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Summary of Claims Surrounding the Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack

July 4, 2017

By Eliot Higgins

Translations: Русский

In the wake of the April 4th 2017 chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, various parties have made claims about the circumstances surrounding the attack. With today’s publication of the OPCW’s report on the attack this article aims to summarise key allegations made by each party in a systematic fashion. This article looks at claims made by the Russian, Syrian, American, and French governments, Seymour Hersh’s articles in Welt, and the OPCW report.

Time

Russia

On April 5th 2017 Sputnik quoted Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov as stating that Syrian aircraft conducted an airstrike around “11.30 to 12.30, local time, [8.30 to 9.30 GMT]”.

Syria

Walid Muallem, Syria’s Foreign Minister, stated in an April 6th press conference the first Syrian air force attack in the town occurred at 11:30am local time.

America

On April 6th 2017 the Department of Defence released a map showing what the Pentagon claimed was the flight path taken by the aircraft that launched the chemical attack. The map key states the aircraft was over Khan Sheikhoun around 337 Zulu Time to 346 Zulu Time, 6:37am and 6:46am local time.

France

The French National Evaluation on the Khan Sheikhoun attack, published on April 26th 2017, stated the following: “The French services are aware in particular of a Sukhoi Su-22 bomber which took off from the Shayrat Airbase on the morning of 4 April and launched up to six strikes around Khan Sheikhoun.”

Hersh

Seymour Hersh’s June 25th 2017 article in Welt, Trump‘s Red Line states attack took place at 6:55 a.m.

OPCW

The OPCW states their narrative is based on interviews with witnesses, and not open source information or information provided by States Party.

The OPCW report states that at “approximately 06:30, alerts were issued via hand-held radios reporting that military jets had departed an airfield and were heading in the general direction of Khan Shaykhun, amongst other areas” and “shortly afterwards, there was a swooping sound, as made by a jet when it attacks, but without a subsequent loud explosive sound.”

Two witnesses provided by the Syrian government and interviewed by the OPCW gave different accounts from accounts given by multiple witnesses, and the OPCW were unable to corroborate those narratives.

Target

Russia

The Russian Ministry of Defence stated that “According to the objective data of the Russian airspace control, Syrian aviation struck a large terrorist warehouse near Khan Shaykhun that housed a warehouse making bombs, with toxic substances.” According to Sputnik, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov stated the target was “in the eastern outskirts of Khan Shaykhun on a large warehouse of ammunition of terrorists and the mass of military equipment.”

In addition, Sputnik reported that:

“Konashenkov said that from this warehouse, chemical weapons’ ammunition was delivered to Iraq by militants.

Konashenkov added that there were workshops for manufacturing bombs, stuffed with poisonous substances, on the territory of this warehouse. He noted that these munitions with toxic substances were also used by militants in Syria’s Aleppo.”

Russia has not provided a specific location for the warehouse.

Syria

Walid Muallem, Syria’s Foreign Minister, stated in an April 6th press conference the attack was on “an army depot belongs [sic] to the Al-Nusra Front which contains chemical weapons.”

Syria has not provided a specific location for the army depot.

America

The impact site was marked on the Department of Defence map of the attack, at around 35.449610, 36.648163, on the north side of Khan Sheikhoun:

France

The French National Evaluation only states the aircraft “launched up to six strikes around Khan Sheikhoun.

Hersh

In Trump‘s Red Line, Hersh states “The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site”, and the target “was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town.”

Hersh states Russian intelligence established “that a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders was to take place in the building, including representatives of Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida-affiliated group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra.”

According to the article, Russian intelligence described the building as “a command and control center that housed a grocery and other commercial premises on its ground floor with other essential shops nearby, including a fabric shop and an electronics store.” In addition:

The basement was used as storage for rockets, weapons and ammunition, as well as products that could be distributed for free to the community, among them medicines and chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial. The meeting place – a regional headquarters – was on the floor above. “It was an established meeting place,” the senior adviser said. “A long-time facility that would have had security, weapons, communications, files and a map center.” The Russians were intent on confirming their intelligence and deployed a drone for days above the site to monitor communications and develop what is known in the intelligence community as a POL – a pattern of life. The goal was to take note of those going in and out of the building, and to track weapons being moved back and forth, including rockets and ammunition.

