Talk:Alleged chemical attack, March 19, 2013
- 1 No Evidence for Rebel CW Capability?
- 1.1 Was it even CW?
- 1.2 Rebel Chemical Holdings
- 1.3 JAN did it: Malbrunot and Chesnot's book The Roads to Damascus
- 1.4 Propulsion: Rebel Rockets
- 1.5 Basha'ir al-Nasr Rocket Workshop Clues
- 2 The Alleged Agent(s)
- 3 UN Report
- 4 Witnesses
- 5 Casualties and Death Toll
- 6 March 19 Homs attack
- 7 March 19 Damascus attack
- 8 Timing
- 9 World Reaction
- 10 UN Investigation
- 11 Sources
- 12 Yet more sources
- 13 Russian video evidence
- 14 Russian Scientific Investigation
- 15 References
No Evidence for Rebel CW Capability?
One of the core issues in what's increasingly recognized asa distressing "whodunnit" is who could have done it. The rebels are not known to possess Scud missiles or deadly nerve agents. But neither is it known for sure just what chemicals were used and how they were really delivered. And it's entirely possible that, collectively, the opposition's forces have a number of capabilities that aren't known, by the public. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:34, 23 March 2013 (UTC) For example, White House press secretary Jay Carney said they had “no information suggesting opposition groups have chemical weapons capability.”" Whether or not they have it, there is information available, and we still don't know exactly what was used, so it's stupid to say no anti-government faction could possibly have, or be willing to use, the system used on March 19 against a government-held part of Khan Al-Assal. Further details forthcoming ... --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:34, 23 March 2013 (UTC)
A Ha'aretz report Jihadists, not Assad, apparently behind reported chemical attack in Syria makes a good, if not airtight, case for just that. The article cites Alex Thomson's Telegraph report based on Syria sources, saying that rebels used a homemade rocket fitted to emit chlorine gas. Based on that, the article opines:
- If these claims are true, it would seem to prove that the jihadists have the technical expertise necessary to insert chlorine gas into a warhead and seal it so that the gas does not leak during launch but only upon impact with the target.
The byline "Intelligence reports suggest jihadists among the Syria rebels have technical know-how to produce chemical warheads," would seem a little misleading, as it seems Thomson's dispatch(es) are the "intelligence reports" in question. Still, a good set of points, combined as it is with the government-held nature of the town and large percentage of Syrian soldiers among the dead. --Caustic Logic (talk) 04:31, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
Was it even CW?
The statements about rebels lacking chemical weapons (CW) capabilities starts to look uncomfortable next to the emerging opinion that whatever hit Khan Al-Assal, it was not quite CW. Maybe some kind of cheap knock-off, chlorine and something, concocted by some ... scoundrels, somewhere. And then it got dispersed, hey, these things happen, in contested cities, next to a concentration of government soldiers. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:34, 23 March 2013 (UTC) CNN reported, March 22:
- U.S. President Barack Obama and other American officials have said in recent days there was no intelligence to substantiate reports that rebels used chemical weapons against government troops. Now analysts are also "leaning hard away" from the notion that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people, a U.S. military official directly familiar with the preliminary analysis told CNN. That official told CNN "there are strong indications now that chemical weapons were not used by the regime in recent days." The official would not detail the indications.
- An analysis of video of hospitalized Syrians released by state-run TV suggests people are not suffering from a chemical weapons attack ... Analysts believe it's possible people in the video were deliberately exposed to a "caustic" agent such as chlorine. But that would not be the same as using a chemical weapons as defined by international treaties, such as a nerve or blister agent.
- "Something went down, but it was short of a chemical weapon," a senior State Department official told CNN. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity for the same reason as the other two officials. NATO and U.S. radar or satellite intelligence also do not indicate there was a launch of a missile at the time Syrians say the alleged attack occurred, according to the military official. 
- Okay, so maybe it was a rocket (are those detectable with the same magic?), or mortar (not likely car bomb or it would be reported as such) or somehow delivered, it was chemical and "caustic," perhaps deliberate, it killed 25-31 people including many soldiers, and injured 110. But there's evidence the government didn't do it, suggesting the rebels did, so it's suddenly not a chemical weapon, just some "short of" stuff. Because Obama never even specified what he'd do if the rebels crossed his "red line?" Well it might be specified soon - they drop the issue again, figuring Syria shouldjust be happy not to be blamed and poosibly bombed over it. --Caustic Logic (talk) 08:32, 22 March 2013 (UTC) and moved --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:34, 23 March 2013 (UTC)
I move that we refer to a deadly attack with toxic gas as a use of chemical weapons, and expose the distinction described here as semantics. If this was a deliberate gassing, whoever did it crossed the redline, even if a bit. If it's the side we're allowed to arm, they've shown what they'll do if they ever get ahold of the real CWs. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:43, 23 March 2013 (UTC)
And besides, I for one think the video supports nerve agents being used - the patients we see are variously convulsing mildly, unconscious, dead, or eyes crossed, spaced-out looking. I'm no expert, but I think these nervous systems have been tweaked. I don't see what special gear you need here - Their bodies already absorbed what they did. What, they're going to cough out a chemical-ized gob of phlegm?. It's not a contagious bio-hazard, nor radiological. Not that they could be sure, but they might, as noted, just be under-supplied too. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:43, 23 March 2013 (UTC)
Amy Smithson, a senior fellow of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, agrees, speaking to Voice of America, but in a perhaps too-extreme way. As reported, "The chemical weapons convention defines chemical weapons as those classic warfare agents and their delivery systems and any toxic chemical used for military purposes," Smithson explained. "So it does not matter if it is ethyl methyl [an industrial solvent] or VX, which is a nerve agent. You cannot cross that line." Would this include white phosphorous, the screening agent? Why does Israel get to cross the line? How about exhaust fumes from a tank? That's arguably toxic. At any rate, another vote for rebel chlorine gas attack as a war crime well-worth investigating and punishing. All opposition liars who helped cover for it by blaming the Syrian government should also be punished for crimes against Truth and/or Humanity. --Caustic Logic (talk) 11:55, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
Rebel Chemical Holdings
Chemicals that rebels might have had as of March 19:
Reported, in early December, 2012, as if in response to Obama's red line promise of help to the rebels, rebels reportedly seized industrial amounts of chlorine and apparentl retained control of a factory capable of making more. Early report: AFP via Ynet, Dec. 8:
- "Terrorist groups may resort to using chemical weapons against the Syrian people... after having gained control of a toxic chlorine factory" east of Aleppo, the foreign ministry said, using the government term for rebel groups.
- It added that Damascus would never use such weapons against its own people.
- The ministry was believed to be referring to the Syrian-Saudi Chemicals Company (SYSACCO) factory near Safira, which was taken over earlier this week by militants from the jihadist Al-Nusra Front.--Caustic Logic (talk) 23:26, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
This is supported by a man that a reporter from Time magazine believed to be the owner of that factory -he says the only one in Syria that produces industrial chlorine. See Syria’s Civil War: The Mystery Behind a Deadly Chemical Attack By Aryn Baker, Time, April 1, 2013
- Reports on bombings in Syria these days have become routine. But when Mohammad Sabbagh, an industrialist from Aleppo, heard about the attack near his hometown on March 19, the details stopped him cold. Survivors and witnesses of what was being described by the government news agency as a chemical attack said they smelled something like chlorine. And as the owner of Syria’s only chlorine-gas manufacturing plant, Sabbagh knew that if chlorine was involved, it most likely came from his factory.
- The opposition, though it also says it would never use chemical weapons, does have access to at least one item that could be used in a chemical attack: Sabbagh’s chlorine gas.
- In August rebel forces took Sabbagh’s factory by force, as part of a sweep that also netted them an electricity station and a military airport about 30 km from Aleppo. Sabbagh, who has since fled Aleppo for Beirut, says his factory is now occupied by Jabhat al-Nusra, a militant group with strong ties to al-Qaeda that has been designated a terrorist group by the U.S. He knows this because his site manager has struck a deal with the rebels — they supply 200 L of fuel a day to keep the generator running so that the valves of his $25 million factory don’t freeze up. The factory isn’t operational anymore, but this way at least, says Sabbagh, it might be one day in the future. In the meantime, he has no idea what has happened, if anything, to the 400 or so steel barrels of chlorine gas he had stored in the compound. The yellow tanks, which hold one ton of gas each, are used for purifying municipal water supplies. “No one can know for certain, but if it turns out chlorine gas was used in the attack, then the first possibility is that it was mine. There is no other factory in Syria that can make this gas, and now it is under opposition control,” he says.
- To Faris al-Shehabi, head of the Aleppo Chamber of Industry and a strong government supporter, it was obvious from Day One that the rebels had their eyes on the gas. “Why else would they capture a factory in the middle of nowhere? For the sniper positions?” he asks sarcastically while meeting TIME in Beirut, where he is traveling for business. “We warned back then that chemical components were in the hands of terrorists, but no one listened.”
B-Z, Agent 15, or similar
Availability suggested, possibly, by Dec. 23, 2012. (see Alleged Chemical Attack, December 23, 2012) Six rebel fighters died and others were injured by poison gas that caused breathing and nerve problems, paralysis and hallucinations. It was decided by the enemies if Syria (US, Turkey, etc.) that the government gassed them, but with a poorly-used riot control gas, making it not an intentional CW attack. But it had otherwise looked like Agent 15 or BZ, the latter of which had been reportedly used by Iraqi insurgents (Al Qaeda?) on themselves "to pump up their aggressiveness." Now that Jabhat Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda in Iraq-in Syria, is around, how did the insurgents get themselves gassed? Is the official story the opposite of true? Rather than being gassed by others for riot control, did they do it themselves to uncontrollably riot? Did the people who slashed whole families in AL-Houla, for instance, have this berzerker poison? --Caustic Logic (talk) 23:35, 23 March 2013 (UTC)
Potassium Chlorate and Various others
Willingness to use poison gas "against enemies of God," apparently signaled by chemical experiments on rabbits, along with threats against Syria's Alawites, and demonstrations of the large stock of Turkish-made chemicals they already had late in 2012 (see Tekkim Chemical Test Video). It is entirely possible from the timing of its release especially (two days after Obama's "red line" statements), that this is a hoax video. But it's also quite possibly a genuine threat, and demonstration of capabilities not "known." --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:34, 23 March 2013 (UTC)
For what it's worth, one theory on the Dec. 23 incident "Mousab Azzawi, chairman of the London-based Syrian Network for Human Rights and a doctor, told NBC News that his organization had received reports from three eyewitnesses on Sunday. He said field doctors in Homs were seeing patients “losing consciousness, experiencing severe shortness of breath and vomiting. To our understanding, this is similar to poisoning with pesticide,” he said, although he was not aware of any pesticide that could take the form of a gas."
And in the March 19 attack, Echothiophate, a chemical often found in insecticides, is mentioned (see agents, below)
Added August 2015. I never listed this before at all, just to spite the prevalent Western suggestion this attack and everything else involved government Sarin. No way, I thought; people smelled chlorine and rebels definitely got that. No one else added a Sarin section. But plenty of info says rebels collectively had multiple lines of supply for sarin, kitchen-grade at least, by August 2013. In March, it was likely a similar situation, probably a bit less evolved.
I have to finally add this to a super-dated but potentially important page. Tests from Russian scientists, and the UN, say Sarin was involved. I'm hazy still on all details of that, but it sounds like best evidence until I see reason to say otherwise. And having studied actual alleged chlorine attacks and what they should be like - I'd call it preposterous if anyone claimed 25-30 died from an open-air chlorine attack via surface rocket. I'd say 0-4, depending, or potentially whatever, if the local authorities had people trapped in a small basement room where the rocket happens to land. 30 or so is exactly Sarin-sized, about how many died in the Tokyo subway attack - enclosed space, but sub-standard distribution. A finer spray with a charge to it might kill as many inside nearby buildings. (1,429 is not Sarin size)
I'm not sure if chlorine is allegedly ruled out by anything as a secondary ingredient. Best hybrid is chlorine-saline like the government said, but with the water being part Sarin, which maybe they didn't even know at first. Pure liquid Sarin looks, smells, and behaves almost exactly like water, probably mixes well (a guess, I don't know) Sarin vapor with chlorine/saline/HCL involved might be nasty stuff, and someone shot it right into a civilian area. If 25-30 died, many others got messed up and suffered badly. No one held to account, now, 29 months later. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:34, 14 August 2015 (UTC)
- Both in this attack and in Ghouta, there were reports of strange smells, eye irritation and lung irritation. As pure sarin is colorless and odorless, this led people to assert initially that the agent couldn't have been sarin. But it wasn't pure sarin - we know from the summary of the Russian report that it was "not produced in an industrial environment". The DIFP found by the Russians suggests that the opposition chemists just mixed together basic chemicals without purifying intermediate reaction products. This would give a mix of chemicals probably including mercaptans which are especially foul-smelling. There'd also be leftover hydrogen fluoride which would cause eye and lung irritation even at low concentration. I don't think it makes sense to suggest that chlorine, or any other irritant gas, was added to a payload containing sarin: there's no motive for this, the small rocket used in Khan-al-Assal couldn't possibly have carried a pressurized cylinder, and mixing the sarin with sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) would have rendered it harmless.
Both the Russians and the UN Human Rights Commission stated that the chemical profile of the sarin used in Khan-al-Assal matched that used later in Ghouta, although Churkin stated that "the opposition chemists had improved somewhat the quality of their product" by the time of the Ghouta attack: the OPCW report found other impurities but not DIFP. Pmr9 (talk) 13:24, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
JAN did it: Malbrunot and Chesnot's book The Roads to Damascus
This book on the history of Franco-Syrian relations was published in October 2014 in French. They briefly cover the Khan-al-Assal chemical attack, which they attribute to the Syrian opposition with Jabhat al-Nusra as the "number one suspect" (though they attribute subsequent sarin attacks to the Syrian government). Below is what they quote Moktar Lamani, the UN Special Representative in Syria, telling them about the UN's investigation (my translation):
"A rebel group allowed chemical substances in through the border post of Azaz. An insurgent opened the products, which immediately provoked spasms. He was dead the next day. Informed of the incident, the al-Nusra Front immediately encircled the village and demanded the return of the products in question, under pain of an all-out attack. The jihadists recovered the products. We contacted the chef of the group that possessed the substances at the beginning. He acknowledged that he had given them up to the al-Nusra Front".
