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The Chemical Realities of Russia’s Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Warehouse Attack Claims

April 5, 2017

By Dan Kaszeta

Translations: Русский

In response to allegations of a chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4th 2017 the Russian Ministry of Defence made a statement where it claimed a warehouse containing chemical agents was hit in the same town as the attacks were reported to have occurred:

The Syrian Air Force has destroyed a warehouse in Idlib province where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled before being shipped to Iraq, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The strike, which was launched midday Tuesday, targeted a major rebel ammunition depot east of the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

The warehouse was used to both produce and store shells containing toxic gas, Konashenkov said. The shells were delivered to Iraq and repeatedly used there, he added, pointing out that both Iraq and international organizations have confirmed the use of such weapons by militants.

From a technical chemical weapons perspective, it seems unlikely that the Russian “warehouse/depot” narrative is plausible as the source of the chemical exposure seen on April 4th.  To date, all of the nerve agents used in the Syrian conflict have been binary chemical warfare agents, so-named because they are mixed from several different components within a few days of use.  For example, binary Sarin is made by combining isopropyl alcohol with methylphosphonyl difluoride, usually with some kind of additive to deal with the residual acid produced.  The nerve agent Soman can also be produced through a binary process.  The nerve agent VX has a similar binary process, although it proved to be a more complicated process than merely mixing the materials.

There are several reasons why the Assad regime would use binary nerve agents. Binary nerve agents were developed by the US military in order to improve safety of storage and handling, so that the logistical chain would not have to actually handle nerve agents.  The US had developed some weapon systems that mixed the materials in flight after firing.  These particular weapon systems were the M687 155mm binary Sarin artillery shell, the XM736 8 inch binary VX artillery shell, and the Bigeye binary VX air-dropped bomb.  All were the product of lengthy research and development efforts, and none of them worked terribly well in practice, particulary the VX weapons.  There is no evidence that the Assad regime has ever made or  fielded “mix-in-flight” binary weapons.  OPCW inspections after Syria’s accession to the CWC in 2013 revealed a variety of fixed and mobile mixing apparatus for making binary nerve agents.

The other key reason for binary Sarin is that only a few countries really ever cracked the technology for making “unitary” Sarin that had any kind of useful shelf-life. The main chemical reaction that produces Sarin creates 1 molecule of hydrogen fluoride (HF), a potent and dangerous acid, for every molecule of Sarin.  This residual HF destroys nearly anything the Sarin is stored in, and quickly degrades the Sarin.  The US and USSR had devoted a huge effort to finding a way out of this problem.  They found different ways to refine the HF out of the Sarin using very expensive heavy chemical engineering techniques which, for obvious reasons, are best not described here.  Syria either did not develop such techniques or decided it was far cheaper, safer, and easier to stockpile binary components for a “mix it as you need it” process.  Hence the “mobile mixing equipment” found by the OPCW.  Nor did Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which had huge problems with the short shelf life of its Sarin.

Even assuming that large quantities of both Sarin precursors were located in the same part of the same warehouse (a practice that seems odd), an air-strike is not going to cause the production of large quantities of Sarin.  Dropping a bomb on the binary components does not actually provide the correct mechanism for making the nerve agent.  It is an infantile argument.  One of the precursors is isopropyl alcohol.  It would go up in a ball of flame.  A very large one.  Which has not been in evidence.

Another issue is that, if the Syrian regime actually did believe that the warehouse stored chemical warfare agents, then striking it deliberately was an act of chemical warfare by proxy.

Finally, we are back to the issue of industrial capacity.  It takes about 9 kg of difficult to obtain precursor materials to generate the necessary steps to produce Sarin.  The ratio is similar with other nerve agents.  Having a quantity of any of the nerve agents relies on a sophisticated supply chain of exotic precursors and an industrial base. Are we to seriously believe that one of the rebel factions has expended the vast sums of money and developed this industrial base, somehow not noticed to date and not molested by attack?  It seems an unlikely chain of events.