Hersh has not provided the specific location of this two-story cinder-block building.

OPCW

The OPCW spoke to a number of witnesses to the attack, as well as considering various additional sources. Based on this, the impact of the munition linked to the release of Sarin into the environment is in the middle of a road on the north side of Khan Sheikhoun, close to the position indicated in the US Department of Defence map of the attack, 35.449610, 36.648163. The OPCW published a map of the crater:

 

Type of Attack

Russia

Russia stated Syrian aircraft performed the strike, providing no further information.

Syria

Syria stated Syrian aircraft performed the strike. Al Masdar News claimed Syrian military sources told them an attack on a missile factory in Khan Sheikhoun was carried out by a Syrian SU-22.

America

The Department of Defence map states the attack originated from the Shayrat Syrian Arab Air Force airfield. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated “We have a very high level of confidence that the attacks were carried out by aircraft under the direction of the Bashar al-Assad regime, and we also have very high confidence that the attacks involved the use of sarin nerve gas.”

France

France only describes aircraft launching “six strikes around Khan Sheikhoun“, but provides specifics about the Sarin used in the attack.

France claims to have carried out environmental samples collected at one of the impact points in Khan Sheikhoun, revealing the presence of Sarin, “”a specific secondary product (diisopropyl methylphosphonate – DIMP) formed during synthesis of sarin from isopropanol and DF (methylphosphonyl difluoride),” and hexamine. France adds a biomedical sample taken from a victim of the attack on the day of the attack shows the victim was exposed to sarin.

France states that intelligence gathered by French services indicates that “the process of synthesizing sarin, developed by the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) […] involves the use of hexamine as a stabilizer. DIMP is also known as a by-product generated by this process.” The French evaluation then details the 2013 Saraqib Sarin attack, from which they recovered an undetonated munition dropped from a helicopter containing “100ml of sarin at an estimated purity of 60%. Hexamine, DF and a secondary product, DIMP”.

Hersh

Hersh describes the attack on the “jihadist meeting site” as being performed by a Syrian SU-24, armed with a “Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives”. Hersh states as a result of that attack chemical agents were released that resulted in the casualties seen on April 4th.

OPCW

Multiple samples from the site acquired from various locals sources were tested, with Sarin, DIMP, DIPF, TPP, hexamine, and other substances related to sarin detected. The detection of additional chemical agents, such as chlorine, phosgene, or other organophosphates were not mentioned. The OPCW describes the chain of custody around these samples:

Most of the samples delivered to the FFM were supported by witness testimony and accompanied by documents, including photographs and video. Although the documentation and testimony, in most cases, provided a good degree of confidence in the chain of custody prior to receipt by the FFM, the entire chain of custody could not be categorically verified. Such samples included biomedical samples that were not collected in the presence of team members, environmental samples, and dead creatures (referred to biological-environmental samples).

One set of samples were provided by the Syrian government, after collection by an unnamed volunteer in Khan Sheikhoun, with a video recording of the collection provided. The Syrian government agency, the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), tested these samples and provided parts of the samples that were tested in OPCW laboratories. Both the SSRC and OPCW detected Sarin and hexamine from samples taken from the crater which was claimed to be the point of origin of the chemical agent by witnesses, and two metal objects removed from the crater. A number of other byproducts and degradation products from Sarin were also detected.

In addition, the OPCW analysed samples taken from victims of the attack and collected under the observation of the OPCW, which further confirmed the use of Sarin.

Aftermath

Russia

Russia provided no details of the aftermath of the attack. Russia Today reported Vladimir Putin stating that

“We have reports from multiple sources that false flags* like this one – and I cannot call it otherwise – are being prepared in other parts of Syria, including the southern suburbs of Damascus. They plan to plant some chemical there and accuse the Syrian government of an attack

Syria

Syria provided no details of the aftermath of the attack.

America

The US provided no specific details of the aftermath of the attack, with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley providing the following narrative in a speech tu the UN:

“The gas that fell out of the sky yesterday was more deadly, leaving men, women, the elderly, and children, gasping for their very last breath.

