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What the OPCW-UN JIM’s Leaked Report on Khan Sheikhoun Tells Us About Russia’s Denials and Syria’s Sarin

October 27, 2017

By Eliot Higgins

Translations: Русский

The new report from the OPCW-UN’s Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) on chemical attacks in Syria, provided to the UN Security Council yesterday, and leaked earlier today, shows that, despite Russian and Syrian protests, there’s now clear evidence that Syria was responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun Sarin attack, and alternative versions of events presented by Russia and Syria are fabrications.

The leaked 39 page report examines two chemical attacks in detail, the April 4th Sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun and a September 2016 sulphur mustard attack by ISIS on the town on Umm Hosh. Following reports by the OPCW Fact Finding Mission (FFM) confirming the use of chemical weapons in these incidents the JIM’s task is to establish who is responsible for the attacks. The report provides various details of the JIM’s investigation process:

Over the course of conducting its investigations into the incidents at Umm Hawsh and Khan Shaykhun, the Mechanism undertook the following key activities:
(a) obtained and reviewed information and material from the Fact-Finding Mission;
(b) collected information from open sources;
(c) submitted requests to Member States, including the Syrian Arab Republic, for information;
(d) interviewed witnesses, including during visits to the Syrian Arab Republic, and obtained photographs, videos, documents and other materials;
(e) obtained analysis and expert assessments from several forensic institutes;
(f) obtained satellite imagery and analysis thereof;
(g) obtained expert analysis in respect of medical effects, munitions and their delivery methods, aircraft configuration and capabilities, plume dispersion, and chemistry of toxic agents;
(h) obtained information about weather conditions; and
(i) attended expert briefings. Upon obtaining the above-mentioned information, the Mechanism conducted extensive analysis of the information and material it had obtained.

It also details what it sought to establish who was responsible for the attacks:

In order to identify those responsible, the investigation sought to establish to the greatest extent feasible the circumstances of the use of the chemical weapons, including in respect of the following:
(a) the precise date and time of the incident;
(b) the impact location;
(c) the munition used;
(d) the munition delivery method; and
(e) the medical effects and response.
In collecting and analysing the information in relation to the incidents, the Mechanism prepared a case file for each incident, documenting the information collected, as well as the analysis performed in respect of each scenario.

In the case of Khan Sheikhoun the JIM states that it “examined eight possible scenarios as to how the incident occurred”, and based on information received two scenarios were further investigated:

(a) sarin was released via an aerial bomb; or
(b) sarin was released via the explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED) placed on the ground.

A third scenario, with two alternative versions of the scenario, was also investigated, but neither versions of the scenario were found to be linked to the release of Sarin. This third scenario is the release of chemical agents following the bombing of buildings in Khan Sheikhoun. Variations of this scenario were proposed by Seymour Hersh in his article Trump’s Red Line in Welt, in Garth Porter’s article Have We Been Deceived Over Syrian Sarin Attack? Scrutinizing the Evidence in an Incident Trump Used to Justify Bombing Syria on Alternet, and Syria’s and Russia’s initial claims about the Khan Sheikhoun attack that a chemical weapons warehouse had been bombed. Regarding the Syrian and Russian chemical weapons warehouse claim the JIM report states the following:

The location, referred to in some public statements as a terrorist ammunition depot, appears to be a building used by the Syrian Civil Defence as a medical point in the eastern outskirts of Khan Shaykhun. Apart from the fact that victims of the sarin incident earlier that morning had been treated there, the Mechanism did not link that location to the release of sarin.

The JIM report is the first time the Russian and Syrian claims have been linked to this location, with the Russians and Syrians previously failing to provide any details about the specific location they claimed was bombed. This may be because the activities around the location, treating victims of the attack, were well documented, as well as the moment the medical point was attacked, with no signs of it being a chemical weapons warehouse.

The JIM spoke to witnesses who referred to reports of a house “taken over by a non-State armed group and thereafter used for storage of ammunition and barrels”, the location of which was identified on satellite imagery as being damaged between 21 February and 6 April 2017, and was one of the locations in line with a smoke plume visible in video footage published online claiming to show the attack, and verified by the JIM’s investigation. The JIM report states that images of the house examined by an independent expert showed damage that “was consistent with an explosion being caused by an air-delivered thermobaric bomb or fuel air explosives.” It goes on to state that samples taken by the Syrian Arab Republic from the site showed no traces of sarin or its degradation products. While both Seymour Hersh and Garth Porter both claimed Sarin was not actually the chemical agent dispersed in the attack, the JIM makes very specific claims about the Sarin used that would discount any scenarios where Sarin was not dispersed, or was dispersed by the accidental combination of precursors.

The JIM report contains details of where and when the attack occurred that are consistent with the OPCW Fact Finding Mission’s earlier report, and other reporting on the attack. At between 0630 and 0700 hours an aircraft dropped a munition on Khan Sheikhoun, Syrian Arab Republic aircraft were flying in the area, Sarin emanated from a crater created on the morning of April 4. It is the creation of this crater, shown below, that is central to Russia’s and Syria’s claims:

In this scenario, an explosive charge placed on the ground containing Sarin was detonated, as to stage an attack the Syrian Arab Republic would be wrongly blamed for. The Syrian Arab Republic provided the JIM with a report that set out this scenario in more detail:

In the report, the Government concluded that the shape of the crater, its characteristics and the lack of physical evidence did not indicate that it had been the result of an air strike. It was noted that the shape, depth and content of the crater had not been compatible with the effect of an aerial bomb, but that the crater and its contours indicated that it had been the result of a ground explosion using a device weighing not more than 10 kg. In support of its position, the Government referred to the incompleteness of the debris of the alleged explosion and the absence of any residues of the bomb or rocket, including a rocket motor, tail or fins. It was also stated that three pieces from an unknown source had been deliberately placed, including the remnants of an alleged shell. The Government stated that that confirmed that the scene had been fabricated to suggest the crater had been the result of the explosion of an aerial bomb. The report further noted that the crater and its surroundings had contained traces of live agent (sarin) and its degradation products, which had been found 10 days after the alleged attack, thus indicating that the explosion had not led to the dispersion of the full content of the sarin container, and that the explosion had not been well calculated.

A similar scenario was recently described by Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov Head of the Russian delegation in UNGA First Committee, Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control of the MFA of Russia on the margins of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly:

A question comes into mind – what has actually happened in Khan Shaykhun? Unlike some of our partners we do not intend to categorically impose our point of view. We believe that JIM must work out all versions including air strike. We expect at the same time that the version of staged incident would also be carefully studied since frankly speaking we tend more and more to opt for that version. It is supported in particular by the following circumstances. The analysis of the photographs of explosion crater leads us to doubt that it was a result of an air bomb strike. According to Russian military experts if the air bomb were used the crater would be five to six meters in diameter and up to two meters deep. The photo and video footage prove that the shape of the crater in Khan Shaykhun is much smaller – 1 to 1,5 meters in diameter and only half a meter in depth. Moreover the size and geometrical shape of the crater and the direction of the rims of asphalt pavement on its perimeter not outwards but inwards the hole in the ground formed after the explosion prove that the explosion of sarin container was set off directly on the ground. Most likely the improvised explosive device was placed on its surface and the container had less than 1,2 kg of chemical agent. The version of a bomb used in Khan Shaykhun so popular among some of our western partners is refuted by the fact that no fragments of the bomb were detected on numerous photo and video materials from the site of event. However a crushed metallic tube is clearly seen in the explosion hole, which has nothing to do with the air bomb. It is obvious that this was a key material evidence that could clarify the method of sarin use and help track down the perpetrators.

The Ambassador later refers to the work of Ted Postol on Khan Sheikhoun, whose work on the attack has been criticised for being filled with basic errors, and who has presented his own variation of the above scenario, claiming the White House version of the attack, which is consistent with the OPCW-UN JIM report, is “obviously false“.