Dan Kaszeta

Dan is the managing director of Strongpoint Security Ltd, and lives and works in London, UK. He has 27 years experience in CBRN response, security, and antiterrorism.

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164 Comments

  1. frank

    The Independent reported that the witnesses were a network of observers watching out for air strikes. One apparently warned people to wear gas masks based on experience alone. This strikes me as incredible. A more likely explanation is that the rebels switched shells at the base, through collaborators perhaps, it would seem to me

    Reply
    • DDTea

      That warning did not get out fast enough, as the first crew of medics to reach the site were overcome by the gas. A nurse at the Rahma hospital (per the Guardian) reported hearing a dull explosion, which initially relieved her because she thought the bomb was a dud. I recall survivors of the 1988 Halabja attack reporting the same thing: that the explosions that delivered the chemical agent were not as loud as the conventional bombs that had been raining down on the city in the days before. So this might be the “experience” the observer was discussing. It’s not an incredible; it’s experience that says the regime is more likely to drop a chemical agent rather than a tiny bomb.

      Reply
      • frank

        Maybe, but that is not what the Independent reported. They reported that an observer called upon people to wear gas masks. Based on experience alone – of observation of the situation from afar. That and the smell of some kind of chemical/gas begins to suggest that things are not what they seem. A Sarin attack by the government would not smell of anything at all. Organophosphates near a grain silo, would be totally consistent with events.

        Reply
        • DDTea

          The victims of the 2013 Ghouta attack, which was confirmed to be Sarin, did report smells of rotting garbage. As I’ve stated in other comments, pure Sarin is odorless. Binary sarin smells fishy (from the amine bases used to neutralize HF) and may contain hydrogen fluoride vapors (very irritating). I see no reason *not* to suspect Sarin, especially given its history of use in Syria. A random mass pesticide poisoning would be curious. Many farms have been bombed in 7 years, but no such pesticide incidents have been reported to the best of my knowledge.

          Reply
          • frank

            Well I think the most obvious reason why not to suspect Sarin is that it would be very damaging to the ‘regime’ if they used it. I think it would be utter madness, and I consider the probability of a chemical attack by Assad’s forces close to zero from a political perspective. Previous chemical incidents in Syria have not been attributed to Assad, so it cannot be inferred that he is a likely culprit.

          • Jo

            Are you for real to say that previous attacks were not attributed to Assad!! Have you read the UN report for Ghota attck? Have read the recent UN investigation that confirmed Assad used chemical weapons in Aleepo 7 times (mainly chlorine barrel boms). He is also used the banned cluster bombs and white phosphorous bombs as documented clearly. He targeted hospitals and scholls with barrel bombs. So why won’t he use chemical agns now!? Assad regime is not Bashar Assad only; it is an extended family regime with huge security apparatus and what you wrote shows how little you know about it. Assad regime does not operate by the gains or losses, it operate by inflecting massiv edamage regardless of the method.

          • Woody

            Well,

            for real the majority of homo sapiens race believe to life after death. There are different approaches to this, the most important schools of these beliefs were born within a very short distance from the place of this scene some thousands of years ago. The area was a boiling pot by then and looks to persist any attempt to cool it.

            For real – did we fake the moon landing? Obama had a point in asking once. I take granted that if this hole on the road was a result of a sarin missile/bomb/rocket that claimed lives of +100 people, then the moon landing is for sure a faked on.

            The Ghouta has been discussed so many times. Prior to Ghouta Obama threatened to attack Assad. Obama sure had a lot of intel when he decided not to strike Assad.

            You come back to speak of Ghouta after you have proven us how the “offered facts” related to Khan Shiekhoun fit the picture.

            Would be nice to know, what it is said to be tomorrow, not a bomb, not a missile, not a rocket, not a stork, not a torpedo… an arrow perhaps?