And as first responders, doctors, and nurses rushed to help the victims, a second round of bombs rained down. They died in the same slow, horrendous manner as the civilians they were trying to save.”

France

The French National Evaluation states:

“On 4 April 2017, air strikes against civilians in the city of Khan Sheikhoun killed more than 80 people. According to our experts, the symptoms observed immediately afterwards (pupil contraction, suffocation, bluing of lips, white foam on faces, convulsions), the high number of deaths, and the fact that certain responders and medical staff suffered secondary contamination are consistent with the use of a highly lethal neurotoxic agent. This has now been confirmed scientifically.”

Hersh

Hersh refers to a “Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military”, that determined that:

“the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered  a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground.”

Hersh refers to casualty figures based on opposition activists reports, 80 dead, and outlets such as CNN, with numbers as high at 92 dead.

Hersh also references a report by MSF which states victims showed signs of Sarin exposure, and “that victims smelled of bleach, suggesting they had been exposed to chlorine.”

Hersh concludes:

“evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.”

OPCW

The OPCW spoke to various witnesses to establish where the victims of the attack were found. Based on these interviews, and additional evidence, a map was created showing this area, southwest of the crater which produced samples that were positive for Sarin:

The OPCW details the initial scene as encountered by first responders:

Upon arrival at the site, first responders belonging to the SCD found, in addition to a small number of casualties exhibiting trauma type injuries, many civilians who appeared to have no external injuries. The symptoms of those exhibiting no external injuries, as described at that stage by non-medical personnel, included “people who were walking and then fell down”, suffocation, and muscle spasms.

Interviewees reported cases of exposure due to cross contamination, such that 10 members of the SCD presented mild to moderate symptoms and about five medical staff from medical facilities presented similar symptoms.

The OPCW collected data from medical facilities in northern Syria, including the the Idlib Health Directorate (IHD), and the Khan Shaykhun Medical Centre. The full details can be found in the report, with IHD data shown below:

Conclusion

It is apparent that there is a correlation between the narratives of the French and US governments, and the OPCW report. The Russian and Syrian government narratives are consistent with each other, but entirely inconsistent with the OPCW. The narrative presented by Seymour Hersh in his Welt piece, Trump‘s Red Line, is inconsistent with all other narratives.

Open source material, as previously collected and analysed by Bellingcat and others, is consistent with the French and US governments, and the OPCW report. It is worth noting that the OPCW report explicitly states their conclusions are not based on open source evidence.

 

Eliot Higgins

Eliot Higgins is the founder of Bellingcat and the Brown Moses Blog. Eliot focuses on the weapons used in the conflict in Syria, and open source investigation tools and techniques.

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61 Comments

  1. Geoffrey Norris

    When I posted a few days ago regarding the use of a Sarin Gas attack rather than simply bombing, which is horrific nonetheless, I was wondering what the author or others posting here think of how a Sarin attack benefits rebels and terrorists more than the Assad regime. Assad and the Syrian military may have committed this war crime, but I am still unconvinced that they are so shortsighted as to gas civilians to spread fear or create an exodus when non chemical bombing (still a terrible crime) would suffice. A very simple Google search brings up leaked documents and interviews of the plans to overthrow Assad dating back over a decade, with some going back nearly 40 years. If I can find this information in 10 seconds – Assad has access to these documents too. As do his generals. Perhaps he and his regime did plan this attack and commit this crime, but it seems strange that with what we know of regime change in the Middle East that they would decide to undertake one of the only actions that would lead to their downfall. I still feel that this attack benefits rebels and terrorists and regime change moreso than Assad.

    Reply
    • Louis Proyect

      ” it seems strange that with what we know of regime change in the Middle East that they would decide to undertake one of the only actions that would lead to their downfall.”