Lamani quit as UN representative in March 2014, so presumably he talked to the authors after this. Did he inform the Secretary-General that the insurgents had these "chemical substances" and did the SG inform the US, UK and French governments before they prepared to attack on the basis of intelligence "findings" that there was no evidence for an opposition CW capability? I can think of one journalist at the UN who is very persistent at asking awkward questions
Which group was in control of the Azaz border post in March 2013? I'm not sure that the moderate secular rebels should be believed when they say it was the nasty JAN jihadists who made off with the the CW "products" - this might just be an attempt to shift the blame. Pmr9 (talk) 12:17, 6 January 2015 (UTC)
- Thanks for this too. You're keeping this investigation alive here. Did not know about that book, and I imagine not many do. Great to have the excerpt here. The story seems believable enough, but your skepticism also seems warranted. I'm not a fan of just presuming all the bad guy stuff is on the al-Qaeda portion. And as for the "spasms..." suggest it wasn't Sarin, doesn't it? I hear spasms only occur in the extreme stages, near death, not on first whiff when you recover the next day. Might question the whole story, or just mean it was something else. --Caustic Logic (talk) 14:25, 6 January 2015 (UTC)
- Update - Northern Storm Brigade was in control of Azaz from July 2012 to September 2013. Their leader from January 2013 to September 2013 was Samir Amouri, so presumably he was the one that Lamani contacted. He's apparently now in Turkey, so could be contacted by journalists Descriptions of this group suggest that they were local smugglers who diversified into extortion and kidnapping, unlikely to have been entrusted with a CW operation but very likely to have opened a container to see if there was anything worth stealing. So their story makes sense, and lines up with other evidence that JAN were the group primarily responsible for preparing and transporting CW agents, and using them in March-April in Aleppo and Idlib.
If the opposition was transporting CW, it probably wouldn't have been as sarin but rather as the immediate precursor methylphosphonyl difluoride, for mixing with isopropanol and isopropylamine to make sarin immediately before use. The chemical cocktail prepared by the opposition was of such poor quality that the sarin couldn't have been stored for long after this final step. But methylphosphonyl difluoride itself is highly toxic and the vapour kills guinea-pigs, though rats are more resistant (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3726876). So entirely plausible that the insurgent would have succumbed the next day.
One reason why it's important to keep investigating the Khan-al-Assal attack is that we can build an increasingly strong case that the the US, UK and French governments misled their legislators after the Ghouta attack when they issued reports backed by intelligence emphasizing that there was no evidence for an opposition CW capability. For this it's not necessary to establish that the opposition had CW, only to show that relevant evidence which would have cast doubt on the regime attack scenario was withheld. Pmr9 (talk) 15:07, 6 January 2015 (UTC)
Propulsion: Rebel Rockets
Syrian state broadcaster SANA, in its first English dispatch, had described the rebel-fired projectile as both "a missile" and as "a rocket containing chemical materials."  The main distinction between the two is high-end guidance - rockets with onboard systems to improve accuracy are called missiles, whereas a point-and-shoot, un-guided missile is called a rocket. Rockets are things the rebels definitely have, while missiles are not known to be, and thus only possibly are, in their arsenals. In general, "rocket" is used in Syrian official sources.
The Syrian rebel fighters probably import some rockets, definitely steal some, and sometimes manufacture them. (see Rebel Rocket/Missile Acquisition). In February, for example, it seems they were in possession of at least one possible Scud missile with launching truck (something of the same scale, anyway, perhaps inoperative, perhaps not), claiming to have just found at least two of the things between Deir EzZor and Raqqah, an area just the being pounded by alleged Scud attacks, and soon conquered by rebels.
UK Channel 4's Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson reported on the 24th that a rocket, and a custom-made one, was still Damascus' story. "Syria believes the (chlorine) was dissolved into saline solution in a home-made rocket," Thomson reported. "Two separate military sources have confirmed to Channel 4 News that it was a rocket and not a shell. He heard that officials had already analyzed blood and soil samples as well as "the rocket debris itself," and the findings "have already been sent to the UN team investigating." 
The exact capability of these for lobbing poison gasses is impossible to know, but there's little cause for certainty that it could not have been done by a determined and resourceful rebel operation. It therefore must remain a possibility that will grow or shrink in likelihood based on what the other clues suggest.
First, Khan Al-Assal is located here on Wikimapia, 10 kilometers west of the center of Aleppo. An Early SANA report specified that rebels "launched a missile at 7:30 in the morning from Kfar Dael region into Khan al-Asal area."  That origin is most likely the town given here on Wikimapia as Kafr Taal - 13 km west of Khan Al-Assal. Later, however, the Syrian authorities would be saying the rebel rocket came from quite further to the east of the target. As Channel 4's Alex Thomson reported, later they decided it came from Al-Bab, over here on the other side of Aleppo, 47 km ENE of the target. This alone is very far for any rocket to fly. However, I think it was CE who earlier noted here video of Jihadist rebels near Damscus firing home-made rockets with an alleged 60 km, available to them as of February 10. See where I bring this to the attention of Brown Moses, then see the video below. That is some powerful thrust. Watching it go, I can just see it getting tens of kilometers, no problem. 60 seems reasonable. Air only slows things down so much. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:56, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
Basha'ir al-Nasr Rocket Workshop Clues
- (moved from below)
A video showing the manufacture of rockets in a workshop of the Basha'ir al-Nasr brigade was uploaded to YouTube on 4 July 2013 , five days before Churkin's press conference at the UN. It's possible that the Russians just matched the rocket remains in their possession to the rockets shown in the video. The video was linked from the official Twitter account of the Basha'ir al-Nasr brigade, so I think we can assume it to be authentic. Can one of ACLOS's rocket experts take a look at the video, and see if the rockets match any descriptions of the projectile linked to above? Can someone who understands Arabic listen to the soundtrack and find out if the rockets are named Bashair-3, and if the video says that they started making them in February? Pmr9 (talk) statement
- Might deserve a sub-section. This is interesting. Got some images coming up for quick reference. As far as I know/remember there's been no specific description of its size or anything, and no images released of any remains. So I can't say if this matches. I'd suggest take this to translation requests - Jokkmoks often sees requests that appear and responds. I have an image gallery to assemble in case there ever is something good to compare with. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:21, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
I can see the markings could say Bashair 2. The word looks like Bashar except at the end. And that seems to be a 2 in one of the 2 main systems used, the one where it looks like a 2 to us as well. It's not any eastern Arabic number. Might well be a months-old video when he was still making the preceding model. We see nosecone creation, warhead assembly, body tubes, tailfins and assembly area, then finished painted models and a launcher, with its mounting trailer seen at the start. (I think - not an expert) All seen well. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:21, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
So to clarify, and improve the formatting: this shouldn't be the same exact rocket used on March 19. Below is a gallery of close-up images from the video. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:09, 16 December 2014 (UTC)
- This video uploaded on 14 February 2013 with the Liwa Basha'ir al-Nasr logo has "Basha'ir 3" in the title. Brown Moses linked to this last year. Maybe this is what the Russians matched with the rocket remains they collected from the impact site. The Basha'ir 3 looks similar to the Basha'ir 2 but painted brown instead of blue. I guess it's just possible that this could have carried enough low-grade sarin to kill 20 people, especially if some of them were first responders. Eyewitness reports say the rocket was small.
- The Basha'ir al-Nasr brigade was described as a tribal group based in Deir el-Zor that was affiliated with the pro-Saudi Authenticity and Development Front, which merged with Zahran Alloush's Army of Islam in September 2013. Sounds like an unlikely group for a specialist opposition CW unit - maybe they just supplied the rocket without knowing what it would be used for. Pmr9 (talk) 23:07, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
- Okay, "small" was specified, didn't stick with me. It's vague. But these are also small. Will check the 3 model later (video problems w/new computer, have to switch over) - but the amount of Sarin needed is small, plenty of space, depending how it has to be loaded and along with what, etc. Excellent background, thanks. CW links just depend on the finer points of who they're hooked up with. But passing on a professional local product like this to Al-Nusra, etc. makes sense, lets them comply with Erdogan's order to bring as few heavy weapons across as possible - procure locally, act globally. And one small point, I wonder where these were filmed? If we have no idea, I'd suggest al-Bab - it was mentioned as a firing spot that seems way too far away. So maybe it was a mix-up, they meant al-Bab is where it was made, and it seems to be a well-suited place. --Caustic Logic (talk) 00:05, 16 December 2014 (UTC)
The Alleged Agent(s)
Reuters' photographer heard at two hospitals:"people had said they could smell chlorine after the attack." Several others cite this, and I think the photographer says he smelled it too. It's a pretty consistent theme. Details as I run across them again. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:25, 24 March 2013 (UTC)
UK Channel 4's Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson, one of the few journalists willing to venture into Syria and verify reports, had dispatches ready only by March 23. But they were "the most detailed account yet of what the Syrians believe happened," drawing on Syrian sources, un-named, with military and medical sources of their own.
- Syria believes the chemical involved was a relatively small amount of chlorine gas, namely CL17 which was dissolved into saline solution in a home-made rocket. Two separate military sources have confirmed to Channel 4 News that it was a rocket and not a shell.  --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:25, 24 March 2013 (UTC)
Unnamed "analysts" told CNN they "believe it's possible people in the video were deliberately exposed to a "caustic" agent such as chlorine," but that didn't meet the technical criteria of "chemical weapons as defined by international treaties, such as a nerve or blister agent," so it didn't count for much. "Something went down, but it was short of a chemical weapon," a senior State Department official told CNN."  --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:28, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
Agent 15, Chlorine, and Phosphorous
This precise combination was reported by Debkafile on March 20, citing an unnamed Western official, with evidence not specified. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:11, 20 March 2013 (UTC) DEBKAfile: Rocket fired in Aleppo contained Agent 15:
- Western military sources have told DEBKA file that three chemicals were believed present in the Scud B rocket which exploded in the Aleppo neighborhood of Khan al-Assal Tuesday March 19: phosphorus, chlorine and Agent 15 or BZ. Although the Assad regime and the rebels charged each other with firing the rocket, which killed 15-31 people and injured more than a hundred, it was not possible to verify which side was actually responsible. The White House denied it was the rebels, while Moscow insisted that it was, in support of the accusation from Damascus.
- The assumption in Israeli security circles is that either or both sides may have tried a one-shot use of a chemical weapon to test the limits of world-power tolerance. The incapacitating Agent 15 which causes choking is the least harmful of Assad’s chemical arsenal. A US army spokesman said the American armed forces had plans for intervening in the Syrian conflict if chemical weapons were used.
BZ or Agent 15 is one suspect for the apparent poison gassing of some rebel fighters in Homs on December 23, 2012. That's odd given there were alsoclaims of some kind of gas attack in Homs the same day, March 19, as the incident under discussion. (see March 19 Homs attack) --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:11, 20 March 2013 (UTC) and --Caustic Logic (talk) 08:26, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
Reuters, citing SANA TV: "An unidentified doctor interviewed on the channel said the attack was either "phosphorus or poison" but did not elaborate."
Chemical weapons likely used in Syria, but detection window closed, expert says By Joshua Rhett Miller, Fox News, March 20, 2013 Christopher Harmer, a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, and the former deputy director of future operations at the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet:
- The most likely deployment of the weapons, according to Harmer, was a crude, unguided rocket attack, which coincides with reporting from the Syrian state-run SANA news agency. Choking agents like chlorine and phosgene could also be packed into a truck to be exploded, much like an improvised explosive device, Harmer said.
Washington DC-based Syrian [sic] Support Group issued a March 21 statement highlighting the core rebel point that there were TWO chemical attacks, and claiming that both were done with "chemical warfare agent simulant," echothiophate, "found most frequently in insecticides." They claim the chemical is confirmed by (opposition field clinic?) doctors in Damascus, presumed for Aleppo. Interesting alleged choice. According to Wikipedia, its adverse effects "include muscle spasm and other systemic effects" that can last over a week, it has medical uses in eye ailments (glaucoma), and is in worldwide shortage (or was). Perfect obscure choice for eye doctor president Assad? --Caustic Logic (talk) 23:57, 23 March 2013 (UTC)
Traces of Cyanide and ??
Blaming a grossly errant air strike, a Free Syrian Army press representative, Mar Ahmad Omar, told The Verge "a nurse at the hospital told him that early tests showed traces of cyanide," though he noted they don't know anything about no chemical weapons, "blaming the group's "lack of experience" with this brand of warfare. "They are new types of weapons that are used against us," he explains."  --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:41, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
Super Tear Gas
“Super-strength tear gas," not a nerve agent, was used in the Khan Al-Assal incident, the Sunday Times reported, citing analysts at Porton Down military research institute in the UK. They cite video clues to cast doubt on nerve agents, and claim to have soil samples collected by British spies "for further analysis," not completed at time of speculative reporting.  Tear gas(ses) are totally distinct from the widely-smelled chlorine. How and by whom it was dispersed, whether in the reported rocket/missile or in a more usual way, is not made clear. This is the same exact explanation used to dismiss the alleged CW attack of December 23, but it won't likely work so well here. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:25, 24 March 2013 (UTC)
The Israelis are big on this Sunday Times thing. YNet News reports:
- After investigation, it is looking more and more likely that there was no use of chemical weapons in the attack last week in the city of Halab, in which 30 died and nearly 100 were injured. This according to a report issued by the UK newspaper The Sunday Times.
- Initial reports from the center for military studies in the city of Wiltshire show that the agent that was used in the attack was tear gas in a particularly potent form, and not any form of a nerve gas.
- Scientists from the military research facility are examining samples collected from the site of the attack by British MI6 agents. Agents have been assisted in the investigation, by photos of the victims being treated in a Syrian hospital. 