          • Germann Arlington

            “Are you for real to say that previous attacks were not attributed to Assad!! ”

            Well, here is a copy/pasted text from the UN report:

            Conclusions

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

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

            Considerations on the likely trajectory of the rockets

            Impact Site Number 1
            The munition linked to this impact site, by observed and measured characteristics, indicatively matches one of the variants of the M14 artillery rocket, with either an original or an improvised warhead (not observed at the impact site). In the final stage of this trajectory, the projectile hit and pierced through a vegetal screen existing over one of the adjacent walls, before impacting the ground producing a shallow crater.
            The line linking the crater and the piercing in the vegetal screen can be conclusively established and has a bearing of 35 degrees. This line represents an inverse azimuth to the original trajectory of the rocket, that is to say, the original trajectory of the projectile, as it hit the ground, had an azimuth of 215 degrees.
            Impact Site Number 2 is located 65 meters away from number 1 and with an azimuth of 214 degrees. Both relative positions are fully congruent with the dispersion pattern commonly associated with rockets launched from a single, multi-barrel, launcher.

            Impact Site Number 4
            The munition related to this impact site by observed and measured characteristics indicatively matches a 330 mm caliber, artillery rocket. The projectile, in the last stage of its trajectory, hit the surface in an area of earthy, relatively soft, ground where the shaft/engine of the projectile remained dug in, undisturbed until investigated.
            The said shaft/engine, presenting no form of lateral bending, pointed precisely in a bearing of 285 degrees that, again, represent a reverse azimuth to the trajectory followed by the rocket during its flight. It can be, thus, concluded that the original azimuth of the rocket trajectory had an azimuth of 105 degrees, in an East/Southeast trajectory.

            The UN report carefully avoided laying blame for the incident.

            The trajectories of two different types of rockets were taken and the intersection calculated by someone else. UN and OPCW did not do that (maybe because they understood that different type of rockets did not have to come from the same place), somebody else (USA/UK?) made these claims.

            The trajectories of both rockets separately flew over both rebels and government controlled territories and as such could originate from either.

            The chemical weapons were considered to have come from Syrian army supplies so Assad had to surrender all his CW.
            He did under supervision of UN and OPCW observers.

          • DDTea

            You do realize the OPCW was not authorized to assign blame in Ghouta, right? Assad only consented to allowing them to enter Ghouta on that condition. I’ll remind you that regime forces delayed the inspectors from visiting Ghouta for 3 days–probably hoping the evidence would be compromised in that time. Do you think we’d forget these details?

            Nevertheless, the bit about the launch azimuths was their subtle way of fingering the regime.

          • Germann Arlington

            “You do realize the OPCW was not authorized to assign blame in Ghouta, right? Assad only consented to allowing them to enter Ghouta on that condition.”
            Are you serious?
            UN and OPCW would consent to presenting their findings if they were to find the positive proof? Would Assad disallow them to present their findings if the rebels were found to be responsible?

            ” I’ll remind you that regime forces delayed the inspectors from visiting Ghouta for 3 days–probably hoping the evidence would be compromised in that time.”
            I thought that the rebel controlled areas were attacked? How would regime forces prevent access to these areas?

    • Betrayer

      People being told to put on gas masks in a region where chemical weapon attacks are common is incredible? It would be more shocking if they weren’t told to do so.

      Reply
        • DDTea

          Yeah, and the sky is not blue either. Chemical weapons attacks do not occur every day in syria, but they have occurred more often than in any other conflict since the Iran-Iraq war. Either you are totally ignorant or trying to pull wool over our eyes.

          Reply
  2. Darren Smith

    DO you actually understand what the term ‘Binary’ means? It doesn’t mean several.

    TWO dangerous (albeit less so) pre-cursors are combined to create a more powerful agent.

    These can be stored. They are also stored in the actual weapons to be used.

    Idiot.

    Reply
      • frank

        Actually, I only just now realized the town is Al Nusra. What is all the fuss about? Why aren’t we carpet bombing the whole district?

        Reply
        • DDTea

          Because Syria claims to be “fighting terror.” Presumably one doesn’t blow up an entire building full of hostages to end a hostage situation. Unless they’re Russia.