      I always wonder why people who read Assad’s mind and conclude that he would be nuts to use sarin gas never seem nearly so interested in what was in the minds of the rebels they accuse of mounting a “false flag”. Between the two Sarin gas attacks blamed on the rebels by Seymour Hersh, Theodore Postol, et al, 1800 supporters of the rebels were killed and 5000 wounded. What are we to make of men who are so heartless as to kill their own supporters, including many family members, on a gamble? And if they are so heartless, why haven’t they used such a deadly weapon a single time in 6 years of war on Assad’s military, his government bureaucracy or his wealthy supporters who could be reached by sarin-weaponized artillery in the Damascus suburbs that Postol blamed for the East Ghouta massacre. None of this makes any sense, of course. But for most supporters of the dictatorship, it doesn’t need to make sense. They are the latest version of 9/11 Trutherism that can’t be swayed by facts or logic. All they need to know is that there are head-choppers in Syria who need to be stopped in their tracks by Assad and Putin. It is Christopher Hitchens-style Islamophobia updated to meet “anti-imperialist” dogma.

      Reply
      • Mad Dog

        Gee I like your response Louise. Some folks here remind me of the Flat Earthers seen on another thread, totally convinced that the earth is flat, gravity is fiction and it is all part of a hoax foisted on us by NASA.

        Reply
      • mark vincent

        You seem to believe that rebels who regularly use their own population’s as human shields would have any qualms about causing the deaths of a few more by staging a false flag.
        As for logic, why don’t you try using it sometime,your assertion that if the rebels had access to Sarin they would use it against the regime is silly, if they used Sarin against Assad supporters they would lose a lot of outside support as no normal person would ever support the use of CWs no matter who used them.
        Better to use them in a scenario where the Syrian Government will be blamed therefore creating a pretext for American intervention to topple Assad which has been the American aim from the very beginning of the conflict.
        CWs are a weapon of last resort, Assad is in a stronger position now than he was some years ago so why didn’t he use CW’s then, it doesn’t make sense does it.
        Use your head mate, Assad may or may not be the worst person in the world but is he that stupid that he would do the very thing that would bring about his downfall.

        Reply
        • Louis Proyect

          As for logic, why don’t you try using it sometime,your assertion that if the rebels had access to Sarin they would use it against the regime is silly, if they used Sarin against Assad supporters they would lose a lot of outside support as no normal person would ever support the use of CWs no matter who used them.

          This is absurd. We have heard repeatedly that Khan Sheikhoun was under the control of Salafist goons who had already supposedly used chemical weapons made up of a combination of white phosphorus and chlorine against Assad’s military in East Aleppo according to Scott Ritter. Now Ritter’s account is not backed up by any media outside of Sputnik et al but according to all the Assadist trolls posting here, the jihadists in Khan Sheikhoun could care less about what the world thought of them. They would chop your head off for smoking a cigarette, right?

          Reply
          • mark vincent

            The head hoppers wouldn’t have the brains to carry out an operation of this nature, as we know there are a multitude of groups operating in Syria.
            Some are more sophisticated than others ,some hate each other more than Assad, it would be very easy for a small group of jihadists with the proper skills to carry out an operation without the knowledge of the locals.

        • Mad Dog

          Huh? pretext for American intervention to topple Assad which has been the American aim from the very beginning of the conflict.
          That is a pretty interesting accusation, but there are no facts to back it up. If the US wanted to topple Assad bad enough, they could have done it much earlier, before any Russian intervention. But based on your scenario, all those folks demonstrating for a fair shake were pawns of the US. Right….

          Reply
          • Geoffrey Norris

            Mad dog, perhaps you have heard of WikiLeaks but don’t follow their releases closely. Their first major release, from 2010, were of US state dept cables. One such release is a lengthy memo by a Mr. William Roebuck who was stationed at the US embassy in Damascus. The cable outlines, and exposes, the intention of the US government in Syria towards regime change dating back to Dec 2006, 5 years before the Arab Spring. The intention was to flame sectarian division and exploit Assad’s weaknesses so as to benefit American interests in Syria. It’s a fascinating read from a Foreign Service officer who worked under Bush (w) and later Obama in other embassies such as Iraq and Libya. Simply google Roebuck and WikiLeaks. Many articles, and the memo itself will appear. As for the legitimate Syrian people demonstrating, they surely deserve a fair shake, but it may have to wait until Syria is not under attack from outside forces. To be clear Assad and his regime are not innocent, and if various accusations are true they are horrible criminals, but maybe they had reason to suspect foreign powers or the CIA were trying to stage a coup towards regime change during the spring of 2011. And why would they suspect that? Because that’s what the CIA has done in other countries and, as we now know from the WikiLeaks releases, they considered regime change an objective for promoting American interests in Syria. Or perhaps he, Assad, didn’t want to be sodomized by a knife and beaten to death by a mob like Ghadaffi was in Libya so he rushed to silence all criticisms not matter how minor.