The claim that an IED was used is examined in detail in the JIM report, who asked a “defence research institute”, a “specialist forensic institute”, and individual experts to review the evidence. They consistently agreed the ground had been hit at high velocity by a heavy object, which was inconsistent with scenarios where an IED was used:

The expert analysis found that the characteristics of the crater were consistent with having been hit by a heavy object travelling at a high velocity, probably with a liquid fill. Any explosion from the burster charge would be small and, furthermore, the liquid surrounding the burster charge would have absorbed most of the energy from the explosion. The Mechanism notes that, based on the foregoing, the characteristics of the crater are more likely to have been caused by an aerial bomb with a small explosive charge, and that it probably contained liquid.

With the the alternative scenarios presented by Russia, Syria, and others examined and deemed improbable, this leaves the scenario in which the Syrian Air Force bombed Khan Sheikhoun with Sarin. While the JIM presents a range of evidence that supports this scenario, much of which is consistent with earlier open source investigations, on the ground reporting, and the work of the OPCW Fact Finding Mission, the most significant evidence is the chemical analysis of samples from Khan Sheikhoun. The report states the production of Syria’s Sarin uses the binary route, in which methylphosphonic difluoride (DF) is combined with isopropanol (iPrOH) in the presence of hexamine to produce Sarin. Hexamine has been theorised as playing this role in the Syrian’s Sarin production process by Dan Kaszeta since 2013, as has its presence at Sarin attacks site as an indicator of the Syrian government’s involvement in Sarin attacks. The JIM’s analysis identifies a number of “marker chemicals” relating to the use of DF which further links the Syrian government to the Khan Sheikhoun attack.

The JIM report reveals that:

During the removal of the stockpile belonging to the Syrian Arab Republic in 2014, the OPCW collected samples from the sarin precursor methylphosphonic difluoride (DF) before the rest of the stockpile was destroyed. The Mechanism commissioned a laboratory to study and compare the impurities, and their formation, in samples of stockpiled DF. Five different samples from the Syrian Arab Republic DF stockpile were analysed for impurities.

These impurities act as the marker chemicals which the JIM uses to identify the presence of Syrian Arab Republic DF in the Sarin used in Khan Sheikhoun:

The samples from Khan Shaykhun contain the three types of marker chemicals described above: PF6, isopropyl phosphates and isopropyl phosphorofluoridates. Their presence is a strong indicator that the sarin disseminated in Khan Shaykhun was produced from DF from the Syrian Arab Republic stockpile.

In addition, the presence of certain chemicals indicates the level of technology and skill required to manufacture the Sarin used:

Based on the foregoing, the Mechanism concludes that the presence of the marker chemical PF6 is evidence that HF was used to produce the DF that was the precursor for the sarin released in Khan Shaykhun. HF is a very aggressive and dangerous gas and is, therefore, difficult to handle. The use of HF indicates a high degree of competence and sophistication in the production of DF and points towards a chemical plant type production.

Despite attempts by some to claim the Sarin used on April 4th was some sort of Jihadi bathtub Sarin used to falsely implicate the Syrian government, or Sarin was planted at the scene and its degradation products injected into victims to fool the OPCW, it is clear the above result exclude these scenarios. Most importantly of all, the OPCW-UN JIM report states the following:

An initial screening of the reports concerning previous incidents of the release of sarin in the Syrian Arab Republic showed that some marker chemicals appeared to be present in environmental samples. This would warrant further study.

This may go someway to explaining why Syria’s ally on the UN Security Council, Russia, seems keen to veto the extension of the OPCW-UN JIM’s mandate, preventing them from investigating further incidents.

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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  1. Adam Larson

    They’re “confident.” Confidence artists, among other people, will say or try to convince you of that.

    Eliot, anyone: what do we make of the claim “the filler cap, with two closure plugs, is uniquely consistent with Syrian chemical aerial bombs.” It seems consistent with a lot of things, including non-CW ones, but not including the WWII-era soviet CW bomb HRW singled out. Or does the cap on OFZAB-500 for example not match this?

    They do add some interesting acknowledgments. The available radar track shows the closest either jet got to the bomb sites as 5km. They accept this, when no one had bothered to check before. Huh. Cool. I’d say more like 2-4 km (furthest from the sarin one.) At other times, that jet was further away, and the other jet was further away at all times. This is important considering gravity bombs, not missiles are claimed.

    They explain: from the right altitude, right flight path (right winds?) it’s POSSIBLE for a bomb dropped to drift 5 km on the map before hitting ground. Sounds like the expert was giving a hypothetical, and was provided none of the specifics. But considering E-W flight path is what the radar shows, the drift needed is north, wind at low levels is (my reading) is to the northeast… Up here in the stratosphere where Quds1 would have to be, not sure what the wind would be.

    Thoughts on that anyone? Or maybe calculations? (I have none – exact calculation and math aren’t my strong suits) Their way of retaining confidence on this core point is not very confidence inspiring. Can Bellingcat help?

    And that’s not even touching the wind issue.

    • bellingcatadmin

      I’m sure you know better then the OPCW-UN JIM and all the experts they consulted.

      • Per Knutsen

        Actually Adam Larsen knows o lot better than the OPCW-UN JIM that i dont want to classify as nothing but paid arm chair warriors that has never had their boots in a war that they propably have contrinuted to make them self, and never will.

        Analysis of the debris as shown in the photograph
        Theodore Postol, Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Policy in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT, has made some preliminary responses to the four-page report by the Trump Administration on the Syrian “chemical attack”. We reproduce his findings in part below. See the document in full

        • bellingcatadmin

          The OPCW-UN JIM investigated the type of scenario proposed by Postol, and multiple experts rejected it.

          • Adam Larson

            FWIW Adam Larson is as big a “couch potato” as anyone at Bellingcat, and probably as Postol is, and reject’s the bulk of Postol’s findings and his horribly flawed methods. So we know this isn’t some blind monolithic mass movement and all on this list would agree at least someone (themselves) has it figured out fairly well, despite the lack of this or that.

          • Black Star

            And you are not a couch potato, “Adam Larson”? Btw. bigots are easy to spot: they only ever tell one side of the story, and never seem to learn anything new, unless it supports their previous opinions. That’s the shortcut to see who is a bigot.

        • DDTea

          You wrote that as if people here at Bellingcat don’t know who this clown is.

          You seem to be the last one to learn that Theodore Postol is a charlatan.

        • Kline

          Oh Come onnnnnnnnnnn with this BS document made by Postol, even himself has admitted that he was wrong (In his first report (this one) He made a big fail with the wind direction so he made a new report where he said that it was impossible for the sarin to be released from the hole presented in the picture).

          Postol made at least 4-5 reports about Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack.

          His first reports said that Sarin were indeed used (by rebel of course…) and his last reports says that no Sarin were used in KS but a chemical accident occurred after a bombing by Syrian regime on a rebels ammo depot….

          How can someone mentally healthy believe all the BS and non sens story made by Postol ????

      • Adam Larson

        It doesn’t sound like that expert was given a heading seen vs. drift needed. I can see roughly E-W flight path, passing app 3-4 km south of the sarin crater (the JIM gives 5km as the closest pass, but 5km from just what is unclear). So only wind perhaps can explain that much drift to the left-north.

        And if there was such a drift, do see signs of any angled trajectory as if this bomb came in from a bit south of straight down? I don’t think that’s clear. It might even appear kind of the opposite way. Right?

        Also not clear how to correlate the radar track for the other jet that dropped the bomb bombs – which path somewhere else needs to be measured to say how far off that one is from what “activists said.” ?

        • Adam Larson

          So … I certainly know less about just what to do with the variables than the experts would. But I do wager I have the correct variables that were perhaps kept from them. A possible reason for that: to keep their answers vague and hence useful (instead of damaging).

