withdrawn from the country in late 2013. Syria’s stores of sarin are known to have particular properties, which experts say can be forensically matched to samples taken in the field. If the samples match, this would offer strong evidence that not all the country’s sarin was disclosed or surrendered, as was demanded...

Instead, we find if they don't match, Assad will be blamed anyway. Instead of the cited, military-grade sarin surrendered, they've clearly got a match with the impure, foul-smelling, and caustic version allegedly used by Syria in 2013. "Foreign affairs minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said France had made the determination based on comparing samples from another attack in 2013." (plus other attacks before and after that...) "This method is the signature of the regime and it is what enables us to establish the responsibility of the attack. We know because we kept samples from previous attacks that we were able to use for comparison." In fact, their alleged impure sarin production isn't even another process Syria is "known" to employ - now, they only make impure terrorit-grade sarin. Because he doesn't cite a match with the surrendered stocks, again, it's a mismatch. So implicitly Syria used to make that stuff, besides the nasty stuff they were using before pressured to give up the other stuff... now just this stuff, from here 'til the end. And terrorists can never have it because they don't have access to those regime factories with the "known" processes. Clever. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:19, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

Terrorists would never attempt to make Sarin or stage a false flag attack. It's in the terrorist code of conduct. Withnail (talk) 12:32, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

French report

Riot control grenade containing 100 ml sarin at 60% purity?

A six-page report plus an annexe can be downloaded at this page.

It is claimed that the KS sarin matches a sample recovered from the riot control grenade found at the site of the alleged chemical attack in Saraqeb on 29 April 2013. The match is based on the presence of hexamine and DIMP. There is no description of what analytic methods were used.

A few comments

  1. The grenade was found to contain 100 ml sarin at 60% purity - this is surprisingly high for a cottage industry product.
  2. The standard reaction for producing sarin generates DIMP - this is not a specific finding
  3. It is stated that Syrian military sarin uses hexamine as a "stabilizer". Not clear what they mean by this: hexamine is not one of the chemicals that were in standard use for stabilizing sarin. As Maram Susli has pointed out, the very low solubility of hexamine in isopropanol would make it useless as an acid scavenger.
  4. Since our original study of the Saraqeb incident, we now know that HdBG visited the site and attempted to collect samples.

Pmr9 (talk) 13:40, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

One more comment: the report is simply headed "National evaluation" with no intelligence body claiming authorship. The lab where the analyses were done (which should have been the OPCW-certified lab at Le Bouchet south of Paris) is not mentioned. I think this indicates that no intelligence agency and no lab director was prepared to be associated with these conneries. Pmr9 (talk) 14:42, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

"National evaluation" brings the whole France into this. It will be a shame if it was not through labs and intelligence people--so I guess it was. But indeed they did not compare with the Syrian goverment stockpile and it raises questions, devaluing the findings. --Resup (talk) 15:51, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

Saraqeb, not Ghouta? Or Khan al-Assal? But the attack closest to the current one has the matching sarin? Or do they all? Why cite this one? There's less reason for Assad to use a certain kind in inner Idlib province than there is for terrorists operating there to use the one kind they have. FWIW. --Caustic Logic (talk) 14:34, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

As far as we know, the French never had environmental samples from Ghouta: only the Russians, Porton Down (both via the Russians/Peter Wall and via HdBG) and OPCW had these. Saraqeb may be the only site from which Le Bouchet had environmental samples, via HdBG and/or Raphael Pitti. So maybe the question should be why were the French brought into this op, when it would have been preferable for the UK to report a match of the KS sarin with the Ghouta sarin? The last thing they should have wanted to do at this stage is reopen the Saraqeb story with its many bizarre features. The explanation may be that Porton Down simply refused to allow their results to be used. I would guess that they were, and are, under heavy pressure. Pmr9 (talk) 14:54, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

I get the feeling some of the open source muppets we know and love like bogus chemist Dan Kaszeta had something to do with this report. I don't think this report ever saw the inside of a lab. Withnail (talk) 14:47, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

Report also tells that large quantities of binary ingredients, as well as small munitions, are unaccounted/poorly accounted for. In the chaos of civil war, establishing possession of those may be difficult or impossible. Weapons depots may be also taken over in fighting. But possibility of goverment-origin chems getting into rebels hands is not discussed.--Resup (talk) 18:46, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