          • mark vincent

            There is loads of evidence, the USA has admitted they are funding rebels in Syria, just as they funded Taliban rebels in Afghanistan, just as they have funded rebels in South America and the far East the common denominator in each case was to facilitate regime change.
            The reason they don’t intervene directly is because public opinion back home is against it, so they would need a pretty strong pretext to justify getting directly involved and alleged gas attack could be just the pretext they need.
            No one is claiming that America would actually support such an attack but they would certainly take advantage of one if it occurred, this fact is not lost on those who want rid of Assad.

          • Azriel

            Geoffrey Norris,

            First of all, administrations do not have the same foreign policy. What you’re refering to is the one by the Bush administration. Secondly, the cirumstances have changed as you can see by the french, turkish, brittish and also the american stance towards Assad – which is that he can remain on a temporary basis and not a condition to remove him for a political process. In fact, the U.S has been clear that the status of Assad is to be decided by the syrian people. This stance is shared by its western allies too.

            So you’re way of brining a 11 year old cable of an era where the Bush administration toppled regimes based on the Bush doctrine is pretty low.

            The CIA has, and problebly continues, supported rebels with arms, but right now that has been limited to some groups and with the aim of keeping leverage against Russia and Assad. No reasonable person would argue that Assad can be toppling by supporting the rebels anymore. That method died when the russians intervened on behalf of Assad.

            It seems like you’re not at all well-read on updated on the position of U.S in Syria. Maybe you just dont understand it, which is not your fault considering the very huge shifts and vague comments both by this and the previous administration on Syria.

            To claim what you claim is simply not true.

      • Geoffrey Norris

        I would say firstly that I’m not a supporter of the Assad dictatorship, and I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories. I would also say that having the wealthiest, most powerful, and militaristic country on earth targeting a specific region to exploit it for its own self interest is also not a positive. I could even go one step further and say the rebels and terrorists may not be religious at all and it doesn’t change the fact that powerful forces are looking for a way to bring about regime change. WMD’s worked for Iraq so why not go for a second helping? This proxy war has the two largest oil companies, correction, countries – fighting over access to resources and we are supposed to pick sides over which regime is less horrific. Assad is horrific and the “rebels” are horrific. But will regime change make things better or worse for Syrians or USA?

        Reply
        • Mad Dog

          Huh? “but it may have to wait until Syria is not under attack from outside forces.” Such as who. Who was attacking them when they decided to attack peaceful demonstrators. What does any of this have to do with an 11 year old cable. Of course the Bush and other admins were interested in getting rid of the Assad Nepocracy for very good reasons, none of which have anything to do with oil. Why stand by and defend people like the Assad family when they are by far the biggest perpetrators of untold brutality against their citizens. Of course the Jihadis saw a chance to play a role here, but only after folks realized the only way to get regime change after the initial brutality is with arms. Russian apologists lump all opponents as terrorists, just like the Russians do at home, the only good dissident being a dead dissident. The CIA played no role in this as Assad is fully to blame.

          Reply
          • mark vincent

            The Americans have supported and still support far worse than Assad, get your head out of the sand.
            Assad has to go for geopolitical reasons ,the Israeli government has stated that it wants Assad assassinated and his government brought down and replaced with a government which is acceptable to Israel and America.
            Israel wants rid of Assad because he supports the rights of the Palestinian people he also supports Hezbollah which is regarded as a threat by Israel.
            Your nonsense about all these terrorists being some sort oppressed people is delusional, do “dissidents” use car bombs and suicide bombers against innocent civilians or cut the heads of kids.
            Assad has the right to defend his country and people against terrorism, Syria is probably a more democratic country than either Israel or America.