          • oui oui

            in this article ” The Khan Sheikhoun Chemical Attack — Who Bombed What and When?” there is a map useful for the distances.
            5 kms is nearly the distance between the crater and the blip south east , they took this point to do with this evidence , you take an other point to do with the confidence and it doesn’t end well
            ” Besides, the data appears to be incomplete making a proper analysis of the map probably not accurate.”
            The distance between the two blips is 5 kms , if the gap time between them is 1 sec the speed of the plane is 18000 km/h
            an SU22’s max speed is 1800 km/h , at this speed with this gap time there is at least 10 seconds between the two blips , 9 blips are missing . change the math if you know this gap time , with 1800 km/h and these two blips it has to be 0.1 sec , 600 blips/mn
            in an other comment here there is a star like you , if it’s not you , who is wondering how it turns out that Bellingcat said nothing about the white helmets not in Raqqah , the capital of daesh and not in Mosul , that he knows in Iraq , sure ad hominem is when there is no other argumentation

      • Mark

        Adam’s question about how a gravity bomb travelled 5km north from a jet going east-west is a good one. It deserves a good answer. The JIM is fallible, and the appeal to authority is quite weak in this case:

        “The expert concluded that, depending on a number of variables such as altitude, speed and flight path taken, it would be possible for such an aerial bomb to be deployed on the town from the aforementioned distances.”

        • wow

          The whole thing smells funny. I bet there is a lot of political pressure on OPCW-UN with so much at stake – Assad/Russia have gained the upper hand, so “confident” blame assignment is needed to enable a bolder invasion by the US&allies to turn the thing around.

          • Black Star

            Good that you bring up the political pressure. Which side has more at stake in a war crime investigation about using chemical weapons against civilians in Syria, OPCW-UN that is investigating the crime or the criminal who did the crime? Thus who is the one doing the political pressure thing? Or trying to distort facts with propaganda?

          • Black Star

            Oh and by the way, you should not tell how “russians are gaining the upper hand.” It kinda gives out that russians are the attackers there. Surely Putin would not like to admit that and thus not you.

        • Ghostship

          If the aircraft was flying E-W at the time the bomb was dropped, it would have no S-N velocity. From an altitude of 10,000 m (maximum suggested in JIM and no mention of parachute retardation) it takes about a minute for a bomb to hit the ground, so the bomb would have to be travelling S-N at 300 kph to have travelled that 5 km in the minute available. Even if it was only 3km, that would require the bomb to be travelling S-N at 180 kph yet we are told by the JIM that the windspeed was 0.5m/s or 1.8 kph. The physics for the bomb just doesn’t add up.
          When combined with the number of “victims” (>100) who arrived at medical facilities before the incident actually occurred and the patient whose urine showed sarin when his blood did not (which suggests that all the samples were fabricated), I reckon the authors of this report were directed to reach a conclusion unfavourable to the Syrian government but left enough fake information lying about in the report to discredit it.

          • DDtea

            Every party to the conflict agrees that sarin was used as a weapon in khan sheikhoun. The idea that anybody would have to fabricate samples is stupid.

            You’re going to great lengths to get this plane off the hook. So tell me: if, based on the jet’s known trajectory and altitude, it was impossible to drop this sarin bomb on khan sheikhoun, then how did the pilot target the jihadist chemical weapons depot/terrorist command center at the same site the alleged sadin attack occurred? Are you losing track of your rival explanations? I’ll help you keep track.

          • Adam Larson

            “Every party to the conflict agrees that sarin was used as a weapon in khan sheikhoun.”
            Pretty much, but they could all be wrong. It could be planted after not being released on the 4th at all. I’m unsure but lean towards a later appearance. In that case, it would be smart to fabricate samples, or else you’d get no sarin results.

            “You’re going to great lengths to get this plane off the hook. So tell me: if, based on the jet’s known trajectory and altitude, it was impossible to drop this sarin bomb on khan sheikhoun, …”
            yes. There’s 3.5 km of north drift or more (by my mapping, 5km per the JIM) needed to get the bomb in the crater. Only wind could explain this, and I don’t think it can. Further, witnesses said BOTH jets flew right over the town, one dropping the sarin bomb and the other dropping the 3 explosive ones.
            So far there’s only this one jet pass anyone even argues comes remotely close enough. So even if this one is possible, did it drop all 4 bombs in that pass, and have them land all over like that? And people said differently because of memory problems, not from being untrustworthy liars? The sold story has fallen apart.

            “…then how did the pilot target the jihadist chemical weapons depot/terrorist command center at the same site”
            Never happened. That was some bad guess, thinking maybe the incident was around noon. Knowing it’s all 7 am and Syria and the pilots and even the radar deny bomb drops in KS at the time, Russia would agree, if pressed (or SHOULD agree, they can be weird) that this never happened.

            “I’ll help you keep track.”
            I presume you mean well, but this track is kind of circular.

    • DDTea

      You’re interpolating a flight path from the available, limited radar data. It isn’t obvious what path the su-22 took in the vicinity of khan sheikhoun, and paths can be interpolated that would provide the requisite north-south trajectory. So there’s too much ambiguity to even begin to interrogate the next level of detail–where the weapon was released. The only unambiguous point is that the jet was in the vicinity of khan sheikhoun while bombs were falling on the city, making it suspect. 5 km really isn’t far. It’s a distance that can be closed within seconds by an SU-22 or a projectile released from it at speed. And these sorts of ambiguities are no reason to start invoking sarin faeries or grand conspiracies.

  2. Jonathan Marshall

    How confident can we be about these conclusions without a visit by the fact-finding team to the site? (This is not meant as a rhetorical question–I’m interested in your thoughts).

    • Andrea

      They wrote why they didn’t visit the scene, better you read the report (page 6) 🙂
      To give a very short answer: scene adulterated both by time and man, a war going on. Benefits too low compared to the risk of going there.

      • wow

        The question was not WHY they didn’t visit, but WHAT it says about the possible confidence of their conclusion. Can’t be very high with chain of custody broken and samples possibly manipulated by Jihadists who DO have a motive, while Assad does not really.

        • Andrea

          they evaluated the possibility of going there, and they found out that by going there they wouldn’t have gained any more evidence !!
          There (probably) were no more evidence to be collected.
          So even if they went there it would have changed nothing in what they said.
          If they were not confident in their conclusions they would have simply said it, don’t you think?
          A broken chain of custody (that would have been questioned anyway as NAT0 conspiracy, illuminati, Sor0s or smthing else…) just gives less credibility to the part in which they link the sarin to the one specifically produced by Assad. The other findings still hold.

    • DDTea

      We can be very confident.

      There’s a compelling case here that 1) a Sarin attack occurred (not a single party to the conflict disagrees on this point), 2) the Sarin was delivered by an aerial bomb (based on characteristics of the crater), 3) the Sarin was manufactured from the regime’s DF stockpile (based on previously undisclosed characterization of it and analytical comparisons).

      These are the certainties about the incident. Full stop. If you’re still in the business of muddying the water to defend mass murderers, then you need to come up with an “alternative explanation” anchored around those points.

      • Mark

        1 is settled, I agree. But 2 has many issues, two of which are mentioned in the latest report. The east-west flight path 5 km away from KS mentioned above, and the lack of tail fin, nose cone or other large bomb remnants. The report mentioned that the bomb did not fragment into lots of tiny pieces as there was not a single scratch from shrapnel on the metal box near the crater. So you also have to come up with an “alternative explanation” as to where the bomb parts went.

        For 3, the report also admits the regime manufacture of the DF does not necessarily mean the regime used it. So you’re left with just 1. Which doesn’t guarantee the regime did it.

        In the end, I think the regime did it, but the case is not as compelling as you make it out to be. The waters are muddy all on their own.

        • Andrea

          About point 2: They asked to some guys who are said to be expert on those things, and was deemed possible. Who are you, me and all the others to question him/her when he/she was chosen (hopefully for his knowledge) to give an answer to such a delicate matter? (unless you think you know more than this expert obviously).

          But let’s see what those experts said:
          – ground was hit by a heavy object going at high speed, some even specifically said a bomb, others said it was liquid filled.
          – The lack of damage to the nearby metal box is CONSISTENT with a CW going off.
          – There is no problem in the airplane being WITHIN a 5km radius from the crater, it’s possible for a bomb to be deployed that far.