          Reply
          • stranger

            So work with your noble “moderate opposition” as you call Al Nusra and other head choppers. Negotiate with them to release the hostages and their fighters to leave the living areas. Stop supplying weapon to them and providing mass media support.

          • stranger

            And stop blaming Russia for everything! There is much more lie and much more blood at US and “coalition” hands.

    • DDTea

      You’re pretending to be knowledgeable but in reality, you’re just obsessing over semantics.

      Binary Sarin = DF (diisopropyl difluorophosphate) + Isopropanol, with an amine base. Two components, not strictly “two precursors.” And no, they don’t have to be stored in the shell for mix-in-flight. They can be stockpiled as separate components then combined & loaded shortly before deployment.

      Reply
      • Paveway IV

        Binary Sarin can also originate from other production processes. The US still has a couple hundred tons of Di-Di process Sarin in Kentucky that it has not yet destroyed. Using that with tributylamine (and amine only known to be used by the US) is sure to produce a foul smell of some combination of fish, rotting garbage and chlorine. Moreso if mixed just prior to filling a warhead in field conditions.

        Based solely on the reports of smells in both Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun, one could infer that if Sarin was used, it was more likely to have been from US Di-Di process stockpiles rather than Syria’s DF-based process (regardless if employed as a unary or binary (mix-and-fill, or mix-in-flight).

        This still leaves open the issue of quantity. The amount a single aerial rocket from the roadside crater could not possibly have caused the number of injuries/casualties claimed unless the victims were in a confined space. That would lead one to favor a scenario where al Nusra killed hostages with Sarin and then staged the frantic efforts to ‘save’ them well after exposure.

        All useless speculation. Who am I to question Mattis and his convincing secret intel?

        Reply
        • DDTea

          “Based solely on the reports of smells in both Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun, one could infer that if Sarin was used, it was more likely to have been from US Di-Di process stockpiles rather than Syria’s DF-based process (regardless if employed as a unary or binary (mix-and-fill, or mix-in-flight).”

          You can’t make that inference solely on smell. ALL volatile amines smell like rotting fish/meat. Even hexamine, used in the Syrian formulation, smells quite rotten.

          “The amount a single aerial rocket from the roadside crater could not possibly have caused the number of injuries/casualties claimed unless the victims were in a confined space.”

          You missed Grouper42’s comment in the most recent post. The bold statement you make doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. 1) chemical bombs have burster charges that will scatter fragments of the weapon 200-300 yards away. The burster charge need not be very big (few kg’s) to cast the fragments this far, and most of the sarin will survive. This is how Iraq delivered Sarin to Halabja. 2) roads are dense surfaces and, in the absence of shaped charges, explosions follow a path of least resistance. The crater is plenty large.

          “That would lead one to favor a scenario where al Nusra killed hostages with Sarin and then staged the frantic efforts to ‘save’ them well after exposure.”

          This is batsh*t crazy, for the simple fact that you’re drawing positive conclusions from negative evidence.

          Reply
          • Woody

            You could benefit from the info provided by Paveway IV or others even if it contradicts your thoughts on the culpa.

            There has never been nor will ever be a shell that hauls the sarin load and makes itself obsolete without leaving distinctive marks. You have yourself referred to the UN GASC Ghouta docs. If you look to the pics, you see the shells – unexploded. The GASC docs describe the mechanism of those shells. There was no place for such explosive within the shells that you speak here.
            But if there was, the explosive would have left a clearer mark than that small dig on the road. The road is no Autobahn or Turnpike, just some village road with poor layer of rock – if any.
            I quite enjoy reading opposing considerations, and many times we humans can learn from the approaches others take. It is therefore my recommendation that you try that as well.

          • Paveway IV

            “You can’t make that inference solely on smell. ALL volatile amines smell like rotting fish/meat”

            Never smelled them all, but I’m damn sure isopropylamine (MIPA) has a sharp, chemical-like smell of ammonia, NOT like the foul, oily, fishy, persistent smell of tributylamine, whose lingering odors could easily be described as rotting fish/meat

            “Even hexamine, used in the Syrian formulation, smells quite rotten.”