"Some Kind of Chemical Weapon"
The same researchers at Porton Down mentioned above, and presumably the same sample said to only show tear gas, later were said to prove an unspecified proper chemical weapon, the type only the regime has, was used. But they didn'tspecify which one (the one easily mistaken for super tear gas, I guess...) AP andthe Times of Israel reported: "The sample, said to be taken from a neighborhood on the outskirts of Damascus, was delivered to the UK Ministry of Defense’s chemical and biological research establishment at Porton Down in Wiltshire, where it was identified as containing traces of “some kind of chemical weapon.”  As it so happens, this change of finding scame once it became fairly clear there would be no CW inspection in Syria (that was around April 6-9, following intensive scuttling), and people were free to say what they wanted without fear of being proven wrong by the probe. (see some more articles on this development, gathered here) --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:28, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
- Sorry, been a little confused here. The super tear gas was what all those people smelled, smelling like chlorine, that killed about 30 "in the city of Halab." So Khan Al-Assal. Also, the soil may not have ever been tested. They mean to to, but so far had guesses based on video. (per YNet report on Sunday Times report). And this new test showing Sarin is from "a neighborhood on the outskirts of Damascus," the intelligence crowd says (Times of Israel). So no conflict there. And it's not clear if the new Israel assertion is contradictory: Sarin was apparently mentioned (no direct quotes handy), and the talk, (NYT report said, was about "possible chemical weapons attacks on March 19 near Aleppo, Syria, and Damascus, the capital." --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:50, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
- Oh, but this-implied conflict (Times of ISrael): "“There have been some reports that it was just a strong riot-control agent but this is not the case — it’s something else, although it can’t definitively be said to be Sarin nerve agent,” one source told The Times." Wrong. The previous report is supposed to on soil from Aleppo, where the alleged rebel chlorine attack was played down. The Sarin is is the other dirt MI6 also says it got. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:02, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
And I'm noticing that we missed an attack that I guess these new images refer to, sorry, been sidetracked. "Opposition activists published a video online last Saturday showing victims on gurneys having trouble breathing or focusing their eyes after an attack on the Jobar neighborhood in the northeast of the capital." This might be part of what they're all referring to. Will start a stubbie for it. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:50, 26 April 2013 (UTC)
The Netanyahu regime has put its money behind a total chemical attack by the Assad regime, apparently using the newly-alleged boogeyman of CWs, Sarin. General Itai Brun, Israel's top military intelligence analyst, passed on a grave and seemingly credible analysis on April 23. He was speaking at a security conference (by the Institute for National Security Studies) in Tel Aviv, during a visit from U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. As the New York Times reported it:
- “The regime has increasingly used chemical weapons,” said Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, research commander in the intelligence directorate of the Israeli Defense Forces, echoing assertions made by Britain and France. [...] General Brun said “it is quite clear that they used harmful chemical weapons,” citing “different signs” including pictures of Syrians, said to be victims, “foaming at the mouth.” He went beyond the March 19 attack to speak of “continuous” use of such weapons, and described a “huge arsenal” of more than 1,000 tons stockpiled in Syria. 
Brun's statement were "the most definitive by an Israeli official to date," echoed by an unnamed Israeli military official, and by other Israelis at "briefings earlier on Tuesday," where "the Israelis said they believed that the attacks March 19 involved the use of sarin gas, the same agent used in a 1995 attack in the Tokyo subway that killed 13." But the evidence is nothing amazing, it seems. An unnamed military official confirmed that the same pictures we're looking at are the evidence, aside from something secret. "The Israeli military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Israel based its analysis mainly on what he described as publicly available photographs of victims, but said there was also corroborating “direct evidence” that he would not detail."  --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:28, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
The evidence the Israelis used to decide on/explain the decision on Sarin, or whatever worrying war-triggering chemical, had been sent to Washington, the Times heard, with a message enhanced on the 23rd. “The very fact that [the Syrian government] have used chemical weapons without any appropriate reaction,” Gen. Brun said, “is a very worrying development." Showing he was a reasonable chap, he only said that this "fact" "might signal that this is legitimate” and encourage more of the same. The unnamed official also worried about the emboldened regime, and called for war: “If somebody would take any reaction, maybe it would deter them from using it again.” 
To their credit, American officials refused to be instantly convinced, and made a few good points in explaining why. An AP report noted "U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel indicated on Wednesday that he was caught by surprise when Israeli officials publicly revealed their assessment." "They did not give me that assessment," he said, including his meeting the day before with Israel's SecDef Moshe Yaalon. "I guess it was not complete." As if looking at pictures and making alarmist assessments requires some fancy process. Like other officials, he still wasn't impressed; "Hagel said that Washington is looking for "real intelligence" on the issue of Syrian chemical weapon use. "Suspicions are one thing. Evidence is another," he said. "I think we have to be very careful here..."" 
Some of those others, as reported by Reuters: White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporter "that Washington was taking the Israeli accusations seriously but would require "conclusive evidence" before deciding whether to move forward. "We have not come to the conclusion that there has been that use," Carney said." A senior U.S. defense official (anonymous) told Reuters that "low confidence" assessments by foreign governments could not be the basis for U.S. action." Further, he noted, the British/French letter to the UN, of March 21 (as cited, or perhaps the more recent letter of April 19), "did not provide conclusive evidence of chemical weapons use." ""There will be no rush to judgment," the (same?) source said."  --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:28, 25 April 2013 (UTC) Further, it was noted:
- For example, officials have said they are reluctant to give much credence to information on alleged chemical weapons use that emanates from the Syrian opposition, considering such claims suspect because of a vested interest to get Washington involved militarily. 
British-French-Israeli collusion, fraught with deceit, to attack a resistant Arab nation, but with the U.S. holding back ... President Obama playing Eisenhower in the Suez crisis? How perfect is that? Or will he only start that way and then come around? Is the Ricin connected to the Sarin? --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:28, 25 April 2013 (UTC)
Issued December, 2013 after off-site investigation in November (security concerns, rebel occupation of or attacks on almost guaranteed) - PDF link. I was still hazy what it said, if they confirmed sarin or not. Turns out they said little - maybe as little as possible, by policy. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:58, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
- Information about munitions
- 56. Due to the deteriorating security situation, the United Nations Mission was not able to conduct an on-site visit to Khan Al Asal and therefore was not in a position to collect primary evidence relating to the number or type of munitions and/or delivery system that was used in the incident.
So, no opinion.
- Information concerning environmental samples
- 57. Due to the deteriorating security situation, the United Nations Mission was not able to conduct an on-site visit to Khan Al Asal and therefore was not in a position to collect environmental samples. In addition, six months following the incident, the probative value of such samples would be negligible.
Again, if it's not primary, it's nothing. What about a trustworthy secondary source who did heed the early call to investigate, collected primary samples and evidence, analyzed rocket remains, had samples directly sent to OPCW-certified labs, and received clear indications of impure rebel-type sarin? There was such a report ...
- 58. The Russian Federation presented the United Nations Mission with its own report relying on environmental samples collected by a Russian investigation team, which found remainders of Sarin. The United Nations Mission studied the report but could not independently verify the chain of custody for the sampling and the transport of the samples.
Who on Earth would they trust? Not those shift Russians. This was a no-investigate incident and the Russians went off-script. Not acceptable. So the UN probe leaves it at nothing as far as sarin goes.
- Information concerning biomedical samples
- 60. The United Nations Mission collected blood samples from two survivors in order to use DNA tests to authenticate the blood samples expected to be received from the Syrian Government. The Government could not recover the biomedical samples they had previously collected and the bodies of the deceased victims could not be exhumed for security reasons. No traces or signatures of any chemical warfare agent were detected in any of the samples collected by the United Nations Mission.
One wonders, did rebels manage to overrun the lab site and destroy the evidence? After six months the survivors showed no trace. Everything else was left at nothing. So no, they did not confirm the use of Sarin. We can aslo see they nothing convincing to show it wasn't there. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:58, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
- The OPCW report didn't confirm use of sarin specifically but it did find "likely use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal" and assessed that organophosphate poisoning was the cause of the "mass intoxication". Organophosphates include nerve agents and less potent compounds used as insecticides. What's more important is that by excluding the Russian report they didn't have to consider the evidence about the chemical profile of the sarin or the mode of delivery. The UN Human Rights Council evidently used the Russian report to assert that the chemical profile of the sarin used in Khan-al-Assal matched that used from Ghouta, but also asserted that sarin used in both attacks was likely from regime stocks, ignoring the Russian interpretation of the chemical profile as kitchen sarin.
- The missing blood samples apparently ended up in the hands of the US government, with the help of the Syrian-American Medical Society. See this report in the NYT on 10 June 2013. A US official confirmed off the record to the NYT that the samples had tested positive for sarin, but evidently OPCW didn't request these results from the US government Pmr9 (talk) 16:13, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
Witness and Medical Reports
The UN investigators did accept second-hand reports of an eyewitness and medical nature, providing a sort of muddled record I bet is accurate, and I think we can make sense of it. From the same PDF, starting page 10 "Narrative" - time and locale are established - Appendix 3 should actually have more detail, should cite that but...
- 50. During the ongoing shelling in the area, deaths, with no signs of wounds, and persons exhibiting symptoms of intoxication were suddenly observed and reported to survivors and first responders. The interviewed witnesses reported on experiencing or observing the following symptoms: irritation of skin, miosis, impaired vision, foaming from the mouth, weakness, convulsions, shortage of breath and loss of consciousness.
- 51. One survivor stated that “the air was static and filled with a yellowish-green mist and filled of a strong pungent smell, possibly resembling sulfur”.
- 52. On 20 August 2013, the Syrian Government, in its own investigation report, attributed the death of 20 individuals and the intoxication of 124 survivors to this incident. Six hospitals received alleged victims, including Aleppo University Hospital as the main one.
- 53. The Syrian Government’s report referred to statistics of symptoms communicated from these hospitals including miosis, blurred vision, conjunctivitis, foaming at the mouth, coughing, rhinorrhea, respiratory distress, bronchospasm, nausea, vomiting, cyanosis and headache. Those affected had been given symptomatic treatment with a few patients requiring intensive care.
- 54. The Syrian report of 20 August 2013 further stated that some of the blood tests conducted had found cholinesterase activity to be reduced. Autopsies had been performed on 14 individuals who had died, including 7 males, 6 females and 1 male child. The report stated the cause of death as “respiratory depression and cardiac failure following the inhalation of a toxic (gas) material”.
- AFAIK one actually dies from is either breathing or circulation failing, in a state where everything fails from non-stop repeat nerve firing. The deaths were all same-day, it sounds like. Sarin decides quick is you live or die, from what I hear. Chlorine alone takes days.
Victims and Doctors
Reuters, from SANA video at the hospital:
- Syrian state TV aired footage of what it said were casualties of the attack arriving at one hospital in Aleppo. Men, women and children were rushed inside on stretchers as doctors inserted medical drips into their arms and oxygen tubes into their mouths. None had visible wounds to their bodies, but some interviewed said they had trouble breathing.
- An unidentified doctor interviewed on the channel said the attack was either "phosphorus or poison" but did not elaborate. A young girl on a stretcher wept as she said: "My chest closed up. I couldn't talk. I couldn't breathe ... We saw people falling dead to the floor. My father fell, he fell and now we don't know where he is. God curse them, I hope they die." A man in a green surgical mask, who said he had been helping to evacuate the casualties, said: "It was like a powder, and anyone who breathed it in fell to the ground."
- "The Free Syrian Army hit us with a rocket, we smelled something and then everyone got dizzy and fell down. People were falling to the ground, " said a sobbing woman, lying on a stretcher with a drip in her arm.
A video at least I missed before - note the widely-seen photo girl, here still weak in the chest - says her lungs 'collapsed' and couldn't breathe. People died on the ground. Both parents died. Another girl before her also says people died where they fell, suggesting it was pretty much instant. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:52, 1 July 2016 (UTC)
Note from video of morgue victims, for reference in other such cases: in the first video, several deceased victims are seen, including a boy and a man, numbered 2160 and 2156 respectively, in Eastern Arabic numbers. It's done with tape on the forehead, with no other numbers seen. The suggestion is these are unidentified (at the moment, anyway) bodies #2156 and 2160 documented at that particular hospital, I guess since the start of the crisis-related deaths in 2011 (??). This is mid-March, 2013, so 2 years in. The "Caesar photos," analyzed by provided information, says Damascus area's military hospital 601 had documented 2,160 unidentified bodies by sometime the previous November - and was just then accelerating massively to about 1,000 bodies per month. 601 was passing 5,000 at about the time Aleppo was tallying these victims. (see Torture Photos from "Caesar"/Photo Timeline) --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:52, 1 July 2016 (UTC)
- Note: first video was pulled (account deleted) almost as soon as I finished citing it. Odd. The footage is in most videos, however. --Caustic Logic (talk) 03:46, 5 July 2016 (UTC)
- A rebel fighter in Khan al-Assal, ... Ahmed al-Ahmed, from the Ansar brigade in a rebel-controlled military base near Khan al-Assal, told Reuters that a missile had hit the town at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT).
- "We were about 2 km from the blast. It was incredibly loud and so powerful that everything in the room started falling over. When I finally got up to look at the explosion, I saw smoke with a pinkish-purple color rising up.
- "I didn't smell anything, but I did not leave the building I was in," said Ahmed, speaking via Skype. "The missile, maybe a Scud, hit a regime area, praise God, and I'm sure that it was an accident. My brigade certainly does not have that (chemical) capability and we've been talking to many units in the area, they all deny it."
- Ahmed said the explosion was quickly followed by an air strike. A fighter jet circled a police school held by the rebels on the outskirts of Khan al-Assal and bombed the area, he said. His account could not be independently verified.
- ...a senior rebel commander, Qassim Saadeddine ...[said] "We were hearing reports from early this morning about a regime attack on Khan al-Assal, and we believe they fired a Scud with chemical agents," he told Reuters by telephone from Aleppo.
- Another rebel commander, Abdul Jabbar al Okaidi, head of the rebel military council in Aleppo, said in a telephone interview that he had witnessed the attack, describing it as an errant strike on a government-controlled neighborhood, by Syrian warplanes flying at high altitude. He said the explosions from the attack emitted what he described as a gas that appeared to cause suffocation, and that some victims had been treated in a rebel field hospital. The commander ridiculed government assertions that the rebels had chemical weapons. “We don’t even have ammunition for our Kalashnikovs,” he said.
The Verge reported March 25 another support for a jet strike, from "Mar Ahmad Omar, a representative from the Free Syrian Army’s media office." He told them "the rockets were fired as part of an aerial assault against Khan Touman — a northern village that recently came under rebel control. Assad's planes missed their target, the FSA says, striking the civilian area of Khan al-Assal instead."  For reference, the town of Khan Touman is here on Wikimapia, a plausible 5.5 km south of the middle of Khan Al-Assal. How he knew that was the target isn't explained, but it suggests a line of fire from the south, Damascus, where all these other scuds came from. But he's citing jets, not a Scud, so ... whatever. The jets were five km off then. Awesome. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:56, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
Casualties and Death Toll
Three years on, the death toll and number effected is somewhat unclear. Perhaps to be sorted:
- SOHR reported 10 civilians, 16 regular soldiers, then and then 12 civilians (and 14 soldiers? total 26 or 28?)
- 25 killed, 86 effected (Ikhbariya video subtitles)
- 20 killed by government sources?
- 25 killed by UN report?