          Point 3 is clear… yes, as you said it only points out at the producer of sarin… but why should we assume it was stolen by rebels (or terrorists, name them as u prefer), kept safe for a couple YEARS, an then deployed in a fancy way that resembles an air dropped bomb but that nobody still managed to explain, while at the same by chance SyAAF was flying above and then AMAZINGY having SAA say that they indeed bombed a CW warehouse…

      • Ghostship

        Who is the “mass murderer” in Syria? It isn’t Assad. His forces have quite legitimately killed about 200,000 Syrian and foreign terrorists, while the terrorists have killed about 250,000 Syrian troops and militia defending the country from terrorists, so it’s the supporters, financiers and armourers of the terrorists who are the mass murderers. People such as Obama, Clinton, Kerry, Cameron, May, Sarkosy, Hollande, etc.

        • Mad Dog

          Hahaha, that is pretty funny ghost. I guess all those kids he killed were died in the wool Jihadis. All those peaceful protestors at the beginning of this madness were armed to the teeth. All those prisoners he scooped up for extra-judicial punishment were just loony Sunni malcontents. yeah right, dream on.

      • AdrianKent

        Is it really proven that a large scale sarin attack tok place? The evidence in the JIM for this are the dispersion of the alleged victims and the presence of sarin in the environment from the samples taken ten days later.

        Neither of these necessarily prove a large-scale sarin dispersal as the geographical sample could have been ‘topped up’ in the meantime.

        Does anyone know what the five other scenarios were that the JIM allegedly considered, but that did not make it to theirIs one settled report?

      • Woody

        For the sake of your arguement, please remind us of the parameters of the bomb you stated in April /May

      • Adam Larson

        DDTea says:
        “1) a Sarin attack occurred (not a single party to the conflict disagrees on this point), ”
        Covered above – regardless of who argues it, there MAY have been no open release of sarin as a weapon or otherwise.
        “2) the Sarin was delivered by an aerial bomb (based on characteristics of the crater), ”
        that’s debatable, and you can’t note all sides agree. Russia disagrees. I disagree with them and with aerial bomb. I do agree it looks like a heavy thing hitting and not blowing up – more a chip than a crater. I can see a fired rocket doing the same. Might look like a KhAB-250 but bigger, and fulsed onto a tail assembly to be fired from a hell cannon type mortar device. Note: whatever impacted, it seems most debris was scooped up, and the two pieces they wanted us to see carefully set inside the crater.
        It’s likely NOT aerial, as no credible aircraft was observed in the right places to drop any of these 4 bombs, so it almost has to be something other than an aerial bomb. I still like the rocket option. Sarin crater rocket seems fired from the NE, app. 52 degreed, blast plumes 1+2 from the N-NW.
        “3) the Sarin was manufactured from the regime’s DF stockpile (based on previously undisclosed characterization of it and analytical comparisons).”
        Oh, new stuff they didn’t tell us before? Wonder why. We’ve heard all about hexamine. That, of course, can be from:
        a) the government’s unique method of making their hallmark 40% impure sarin, as judged by all field samples if not from processes declared and materials destroyed.
        b) someone else’s sarin down the line that uses hexamine in the observed way, and just the repeated blame on Damascus has made it stick as obviously theirs
        c) either side’s impure sarin, where the hexamine is from the explosives opening charge
        d) same, from some other source (seems unlikely)
        This new special fingerprint can likely be shown a fraud in a similar way.

        I’ll accept that it’s probably the same kind of sarin fielded in various bizarre and contested incidents using JaN grenades, improvised rockets, etc. since at least March 19, 2013, when it was launched on Syrian soldiers and civilians in a Shia-majority suburb of Aleppo rebels just lost control of.

        “These are the certainties about the incident. Full stop. If you’re still in the business of muddying the water to defend mass murderers, then you need to come up with an “alternative explanation” anchored around those points.”

        I think you can see why it’s reasonable that I reject that assessment of what we need to do. In fact, I’ll suggest here’s what you guys should do:
        1) illustrate how possible it is for the wind to drift all 4 bombs from the best spot you can find in the radar track to where they landed, which is known … or
        1b) look for non-aircraft explanations.
        2) If you can show a connection between the jet and the crater, show how any sarin could spread from there to the given fatalities area, (show how the wind was southwest: video is available. What’s needed is a comprehensive multi-view direction that explains all – I’ve done this and it’s opposite of what the story needs. Note Timmi Allen’s prior effort failed, finding a “wind” that blows one half of one vapor cloud to the right while everything else, including the other half of the same cloud, moves left. The left part alone contradicts the needed southwest direction. Unless you guys can show otherwise.

        There are other questions you could stand to answer, but that’s enough impossible tasks to show how badly off base your Islamist-activist-informed view of events really is.

        • Adam Larson

          And here’s a shortcut if you try step one and two – you might find it hard to argue a north wind to drift the sarin bomb to the right place, and also a southwest wind to drift that sarin back towards the fatalities area.

          Well I suppose you could make some different winds at different levels argument. I’ll go ahead and suggest that for you. Also suggest add parachutes to each bomb, not that anyone mentioned that. North wind at high altitude, with parachutes catching it and drifting the bombs all north before they hit, and then a southwest breeze at the ground. You won’t be able to support that last part with any decent video evidence, but you can argue it anyway like the JIM did. It’s a free internet.

          And thanks again for allowing these comments.

          • Woody

            Bellingcat pro-analysts claimed here in April/May that the bomb was 500 kg with 200 kg Sarin warhead. Where is the residue of the bomb? How come the dig is so tiny given the parameters? DDTea, please reveal us the secrets you so dearly cherish.

          • DDTea

            On April 27, 2017, I wrote: “60-100 kg of Sarin is my best estimate of the payload. ” (see entire comment at : )

            I’m going off memory (i don’t feel like searching for things that you can just as easily), but I came up with two sets of estimates to narrow down the possibilities of what sort of weapon we are looking for (a mortar? a grad rocket carrying 10 kg of Sarin? An equivalent to a KhAB-200, -250, or -500?)

            One set of estimates was based off of the pre-war population density of Khan Sheikhoun and the number of casualties; and some tentative language from a DOD study on the amount of Sarin required to cause such a casualty count in cities of similar population density.

            The other set was based off of the size of the crater and estimates of explosive yield to cause such a crater. Then, based off the estimated size of the charge and known high explosive-to-Sarin ratios in American chemical ordnance, I came up with a second estimate for the amount of sarin used.

            Both of these estimates have their shortcomings, but they were adequate to say that the Khan Sheikhoun attack could not reasonably be caused by a single grad rocket or mortar bomb or small sarin charge.

        • DDTea

          I’m not just talking about hexamine. But for the record, hexamine is neither a known decomposition/detonation product of any explosive, nor is it a significant contaminant in them. I’ve provided peer reviewed references on this point in other threads.

          Im talking about the isopropyl phosphates that were not disclosed until the opcw ffm report. The [PF6-] is also noteworthy. SSRC “sarin” appears to be a deliberate mixture of sarin with DIFP. Impure but expedient and effective. And the impurities are signatures of their manufacturing process.

          After detonation of the bursting charge, the drift of the nerve agent plume was guided by the downward sloping terrain moreso than the relatively stagnant wind at the time of the attack. Sarin is denser than air. This was mentioned in the OPCW FFM report on Khan Sheikhoun.

          • Woody

            Hi, I admire your lack of criticism. Yes, no traces of a bomb that weight 500 kg but the dig is smaller what a bazooka would result. And of course the plumes of Sarin climbed upwind if the US says so.

  3. Yousuf

    Nothing will change, unfortunately. The “truthers” will keep “truthing” and Assad will keep bombing.

  4. Vas

    So funny, especially phrases like “…alternative versions of events presented by Russia and Syria are fabrications”.