            It has an unpleasant fishy-ammonia smell when you’re close to it, but nothing like tributylamine. It’s not likely that Syria used hexamine anyways because they had plenty of the standard, well-known amine used in Sarin: MIPA. In fact, the OPCW inspectors finding hexamine in Ghouta samples is a pretty good indication that they weren’t even inspecting CW weapon impact sites, but fuel-air or thermobaric munition impact sites. Sarin was used in Ghouta, but the evidence that it actually came from the warhead remains the OPCW were led to is weak at best. The OPCW was merely looking for evidence of the presence of Sarin – they were not mandated to, and didn’t care, whether they could prove it came from the spent munitions as claimed.

            Di-Di process Sarin also produces hydrochloric acid as a by-product that needs to be scavenged, not HF. The significance is that chlorine smells IN ADDITION to fishy ammonia smells suggests Di-Di process Sarin over DF+OPA. If it was Di-Di process Sarin, then it was absolutely supplied by a state actor and definitely not Syria.

            So I will still assert that – going only by smell – it’s more likely to have been Di-Di process Sarin (US or whomever) rather than Syria’s known DF+OPA process Sarin which would not have a persistent fishy-like residual smell.

            “You missed Grouper42’s comment in the most recent post. The bold statement you make doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.”

            Yet I make it because, to me, the impact site looks like a light mortar or maybe a 122mm rocket crater, not anything produced by a aerial CW bomb with a few hundred kg of Sarin and some entirely wrong fuzing. But why let that get in the way of your scrutiny?

            “This is how Iraq delivered Sarin to Halabja.”

            Oh, so you’re saying you’ve seen road impact craters of Iraqi weapons used in Halabja? Please share so we can apply some ‘scrutiny’. Or are you suggesting there was something special about the Iraqi weapons versus, say, everyone else’s air-dropped CWs?

            “2) roads are dense surfaces and, in the absence of shaped charges, explosions follow a path of least resistance. The crater is plenty large.”

            Plenty large – assuming inappropriate fusing and a substantially overpowered bursting charge on an impossibly thin-walled munition without stabilizing fins. Considering Syria has never had an air-dropped weapon suitable for dropping CWs, I suppose they could have made something in a garage somewhere. How about a “Chemical Barrel Bomb”?

            “This is batsh*t crazy, for the simple fact that you’re drawing positive conclusions from negative evidence.”

            Do you mean I’m using skepticism and critical thinking abilities rather than the clownish logic offered by al Qaeda’s White Helmets, Reuters and CNN based on social media ‘evidence’? Guilty!

          • DDTea

            “Never smelled them all, but I’m damn sure isopropylamine (MIPA) has a sharp, chemical-like smell of ammonia, NOT like the foul, oily, fishy, persistent smell of tributylamine, whose lingering odors could easily be described as rotting fish/meat”

            I routinely use mono-isopropylamine as a mobile phase modifier in thin layer chromatography. It smells like rotting fish, with some of the harshness of ammonia. I’ve smelled a lot of chemicals and have a tuned nose. I cannot discern, by odor alone, the difference between methylamine, dimethylamine, isopropylamine, triethylamine, tributylamine, etc. So no, you can’t possibly identify which amine was used on the basis of second hand information from untrained observers.

            “The significance is that chlorine smells IN ADDITION to fishy ammonia smells suggests Di-Di process Sarin over DF+OPA.”

            Hydrogen chloride does not smell like chlorine. Hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride smell similar, albeit the latter is far more irritating. Once again, relying on second hand observations can *at best* be used to say acidic fumes were present. Trying to discern HF from HCl based on someone else’s reports is ridiculous.

            “Yet I make it because, to me, the impact site looks like a light mortar or maybe a 122mm rocket crater, not anything produced by a aerial CW bomb with a few hundred kg of Sarin and some entirely wrong fuzing.”