          • Geoffrey Norris

            Mad dog, the 11 year old cable I referenced was to show there was pretext for regime change. And again, if that cable was available to view the year before the Arab Spring I’d imagine Assad and the Syrian government knew of these plans as well. Furthermore, if the Syrian government and military was aware and anticipating interference from Western powers then acting out harshly and brutally against protesters may have been a natural reflex to hold onto control. That doesn’t mean the Syrian governments action aren’t criminal, but it does lead one to question whether or not foreign actors played a larger role in the Arab Spring. As another interesting piece of evidence, you can watch former Secretary of State John Kerry in an interview before Congress stating that multiple Arab states were willing to pay for the United States to invade Syria. Nevertheless, if there was absolutely zero support from outsiders in the spring of 2011, the paranoia surrounding Assad’s regime may be directly linked to evidence that I’ve referenced and thus forced his hand. As for the author of the cable in question, he later worked under Obama in Iraq, Libya, and Bahrain. Perhaps Obama couldn’t find any other qualified people to work at those embassies rather than a career State Dept officer that openly was pushing for regime change in Syria, or perhaps the pieces change but the game remains the same. As for this proxy war not being about oil you technically are correct. The truth is this proxy war is about LNG, liquified natural gas, not oil specifically. Rather than me writing a 10,000 word essay you can simply google search LNG alongside either Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Russia, USA, Ukraine etc etc. and find dozens of articles and interviews or even videos about the subject. It’s quite fascinating and not as cut and dry as the view that this “civil war” has nothing to do with oil, the CIA, or regime change. Hopefully this proxy war is nearing its conclusion and peace can once again come to the people of Syria so they can decide the fate and future of their country rather than it being decided by foreign governments.

    • Azriel

      ” Assad and the Syrian military may have committed this war crime, but I am still unconvinced that they are so shortsighted as to gas civilians to spread fear or create an exodus when non chemical bombing (still a terrible crime) would suffice.”

      Chemical weapons are far more lethal and scarier than getting killed by bombs. Also, you can see how the regime has dropped chlorine-filled barrel bomb on civilian areas, not purely to kill, but rather to terrorize a popoulation by the effects of chemicals. Otherwise why would you use chlorine if not to scare? They are shit if intend to kill.

      Also, you mention that the regime wouldn’t be stupid enough to undertake actions that would lead to his downfall. This could not be more erronious and ill-informed on the situation in Syria. Neither Libya or Iraq were attacked because they used CW. The latter used them during Iraq-Iran war, but that was not the main reason. The Libyan and Iraq regimes were downed for geopolitical reasons. If the U.S wanted to down the Syrian regime military they have enough reasons to do it without the pretext of a Gas-attack. the U.S position right now is not the bring about the downfall of the regime, rather the downfall of the Syrian leader through political means and not military ones. Besides, the U.S themselves, true or not, have said that the syrian regime have used chemical weapons in the past and attributed the two major ones (Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun) to the regime. If they wanted reasons they already had, yet you dont see Trump wanting to militarily down Assad. This is why your assumption that this attack was meant to serve as a pretext for regime change is very wrong, if not false.

      Reply
      • mark vincent

        The Americans have stated that if there is another gas attack then Assad and his regime will pay a heavy price, that means that the Americans will intervene directly against Assad and his forces so why would Assad want to use CWs.
        The Israelis have said that they want Assad assassinated and his Government replaced, so it is obvious that regime change is still very much on the cards.
        A single gas attack here and there is of no tactical or strategic benefit to Assad so why would he do it.

        Reply
        • Azriel

          The Trump administration has indeed stated that Assad would pay a “heavy price” if he would use gas again, but what that means is open for interpretation. It most likely means a retaliation with missiles against a military base like they did in Hama. It is highily unlikely that it would mean something that would greatly weaken the Assad regime in favor for the rebels or directly topple the regime. If the U.S is eager to topple him they have enough reasons to do it with. You’ve had two major chemical attacks, barrel bombs and reports of chlorine attacks in eastern Ghouta (this just a week ago). What more do you need? Can you not see how illogical your stated theory is…?