Item 4 (Continuation since 2013 of a clandestine Syrian chemical weapons programme): sarin was principally used in binary form: a mixture of methylphosphonyl difluoride (DF), a key precursor in the manufacture of sarin, and isopropanol, produced just before use ... France informed the OPCW that Syria’s explanations on the quantities of DF (methylphosphonyl difluoride) declared –approximately 20 tonnes –as having been used in tests or lost in accidents were exaggerated. Moreover, France has observed since 2014 Syrian attempts to acquire dozens of tonnes of isopropanol (etc);+ Lastly, France assesses that Syria has not declared tactical munitions (grenades and rockets) such as those repeatedly used since 2013

Wikipedia tells us millions of tons of isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) are produced worldwide every year and it has a wide variety of commercial and industrial uses.[2]. It doesn't mention it as being a chemical weapons precursor.Withnail (talk) 19:44, 26 April 2017 (UTC)

More detailed comments on the chemistry

Hexamine made great waves three years ago. SyrianGirl, Kaszeta, and Postol were all involved. Turns out SyrianGirl is an expert on hexamine. Read the aftermath at Drama one year later. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 16:30, 28 April 2017 (UTC)

The only details of the chemistry are these three sentences:

  • The chemical analyses carried out showed that it contained a solid and liquid mix of approximately 100ml of sarin at an estimated purity of 60%. Hexamine, DF and a secondary product, DIMP, were also identified.
  • The analyses carried out by French experts on the environmental samples collected at one of the impact points of the chemical attack at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017 reveal the presence of sarin, of a specific secondary product (diisopropyl methylphosphonate – DIMP) formed during synthesis of sarin from isopropanol and DF (methylphosphonyl difluoride), and hexamine.
  • According to the intelligence obtained by the French services, the process of synthesizing sarin, developed by the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) and employed by the Syrian armed forces and security services, involves the use of hexamine as a stabilizer. DIMP is also known as a by-product generated by this process.

This sounds like a deliberate attempt to mislead. As noted above, it is implausible that hexamine could have been used instead of isopropylamine to neutralize hydrogen fluoride released when isopropanol combines with DF. There is no mention of whether or not isopropylammonium fluoride was detected, and no details on what the "solid" contained (it can't have been sarin which is a liquid).

A useful commentary on the presence of DIMP and hexamine in the Ghouta sarin was provided by Kaszeta in September 2013:

DIMP is a byproduct of Sarin manufacture. It occurs in varying percentages in Sarin as a result of the production process. It is reputedly quite difficult to refine all of the DIMP out of Sarin, and it is well established that the US military went to great expense to do so.
Hexamethyleneteramine: Also known as hexamine. This compound is used for manufacture of several different conventional high explosives . It has wide uses in industry, but of particular military interest, it is a base component for a wide variety of conventional explosives, including RDX, C-4, Hexogen, Dinitrohexamine, and HMTD. This is a general indicator of the presence of such conventional explosives. It may be due to an explosive bursting charge.

So Kaszeta in September 2013 was quite clear in stating that DIMP was to be expected in any sarin production process, and that hexamine was probably an indicator of the explosive used in the bursting charge. Subsequently he was to claim that hexamine was a smoking gun pointing to the regime, as hexamine had appeared (unnecessarily as it is not a scheduled CW precursor) on a list of CW-associated chemicals to be destroyed, put out to tender by OPCW. -- Pmr9 (talk) 11:04, 28 April 2017 (UTC)


I commented of the possibility of an accident on the Monitor blog.

There is a simple explanation why the people in the cellar died. The grain silos most likely contained a fumigant, like Detia GAS-EX-B. These fumigants contain aluminium phosphide that produces phosphine gas when it comes into contact with water. The aluminium phosphide might have been exposed when the grain silos were bombed. Phosphine gas may have been released into the atmosphere and it might have entered the nearby cellar killing the inhabitants.
I am sure this event did not happen on April 4th. The grain silos were bombed earlier. The locals might have been recollecting this earlier event when they testified about the gas and the deaths. Rebel media might present this testimony out of context.
For more, see: Was phosphine used in the Ghouta Chemical Massacre?

-- Petri Krohn (talk) 16:41, 27 April 2017 (UTC)

I agree this is plausible. In fatal poisoning by exposure to phosphine gas (to be distinguished from the much commoner form of poisoning by ingestion of aluminium phosphide) pulmonary edema is a characteristic finding. This is what was reported in the Turkish autopsies. Pmr9 (talk) 17:53, 27 April 2017 (UTC)