            ISIS has footage of their drones dropping light mortars. They do not leave craters. Compare the yield of a 122mm rocket (~20kg warhead) to the explosion from a burster charge for a large chemical warhead. Dan presented examples ranging from 6.8 kg to 20 kg. In other words, exactly the same explosive yield.

            “Do you mean I’m using skepticism and critical thinking abilities rather than the clownish logic offered by al Qaeda’s White Helmets, Reuters and CNN based on social media ‘evidence’? Guilty!”

            No, I mean you would fail any introductory science course with your reasoning. Because you *don’t* see something (i.e.: negative evidence; there are no remains of the delivery vehicle), you indulge wild fantastical tales (positive conclusion; “this alternative theory, for which there is also no support, must be favored”). Don’t mistake critical thinking and skepticism for an overactive imagination.

    • Guest

      “This residual HF destroys nearly anything the Sarin is stored in, and quickly degrades the Sarin. The US and USSR had devoted a huge effort to finding a way out of this problem. They found different ways to refine the HF out of the Sarin using very expensive heavy chemical engineering techniques which, for obvious reasons, are best not described here.

      HF – hydrogen Fluoride – is a very weak acid and is easily stored in polyethylen cans or in metal cans. And additionally ist is very easy to be removed from the sarin.

      Reply
  3. Zaida

    One Assad’s cousin alone amassed a fortune of $6 billion. All power in Syria was, is concentrated in the hands of the butcher Assad and his clan. No wonder the other tribes want to get rid of him.
    If the butcher is gone, the 6 mio. refugees outside Syria plus the 5 mio. internally displaced ones might have a chance of returning to their homes.

    Reply
    • Germann Arlington

      Are you sure that so many Syrians want to remove Assad?
      If that were the case the mere 10-20,000 military loyal to Assad would not survive even 10 days, would they?

      Why did the majority of E.Aleppo residents whom “democratic rebels” were protecting from evil Assad did not follow the rebels to Idlib and stayed in government controlled zones? Surely they were going to be killed, why did they decide to risk it?

      The wealth of Assad and family is irrelevant in this discussion. The wealth of Saudi Arabian rulers is much higher, what does that prove?

      Reply
      • Zaida

        Without the help of his fellow butcher Putin – the guy who blew Alleppo to smithereens with indiscriminate aerial bombings killing tens of thousands of civilias – Assad would be gone a long time ago.
        No idea why some people support despots like Putin or Assad or the crazy Iranian mullahs.

        Reply
        • Germann Arlington

          Even with the help of fellow butcher Putin with his few thousand soldiers and with Iranian few thousand soldiers they could not withstand the uprising of few million Syrians with willing support from the West and Saudi Arabia.
          And they definitely would not stay in government controlled areas given a choice.
          Something does not add up.

          Reply
        • stranger

          First of all establish Assads responsibility. Conduct the investigation. Then blame based on the facts you have found.
          This demonization, Assad – butcher, Putin – dictator or vice verse are needed just to fool stupid people who don’t think but are driven by emotions. Repeat to them 1000 Assad – butcher armed they will welcome any war in Syria against Assad which is going to kill hundreds more people. That is actually happening in Syria for already 6 years. Every time US wants to start a war, the ideological treatment is painting monsters and then nobody asks why did the good guys invade and kill much more people fighting those mythical monsters. That is how it was in Yugoslavia, that is going on in Syria, that is why you demonize Putin. Prove your accusations first and then make the conclusions, not vice verse.

          Reply
          • Zaida

            What happened in Yugoslavia and now in Syria etc…is just clanish, tribal, sectarian warfare. Why to blame others if savages are killing each other?

          • stranger

            I don’t blame others. I’m just saying the demonization in mass media always is used to start another war. That the demonization even of the worst butcher is just a lying media picture. That we need to base on some more objective facts rather than political interests.

          • Mad Dog

            Kind of like the warehouse accusation. How about proving that. Should be really easy!