          You’re writing “Israelis” as if it is the position of the whole Israeli government or state. It was ONE Israeli minister who said it. So to claim that the Israeli government is very much in favor of regime change based on that is kinda weak. Also, it does not seem like Israel’s interests are being taken into account in Syria at all. We’re still seeing the massing of Iranian and Iraqi Shia militias in southern Syria, especially bordering to Israel. So l fail to see how Israel is relevant at all here – whether they want Assad dead or not does not mean squat. Just look at how the U.S handled the Iran-problem.

          “A single gas attack here and there is of no tactical or strategic benefit to Assad so why would he do it.” Tell me exactly what the rebels have gained by gassing themselves or what the Americans/Saudis/Turks or w/e have gained by staging so-called “false-flags”? It seems to me like they are doing Assad a favor by gassing the families of the rebels and weakening their combat morale and not doing anything against Assad (except tickling the airbase of Assad, which was functioning only days after the attack mind you).

          Ask Assad himself or his generals why he used gas. At this point – almost everything leads to him and his regime.

          Reply
          • mark vincent

            I have already explained why it is unlikely that Assad would sanction the use of Gas , the costs simply outweigh the benefits.
            Assad had large stock piles of CWs since the beginning of the conflict and even though he was at one point in danger of being defeated he still didn’t use them ,so why would he start using them now when is a far stronger position.
            The only beneficiaries from these alleged gas attacks are his enemies.

          • Azriel

            Mark,

            A U.N-report already determined that Assad and ISIS used chlorine gas. So you’re just blatantly wrong. It’s that easy.

      • Geoffrey Norris

        As to your points regarding the use of CW’s rather than other weapons of war, again I would point to Assad and his military knowing that using CW’s is perhaps the only way to draw the ire of the civilized world and thus intervention. Especially Sarin. The US has no problems manufacturing and selling cluster bombs or using white phosphorus, or bombing civilians, but Sarin is the buzzword that triggers a reaction from the media and is a dog whistle for the population at large. Sarin equals bad. Assad used Sarin. Assad is bad. It is that simple. Similarly, WMD’s for Iraq. As you stated, Iraq was not invaded because it used CW’s, in fact it was invaded for trumped up tales that they had WMD’S. You still need support to wage war, so that is why those lies were utilized. Supposedly millions of Americans still believe Iraq had WMDs because manufacturing consent is very powerful. So you might be right that the Pentagon or the CIA could decide it is time to intervene at any moment, but without a willing public it could prove detrimental to the political class and elected officials. Even the soldiers themselves might not have the taste for another Mideast intervention – at least without a strong motivating factor like killing beautiful babies. Also let’s not forget that Russia and it’s relationship with Syria blocks the Western Imperial powers from jumping headfirst into conflict and requires delicacy so it’s not easy to invade Syria unlike Afghanistan or Iraq. Finally, as I’ve stated in other posts, it is not hard to find WikiLeaks references to the state dept wanting to encourage regime change, and there is a long list of countries across the globe that the CIA, and others, have successfully overthrown in a similar manner. As the great Pete Townshend wrote in Won’t Get Fooled Again, meet the new boss: same as the old boss.

        Reply
        • Azriel

          So bascially your whole reasoning is based upon the assumption that the U.S/rebels staged a chemical attack and blamed it on the syrian government in order to attract U.S domestic public support for a possible regime change in Syria?

          The Obama administration didnt attack Assad despite 1 300 were killed in Ghouta and a public opinion that was against a potential intervention. Why do you think a 100 more deaths would change the public opinion so dramatically? Do you seriously believe that…?

          Cant you see the flaw in your own argument, or are you to blinded by your tunnel vision?