    Haha, what “alternative versions”? Opinion that chemical weapon could be used by terrorists? Excuse me, this FACT was proved, and proved not once. But US-led “coalition” (i remember – who acting ILLEGALLY (=CRIMINALLY) in Syria, without ANY rights to be there) tried very hard not to notice this, and OPCW was deliberately delaying the analysis of evidences if the accused were terrorists, but surprisingly quickly was giving the conclusions if it concerned the accusations of Assad.

    Russian & Syrian position was CLEAR and SIMPLE as possible: There’s an “incident? OK. So please COME on Shayrat airfield & in Idlib province, and check out everything. Hey, OPCW, do it! This is your job. Especially if Americans said that Shayrat airfield allegedly was a base for airplanes with “chemical weapon”. So what could be easier? Get your asses to this location, check out everyting, find “chemical weapon” samples and show them to the World.

    But no. OPCW stubbornly refused(!) to visit Shayrat airfield. I remind – Assad oficially agreed to let OPCW to visit this location. Russia also asked OPCW to come and to do their job, and asked numerous times! Pretty strange. If Assad used “chemical weapon” – would he invited OPCW group to check out the place? You must be a complete idiot to do this. I remind – there’s physically IMPOSSIBLE to hide or destroy traces of chemical weapon. So the task for OPCW was utterly understandable & accessible – visit the Shayrat airfield and check out territory. But, as i said, OPCW stubbornly refused. Again and again they found occasions and excuses to not do this. Hah, very interesting – to “investigate” an incident WITHOUT even visiting the place. When OPCW’s (& USA’s) position was determined, it became clear that the whole “story” stinks.

    Bellingcat doesn’t explains HOW it could be – OPCW a few years(!) ago confirmed that there’s NO MORE syrian chemical weapon. But now it turns out that it’s not true? So what about OPCW’s Nobel prize? I remind – they got it EXACTLY for their work on destroying syrian chemical weapons. Should OPCW now give back their “undeserved” prize?

    Bellingcat doesn’t explain the MORE than strange and suspicious behavior of OPCW & USA (stubborn reluctance to visit the Shayrat airfield & Idlib province to check out territory). Though this kind of behavior is well understood – they KNEW they would found nothing there, because they knew Assad is not guilty.

    Bellingcat doesn’t even try to answer – why did Assad need it at all? Theoretically, let’s assume that he has chemical weapon. Assad is more than successful on the theater of war. He was winning (& continues to win) on ALL fronts, in ALL battles, he clears more and more territory of his country from terrorists (who are supported by USA). All this by usual means – infantry, tanks, airplanes. What’s the need in so extreme measures as chemical weapon? Plus, Assad perfectly know what kind of “image” he has in abroad, first of all on the ‘Collective West’. This negative “beastly” image is largely created artificially (by USA & some countries in Middle East region, Saudi Arabia first of all), specially to justify & legalize all those criminal & barbarian actions like US-led “coalition” bombings, destruction of the Syria’s infrastructure, attempts to overthrow legitimate authority etc.

    So considering all this, Assad suddenly decides to use chemical weapon? Haha, as i said before, you must to be a complete idiot to do this. All those who think Assad is an idiot are a very naive & stupid people. You KNOW that if you’ll use chemical weapon – Collective West will attack you with a new wave of “accusations”, and maybe will impose new sanctions on your country. Somebody think Assad is hungry for new sanctions? Haha. He must be totally out of his mind to desire new sanctions from Collective West and new wave of “accusations”.

    Plus, the possible “chemical attack” itself. What’s the sense in this “chemical attack” from the point of view of military strategy? I remind, as i said, Assad was winning on all fronts, in all battles using usual means (infantry, tanks, airplanes). So using chemical weapon – what would it give him, what’s the sense? I understand if Assad’s army would be “cornered” by the enemy, would be in a very difficult & hopeless situation, when there’s no weapons left and reinforcements are only on the way, and there’s no time etc… I mean, very difficult and hopeless situation. So in THIS KIND of situation you maybe could use chemical weapons as your “last chance” – to win some time, to bring panic in the ranks of the enemy…
    But Assad WAS NOT in this kind of difficult & hopeless situation. He was winning. And btw, it was terrorists who WAS in this kind of difficult & hopeless situation…
    So spend some time and think WHO was really interested in using chemical weapons.

    Bellingcat also doesn’t ask HOW they (OPCW & UN) got their “samples” (i remind – they REFUSED to visit the Shayrat airfield & Idlib province, though Assad invited them). How, when, who, where and by whom it was analyzed etc.

    Bellingcat doesn’t even note the obviously STAGED character of the “white helmets” video(s). “Rescuers” who work WITHOUT any minimal & elementary chemical protection means? Wow, this is something new! Even better were the “locals” who was touching “victims” by naked(!) hands, walking around in sandals on bare(!) feet. Fantastic. What kind of “chemical weapons” let you survive after the DIRECT contact with the affected?

    Bellingcat doesn’t explain how it turns out that “Syria Civil Defence Idlib The WhiteHelmets” reported on the attack on 3rd(!) april in 19:14pm (plus on 3rd april in 23:18pm), but the main organisation “Syria Civil Defence – The White Helmets” said the “attack” was on 4th(!) april early in the mourning (~06:30am). Very strange inconsistency in statements.

    Bellingcat doesn’t even try to explain how it turns out that “white helmets” was so “active” during liberation of Aleppo by syrian army & allies, but they suddenly “dissapeared” (took a vacation?) on the period while Americans destroyed Raqqah in to dust. What, there were no victims in Raqqah? And what about Mosul in Iraq? No “rescue actions” from “activists”? How pity.

    The famous photo with a crater. But why there’s only one small crater? As “white helmets” said there were “multiple airstrikes”. So what – only one “symbolic” bomb was with “chemical weapon”, hah? And looking on this photo with crater – all other road in around is normal, smooth, undamaged. Pretty strange picture for a “multiple airstrikes” attack on the territory. And btw, this crater more looks like a crater from a mortar shelling.

    The whole article is quite typical anti-Russian & anti-Syrian propaganda. Quite dull. Why? Because there’re NO ANSWERS (or at least attempts!) on many questions, REALLY important questions.
    And this final sentence: “This may go someway to explaining why Syria’s ally on the UN Security Council, Russia, seems keen to veto the extension of the OPCW-UN JIM’s mandate, preventing them from investigating further incidents”.
    Haha, this is sooooo cheap! Yeah, yeah, Russia put veto “preventing them from investigating further incidents”. Not because Russia naturally just wanted FIRST to have a report (that was released on 26 october), to get it, to read, to analyse what’s in there, and only THEN decide is there any need to continue investigation or no. Natural and logical desire of any SERIOUS and adult side. And Russian spokesman in UN Vasiliy Nebenzya right after veto was used said that Russia is NOT against investigation, that THERE IS a lot of time to prolong OPCW-UN JIM’s mandate whose credentials ends only on 17 november! And that all Russia wants is just FIRST to read the report and THEN decide to continue OPCW-UN JIM’s mandate or no. Haha, you better ask WHY Americans suddenly suggested a new resolution on 24 october while the report was expected just two days later – on 26 october! What was this done for? Why can’t wait just two days and THEN suggest your “resolution”? I remind – there’s still A LOT of time to prolong JIM’s mission, cuz their mission ends only on 17 november.

    And this is so stupid to say Russia wants to “prevent OPCW-UN JIM from investigating further incidents” while remembering all those NUMEROUS appeals of Russia for a real, objective, INDEPENDENT investigation of Khan Sheikhoun “incident”. As we know, USA & allies & OPCW rejected these appeals. Hah, not a surprise. Who need real & objective investigation? Not American side for sure, because there’s another task – to use lies & falsifications (like in previous cases, for example, like “incident” with hum. convoy in september 2016) for once again accusing Assad (& Russia) in “awful crimes”.

    Cheap propaganda, gentlemen! Show me some REAL, serious, smart western resources that are able to adequately & impartially analyze the situation.