        • Germann Arlington

          “What happened in Yugoslavia and now in Syria etc…is just clanish, tribal, sectarian warfare. ”
          Why was Syria reasonably peaceful until USA decided that they don’t need it as ally against Iraq any more?

          Reply
          • Woody

            Why?

            Why do we read and write to this Mambo Jambo “blog” Bellingcat? Title here is Chemical realities of KS… – Should BC have a thread of “Realities of Syrian war”?

            Any discussion here is pointless unless you without hesitation approve that KS nuke attack was made by the Breznevians. How little the mankind has learned from US actions after 1953 coup in Iran and Gulf of Tonkin?
            Who recalls that Putin – and European leaders of that time – opposed Bush II entry into Irak? Putin would not be in Syria had Bush listened to other leaders. But…we now know what followed.

  4. Stein

    Can anyone explain better the impossibility of a reaction-in-the-warehouse scenario?

    I am thinking of the following hypotheticals. What if the binary components were indeed stored improperly, perhaps even in the same cabinet. (That is ‘odd’, but perhaps not unthinkable in civil war conditions, particularly if experienced personnel are not in this part of rebel-held Idlib.) When the building is bombed, the chemicals are not immediately consumed by fire, but simply knocked around, their containers broken by falling debris and heavy building materials. They mix on the floor beneath their former cabinet. The resulting mixture may be exposed to fire soon after.

    Within the confines of these hypotheticals, can anyone account for:

    A.) Whether contact with fire before a mixture takes place is indeed inevitable, and if not, what contact with fire would look like after a mixture, and
    B.) What the reaction between the two binaries on the floor would look like – is simply mixing in this fashion going to produce the kind of reaction we saw? Or does it need to be done in a more balanced, precise way?

    Reply
    • frank

      When unscathed passports of passengers/pilots at the Twin Towers, it was decried as evidence of falsification. The claim was that the passports could not have survived unscathed. In truth however, when there is a lot of explosive heat, there is a lot of turbulence and distribution of heat is uneven. It is unlikely that bombing a chemical store would destroy all the chemicals. This was the justification the US gave for NOT bombing the suspected CW store at the airbase.

      Reply
        • stranger

          They just renamed themselves to Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (the Front for the Conquest of the Levant). Nobody was fooled. The group under new name is still considered terroristic. Even by US. But mysteriously US save them from bombings and Assads offenses and probably reserve as a tool for the regime change.

          Reply
    • DDTea

      It would look like a blasted-out warehouse full of knocked over chemical barrels, partly scorched, full of debris and probably structurally unsound. You might see a panicked crowd of conspirators rushing in to clean up and cover-up, which would be a non-trivial operation. I’ve had to clean up a lab that had *not* been blown up or filled with deadly nerve gas, and it took days and days. In other words, if such a scenario were plausible enough to have occurred, it would be obvious to the journalists who visited the site afterward as well as to the various global intelligence agencies. Russia and Syria would not have missed the opportunity to present this damning evidence.

      But on the topic of the chemistry: if the materials mixed on the floor of a warehouse, the chemical leak would be contained. We wouldn’t expect to see huge numbers of chemical casualties from this incident within 5 minutes of the air raid–people suffocating in their basement bomb shelters.

      Reply
      • Stein

        “But on the topic of the chemistry: if the materials mixed on the floor of a warehouse, the chemical leak would be contained. We wouldn’t expect to see huge numbers of chemical casualties from this incident within 5 minutes of the air raid–people suffocating in their basement bomb shelters.”

        That’s the meat I am hoping to understand – so, if I understand correctly, the mixture without a high impact delivery method (bomb, shell, etc) is not very volatile.

        I am interested in how much the hypothetical mixture would fume, spread, etc., without any aid. If one were to pour the two binary components together on a flat surface in a controlled environment, what would the reaction look like? And I take it fire would not spread/diffuse the fumes from this mixture to a significant degree?

        The chronology of the attacks strikes me as odd, but I would rather disqualify the alternate versions of events on a theoretical basis – knowledge that could be useful to interpret future events as well. I was just concerned that the author put forward such a seemingly weak argument against the warehouse theory – that the components would be burned in flames before reacting. If the reaction would not create anything dangerous anyway, that’s what I want to read about.