- VDC lists 22 civilian victims, 10 named Zarour, 6 named Ammory. 12 men, 3 boys, 7 women, no girls. Notes: Twenty two martyrs due to inhaling chemical weapons gases, reports to be verified. There's one unidentified man, a doctor "martyred while he was treating the infected in Aleppo university hospital"
This is too many men for a normal distribution, and complementing it, there are no killed soldiers are listed under regime fatalities. So most likely, VDC's 22 civilians = 12 civ + 10 laundered soldiers, with 4-6 others missing. Note that no party is blamed, and the victims' inclusion in the "martyrs" list suggests the government killed them. (If it seems clear rebels killed an obvious civilian, they're often listed under regime fatalities, rank: civilian (1,917 entries). If it's less clear, like the victim is a fighting age male, it's rank: unknown (7,342 entries now).) --Caustic Logic (talk) 03:46, 5 July 2016 (UTC)
Re-considered, 2017: Hmm... UN report of (late 2013?) (PDF) gives a lower death toll, and a much lower soldiers toll. The highest initial reports had up to 12 civilians and up to 16 soldiers dead, but a total toll of (exactly?) 25, not broken down. A table in the report (page 32) shows that 25, later revised in "reply to consolidated questions" on 25 March, to just 20 dead, and broken down to 19 civilians (or 17? 19 entries, but they note two names seem repeated). By this just one soldier died. It says 17 were affected ("victim"), and all but one lived - did this get reported as affected but survived = dead? --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:55, 1 February 2017 (UTC)
The VDC lists (still) 22 civilians, as noted above, which seemed higher than other sources. Now it seems, it might be about right. Compared to the UN report, supposedly based on Syrian official sources, the VDC only lists one less soldier and 3 more civilians. The tally is somewhat high in men, but really it's more high in adults. 12 men to 7 women, 3 boys, and no girls.
In other cases, this could mean gender segregation, but there's no reason to suspect that here. This could be family and community dynamics: fathers first and then mothers staying longer, helping others, as the children - especially girls and the youngest - are somehow shielded better and moved out quickly, and asked to do nothing. But primary exposure will kill anyone instantly - it's not an issue of lingering. SO perhaps this is a lot of secondary exposure - lifting up those paralyzed, etc. And beyond family, there will be rescue workers, neighbors, etc. - adults both male and female helping out at some stage, like the one noted as a doctor, who would die from that (besides many of those non-fatally exposed).
- (from the report):Local civilians aided by military personnel rescued and evacuated those affected, since the centrally organized Emergency Response Infrastructure had been disrupted by the ongoing conflict. Witnesses referred to first responders encountering secondary contamination as the rescue effort went on.
March 19 Homs attack
Curiously, the rebel-fighter-informed Local Coordination Committees (LCC)
failed to mention anything about Khan Al-Assal or toxic gas anywhere around Aleppo, in their daily summary for March 19. A Scud impact was reported in Anadan town, 13 km due north of Khan Al-Assal. And a gas attack did make the report - a different one, in the Baba Amr district of the central city Homs. (correction: it was mentioned, see below, now moved here) --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:11, 20 March 2013 (UTC) and correction --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:16, 24 March 2013 (UTC) and belated correction Caustic Logic (talk) 14:17, 23 January 2017 (UTC)
- Homs: Several cases of asphyxia were reported in Baba Amr due to releasing toxic gases by the regime’s forces on the neighborhood
No further details were given, but a Debkafile report (same as linked above) conveyed several indications supportive of the impression:
- Extensive preparations by Syrian army units for launching chemical weapons against rebel forces have been sighted in the northern town of Homs, Western intelligence agencies told DEBKAfile’s military sources Tuesday, March 19.
- Western intelligence sources reckoned that for the Assad regime, Homs, the scene of fierce battles between government and rebel forces in recent days, is likely to be the first place where the Assad government turns to chemical warfare.
- DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the importance Assad attaches to carrying the day in Homs is represented by the elite units he has assembled in and around the city: Heavy armored forces of the 4th and 5th Republican Guard Divisions were imported from Damascus and the 18th and 19th Divisions are there too, issued in the last few hours with chemical warfare gear. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:11, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
March 19 Damascus attack
- Note: this clearly deserves better placement. I'll create a page shortly, and disambiguate/explain the context on the main page. This plus KaA and the apparent abortive event in Homs (see above) seem like an overall abortive 3-part CW mega-claim for all 3 of Syria's prime cities, north to south. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:27, 20 January 2017 (UTC)
- Page created: Alleged Chemical Attack in Damascus, March 19, 2013 Talk from below moved to Talk:Alleged Chemical Attack in Damascus, March 19, 2013#Starting Material --Caustic Logic (talk) 04:33, 23 January 2017 (UTC)
The days surrounding the the March 19 alleged chemical attack(s), trying to cross Obama's "red line," feature an odd abundance of signals and invitations to get the line crossed. Red line of course refers to Obama's announcement of December 3, 2012, that any use of chemical weapons by, as it's decided, the Syrian government will, in fact, lead to U.S. military intervention. This was followed by the first allegations of just that on December 6, 8, 22, and 23, at least.
For months, few if any such claims came across the wires. None have been confirmed. Then, on March 15, the rebellion had its two-year anniversary, and the conflict began its third year, with chances for everyone to make their various statements on the occasion. As a birthday present to the rebellion, the U.S. treasury issued a decree allowing private US citizens to finance the Syrian rebels, if they want to be heroes. Reuters, March 15:
- The U.S. government said Friday it would allow American citizens, companies and banks to send money to Syrian opposition forces struggling to topple President Bashar al-Assad. The Treasury Department move exempts Syrian rebels from broad U.S. sanctions against aid to Syria imposed at the beginning of the 2-year-old government crackdown on opposition forces that has killed an estimated 70,000 people.
- (aid to the sovereign government is still not permitted) --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:36, 24 March 2013 (UTC)
- "The United States is committed to supporting the Syrian people's aspirations for a Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, inclusive, and peaceful Syria," said the Treasury Department, which controls financial sanctions. "The Syrian government has sacrificed all legitimacy in its violent attempts to cling to power."
- (legitimacy stems from abject surrender to our demands to surrender to the people of Syria (from 29 countries)) --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:36, 24 March 2013 (UTC)
The leadership of the "Syrian-led transition" spoken of finally elected, with a few dozen votes cast on March 18, a new Prime Minister of Syria, if the opposition wins. Ghassan Hitto, a naturalized U.S. citizen and member of the Syrian American Council, was their choice. CNN reported "the Syrian American Council ... said the decision should assuage the Obama administration's concerns about who would lead Syria should President Bashar al-Assad be deposed. "This question has now been answered," the council's statement said." 
Also on on March 18, CNN reported:
- Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the United States would not hamper the arming of Syrian rebels by allies. "President Obama has made it clear that the United States does not stand in the way of other countries that have made a decision to provide arms," he said. His comments, made at the State Department, come as Britain and France urge the European Union to lift the weapons embargo in order to arm moderate Syrian rebels.  Kerry spoke of an unfortunate military "imbalance" in Syria. In fighting the Syrian people (from 29 different countries), Keery complained, "President Assad is receiving help from the Iranians, he's receiving help from al Qaeda-related, some elements, he's receiving help from Hezbollah, and obviously some help is coming in through the Russians. 
Early on the 19th, the Khan Al-Assal attack happened. Probably after this but before the news really spread, the top U.S. military commander in Europe - Adm. James Stavridis - said that NATO was laying out plans for possible military attacks on Syria. With the plans, "American forces would be prepared if called upon by the United Nations and member countries" - like if the "red line" were deemed crossed.  After the attack, there was "careful" examination, the war hawks screeching for war, and Obama himself getting as close to Syria as ever. He visited Israel for the first time as president March 20, in a pre-announced trip to discuss, by and large, Iran and Syria. The opinions of the Israelis, with their special insights onto the dangers of poison gas, would be seen as crucial for what happened next on the U.S. side.
Considering all these factors about when the alleged regime Scud came down, it's clear that the morning of March 19 was an especially poor time for Damascus to cross the red line of its own accord, and a very opportune one for any rebel provocateurs to do it for them. Someone made a decision, apparently, to seize the moment offered by this confluence of other people's decisions. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:37, 20 March 2013 (UTC) and --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:36, 24 March 2013 (UTC)
Forthcoming, if needed - it's built in to other stuff more.
Moscow's reaction to the allegations was, predictably, quite different from the West's, and right from the start, as the Voice of Russia website presented it: First they "denied" it - or rather, "Russian diplomats in Damascus haven’t confirmed" the claims of a rebel attack. This was contrasted with the claim that "a number of Western news agencies earlier claimed that anti-Assad forces had launched a missile with chemical weapons," which they really didn't to any meaningful degree, if at all.  But within about two hours, the Syrian government's claims gained traction. Moscow apparently found no sufficient hurdles to accepting that the rebels in Aleppo had deadly chemicals and were willing to use them. VoR:
- "Information coming from Damascus indicates that the use of chemical weapons by the armed opposition was recorded in the Aleppo province early on March 19," the ministry said in a statement available on its website. Moscow sees this fact as "a new and extremely alarming and dangerous turn in the events in the Syrian crisis." "We are extremely, seriously concerned by the fact that weapons of mass destruction have gotten into militants' hands, which is worsening the situation in the SAR even more and brings confrontation in this country to a new level," it said.  ( I was unable to find this original statement anywhere on the site http://www.mid.ru/) --Caustic Logic (talk) 08:48, 23 March 2013 (UTC)
Moscow "urged all sensible forces in Syria to stop violence" and move towards talks, as per the Geneva communique of June, 2012.  As other world powers inched towards blaming Damascus for the attact, the Russians followed with a demand for an investigation to first set the blame accurately. This began with a bit of backtracking; as Xinhua reported, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on his Twitter account "The news about use of chemical weapons in Syria must be thoroughly investigated. So far, there are no credible evidences * of that." The concern that CW "have gotten into militants' hands" became a prediction that they might, or might have; Gatilov added "we have already warned about the danger that chemical weapons could fall into the rebels' hands, which would push Syrian crisis to a new level of confrontation." 
- This is elsewhere translated as "Gatilov later said there was no "unequivocal evidence" of this." 
From there, Russia's involvement has been largely in the area of lobbying for a balanced investigation. For details on that, see UN Investigation, below.
Russian Scientists visited the site, collected evidence, and issued a report in July, which found traces of sarin, recently made, amongst the payload of an improvised rocket of a type made by a local rebel group. They said at the time a report was handed to the Security Council. (citations,details needed). In September, they re-affirmed and underlined this report in comparison to those upon which war against Syria was threatened.
- McClatchy, Sprt. 5: Russia gave UN 100-page report in July blaming Syrian rebels for Aleppo sarin attack
- A statement posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website late Wednesday said the report included detailed scientific analysis of samples that Russian technicians collected at the site of the alleged attack, Khan al Asal in northern Syria. The attack killed 26 people.
- A U.N. spokesman, Farhan Haq, confirmed that Russia delivered the report in July.
- The report itself was not released. But the statement drew a pointed comparison between what it said was the scientific detail of the report and the far shorter intelligence summaries that the United States, Britain and France have released to justify their assertion that the Syrian government launched chemical weapons against Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21. The longest of those summaries, by the French, ran nine pages. Each relies primarily on circumstantial evidence to make its case, and they disagree with one another on some details, including the number of people who died in the attack.--Caustic Logic (talk) 13:00, 9 September 2013 (UTC)
Al-Akhbar English reported:
- "The Islamic republic of Iran strongly condemns the inhumane act by armed opposition groups in using chemical weapons in the city of Aleppo," foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said. 
The Associated Press added:
- "Undoubtedly, the responsibilities of a repetition of such crimes would fall on those committing it and the countries that support them," [Mehmanparast] was quoted by state TV as saying, apparently referring to Gulf states such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia 
Initially, the United States cast doubt on both poison gas allegations. An Associated Press report, "U.S.: No evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria," passed on the White House dismissal of Syria's story, and added "a U.S. official told the AP there was no evidence either side had used such weapons Tuesday in an attack in northern Syria, disputing a competing claim by rebels that it was regime forces who fired the chemical weapon." 
The New York Times ran a report by Anne Barnard capturing well the Washington mindset after that. The core point underlying it is, as an official said, "the White House had “no information suggesting opposition groups have chemical weapons capability.”" Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, "said the administration was “deeply skeptical” of the assertions by President Assad’s government, and added that the manner they were examining the evidence was "carefully." Therefore, "In Washington, the White House cast doubt on claims that the opposition had used chemical weapons and said it was evaluating the possibility that the government had used them." 
Since rebel chemicals and/or Scuds and/or fighters were ruled out, a long string of possible interpretations of Damascus' explanation were offered in the Times article:
- "Some American officials worried aloud about whether the Syrian government was accusing rebels of using the weapons to prepare cover for its own future use of them."
- "Anti-government activists suggested that the government might have concocted the chemical attack story to cover up an episode in which it accidentally fired a Scud missile on a government-held area."
- "At the State Department, a spokeswoman also dismissed the Syrian government’s claim as an effort to distract from its use of long-range Scud missiles against civilians."
- "The spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said the United States was looking into rebel claims that the government had used chemical weapons and tried to blame its opponents." 
Senate war hawks took advantage of the chance to blame and then punish the government of Syria; ABC News reported on Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, urging President Obama to militarily attack Syria, “if today’s reports are substantiated." They fail to specify what would constitute "substantiated," but rightly point out that “President Obama has said that the use of weapons of mass destruction by Bashar Assad is a ‘red line’ for him that ‘will have consequences." They urged him to follow up, if it was decided the line had been crossed. 
At a press conference in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on his pre-announced visit of March 20, President Obama re-affirmed that the use of CW would be a "game changer" in Syria, perhaps forcing action. "“We intend to investigate thoroughly exactly what happened,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ve instructed my teams to find out precisely what happened, what we can document, what we can prove. ... Once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer." 
Over the following days, unofficial signals went both ways. On the one hand, Washington backed down from claims the government used CW, towards its initial position that nothing much happened. On the 20th, former Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford testified to a House Committee “So far we have no evidence to substantiate the reports that chemical weapons were used yesterday.”  CNN reported "analysts are also "leaning hard away" from the notion that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people." An unnamed "U.S. military official directly familiar with the preliminary analysis" said "there are strong indications now that chemical weapons were not used by the regime in recent days." This was apparently based on video analysis by which "analysts believe it's possible" the victims were somehow "deliberately exposed to a "caustic" agent such as chlorine." There's at least a semantical case to brand that not a chemical weapo attack, as with, say, Sarin nerve gas. "Something went down, but it was short of a chemical weapon," a senior State Department official told CNN. Furthermore, "NATO and U.S. radar or satellite intelligence also do not indicate there was a launch of a missile at the time Syrians say the alleged attack occurred, according to the military official."  The regime neither used chemical weapons nor fired any Scud missiles, the analysis suggests. This increasingly allows any attack that did happen to have been a rebel attack, although all official U.S. sources carefully maintain, as the core point, that it wasn't.