    • bellingcatadmin

      Usually I don’t waste my time responding to stuff like this, and I’ll use this bit as an example why:
      “Bellingcat doesn’t explain how it turns out that “Syria Civil Defence Idlib The WhiteHelmets” reported on the attack on 3rd(!) april in 19:14pm (plus on 3rd april in 23:18pm), but the main organisation “Syria Civil Defence – The White Helmets” said the “attack” was on 4th(!) april early in the mourning (~06:30am). Very strange inconsistency in statements.

      Khan Sheikhoun was being attacked multiple times in that period, including claims chlorine was used in an attack on the day prior to the Khan Sheikhoun Sarin attack, as well as other reports of chlorine use in Khan Sheikhoun. As we’ve written elsewhere on Bellingcat other locations in the area were also reportedly targeted by Sarin and Chlorine attacks in addition to the attacks on Khan Sheikhoun. What’s happening is because people like you are ignorant of that information, through choice or lack of engagement with the topic, you’re incorrectly conflating unrelated reports because all you know about is the Sarin attack on April 4th, and not the other reported attacks. You then construct these elaborate theories around your own ignorance on the topic to claim there’s some sort of experience, and when someone like me points out there were other attacks you claim we’re just making it up because clearly everything is a giant US-Jihadi conspiracy and there’s no way you are just dumb.

      • AdrianKent

        So there were multiple chemical attacks on KS, including a chlorine attack the day before? Makes you wonder why so many of the White Helmets rushed to the scene without any protective gear. Were they ignorant of these events too?

        • Adam Larson

          No, there was an attack with burning cars on the 3rd in KS, and in Habit, just a few km to the west, an alleged chlorine attack the night of the 3rd that effected those 3 babies, from a displaced family. No red eyes, sign of coughing or breathing problems, so clearly they weren’t exposed to any serious amount. However, a newborn or unborn son of the recently-deceased father or uncle of those 3 kids died, in Habit, from chemicals on 4-7 per VDC (or he was just listed that day – signs or lack of is less clear in this case). It’s confusing. Some effort to sort out this + other incidents in the same time-frame (March 25-April 3) and same area is here:,_March_25-April_3,_2017

          • Adam Larson

            and noting the page I link to is at the moment short on updates to reflect Bellingcat’s interesting recent additions to March 30. This is some weird stuff.

      • Vas

        Well, as expected, no answers on many REALLY important question. I noted just part of them .

        “As we’ve written elsewhere on Bellingcat other locations in the area were also reportedly targeted by Sarin and Chlorine attacks in addition to the attacks on Khan Sheikhoun”.

        Sorry, but ANYONE can write ANYTHING. You said “we’ve written elsewhere on Bellingcat”. So what? I should take Bellingcat seriously, as a reliable source? I doubt. Oh, btw, about seriousness and reliability of information – why did you use a changed photo? “Accidentally”, or deliberately to mislead readers? I mean that photo of the crater. You’ve changed it – it’s mirrored from left to right. And you tell me about ignorance? Funny.

        You said about some “multiple chemical attacks” in this period. Again, information comes from some “witnesses” and “internet activists”? I can write about numerous chlorine use… by ISIS (september 15, 2014 – ISIS used chlorine against Iraqi police forces in Balad city (Iraq), 11 policemen suffered. September 22, 2014 – ISIS used chlorine in As-Saklauiyiya (north of Faluj), more than 300 military died, ISIS used chlorine in north of Syria, in the province of El-Hasaka…), but it would take pages.
        Claims for Assad was only regarding ONE concrete “incident” on 4th april in Khan Sheikhoun? Yes. Exactly THIS one incident was a reason for OPCW & UN JIM’s investigation (in terms of Assad’s accusation), and this ONE incident noted in the report. So don’t tell me about “multiple chemical attacks”.
        Plus, info from “white helmets”, first from 3 april, then from 4 april – there’s no any signs that they were talking about different “chemical attacks”.

        The problem is that resources like yours take information about “the other reported attacks” from UNKNOWN mysterious “witnesses”, “activists” or oftenly from sources like infamous “Syrian Human Rights Observatory” based in London(!) and consisting in fact of only one(!) man who’s name is Rami Abdulrahman and who HAVE NO IDEA what’s REALLY going on on the ground in SYRIA, and who get his “data” from terrorists by telephone. This is not serious.

        “…construct these elaborate theories”

        What “elaborate theories”? I just asked trivial and logical questions. How “resquers” & locals could stay alive touching “injured victims” with naked(!) hands? Why the hell Assad need it at all while he was (& still is) SUCCESSFUL on the field, winning all battles. What about suspicious stubborn refuse to visit Shayrat airfield by OPCW though Assad kindly invited them to check out everything. Why “white helmets” didn’t work in Raqqah? And so on and so on…

        I don’t even ask much more interesting things… For example – HOW it turns out that USA destroyers “Porter” and “Ross” strike missiles on Shayrat airfield on 7 april while the “incident” was on 4 april? I mean, just THREE days for everything?? Ask any serious war expert and he will explain you things are not done that way. You have to provide preparing, reconnaissance of purposes, set up the exact coordinates of the goals, prepare information support and many other things. You physically can not do it at the snap of your fingers, in just a couple days!

        Look: the “incident” happened on 4 april about 06:30am, right? And Tomahawks were launched on 7 april about 04:40am. So count the period – it is only 60 hours 40 minutes! OK, let’s say it is 61 hours. Less that three full days! And now think about HOW it’s possible – the “incident” happened, then it takes TIME for “locals” to understand at least what’s happened and to take some elementary measures (to help the wounded, contact relatives etc). Then it took TIME for “white helmets” to come on the location (or they were in the right place in advance??), to understand what’s happened, to take some actions, make their fake “video of the rescue operation”. Then post this video in internet. Then it took TIME for some primary reaction from the World. News agencies saw this “news” from “white helmets”, got it, did their reports, wrote their articles, publish it etc. Then in took TIME for these reports/articles to reach authorities – in USA, in Russia, in European countries, in Asia etc.

        OK, so Trump finally got this “news”. Does he reacted momentally? I doubt. It took TIME to analyze the information, to consult with special services and other responsible persons. Then it took TIME to develop possible response measures, consider all options, all possible solutions. Then you have to forward an order to the relevant structures and it took some TIME for them to read the information and to develop an action plan. And then, as i said, it took TIME (a LOT of time!) for “Porter” and “Ross” destroyers to organize everything – to advance in required place, to take a starting position, to prepare warheads and many many other actions till the final action – missiles strikes. You seriously will assert that all this is possible in just 61 hours?

        I remind – American side said they already have “incontrovertible evidences” of Assad’s guilt and that’s why they launched Tomahawks. HOW and WHEN they could get these “incontrovertible evidences”? They conducted a super-puper-ultra-fast secret investigation? How? No expert even visited the place of the “incident”. So how it’s possible to get “incontrovertible evidences” without even visiting the place of “incident”, and to be 100% sure it is Assad’s guilt? This was outright lies (Colin Powell’s test-tube with “chemical weapon” always comes to mind, hah…). And even if we theoretically suppose the probability of these “incontrovertible evidences” – again, it took TIME to get these “evidences”, then to analyse them and submit in the form of a report to show to president Trump. All this less than in 61 hours (considering everything I said above about TIME)! Fantastic.

        All this mean that “Porter” and “Ross” destroyers were ready for a strikes LONG BEFORE the “incident” ever happened. They perfecty knew in advance that soon there will be occasion for a strikes. And USA perfectly knew that “incident” gonna happen. That’s why “Porter” and “Ross” destroyers were directed to the starting positions IN ADVANCE.

        I remind – the destroyer “Porter” was already stationed on 26 March(!) in Suda-Bay on the Greek island of Crete. After staying there, “Porter” went to sea, as EVIDENCED by photographs of the US Navy, published on April 1 and 2. The second ship – the destroyer “Ross” – on April 3(!) left the Rota base in Spain heading for the Eastern Mediterranean.