          Reply
          • Geoffrey Norris

            Azriel, I do not know if the CIA or others and the so called rebels staged a chemical attack but it would not be shocking if this was the case. And just as I do not know, neither do you which is why we have this back and forth. As to the CIA, they historically have little regard for the human toll of their shortsighted goals. Hardly anyone batted an eye when it became apparent they, the CIA , was directly involved in importing and profiting from cocaine sales in the United
            States. That is sick and morally indefensible and considering it was targeting their own citizens, why would killing 100 foreigners be out of the ordinary or unbelievable? Furthermore, they are training people to fight against the Syrian forces so I would put them as squarely opposed to Assad. And again, there is evidence that the US has wanted to oust Assad for quite some time. Nevertheless, this gas attack immediately draws negative attention from nearly every foreign government and manufactures consent for the average person to go along with intervention or outright invasion. During Obama’s tenure the wheels were set in motion but the people may have intervention fatigue after the disasters of Iraq and Libya. The media did press hard though. The photo of the dead child on the beach and the videos of children killed by gas attacks pulled on heartstrings so as to turn opinions against Assad. But it didn’t work well enough…yet. As to another 100 deaths on the pile in this dumpster fire or a war, if all attention is focused upon this gas attack it will affect popular opinion. Or at least it becomes a concrete fact to the average person that Assad is an outright monster. (He is terrible by the way). These types of media events matter a great deal. When the news media spotlights a world event it pushes an agenda. I am not revealing anything new. Everyone knows this. This leads to an interesting question though as to why does this specific attack matter so much more than others to anyone anywhere outside of Syria? The conservative estimates put the death toll of this “civil war”, at nearly 200,000 deaths and is likely much much higher and closer to 400,000. Plus there is the migrant crisis which is a complete failure of the West. But 100 dead from a gas attack is a bridge too far? It’s common enough for a suicide bomber to kill 100 people at one time and those attacks are not given one one millionth of a percent of the attention as the Khan Shaykhun bombing for some reason. This is what I question. Could Assad have perpetrated this attack? Yes, definitely. But to ignore all of these red flags surrounding this disturbing and horrific incident is simply choosing to ignore that many foreign powers are interested in their own interests and not the innocents murdered over a proxy war between enormously wealthy oil trading nations. Tunnel vision is failing to consider alternatives, and not questioning the entire situation. I am trying to grasp what is happening, not simply accept what the media wants me to accept. The push to promote this attack as justification for further intervention hasn’t worked yet but perhaps the 3rd times a charm. Good luck to the innocent caught up in this proxy war, or in Yemen, or whatever proxy war is yet to come.

          • Azriel

            Geoffrey Norris,

            I am amazed how you wrote a wall of text and didn’t even touch the points made.

            Can you give me an example of CIA intentionally killing civilians or helping stage a comparable incident as a false-flag? Let’s assume that the CIA would do something like that. To what end? To justify a military intervention? I just told you that there is several reasons for the U.S to attack Syria by citing previous chemical attacks, such as the one in Ghouta. Yet that didn’t happened. Neither public opinion nor the administration was interested in a military action to end the Assad regime.

            The U.S has been interesting in ending the Assad regime by a political settlement, hence the unwillingness to engage in a military action against Assad to end his reign. So your point that the false-flag would serve as a basis for an intervention is simply wrong.

            The rebels in eastern Ghouta are mostly made up of Syrians. It seems to me to be illogical for them to gas their own families or their friend’s families in a false-flag operation.
            The more you write, the more l understand you have very little or no knowledge about the Syrian conflict. It seems like you’re fed up with what you read on dubious newsfeed.

          • Germann Arlington

            “So bascially your whole reasoning is based upon the assumption that the U.S/rebels staged a chemical attack and blamed it on the syrian government in order to attract U.S domestic public support for a possible regime change in Syria? ”
            Why do you feel that any theories about the alternative reasons and methods of CW deployment have to be proven beyond reasonable doubt and the original American and official allegations against Assad’s government don’t deserve the same scrutiny?
            Let’s verify the original allegations first and then only when their have some factual basis we should start examining the defence case.
            Is not that the usual legal process?

  2. Adrian D.

    I asked this on another thread, but this one seems to be more active. Can anyone point me to any of the ‘wealth of witness’ statements that Elliott Higgins says exists in his piece about what a Khar Sheikhoun conspiracy theory would entail?

    I’m interested in reports from the scene itself (not the hospitals afterwards). So far I’ve found just a few from HRW, Amnesty, Al Jazeeera and a couple of lines from the OPCW report – all very sketchy and hugely contradictory (some mention smoke, some do not, some said they choked, others could do quite complex tasks without being effected).

    Thanks.

    Reply
  3. Adrian D.

    Asking again – can anyone point me to the ‘wealth’ of witness statements that Mr Higgins has claimed exists regarding the KS incident? Thank you.

    Reply

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