        Reply
        • DDTea

          Q: ” If one were to pour the two binary components together on a flat surface in a controlled environment, what would the reaction look like?”

          You would start with two colorless liquids, one that’s volatile and smells strongly like rubbing alcohol mixed with rotting fish; the other that’s oily, colorless to pale yellow, and perhaps acrid smelling. The two would contact each other, warm up (but in my experience, not excessively). At the interface, you’d see white powder forming (amine-hydrogen fluoride complex). The fumes would be invisible. The resulting Sarin would resemble a more viscous water, perhaps discolored from impurities (pale yellow to brown being typical for crude organic reaction mixtures). It would evaporate at one third the rate of water.

          But in chemistry, everything is a competition. The fastest reactions happen at the expense of the slower ones. Combustion is about as fast a reaction as one can ask for. Sarin itself is not flammable, so a small, smouldering (not raging) fire might volatilize it. But isopropanol is volatile and highly flammable, and would ignite far more quickly than they would react with DF that adventitiously came into contact with them.

          Reply
          • stranger

            “But isopropanol is volatile and highly flammable, and would ignite far more quickly than they would react with DF that adventitiously came into contact with them.”
            That is a weak argument of Dan against the warehouse scenario. Just because the air blast-wave propagates much further than the heat-wave from the blast. The supposed containers with igradients could have been destroyed without any heat applied. Did Dan mean the direct impact, but there is also lower probability to hit directly than destroy by the blast wave.

          • frank

            The US issued a statement that they deliberately avoided Tomahawking the suspected Sarin storage at the airbase, precisely because their assessment was that bombing CW would cause dispersion. In my opinion it was an excuse to explain why no Sarin traces would ever be found at the airbase, despite Russian invitations for analysts to investigate

  5. John rolmbo

    I’m truly sorry the people of Syria are pawn in a war by proxy. But that said this gas attack was nothing more then a diversion tactic. You see here in America the intelligence agencies are up Trump’s rear as he was colluding with Russia to win the presidential election. Before the gassing that’s all the news and newspapers. Some in the intelligence agencies even going as far as mentioning that some in the administration probably would end up going to prison. Now you want to change the news about the colluding between Russia and the Trump campaign. Now they’ve changed the talking points and you don’t here anything about the Russia and Trump campaign colluding. $90 million for 59 cruise missiles is nothing if you want to remain president and stuff your pockets full of money.

    Now that man last name prince who sister became secretary of education and used to own Blackwater. He’s certainly I would consider a person of intrest apparently he hires people who provide this type of service to individuals and governments. Apparently if you got the money and want a dirty deed done he’s your man. Now with all the satellites in that area who can read a 2 inch long VIN on a vehicles Don’t tell me that when your recording everything worldwide and some of these satellites can see through clouds don’t tell me you don’t know this or that. I don’t think it was Assad just as I didn’t think it was Assad who commited the gas attack when United Nations inspectors had just checked into a hotel less than 5 miles from the site of that gassing attack. Someone is trying to set this guy up because of geopolitical reasons like wanting to run pipelines through Syria over land. They want the former Baltic states to get off Gazprom and buy thier gas from the U.S allies. Look at who would benefit by Assad being gone. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, UAE. I’V been watching ABC news since early this morning and not one word of what was all over every newspaper and every news channel just before the gassing. The colluding between Russia and the Trump campaign was the number one story. This whole thing is a diversion tactic and apparently most people swallowed it hook line and sinker.
    Rolmbo

    Reply
    • Dan Kaszeta

      You seem to not understand that I only have to file a single Companies House return once a year? And I’m a 1 man company. What is it you are trying to intuit from famously opaque UK Companies House filings?

      Reply
      • Germann Arlington

        I am familiar with UK system (I have worked through UK Limited Company for 20 years now) and your company accounts are by far not spectacular.

        Reply

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