        The official representative of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on this point (right after missiles strikes):

        “It is already obvious that the attack by the American cruise missiles on the Syrian air base was prepared long before today’s events. To prepare such a strike, it is necessary to conduct a large set of activities for reconnaissance, planning, preparation of flight assignments and bringing the missiles into full readiness for launching”.


        “for any specialist it is clear that the decision to strike a missile strike against Syria was made in Washington long before the events in the settlement Khan-Sheikhun, which served only as a formal occasion, and the demonstration of military force is dictated exclusively by internal political reasons”.

        You deny that USA support terrorists in Syria? Oh, excuse me, you all call them “moderate opposition”. Or maybe you’ll deny that many Western “instructors” are teaching terrorists in Syria? “Instructors” from USA, from Great Britain, from France, from Germany. Polish Special Forces is also there… All these participant are well known, well known by Russian Forces and Syrian Army, since the times of Aleppo liberation, when these “teachers” were on the verge of destruction.

        The whole thing looks like you are trying to use various resources (of known orientation) and combine dubious “facts” in the way to make it all looks like YOU (or those who sponsoring you) need it.

        But what i really want to do is to condole to the relatives of those who died today in USA in the terrorist attack in Manhattan. Let innocent victims rest in peace. Sad to note, but this is one more reason for USA to stop playing games of benevolence with terrorists in Syria (& in other places). This awful terrorist act is what these games can end up with..

        I also must admit that you are open for “another opinion” and not blocking disagreeable comments. This is good, and at least in this aspect characterizes the site positively and liberally.

        • Adam Larson

          Tldr but on area chlorine attacks (alleged) and sarin attacks (alleged) and how they sort of mingle in a confused way, between about 3-25 and 4-4 is covered here, from a non-Bellingcat PoV but agreeing that there were several alleged attacks preceding this, said to involve chlorine and/or sarin.

          Some folks should not try such heavy debunks from their limited knowledge base. Just sayin’.

          On the flipped photo: indeed, that is a flipped photo. However, I don’t see what difference it makes or how it could mislead anyone in a meaningful way. I’d presume it was some kind of accident, flipped for some analytical reason and accidentally saved that way.

          On their allowing comments, even long and presumptuous ones – indeed, this is a good feature of this site. I hear some comments get removed or people get blocked, but I’ve had a good experience and it seems most get through. Lots of haters and critics! This is good, but we need more rigor.

      • Vas

        I was a little mistaken in the calculations – period from the “incident” to the launch of Tomahawks, not 61 hours, but 70 hours 10 minutes. But this does not change the meaning. Because the preparation of destroyers (“Porter”, “Ross”) for a possible strikes is calculated not by hours, but by days, by many days.

        • DDTea

          Wow, this JIM report is like an exorcism. It conjures up all the ranting Assad loons and demons, babbling the same tired lines.

          For the record, all of your trivial questions have been answered already. Read. Read about sarin’s physical properties and the management of its casualties. Beyond wikipedia. There are no lies or mysferies here.

          Would you mind sharing an article about this chlorine attack that killed 300 in iraq?

          • Vas

            Sorry man, i don’t read Wikipedia. Maybe you’re a fan of this source, but i’m not.
            My questions are not trivial, but natural and logical. Trivial – it’s to pretend that you don’t “see”/notice all these questions, and to continue to push through your version (what JIM do), even if many facts/circumstances contradict this version.

            You advised me to read. Read what and where? Here on bellingcat? With the same success i can read Wikipedia. No, Thanks))

            About 300 soldiers killed by ISIS in Iraq – it was news from famous turkish news agency Anadolu with reference to the statement of the deputy of parliament from the Iraqi national alliance Ali al-Budeyri:

            (in turkish, so use the translator)

          • DDTea

            Thanks for sharing that article. I found a few additional articles, but nobody ever corroborated the claim. Here’s one in English:

            Which mentions, “A representative from the Ministry of Defense offered no comment on the gas attack when contacted by an correspondent.”

            Given the history of chlorine use in Syria, which usually results in few deaths, it defies credibility that a chlorine attack could kill so many people. It would require either a) the victims being trapped in a confined area, or b) a massive amount of chlorine (on the order of tens of tons).

            From, the Washington Post: “Survivors said they faced daily attacks during the week, including one using chlorine gas, a claim that was impossible to verify Monday. While some said colleagues had suffocated in the attack, Col. Ihab Hashem, the deputy commander of an 8th Division battalion, said canisters had fallen short of the base.”

            So there seems to be a lot of uncertainty here. It would not surprise if ISIS used chlorine gas–as they have a history of doing–but somehow I don’t think it gave them much of a tactical advantage. And I’m very skeptical of the claim that 300 were killed by it, which nobody can verify.

            And frankly, the use of chlorine by ISIS in Iraq is irrelevant to a discussion of the use of Sarin in Idlib province in Syria.

      • Peter Guillam

        The evidence for these attacks always seems to be the same, a video of someone in hospital and some rusty bits of metal on the ground.

  5. duplicitousdemocracy

    There is as much conclusive evidence of other alleged CW attacks as there is of Khan Sheikhoun – practically none. It’s rightly described as a war zone and therefore the reason for OPCW being unable to visit the site. So therefore we must accept the trustworthiness of the White Helmets. If this trust is justified, why couldn’t they guarantee the safety of OPCW investigators? The White Helmets have repeatedly been confirmed as having ‘amicable relations’ with the ‘rebels’, even having neighbouring headquarters. If they couldn’t be trusted to ensure the safety of OPCW officials, this should be explained in full to the gullible public who believe them to be a Syrian emergency service. It would seem the ‘chain of custody’ rules can be discarded if they aren’t convenient and on this basis alone, there is no case to answer, for either the terrorists nor the Syrian government.

    • DDTea

      A lot has been said about chain of custody. But no one has given a plausible scenario for how, at such short notice, evidence–including living patients–could be tampered with to introduce sarin and its metabolites. Given that this is such a remote possibility, there is no reason to believe that sarin was introduced into the samples by anything other than the April 4 Sarin attack that every party to the conflict agrees happened.

      • Peter Guillam

        its not the critics’ problem to come up with scenarios, merely to point out that there is no chain of custody and that the samples are therefore worthless.

        • DDTea

          Sorry, but the lack of chain of custody doesn’t render these samples worthless. Because useful information could be drawn from them: “The sarin identified in the samples taken from Khan Shaykhun was found to have
          most likely been made with a precursor (DF) from the original stockpile of
          the Syrian Arab Republic.” I’ll further note that the presence of sarin or its metabolites anywhere is an extraordinary thing.

          So while you want to cling to hard binary rules like, “lack of chain of custody = worthless sample,” the Mechanism (like any professional) takes a more nuanced view and assesses the impact of the irregularities. And they state:

          “The irregularities described in this annex are not of such a nature as to call into question the aforementioned findings. Based on the foregoing, the Leadership Panel is confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017.”

          • Peter Guillam

            It’s not up to the Mechanism to do that. The rules are the rules.

          • blowback

            “Sorry, but the lack of chain of custody doesn’t render these samples worthless.”
            Try arguing that in a criminal court
            “Because useful information could be drawn from them”
            Not really, because if there’s no “chain of custody” you don’t even know that they’re what they’re claimed to be or how much they’ve been interfered with so how can you if the information drawn from is the truth, whatever that is.

          • DDTea

            The discrepancy in the chain of custody was in transport to OPCW hands. Per the OPCW FFM report on Khan Sheikhoun, the samples were accompanied by videos of their collection. So yes, it’s obvious what the samples are.

            The allegation of tampering is extraordinary as it is silly. Nobody is contesting that a Sarin attack actually occurred on the morning of April 4 in Khan Sheikhoun, nor is anybody disputing the location of the point of dissemination. Given this reality, there is zero incentive to contaminate samples with Sarin or its degradation products. For what purpose would this be done?

            Moreover, *how* would it be done? Where would this malevolent party acquire the Sarin to contaminate samples? Without positive evidence that this occurred, it defies credibility. Only someone unfamiliar with the tremendous challenges of acquiring sarin could claim otherwise.