And on the other hand, U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R, Mich) continued the congressional war-drum-beating unabated. On the 20th, he said there was a "high probability to believe that chemical weapons were used," and used by the government. He called for pre-emptive strikes “to remove their capability to use chemical weapons on civilians,” because “If we know of their intention to use these chemical weapons and don't do anything about it, that is a stain on our national character."  Even after the above-described back-tracking, he was willing to urge immediate intervention, telling CBS News "Face the Nation" on the 24th that "that red line has been crossed. In case that wasn't sufficient, "Rogers said the fact that President Bashar al-Assad has ordered scud missile attacks on civilians "in and of itself should prompt action," by "small units," to somehow remove the government’s abilities to launch Scud missiles, of which 100 had already been fired on civilians. The "wholesale slaughter" of Syrian rebels and civilians, he said, "is now spilling up to the doorstep of Israel."  (The same day, Israeli forces had destroyed a machine gun position that fired on them from the rebel-held Golan heights)
The above-cited CBS News report has a video of the segment that's worth a watch, and lends at least a bit of credibility to Mr. Schieffer and the older generation of news anchors. --Caustic Logic (talk) 07:44, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
Bob Schieffer : This week both sides in the civil war, the Assad government and the rebels fighting against it, accuse the other of using chemical weapons. But you kind of got this in the news, early in the week when you said you had been briefed, you and Diane Feinstein, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and and I think you said there was a possibility, that chemical weapons might have been used by the rebels. Later in the weeks officials seemed to say they were pretty much thinking maybe they hadn’t been used. Can you clear this up now ? Where – where - where do you think we are on that ? Did somebody use chemical weapons ? (emphasis in original)
Rogers: I think when you look at the whole body of information, Bob, over the last two years, there is mounting evidence that it is probable that the Assad regime has used at least a small quantity of chemical weapons during the course of this conflict.
- (A simple "no" would have sufficed for the question at hand) --Caustic Logic (talk) 07:44, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
Bob Schieffer: … (referring to Obama’s red line) "[the president] said before that just moving chemicals – weapons around, would be a red line for us. What do you think he means by that ? Does he mean we’re going to take military action if they are using chemical weapons or, as he said, if there’s someone moving them around? (emphasis in original)
Rogers: Well, it was last August, August 2011, he said both moving and/or using would change the U.S. calculus. I think that it is abundantly clear that that red line has been crossed (emphasis in original)
Bob Schieffer : Really.
Rogers: Yeah. Absolutely. … The fact that I think they have put chemical weapons in a position to use, and, I believe, have intent and at some course during the last two years have used some quantity of chemical weapons? This needs to be a game-changer. (emphasis added)
Rogers also plays the urgency card, based on a consensus reached across party lines by the trusted foreign policy headsin Congress who are trusted to never let party politics interfere with promotion of foreign wars and the like. "It’s interesting, you see in the government both a Republican and Democrat saying we better do something, in the House the same, Republicans and Democrats saying we better do something. Now is the time." There is no time to wait and test that consenus or check the veracity of the info it's based on, it'll be too late to call this a credible pretext. Now, before we can be clear on what's really happening. Then he says "if we’re gonna have any hope of a diplomatic solution and stop the wholesale slaughter, of 70,000 and more, in Syria,” we will need a credible force on the ground, trained and vetted, which, after 2 years of “the people of Syria” rising up, still does not exist. To that end, he suggests establishment of "safe zones" on the border with belligerent countries, the dispatch of small groups of U.S. forces sent to train and vet a more "credible" non-American force to somehow remove the government’s abilities to launch Scud missiles or use their chemical weapons. With these threats removed, he feels, they'd finally be able to force negotiations, somehow. --Caustic Logic (talk) 07:44, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
Rogers gave another yet interview, with PBS, in which, as the Washington Post reported, "he is convinced that Syria has already used small quantities of chemical munitions — an accusation that goes beyond what U.S. intelligence officials have said — and called for “action to disrupt their ability to deliver chemical weapons.”  Also expanding on the double-red line construction, where moving, using, having, being accused of those, etc. is adequate cause for war, Rogers told PBS the line in the sand ”can’t be a pink line. It can’t be a dotted line. It can’t be an imaginary line.” No, it can only be a magical line that's been crossed whenever Mike Rogers thinks/believes it has been. --Caustic Logic (talk) 07:56, 1 April 2013 (UTC)
CNN reported on the 20th an unofficial opinion from Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni: ""it is clear for us here in Israel" that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and an international response to the crisis should be "on the table in the discussions between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama" during the president's trip to Israel."  She wouldn't say who did it, but the Israeli concern was the same as usual - that Hezbollah might somehow get the weapons and use them against Israel. Considering the very Sunni Jabhat Al-Nusra, aka Al-Qaeda in Syria, is the most likely force to wrest control of said weapons, it's not clear why their hated Shia rivals in Hezbollah would suddenly have access then. And why Al Qaeda seizing the CW is in itself not a concern for Israel (at least worth mentioning) is also unexplained but worth pondering. Against whoever, CNN further reported Livni says Israel is prepared to take action: "Yes, but I am not going to speak about it publicly. Israel has the right of course to defend itself."" 
France and United Kingdom
UK: Foreign Office spokesman: "The use of chemical weapons would be abhorrent and universally condemned. The UK is clear that the use or proliferation of chemical weapons would demand a serious response from the international community and force us to revisit our approach so far." Presumably, this would apply to either side.
As explained elsewhere on this page, the representatives of France and the UK, and to a lesser extent the United States, pushed for an urgent probe into as many CW allegations against the government as possible. (For the most part, this seems to have settled on three total).
Reuters reported on March 22 "France, Britain sound alarm over chemical weapons in Syria," in a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton from ministers Laurent Fabius and William Hague. Three days after the Syrian government's credible claim of suffering a rebel chemical attack, they had imaginative concerns about anything but that; "we are increasingly concerned about the regime's willingness to use chemical weapons," the statement said. They had already dismissed the blame against rebels, and were apparently confident enough of their trustworthiness to again in the letter urge an end to the EU's arms embargo on rebel forces "to allow for more help to the opposition." 
On April 2, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) spoke to the French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot, who underlined this whole thing remained very important. He said "we are taking very seriously the information on chemical weapons use," in Aleppo, KUNA added. But perhaps predicting less than favorable findings, he was careful to suggest that we simply may never know. "We are aware of the difficulty in proving use and then with attributing it to someone," KUNA quoted him as saying.  Furthermore, Lalliot said France hopes it’s possible, "to allow this mission to complete its work," suggesting perhaps that the problem will be that it never gets started, due to some unavoidable disagreement that can be easily blamed on Damascus alone, suggesting just what everyone expected to find. --Caustic Logic (talk) 12:17, 5 April 2013 (UTC)
Jerusalem Post, April 12:
- The West has "hard evidence" that chemical weapons were used at least once since the two-year Syrian civil uprising against President Bashar Assad began, but failed to specify further details, AFP reported on Friday. "There are several examples where we are quite sure that shells with chemicals have been used in a very sporadic way," a western diplomat was quoted by AFP as saying. Another diplomat said that "quite convincing" evidence was sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to back the accusations made against forces loyal to Assad. ... Britain, France and the Americans have given Ban information about the possible use of chemical weapons in Aleppo and Homs, UN diplomats said. West has 'hard evidence' of Syria chemical weapons use Reuters and Jerusalem Post, April 12, 2013</ref>
This show of unexplained confidence, specifying unclear "information" about Homs and Aleppo, accompanied a demand that "inspectors" must have access to both places (but not necessarily the Damascus sites - see below, UN Investigation, The Battle Over The Scope). --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:16, 12 April 2013 (UTC)
The demand for an investigation began with the first to report the attack - Syria's government. As Reuters reported, Syria's representative at the United Nations, Dr. Bashar Al-Ja'afari, said "the Syrian government has requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to form a specialized, independent and a neutral, technical mission to investigate the use by the terrorist groups operating in Syria of chemical weapons yesterday against civilians." A U.N. spokesman said they had recieved the request and were considering it.  Russia supported that request. “We expect that the UN secretary general will promptly react to Syria’s request to investigate the use of chemical weapons on March 19,” Gennady Gatilov, deputy foreign minister, wrote on his Twitter account. 
The Battle Over The Scope
Both Russia and Syria complained on the 20th that the UK and France blocked the requested probe. The Western powers wanted instead an investigation into the rebel version, dividing attention also with a second alleged chemical attack of the same day, near Damascus. According to an AP report, the Syrian National Coalition declared "all evidence now indicates that the Assad regime is using these (chemical) weapons against its own people ... The Coalition demands a full international investigation, and asks for a delegation to be sent to inquire and visit the site."  A later Reuters report follows this interesting story:
- British deputy ambassador Philip Parham and French ambassador Gerard Araud said their position, and that of the majority of council members, was that the U.N. must investigate both alleged chemical weapon attacks. "The (Syrian) National Coalition issued a statement today saying that there had been two cases of chemical weapons being used in Syria yesterday, one in the Damascus area and one in the Aleppo area," Parham said. "The facts are not clear at the moment," he said. "What we have is reports and allegations. They are very serious and they need to be investigated." ... A statement from UK and France requested that the UN "launch an urgent investigation into all allegations as expeditiously as possible." 
As Reuters reported: "Russia's U.N. envoy disagreed strongly with the idea of focusing an urgently needed U.N. investigation on multiple incidents. ... ""To me, a concern which I expressed in the council, was that this was really a way to delay the need for immediate, urgent investigation of allegations pertaining to March 19 by raising all sorts of issues," (Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin) said." Syria's Ja'afari agreed, saying he'd never heard of this other allegation, proposing that it "was set up on purpose to torpedo the investigation on the real use of chemical weapons which took place in Aleppo. If there were any good intentions on the part of the French delegation they should have supported the Syrian request (for an investigation)."
This concern could be heightened by the fact that yet another March 19 chemical attack was reported in Baba Amr, Homs (see March 19 Homs attack), thanks to the Local Coordination Committees. These collectors of reports from rebel commanders and other sources reported a Damascus chem. attack, as well as the Homs incident. But somehow they missed the big, proven one in Aleppo. Taken together, this could require a three-part probe, and suggests it was the rebels themselves who might have launched the "torpedo" Ja'afari spoke of, to help cloud the picture of what happened in Aleppo, and cause eyes to glaze over with overwhelmed confusion. In fact, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said France and Britain's letter asked for "an investigation of three alleged chemical weapons attacks."  The third, however, was a past allegation. As a later Reuters report explained "France and Britain wrote to Ban to draw his attention to a second alleged attack near Damascus and one in Homs in December."  That would be the Dec. 23 incident.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon announced on March 21 that he would initiate an investigation that would focus on the Khan Al-Assal incident as suggested by Damascus. "I am of course aware that there are other allegations of similar cases involving the reported use of chemical weapons," Reuters quoted him as saying. But the probe would focus on "the specific incident brought to my attention by the Syrian government," he announced.  The United States' representative to the U.N., Susan Rice, welcomed the move as a start towards the one she'd rather see. "The United States supports an investigation that pursues any and all credible allegations of the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria," the statement said, "and underscores the importance of launching this investigation as swiftly as possible." 
However, by the 25th, Secretary-General Ban had apparently changed course: A Reuters report explained "Ban made clear on Thursday that the investigation would initially focus on the Aleppo incident ... but he has left open the possibility that the investigation could be broadened." To this end, he sent a letter to the UNSC on March 22 which "asked Britain, France and Syria for further information on the other alleged chemical attacks "with a view to verifying any alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria."" The call was answered by Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, who sent Ban's office unspecified "further information."  The Russians felt this shift came "under pressure from Western members of the (security) council," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. This "unjustified step" would widen the scope, "trying to set as its task the investigation of all other supposed cases of chemical weapons use in Syria." Further, they said, it might represented "attempts to drag this issue out and turn an investigation under the aegis of the United Nations ... into an additional element of pressure for regime change." 
A Reuters report cited letters between U.N. Disarmament director Angela Kane and Syria's Ja'afari, itching at areas of disagreement. Besides discussion of investigation staffing issues, mandate, and areas of access, Kane reiterated the policy of a wider scope with emphasis. In one letter, "Kane made clear to Ja'afari that although the primary focus of the investigation would be the Aleppo incident, there were other alleged chemical weapons attacks to consider as well. "We must remain mindful of the other allegations that chemical weapons were used elsewhere in the country," she wrote." 
Another Syria-UN letter, from April 6, was obtained by Reuters. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem wrote to the Secretary General himself and "complained about the leak of previous letters exchanged between Syria and the United Nations to Reuters, saying it "left the impression of a lack of seriousness on the part of the (U.N.) secretariat on cooperation in good faith." 
The main point is a deal Moualem offered Ban whereby, as Reuters reported, "the inspectors should go first to Aleppo and if they are seen to be impartial, the possibility of visiting Homs could be discussed." The letter was quoted so: "After the mission completes its work, and ascertaining its honesty and neutrality and the credibility of its work away from politicization, it may be possible to look into the Homs claims," the letter said." 
Reuters' report, by Louis Chabonneau, added "The United Nations said it was studying a recent Syrian letter, although it was not immediately clear if that letter was Moualem's or a more recent one."  "Western delegations" didn't like what Moualem said in it, the Jerusalem Post reported. The delegations "said the Syrian response of April 6 was unacceptable and that the chemical weapons team must have assurances now that it can visit both Aleppo and Homs." 
Syria should ammend the offer - Khan Al-Assal first, then ascertainment of honesty, then a guarantee to visit Homs to inspect the three alleged chemical attacks there if they want (unless the Syrian gov't waives the right to have an alleged attack on its own forces ignored), and posibly Al-Otaybah for the two attacks now alleged there (see below). Or better yet, Aleppo first, then the others guaranteed, honest or not. They should be sure to specify that dual qualification. They balked it it, say "fine, jeez, they don't have to be honest and objective..." --Caustic Logic (talk) 08:52, 12 April 2013 (UTC)
Secretary General Ban did not like the Syrian attitude either and, in Yanqui Moon mode, stood with the Westerners. He was quoted as saying on April 8 "All we are waiting for is the go-ahead from the Syrian government to determine whether any chemicals weapons were used, in any location."  It's not clear if they're even still limiting it to three locations. A reported asked Ban on the 8th if the plan was to visit "all the sites in question," as Voice of America reported. VoA quoted him responding “It is a matter of principle that when there is an allegation, whether it is one or two or multiple allegations, all these allegations should be investigated. Only then will we be sure that there was or there were uses of chemical weapons. Without that nobody can be sure." 
- It occurs to me this is a fascinatingly holistic approach Mr. Ban has adopted. No more is it acceptable to study a single place and event and determine whether a - and maybe even which - chemical was deployed. Now, only once every spot alleged (how solidly?) is understood, every one, mind you, with the main one probably last, and the whole matrix assessed - only then can we understand any one point and determine CW was used there, which one and by whom we still can't say, but the Syrian regime of course has more than anyone else in the world, blahblahblah. Man, even the pretense of basic fucking human logic is hardly bothered with. What mental gymnastics will they not resort to in order to avoid studying a rebel gas attack? --Caustic Logic (talk) 08:59, 12 April 2013 (UTC)
On April 9, rebels announced they had been gassed yet again, although to be fair, it was in a spot already allegedly gassed, and thus not adding another stop for the investigators, just adding attraction to this one. Are rebels really hoping inspectors come to Al-Otaybah? --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:42, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
Staffing the Probe
Again speaking via Twitter, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, Reuters reported on March 25, "said the investigation could only be objective if it is conducted by a "balanced group of international experts". The group "must without fail include representatives of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members, including Russian and Chinese chemical specialists."  A U.S. State Department spokesman said this would be "a good thing."  But the UN leadership decided instead to exclude all five members. As AFP reported "Ban has told the UN Security Council permanent members -- the so-called P5 of Britain, China, France, Russia and United States -- that they will not be allowed to take part, diplomats said."  Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin complained "as we were informed, the secretariat proceeds from the fact that representatives of the five permanent Security Council members need not be included in the commission. We find this logic unconvincing." He maintained Churkin, Moscow still hopes the commission will take on experts from Russia and China, but the most important thing at this stage is not to delay the investigation any more.
On the 26th, the first staff member was announced: Swedish scientist Åke Sellström. He had previously been a chief inspector for UNSCOM, the U.N. inspection team that, in the 1990s, oversaw the elimination of Iraq's chemical weapon arsenal. He also worked with UNMOVIC in 2002 where, to his credit, he and the team found no basis for the claims on which the war on Iraq was launched anyway.  As for who will work under Sellstrom, AFP reported that "the UN wants between eight and 10 experts suggested by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to carry out the inquiry."  Secretary-General Ban explained the lack of P5 members was, as AFP put it, "because of the political sensibilities, diplomats said. No experts from Turkey or Arab countries are expected to take part for the same reasons. Most of the experts are expected to come from Latin American, European Nordic and Asian countries, diplomats said." 
However it must be noted that the main person doing the choosing is quite likely to be OPCW director-general Ahmet Üzümcü, a Turkish career diplomat, a presumable professional, but with possibly compromising links to his belligerent nation. According to his Wikipedia entry, Üzümcü was previously consul at the Consulate General in Aleppo, roughly the site of this attack, as well as ambassador in Israel and the permanent representative of Turkey to NATO.  It's difficult to imagine anyone with comparable credentials on the other side - say, an Iranian diplomat who's served in Moscow and Damascus - being accepted to help select the scientists that the world will rely on here. A UN news report added that already by the 27th "the members of the mission ... have all been nearly chosen."  There seems to have been little deliberation -whoever did the selection, the inspectors with the right attitudes were apparently easy to decide on. Üzümcü told the OPCW executive council "paramount importance is being attached to obtaining assurances regarding the safety and security of the OPCW personnel to be deployed."  Who they seek assurances from - the government his home country aims to destroy, or the Turkish-backed rebel forces - is not specified.
A diplomat told Reuters on April 4 "There's no agreement on access yet ... The inspectors won't be deploying until there's agreement on access and other modalities." "Diplomats said Assad's government has also suggested it wants a say in who will be on the inspection team," the report added, citing letters between Syria's U.N. representative Bashar Ja'afari and Director of the U.N. Office of Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane. Kane replied that it was "solely for the Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) to determine the composition of the investigation mission, which should have the necessary freedom of movement and access to conduct a thorough and objective investigation."" 
As UN sources said from the start of the probe formation, carefully and repeatedly, what's planned "is not a criminal investigation," as spokesman Martin Nesirky said. "It is a technical mission ... aimed at ascertaining whether chemical weapons were used and not by whom." 
On the 27th, AFP reported Syria had still not agreed to "unfettered access" to whatever locales the investigation would need to visit.  An unnamed western diplomat offered a telling bit of bad faith in a Reuters report: "of course, we hope the Syrians don't play games and prevent the team from accessing all sites of alleged chemical weapons incidents." 
But Syria's response actually seems favorable, agreeing at least to Mr. Sellström's chairmanship, as confirmed by UN spokesman Nesirky,  as well as swiftly agreeing to help his team in general and, implicitly, to try their best to protect it. Louis Charbonneau wrote for Reuters:
- Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told Reuters that Damascus had promised to provide Sellstrom's mission with assistance. "The technicalities will be negotiated in Damascus during the establishment of the Memorandum of Understanding similar to what had happened for General (Robert) Mood's Mission," said Ja'afari, referring to the brief U.N. mission last year to observe a failed ceasefire. 
It should be noted that this UN Special Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) enjoyed a fine working relationship with Damascus, turned up rather ambiguous evidence that was frequently bad for the rebels, was repeatedly attacked by the rebels and/or unseen possible regime snipers, and was effectively shut down by the Western half of the UNSC, when its mandate was allowed to expire without renewal in August, 2012. (citation needed - there should be a UNSMIS page here)
With things falling smoothly into place, preparations to deploy were begun. Sellström announced, in an interview with UN Radio on the 26th, “the mission will happen in a week’s time or so ... It’s a matter of days. ... There’s a lot of preparatory work ... Then we also have to rely on the security situation to allow us to do the mission.” Once on the ground, a U.N. news report added, "the mission will have three or four days of inspections, and then two to three weeks of report writing and chemical analysis." 
As of the end of March, little more was reported as quieter preparations were undertaken. Voice of America ran an informative article:
- Leading the team will be Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, who says it will be difficult to figure out what happened in the midst of a civil war. "We will have to try to peel away what is rumor and hearsay, misunderstandings and so on by talking to as many people as possible, try to get a consistent picture," Sellstrom stated.
- Diplomats say U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wants the investigators to start work next week and have "unfettered" access to the scene of the attack. But, Syria first will have to approve their composition and mandate. The Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is expected to appoint a team of eight to 10 experts in chemistry and medicine. 
Amy Smithson, a senior fellow of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, told Voice of America the following:
- "What is going to be important for international credibility is that any samples be taken with a chain of custody that proves this is where this sample was taken, and that it stayed in a legal chain of custody to the point of analysis so that those results will stand up in front of an international legal court or the international court of opinion," she said.
- Smithson says the investigators may find that commercial chemicals were used in Khan al-Asal -- rather than highly-lethal warfare agents like mustard or nerve gas, as seen here in a Russian stockpile that was destroyed voluntarily in 2002. "The chemical weapons convention defines chemical weapons as those classic warfare agents and their delivery systems and any toxic chemical used for military purposes," Smithson explained. "So it does not matter if it is ethyl methyl [an industrial solvent] or VX, which is a nerve agent. You cannot cross that line." Syria's rebel factions have denied using any chemical weapons in their battle to oust autocratic President Bashar al-Assad. 
A Western diplomat told Reuters on March 27 that the UN hoped to have investigators on the ground "next week," specifying that the team would be based in Beirut, Lebanon.  It should be noted this would have them well-positioned to investigate Al-Otaybah and Homs, the rebel choices. But it's hard to imagine them making it safely all the way across the country to Aleppo before something managed to end the whole thing early. Why they couldn't operate out of Turkey is not clear, but it does help scuttle the investigation Syria had requested, and could be indicative of a massive and intentional bait-and-switch operation. --Caustic Logic (talk) 04:53, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
On April 8, Reuters reported that the team was all-but ready; according to Ban Ki Moon, "an advance team was in Cyprus, ready to go to Syria within 24 hours." "All we are waiting for is the go-ahead from the Syrian government," they quoted him saying, "to determine whether any chemicals weapons were used, in any location." Ban made this statement after meeting OPCW head Uzumcu in The Hague. Uzumcu said, as Reuters reported, "the full mission would comprise 15 experts, including inspectors, medical experts and chemists." They might not have even been even chosen yet, but Sellstrom was to arrive on Cyprus that day. Ban hoped "this mission can be deployed as fast as possible."  However, by this time, it had become something loudly different from what Syria had asked for, something more like an invasive inspections regime, which they were refusing to authorize (see below)
Turned into an Inspection Regime?
There will be no UN investigation:
- UN takes unconstructive stance on chemical weapons use in Syria - Russian Foreign Ministry
- Moscow: UN Practically Foils Investigation of Using Chemical Weapons in Syria
The Ministry stressed that the secretariat is asking for issues that are irrelevant to the investigation, such as allowing expert to enter any site in Syria and use planes and other methods in their transportation, adding that this approach is similar to the investigation of the Iraq WMD that deliberately relied on false data.
- “Under the pressure of certain states the U.N. Secretariat takes an unconstructive and inconsistent position and in essence wrecks the investigation of concrete information on a possible use of chemical weapons in Syria on March 19,” the ministry said. “We consider such actions unacceptable and inadmissible by any party and moreover by the leadership of the U.N. Secretariat, which should act following the fair and objective position while discussing crises and other disputes,” the ministry said. --Caustic Logic (talk) 05:09, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the news and prediction, Petri. Will read these in a bit. It's been seeming for a while like turning this into an invasive attack against Syria was the goal (see entry below). Ban specifying a goal of the investigation is to secure Syria's WMD? (need to re-locate and include that - or did I?) Sorry... wasn't the request to check the evidence from one place and time where it was alleged rebels gassed Syrians? Yes, it was. Other attacks, fine, on the side. Other sites all over? "We'll see about looking at that rebel gas attack, IF..." Hey, why let other things slide? Maybe they can tie in Iran nuclear inspections? Or just admit they don't want to look at the stupid blood and soil samples from the rebel gas attack? Oh yeah, because that would look bad.--Caustic Logic (talk) 04:31, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
- Only read the first two lines before I fully understood what Ban Ki-moon and his Gas House Gang are up to. The need to "secure Syria's WMD" will be used as the pretext and excuse for the war of aggression and occupation of Syria. Setting up the "investigation" is advance preparation for occupation. If the UN is given a teeny-weeny mandate to operate inside Syria, they will require a NATO force to "protect" their operation. The chemical attacks must be seen in this light. They are ordered by the would-be aggressors, precisely for the purpose of setting the UN gears in motion. The Gang has been oiling these gears for the past two years. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 22:38, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
- Oh, short reports, and near-duplicates. That quote is the main thing, especially the part about "allowing expert to enter any site in Syria." How many sites do you need to enter to check three alleged incidents? Like, five or six total? Can't work out that many without requiring blanket access to every broom closet in the nation that's half-overrun with rebels anyway? As if it's an Iraq-style, inquisitorial inspection? And the planes ... just begging to have them shot down by "the regime," with NATO MANPADS. Driving across the whole country is offering them as triggers for the "Shabiha" to capture and slaughter. --Caustic Logic (talk) 05:09, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
A previous report from UPI, March 29, is notable for making the probe sound like an Iraq-style CW inspection of government stocks:
- A statement for the United Nations said the Syrian government confirmed its "desire to cooperate" with U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane.
- The United Nations said it was waiting to receive confirmation of inspection plans that would determine when inspectors can get inside the country.
- Ban this week appointed former Iraqi weapons inspector Ake Sellstrom to lead a mission to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons. 
AP, March 21:
- Ban said he would emphasize in a letter to the Syrian government that full cooperation from all parties and “unfettered access” would be essential to the investigation. The U.N. chief said he has spoken out repeatedly on the Syrian government’s responsibility to secure any chemical weapons and has sent two letters to Assad “to remind him of this solemn duty.” “It is my hope that the mission would contribute to ensuring the safety and security of chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria,” he said. 
- He doesn't specify how a narrow, blame-free, technical mission, to investigate what happened in 1-3 locations, would help make Syria's alleged CW more secure. That it would become a sneak inspection instead might explain that strange hope. Or perhaps he meant we would finally realize and act on the terrorist menace to Syria and the world,and help Damascus shut it down? --Caustic Logic (talk) 06:41, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
I see Russian, Syrian, Iranian, and Chinese sources, but it seems the western media is slower to pick up on this story. There is this good Reuters article, via Huffington Post, with idiot comments: Russia Condemns UN Probe Into Alleged Chemical Weapons Used In Syria --Caustic Logic (talk) 08:31, 7 April 2013 (UTC)
- Russia criticised Western moves to expand a planned United Nations probe into chemical weapons in Syria and compared it to the build-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
... It said the U.N. Secretariat was seeking overly broad access for investigators to facilities and individuals in Syria and wanted to use aircraft for transportation. "This approach brings to mind the line taken over an investigation into the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq, which was based on deliberately false data and led to well-known consequences," it said, referring to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
- "We cannot fail to draw the conclusion that under pressure from certain states, the U.N. Secretariat is taking an unconstructive and inconsistent position that in essence undermines the investigation (into the incident near Aleppo)," it said, without mentioning U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by name.
- Last month, Russia accused Western nations of trying to use the investigation to push Assad from power and said the probe might be biased unless Russian and Chinese experts were part of the team of investigators. 
Not surprisingly, Syria disfavored the latest turns in the mutation of their request. Apparently considering it a plan of attack on them, they blocked approval of the mission.  the ministry "regretted" that Mr Ban had "bowed to pressure exercised by states known for their support for the shedding of Syrian blood with the aim of diverting [the probe] from its true content". "Syria cannot accept these manoeuvres from the UN's Secretariat-General, taking into account the truth of the negative role it played in Iraq," added the source.
SANA's website and main proxy were attacked and unavailable as this research was done April 11. The Guardian reported April 9
- "The Syrian government claims that the UN has attempted to widen the remit of its mission, which it says was originally intended to investigate an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan al-Assal in Aleppo last month. It says the UN now wants “additional investigations which might allow the UN mission to spread all over the Syrian territories, and this contradicts the Syrian request from the UN and indicates to the presence of hidden intentions at the states which have sought to add those investigations as this constitutes a violation of the Syrian sovereignty”.
- Syrian state media reported that the government would not allow such “manoeuvres” but would still allow the mission to visit Khan al-Assal in keeping with its original intention.
Channel 4 News: "If the UN team is not allowed into Syria, it could conduct the investigation via eye-witness accounts from refugees outside the country." And there are sure to be dozens of Sunni opposition people in that one camp who were right there in Khan Al-Assal at 7:30 that morning and saw it all and since fled, because the government wanted to kill them for being witnesses. Can't be verified, but probably truthful... After all, Damascus kept the "inspectors" out. --Caustic Logic (talk) 10:42, 11 April 2013 (UTC)
- Chemical inspection stalled: UN team can’t be trusted ‘politically’ without Russian experts – Syrian information minister – RT, April 27, 2013
- Russian inquiry to UN: Rebels, not Army, behind Syria Aleppo chemical attack – RT, July 09, 2013
- However, the UN investigation has largely become stalled after a group of Western nations insisted on launching an inquiry into a separate case of alleged chemical weapons use in Homs in December 2012. The inquiry requires access to military objects, which Damascus has been unwilling to give.
- The UN has also decided to exclude Russian and Chinese experts from the investigation team, with Syria protesting this decision.
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky, reacted by calling the invitation “a move in the right direction,” but did not say whether UN investigators would accept it. The UN has been demanding that Sellstrom’s team be granted access across Syria “without further delay and without conditions,” ordering the Aleppo investigation not to begin until those demands were reached.
...set to go
July 8: Syria invited Åke Sellström and U.N. disarmament chief Angela Kane to visit Damascus for talks on conducting a probe of the Khan al-Assal attack.CBS News
July 11: Sellstrom and Kane accept Damascus' invitation, plan to visit Syria. RFE/RL
July 24: Damascus accepted the acceptance, Sellstrom and Kane make a brief visit. Sputnik, July 31
- "On the basis of the information evaluated by the Mission to date and further to the understanding reached with the Government of Syria, the Mission will travel to Syria as soon as possible to contemporaneously investigate three of the reported incidents, including Khan al-Assal," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's press office said in a statement.
- ...The UN and Syrian government said in a joint statement issued late Friday (July 26) that an accord had been reached "on the way forward" in the investigation, following the visit...
- Kane and Sellstrom were in Damascus on Wednesday and Thursday (July 24 and 25). They met with Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and deputy prime minister Qadri Jamil, said the joint statement.
- "Ms Kane and Dr Sellstrom are expected to report to the secretary general on Monday (July 29 (past) or Aug. 5, unclear) on the result of their visit to Syria," (UN spokeswoman Morana Song) said. --Caustic Logic (talk) 06:28, 2 July 2016 (UTC)
...blocked by yet another rebel massacre
...where the witnesses are executed
- On Syria, Talk of Witnesses Killed While UN Plays Hide the Ball – Inner City Press
- But Pinheiro did cite the recent execution of soldiers in Khan al Asal, and named the opposition armed group responsible.
- Syrian Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari when he spoke said these executions were to eliminate witnesses to the rebels' use of chemical weapons there, just as the UN's Angela Kane and Ake Sellstrom reached a still undisclosed agreement about probing such use.
- -- Petri Krohn (talk) 20:59, 30 July 2013 (UTC)
- Definitely a concern, and well worth noting in context. But as noted at the other spot this is discussed, it seems (so far) to be a general thing - soldiers were gassed (remember, rebels did it) and thus witnessed it, and now soldiers are being killed. But maybe there are specifics they aren't spelling out, for reasons that are probably pretty good. --Caustic Logic (talk) 13:18, 31 July 2013 (UTC)
- Ban Ki-moon says UN team on chemical weapons to imminently travel to Syria – PressTV, August 15, 2013
- UN chemical weapons inspectors arrive in Damascus – AFP, 18 August 2013
- UN inspectors tasked with investigating whether chemical weapons have been used in the Syrian conflict arrived in Damascus on Sunday, an AFP journalist reported.
Some videos, not organized or anlyzed, by length
- 3:09 (deleted) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNdLXmiwtEU
- 3:33 RT Arabic (original footage) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApVvwD0hcwM
- 4:20 Press TV report https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5fCI-FdS-A
- 4:23 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbyW12yiV_E
- 4:38 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbyW12yiV_E
- 7:00 video
- 13:15 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQk5oLx1yOU
- 2:05:59 (Arabic talk show with various footage) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzvuJTslWYc
- Terrorists on Tuesday launched a rocket containing chemical materials on Khan al-Asal area in Aleppo Countryside. The explosion of the rocket claimed the lives of 25 martyrs, while 110 citizens were injured, many of them in critical condition.
- "... they launched a missile at 7,30 in the morning from Kfar Dael region into Khan al-Asal area in Aleppo governorate. "The missile fell in a region populated by civilians on a 300- m distance from the post of the Syrian Arab army soldiers," the Ministry said in the letters. It added that after the missile was exploded, a dense smoke has occurred which led to direct faint cases among citizens who were subjected to inhale those gases.
- "In two previous identical letters sent to President of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General on December 8th, 2012 issued by document 917/2012 S 628/ 67, Syria expressed its serious fear of offering chemical weapons to the terrorists by some countries which support them to accuse the Syrian government of using such weapons," the Ministry said.
- "Video tapes broadcast at that time on websites have showed the way of manufacturing the poisonous gases through chemical materials received by al-Qaeda from a Turkish company as they were tested on creatures," the Ministry said. (see Tekkim Chemical Test Video)
- He stressed that the governments of Erdogan and Qatar bear legal, moral and political responsibility for the crime which claimed the lives of 25 persons and wounded over 100, the majority of them are in critical condition.
- Al-Zoubi said that the crime is a first impact of the Arab League's decision on the Ministerial Level. "Whoever got involved and announced direct and public military support to the terrorists, whether he was an emir, a minister or a prime minister, must be held to account for the crime," he stressed.
- The armed forces restored security and stability to parts of Khan al-Asal area last November.
- Mikdad: Crime in Khan al-Asal Adds to Record of Terrorist Groups Supported by Arab Gulf Countries, West and Turkey
- Deputy Foreign an Expatriates Minister Dr. Fayssal Mikdad affirmed that the crime committed against civilians by the armed terrorist groups who launched a missile which produced gases in the area adds up to these groups which are supported by some countries in the Arab Gulf, the West and particularly Turkey which is responsible for the crimes committed against civilians and the destruction taking place in Syria.
- The Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said the use of chemical weapons by "the Syrian opposition" is "a very serious precedent".
- "This incident constitutes a very worrying and serious development in the context of the crisis in Syria," the Ministry said in a statement published on its website.
- The statement expressed Russia's deep concern "over weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of gunmen, which further aggravates the situation and pushes the confrontation in the country to a new level."
- The Russian Foreign Ministry called upon all rational parties in Syria to abandon violence and move to realistic steps towards achieving the political solution through negotiations based on the Geneva Statement adopted by the action group on Syria on June 30.
From the Facebook page, chronological order. CW never mentioned, but the death toll is the same, specifying soldiers. Then the toll shrinks, all become civilian, still no talk of choking, etc. ??? --Caustic Logic (talk) 23:09, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
- Aleppo province: Medical sources have confirmed the death of 26 people by a rocket falling on the town of Khan al-Asal, 16 of the dead were regular soldiers, 10 were civilians.
- Aleppo province: It was heard through the wireless communication devices that 26 people (10 civilians, 16 regular soldiers) were killed when a rocket fell on the town of Khan al-Asal, reef Aleppo. There were also reports of injuries.
- Aleppo province: Violent clashes are taking place by the Mengh military airport, reports of losses on both sides. 2 rebels killed by the clashes in Aleppo city. The town of Khan al-Asal was bombarded.
- Final death toll for Tuesday 19/03/2013: In Aleppo 22 civilians and 6 rebel fighters were killed. ... 12 civilians were killed by a rocket on the Khan al-A'sal town in Reef Aleppo.
- CNN, March 22: moved, top
- Jerusalem Post: Israel: No conclusion yet on Syrian chemical use
- Chemical weapons likely used in Syria, but detection window closed, expert says By Joshua Rhett Miller, Fox News, March 20, 2013
Christopher Harmer, a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, and the former deputy director of future operations at the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet:
- [Harmer] said Wednesday that it was “overwhelmingly likely” that a choking agent such as chlorine or phosgene was used by either Syrian rebels or the Bashar Assad regime, contradicting statements by the U.S. ambassador to Syria who said the Obama administration has no evidence to support Assad’s claims that U.S.-backed rebels used the weapons recently in northern Syria.
- “When you take the totality of the evidence, it seems obvious to me, or overwhelmingly likely, that a chemical weapon attack did take place,” Harmer said. “You had near simultaneous claims by both sides, independent reporting on the ground and a lot of patients at the hospital with the same symptoms. Other experts contacted by FoxNews.com expressed doubt that chemical weapons were used. Harmer ... said there’s a “good possibility” the usage was inadvertent or intentionally very limited to gauge international reaction.''
- The most likely deployment of the weapons, according to Harmer, was a crude, unguided rocket attack, which coincides with reporting from the Syrian state-run SANA news agency. Choking agents like chlorine and phosgene could also be packed into a truck to be exploded, much like an improvised explosive device, Harmer said.
- No Western governments or international organizations confirmed a chemical attack in Syria, but Russia, an ally of Damascus, accused rebels of carrying out such a strike.
- The United States said it had no evidence to substantiate charges that the rebels had used chemical weapons.
- U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said it was not in a position to confirm the reports, adding that if either side used such weapons it would be a "grave violation of international law".
- Britain said its calculations would change if a chemical attack had taken place. A Foreign Office spokeswoman said it would "demand a serious response from the international community and force us to revisit our approach so far".
- A Reuters photographer said victims he had visited in Aleppo hospitals were suffering breathing problems and that people had said they could smell chlorine after the attack. "I saw mostly women and children," said the photographer, who cannot be named for his own safety. He quoted victims at the University of Aleppo hospital and the al-Rajaa hospital as saying people were dying in the streets and in their houses.
- Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi said rebels fired "a rocket containing poison gases" at the town of Khan al-Assal, southwest of Aleppo, from the city's southeastern district of Nairab, part of which is rebel-held. "The substance in the rocket causes unconsciousness, then convulsions, then death," the minister said.
- But a senior rebel commander, Qassim Saadeddine, who is also a spokesman for the Higher Military Council in Aleppo, denied this, blaming Assad's forces for the alleged chemical strike. "We were hearing reports from early this morning about a regime attack on Khan al-Assal, and we believe they fired a Scud with chemical agents," he told Reuters by telephone from Aleppo.
- AP via USA Today: U.S.: No evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria
- The Obama administration has no evidence to back up a claim by Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime that the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels used chemical weapons, the White House said Tuesday.
- A U.S. official told the AP there was no evidence either side had used such weapons Tuesday in an attack in northern Syria, disputing a competing claim by rebels that it was regime forces who fired the chemical weapon.
- The origin of the attack is still unclear, the official added. But the official noted that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons also is reporting no independent information of chemical weapons use. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity to the AP.
- New York Times: Syria and Activists Trade Charges on Chemical Weapons
- Another rebel commander, Abdul Jabbar al Okaidi, head of the rebel military council in Aleppo, said in a telephone interview that he had witnessed the attack, describing it as an errant strike on a government-controlled neighborhood, by Syrian warplanes flying at high altitude. He said the explosions from the attack emitted what he described as a gas that appeared to cause suffocation, and that some victims had been treated in a rebel field hospital.
- The commander ridiculed government assertions that the rebels had chemical weapons. “We don’t even have ammunition for our Kalashnikovs,” he said.
- ABC News: Drumbeat Grows Louder in Congress for Obama to Act on Syria Dy Dana Hughes, ABC News, Mar 19, 2013 8:55pm
- Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain released a statement today, calling for President Obama to act against Syrian President Bashir [sic] al-Assad. ... “President Obama has said that the use of weapons of mass destruction by Bashar Assad is a ‘red line’ for him that ‘will have consequences,’” the statement reads. “If today’s reports are substantiated, the President’s red line has been crossed, and we would urge him to take immediate action to impose the consequences he has promised.”
The senators are calling for the United States to provide arms to vetted rebel fighters, to launch targeted strikes against Assad’s aircraft and SCUD missile batteries on the ground, and to establish safe zones inside Syria to protect civilians living in opposition controlled areas. ... “I don’t care what it takes,” Graham said. “If the choice is to send in troops to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, I vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem.”
- State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. was looking into claims that the Assad regime had used a chemical weapon in a recent attack in the opposition stronghold of Aleppo. She would not confirm whether the administration believes Syria’s chemical stockpile is secure, citing intelligence reasons, but said there continues to be an increasing concern that Assad will cross that line.
- “We’ve been very clear about our concerns that the Assad regime is increasingly beleaguered, that it finds that the violence that it is using by conventional means is inadequate, including its barbaric use of Scuds. And so we are quite concerned that they will resort to other weapons,” she said. “We’ve made clear that this would constitute a red line for the United States. The president could not have been clearer about it.”
- But Graham and McCain argue that Assad has likely already crossed the line and they want to see action taken.
Yet more sources
- Syria chemical weapons: finger pointed at jihadists – The Telegraph, Alex Thomson, 23 Mar 2013
- West Drops Syria WMD Narrative As Evidence Points to Western-Armed Terrorists – Land Destroyer, March 24, 2013
- Hey! Once again, what would be an excellent add if I hadn't already added it. At least the first. Thomson also has a Channel 4 blog post on the subject, same basic info, not all worked in here yet. The second link, nothing new here, but for some context. Actually, I didn't know about the training handed to Al-Nusra sympathizers on how to "secure" Syria's chemical weapons. That should be noted somewhere. As for non-mainstream sources, found another.
- The attack, intelligence sources appear to agree, was launched by rebel fighters and not government forces. Since the victims were overwhelmingly the Syrian military, this was not a huge shock, but is important to reiterate.
- The link there is to Ha'aretz, March 24: Jihadists, not Assad, apparently behind reported chemical attack in Syria. That I had missed until now. I can read it if I register, and might. Sounds interesting. By-line: "Intelligence reports suggest jihadists among the Syria rebels have technical know-how to produce chemical warheads." --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:02, 26 March 2013 (UTC)
- Two Qatari officers transferred chemical materials used by terrorists in Khan al-Assal – SANA via Friends of Syria, June 22, 2013
- The Lebanese al-Akhbar newspaper revealed that the toxic chemical materials which the terrorist groups used in Khan al-Assal area in Aleppo last March were transferred by two Qatari officers across Turkey.
- The newspaper pointed out that the transfer of chemical substances was done with the knowledge of Ankara, according to security information disclosed by an intelligence apparatus of a certain regional state.
- The Qatari officers are Maj. Fahd Saeed al-Hajiri and Capt. Faleh Bin Khalid al-Tamimi, according to the information.
- The Lebanese newspaper noted that the Turkish authorities tried to cover up the transfer process, particularly after Russian demands for explanations, by announcing the arrest of 12 Jabhat al-Nusra members with chemical materials, including 2 kg of sarin gas, in their possession.
- I have my doubts. The two specific names help, and maybe that's true. But my feeling on the Nusra arrest was that it wasn't "Turkish authorities tr[ying] to cover up the transfer process" but rather local police responding to a threat and embarrassing Ankara in the process, hence the cover-up of that (gag order, arresting journalists, etc.) The better way to cover it up is draw NO attention to sarin or such in Turkey. To do so does the opposite, whoever is smuggling it. After all, anyone moving anything through there implicitly does so with Ankara's support, especially if its something with the power to draw the U.S. into the war. --Caustic Logic (talk) 23:00, 23 June 2013 (UTC)
- U.S. MILITARY CONFIRMS REBELS HAD SARIN – F. MICHAEL MALOOF, WDN, September 12, 2013
Russian video evidence
- Russian journalists have proof Syrian insurgents used chemical weapons – Voice of Russia, MAy 24, 2013
- Russian journalists who were on assignment in Syria have handed the United Nation Secretariat videos showing chemical weapons attacks allegedly committed by opposition fighters in the vicinity of Aleppo on March 19. This was confirmed by the spokesman for the Deputy Secretary General Farhan Haq.
- In a report RTR journalist Anastasia Popova confirms the use of toxic substances, apart from footage of the event, there are eyewitness accounts, reports from doctors who took care of the dead and injured and statements from experts from the University of Aleppo.
- Thanks for bringing this here - saw it earlier and you saved me time tonight. I have to say little could totally prove who was behind the attack, even if she happened to film the rocket coming down. But there will be all kinds of circumstantial evidence in this report. I hope it wasn't dropped exclusively into the black hole of the U.N., and is also made public, as much as possible. I'd like to see what the local experts had to say. --Caustic Logic (talk) 08:09, 25 May 2013 (UTC)
- I should note that any expertfrom Aleppo University might be biased by the prior rebel rocket attack against their campus. --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:37, 10 July 2013 (UTC)
Anastasia Popova recalls
Anastasia Popova has been in Leipzig on Oct 5 for a presentation of a German version of her film and a discussion. Here are video excerpts. At the time I pointed the video to start she talks about her visit to Khan Al-Assal (unprofessionally translated), which happened just one week after the event. She confirms that they have given their material to the UN, specifically the COI with Pillay et al, and they said they couldn't use the videos as evidence but asked for telephone numbers of the witnesses, which they got, and contacted them. Anastasia says that Carla Del Ponte's statement about evidence for "rebel" use of CW was made immediately after this. Then, she says, they were contacted from New York "by the OPCW", specifically by Sellström - and her face speaks loudly that she doesn't have much love for the man. He got the videos - 5GB worth - as well, and so did the office of Ban-Ki Moon. Apparently Sellström said after watching that they couldn't use it as well, apparently because of the raw form without narrative or some other thin excuse, and Anastasia thinks they just threw it away.
She further reports that "two months ago" Jabhat Al-Nusra sent a death squad who murdered the witnesses - on the day the UN Investigators came to Syria (that would be August 18th IIRC)! That's quite the story.
I tried to find the actual Russia24 report and found this less than five minute long video. I don't know if there is a longer version. The most interesting thing in it (without understanding what's said) is a boy who shows rocket remains to the camera. Looks a bit, but not really, like from that UMLACA thing. Wasn't that supposed to be used here as well? --CE (talk) 12:38, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
- More Carla witnesses killed? Well I don't think she gave enough info to have caused it herself. I'm mildly skeptical of this info, but only mildly. As for the rocket remains (seen near the end), looks a bit small, and a bit left in a little kid's custody to be the rocket implicated. I think authorities took those remains. Is that pile of dirt supposed to be where it hit? Must have had some size to it. Not the UMLACA, unless that's the same as the named Bashair 3, which I think has still never been shown publicly. And I doubt that. I'm guessing they're similar in size though. --Caustic Logic (talk) 14:35, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
- A Google image search for syria rebel DIY rocket produces multiple images of the type of rocket. Here it is on a launcher. Mail On-line has many images of the rocket, including this one that seems to show the war head. The rebels have even produced a multiple rocket launcher for it! This video shows the rocket, with the text Made in Russia painted on it. (Call it a false flag!) An earlier design if fired here. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 22:47, 14 October 2013 (UTC)
Russian Scientific Investigation
- Russian inquiry to UN: Rebels, not Army, behind Syria Aleppo chemical attack – RT, July 09, 2013
- “It was determined that on March 19 the rebels fired an unguided missile Bashair-3 at the town of Khan al-Assal, which has been under government control. The results of the analysis clearly show that the shell used in Khan al-Assal was not factory made and that it contained sarin,” he said.
More from the article:
- "I have just passed the analysis of samples taken at the site of the chemical attack to the UN Secretary General (Ban Ki-moon),” Churkin said on Tuesday.
- Evidence studied by Russian scientists indicates that a projectile carrying the deadly nerve agent sarin was most likely fired at Khan al-Assal by the rebels, Churkin pointed out.
Sarin: I've been skeptical up until now. Brits said so, Israel, U.S.A., rebels (among other things). All evidence and reasoning was extremely suspect. Del Ponte said sarin, based on atropine's effectiveness it seems. As noted somewhere, it's always effective, means nothing. But Al-Nusra has reportedly been busted twice with the stuff in the interim, although the truth of those reports remains uncertain. U.S.A. said it was sarin in Khan al-Assal in particular. Russia now says the same. It seems the initial lack of mass casualties was from a deficiency in deployment - the missing stabilizers, perhaps? The chlorine smell, perhaps from that being mixed in, or some related chemical coincidence? --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:37, 10 July 2013 (UTC)
- According to Churkin's press conference and the later summary posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website, the report makes the following statements about the sarin in the rocket: (1) it was "not industrially-manufactured" and produced in "cottage industry" conditions; (2) it had been produced "relatively recently", without stabilizers; (3) it contained diisopropyl fluorophosphate (DIFP). The summary pointed out that DIFP had been developed by the British as a possible chemical warfare agent during WWII, which is true but probably irrelevant. More interesting is the chemistry: if someone had mixed together the chemicals used in the standard recipe for sarin, starting with phosphorus trichloride, without purifying the reaction products at each step, DIFP is what they would get. The chemistry is outlined briefly on the Wikipedia page on the Khan-al-Assal chemical attack. Pmr9 (talk)
The projectile assessment changes. Many have guessed a method (usuallyScud), whilerebel witnesses swear they saw either a fighter jet or a Scud. Those who get to see the debris up close are the most reliable and consistent. Syrian authorities cited a homemade rebel rocket, and Russia's experts say the same. Unguided missile/rocket, designated Bashair 3. RT reports "According to Moscow, the manufacture of the ‘Bashair-3’ warheads started in February, and is the work of Bashair al-Nasr, a brigade with close ties to the Free Syrian Army."  --Caustic Logic (talk) 09:37, 10 July 2013 (UTC)
- (moved to #Basha'ir al-Nasr Rocket Workshop Clues )
The West in unconvinced. As RT added: "The US has “yet to see any evidence that backs up the assertion that anybody besides the Syrian government has the ability to use chemical weapons, has used chemical weapons,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said." What he meant was they still hadn'tseen the evidence Russia had. "When asked whether Washington had seen the Russian report, Carney replied that it had not." The British said the same: "We will examine whatever is presented to us, but to date we have seen no credible reporting of chemical weapons use by the Syrian opposition, or that the opposition have obtained chemical weapons,” BBC quoted a UK government spokesman as saying."
- Inquiry on Aleppo chemical attack met int'l standards, unlike West’s - Lavrov – RT, July 10, 2013
- New York Times
- Sarin gas MAY end up in al-Qaeda hands: UK parliament intel committee, June 10.
- Russia releases key findings on chemical attack near Aleppo indicating similarity with rebel-made weapons – RT, September 04, 2013
- Probes from Khan al-Assal show chemicals used in the March 19 attack did not belong to standard Syrian army ammunition, and that the shell carrying the substance was similar to those made by a rebel fighter group, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.
- Russia gave UN 100-page report in July blaming Syrian rebels for Aleppo sarin attack – McClatchy, September 5, 2013
- Official: 'Something went down' in Syria, but it was short of chemical weapons By Barbara Starr, Chelsea J. Carter and Amir Ahmed, CNN. March 22, 2013 -- Updated 0527 GMT (original title: Officials: Preliminary results show chemical weapons not used in Syria)
- 25 Killed by Rocket with Chemical Materials Fired by Terrorists in Aleppo Countryside Syrian Arab News Agency, March 19, 2013
- Searching for truth in the debris Alex Thomson's View, Channel 4 Blog, Saturday 23 Mar 2013
- 25 Killed by Rocket with Chemical Materials Fired by Terrorists in Aleppo Countryside Syrian Arab News Agency, Mar 19, 2013
- Chemical confusion: has Syria's civil war crossed the ‘red line’? By Amar Toor, The Verge, March 25, 2013 12:15 pm
- Aleppo attack likely tear gas and not nerve agent, analysts say By Times of Israel Staff and AP. Times of Israel, March 24, 2013, 6:15 am
- Report: No chemical weapons used in Syria Ynet, Published: 03.24.13, 11:39
- ‘Soil sample proves chemical weapons used in Syria’ Times of Israel Staff and AP, April 13, 2013
- Israel Says It Has Proof That Syria Has Used Chemical Weapons By David E. Sanger and Jodi Rudoren, New York Times, April 23, 2013
- Hagel: Israel did not tell him of intel on Syria By Robert Burns, Associated Press, April 24
- Analysis: Crossing Obama's "red line" on Syria will require concrete proof By Matt Spetalnick and David Alexander, Reuters, Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:27am EDT
- U.S. exempts Syria's opposition forces from sanctions By Anna Yukhananov, Reuters, WASHINGTON | Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:29pm EDT
- Reports of Syrian jet fire into Lebanon called 'significant escalation' By CNN Staff, March 19, 2013 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
- NATO planning for possible Syria missions, official saysAssociated Press, via CBS News. March 19, 2013
- Russia denies rebels used chemical weapons in Aleppo strike The Voice of Russia, March 19, 2013, 17:06
- Moscow alarmed by use of chemical weapons by Syrian armed opposition The Voice of Russia, March 19, 2013 19 March, 19:15
- Russia demands probe into claims of chemical attack in Syria Xinhua, 2013-03-21 10:21:47
- Russia, China must be part of Syria chemical arms inquiry: Moscow Reuters, Reporting by Steve Gutterman in Moscow and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Editing by Alistair Lyon. Mon Mar 25, 2013 5:45am EDT
- Accusations swirl over Syrian chemical attack Al-Akhbar English, March 20, 2013
- Syria regime, rebels want probe of chemical attack Zeina Karam, Associated Press, via KHQ.com, March 19, 2013
- U.S.: No evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria AP via USA Today, March 19, 20133
- Syria and Activists Trade Charges on Chemical Weapons By ANNE BARNARD, New York Times. Published: March 19, 2013 Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "NYT1" defined multiple times with different content
- Drumbeat Grows Louder in Congress for Obama to Act on Syria Dy Dana Hughes, ABC News, Mar 19, 2013 8:55pm
- Amb. Robert Ford: So Far, 'No Evidence' Chemical Weapons Used in Syria ABC News? Posted: Wednesday, 20 March 2013 1:25PM
- Rep. Mike Rogers suggests preemptive strike to take out Syria chemical weapons CBS News, March 20, 2013, 8:43 AM
- "Red line has been crossed" in Syria, Rogers says By Lindsey Boerma, CBS News, March 24, 2013 12:23 PM
- Backing up Obama’s warnings to Syria creates tough challenges on two fronts By Greg Miller, Joby Warrick and Karen DeYoung, the Washington Post, March 24, 2013
- Israeli minister: It's clear that chemical weapons were used in Syria By Jessica Yellin, CNN Chief White House Correspondent. March 20, 2013 -- Updated 1606 GMT (0006 HKT)
- France, Britain sound alarm over chemical weapons in Syria Reuters, March 22, 2013 (Reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Rex Merrifield and Angus MacSwan)
- France takes "very seriously" report os WMD use in Syria Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), April 2, 2013
- West has 'hard evidence' of Syria chemical weapons use Reuters and Jerusalem Post, April 12, 2013
- West stalls Syria chemical attack probe in U.N.: Russia Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, via Chicago Tribune, 6:56 p.m. CDT, March 20, 2013
- Russia asks for Syrian chemical weapon probe The BRICS Post, March 21, 2013, 9:07 am
- U.N. launches probe of possible Syrian chemical arms attack By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, March 21, 2013, 6:56pm EDT
- U.N. to Probe Chemical Weapons Use in Syria Time, March 21, 2013
- Swedish scientist to head U.N. Syria chemical weapons probe Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:00pm EDT
- Statement by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, on the UN Investigation into Chemical Weapons Use in Syria U.S. Mission to the United Nations, New York, NY, March 21, 2013
- West wants to use Syria chemical weapons charge for regime change, says Russia STEVE GUTTERMAN, The Independent (Ireland), 25 MARCH 2013
- No agreement on Syria access for UN chemical arms inspectors By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, April 4, 2013
- U.N. talks with Syria on chemical arms probe at impasse By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, UNITED NATIONS, Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:20am EDT
- All Syria chemical arms claims must be probed: U.N.'s Ban By Anthony Deutsch, Reuters, The Hague, Mon Apr 8, 2013 8:39am EDT
- Syria Blocks UN Chemical Weapons Mission By Margaret Besheer, Voice of America, April 08, 2013
- Daily Press Briefing U.S. Department of State, March 25, 2013
- UN excludes major powers from Syria chemical arms inquiry AFP via Global Post, March 26, 2013
- UN denies support to Russian proposal for investigating chemical attack in Syria Voice of Russia, March 26, 2013
- UN yet to reach chemical inquiry accord with Syria: envoys Agence France-Presse via Global Post, March 27, 2013 15:47
- Ahmet Üzümcü Wikipedia, last modified on 21 March 2013 at 16:11
- Head of UN probe into chemical weapons use in Syria says preparatory work has begun U.N. News Center, 27 March 2013
- UPDATE 1-UN hopes chemical arms team deploys to Syria soon -envoys By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:11pm EDT
- Damascus confirmed to have accepted new head of UN Syria chemical weapons probe panel Xinhua/English.news.cn 2013-03-28 07:50:05
- UN Team Faces Tough Task in Syrian Chemical Probe Michael Lipin, Voice of America, March 29, 2013
- U.N. sees Syrian support for inspectors UPI, Published: March. 29, 2013 at 11:01 AM
- U.N. to Probe Alleged Chemical Weapons Use in Syria By Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press (via Time), March 21, 2013
- Russia Condemns UN Probe Into Alleged Chemical Weapons Used In Syria By Megan Davies and Steve Gutterman, Reuters (via Huffington Post) April6, 2013
- Syria rejects 'broadening' of UN chemical weapons probe Asianet via Global Post, April 10, 2013 15:43
- Russian inquiry to UN: Rebels, not Army, behind Syria Aleppo chemical attack RT Published time: July 09, 2013 16:22 Edited time: July 10, 2013 09:05