            So I’m not bothered by the shortcomings in the chain of custody–and I believe you (and others) are trying to hype up their significance because you simply do not like the conclusions found by the UN-OPCW JIM.

          • AdrianKent

            DDTea – what makes these samples worthless is the ‘cross contamination’ found by the JIM themselves.

  6. Peter Guillam

    DDTea wrote:
    “You’re going to great lengths to get this plane off the hook. So tell me: if, based on the jet’s known trajectory and altitude, it was impossible to drop this sarin bomb on khan sheikhoun, then how did the pilot target the jihadist chemical weapons depot/terrorist command center at the same site the alleged sadin attack occurred? Are you losing track of your rival explanations? I’ll help you keep track.”

    But who cares about theories about what may have happened when we now know what definitely didn’t happen, if the radar track of the SAAF plane is correct?

    What definitely didn’t happen is that plane dropped a bomb flying east to west that drifted several kilometres north. It’s physically impossible.

    No bomb. no Syrian involvement. It’s really that simple.

    • DDTea

      Correct doesn’t mean continuous or complete. Part of the aircraft’s flight path may have been below the radar horizon of the US radar station that monitored it. But we do know for a fact that conventional bombs were dropped on Khan Sheikhoun during that time window (and there’s video footage of it, and I’m not aware of any challenges to its authenticity). So clearly, wherever that plane was, it was capable of hitting Khan Sheikhoun with ordnance.

      Not physically impossible. It happened.

      • Peter Guillam

        The Mechanism doesn’t seem so sure.
        To date the Mechanism has not found specific information confirming whether or not an SAAF Su-22 operating from Al-Shayrat airbase launched an aerial attack against Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017.

      • blowback

        “of the US radar station that monitored it”
        What US radar stations is that?
        I doubt the flight was monitored from ground-based radar but an AEW&C aircraft such as an Boeing E-3 Sentry which are operated by the US, UK, France, NATO, Australia and KSA is far more likely.
        From Wikipedia:
        “Its pulse-Doppler radar (PD) has a range of more than 250 mi (400 km) for low-flying targets at its operating altitude, and the pulse (BTH) radar has a range of approximately 400 mi (650 km) for aircraft flying at medium to high altitudes. The radar, combined with an SSR, and electronic support measures (ESM), provides a look down capability, to detect, identify, and track low-flying aircraft, while eliminating ground clutter (radar) returns.”
        An E-3 Sentry flying in Turkish airspace would easily be able to monitor low-flying aircraft over Khan Shaykhoun which is about fifty miles from the Turkish border so the idea that a plane could fly “below” E-3 radar really doesn’t make any sense to me.

          • Peter Guillam

            Do we know that? How can we be sure of the dates and times of the youtube videos?

          • DDTea

            You corroborate it. You geolocate the strikes, then go to Terraserver to find the earliest time the damage from the strikes occurred. You’re commenting on Bellingcat. This is the bread and butter of open source journalism.

          • Peter Guillam

            It’s not up to me to prove anything. It’s up to those making claims to do so.

          • blowback

            Your suggestion was pure conjecture because you have no idea of what radar capabilities the US-led Coalition had in the region, mine suggestion is based on the knowledge that the United States has limited ground-based radar capabilities in the region and relies heavily on AEW&C. And Wikipedia provides details of what that AEW&C is capable of. So your conjecture is worthless, while my suggestion has greater value.
            Until you can explain how a simple gravity bomb dropped at a maximum height of 10,000 metres could travel 5 km at a speed of 300 kph horizontally, the claim that the chemical weapon came from the tracked aircraft is worthless and you repeating your unsupported claim is pointless.

  7. Vas

    A joint briefing of the MFA, Ministry of Defence & Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia on the OPCW report on the investigation of chemical attacks in Syria:

    Detailed, based on FACTS analysis of Khan-Sheikhun “incident” and exposing of the western lies & falsifications on this point.
    Serious explanation WHY the “OPCW & UN JIM’s” report is a cheap dilettantish fake, once again created by West to try to discredit & to defame syrian authorities and Russia.

    All three main blocks from the report are considered:
    (1) That allegedly it was exactly “airbomb” dropped from syrian SU-22 airplane
    (2) Analysis of photo & video materials from the place of “incident”
    (3) Analysis of the chemical composition of Zarin, found on the place of “incident”

    There are TOO MANY facts and inconsistencies testify that Khan-Sheikhun “incident” was a new cheap staged provocation (for example, another one was with hum. convoy in september 2016) made by terrorists, and that West (USA first of all as a leader of so-called “US-led coalition”) unfoundedly accuses the Syrian authorities & Russia, while protecting (once again) terrorists.

    * USA (and ‘Collective West’ on the whole) almost INSTANTLY accused Assad of chemical attack. The “incident” just happened, there were even no any hints at the investigation, but the culprit was ALREADY appointed (like in “incident” with hum. convoy in september 2016)

    * Stubborn reluctance by OPCW to visit the Shayrat airfield and take samples after the “incident” happened. Assad invited them, Russia insisted that OPCW must do their work and visit the Shayrat airfield, but OPCW refused again and again. This was one of the main factors that from the very beginning showed that the whole thing “smells dirty”.

    * The “incident” happened on the territory controlled (as of April 2017) by terrorists, and naturally that presented eyewitnesses were loyal to militants and gave the “required testimony”.

    * That’s absolutely obvious that “Porter” and “Ross” destroyers were ready in advance (BEFORE the “incident” ever happened) to launch Tomahawks. Because it is physically impossible to prepare and launch missiles in just couple days (“incident” happened on 4th April at ~6:30am – Tomahawks were launched on 7th April at 4:40am). You must conduct reconnaissance purposes, prepare missiles for launch, pave the course for both “Porter” and “Ross” destroyers and reach required positions for shooting, you must develop information support of the operation and do many other things of military-technical orientation…

    * That’s obvious even for non-specialists that crater is NOT from airbomb. It’s too small, too skin-deep, the monument (on the dividing strip of the road) in the immediate vicinity of the crater is unharmed though it should be destroyed (or at least seriously damaged!) by blast wave if it really would be air bomb explosion. There’s NO stabilizer left in the crater (though it MUST be there if it would be airbomb explosion).

    * “Experts” who took “Zarin samples” from the crater worked in ridiculous chemical protection means, like the simplest respirators and gloves (and some “experts” worked even in sandals on bare(!) feet). These means of protection are absolutely not capable of protecting you from sarin, so these “experts” should have died long ago because of chemical poisoning. But these “experts” still alive and feeling fine. So…

    * “White helmets” shooting (on HD cam!) were used as video materials. It’s impossible to take such evidence seriously, because reputation of “white helmets” is known – fake staged videos (oftenly with the same actors in their “rescue operations”) which are created specially to discredit official Syrian government and to give an excuse for western political elites (and media) to blame the Syrian authorities (and Russia). It is also known WHO and WHY created “white helmets”, and who are their sponsors.

    * After getting acquaintance with the “video evidence” (from “white helmets”) well-known and respected organization Swedish Doctors for Human Rights (SWEDHR) concluded that the “victims” could be under the influence of opiates and, in all likelihood, slowly died from an overdose of narcotic substances (for example, the eye pupils of the children were enlarged, whereas in case of sarin poisoning the eye pupils of the person must be narrowed to the dot size).

    * The OPCW’s Fact Finding Mission (FFM) – this structure is headed by two British, and many ordinary workers there are Americans. Both Great Britain and USA are sharply against the Syrian government and both are very negative towards Syrian government. Can we talk about any objectivity and impartiality in this case? NO.

    the list can go on and on…

    ‘Collective West’ is trying not to notice all this, is trying to make such a cheap “reports” that do not stand up to any criticism, is trying arranges tantrums at the UN blaming Russia for “covering a bloody Syrian regime” (haha!). But the reason and purpose of this frankly primitive staged provocation (as Khan-Sheikhun “incident”) is simple (as of April 2017): the US attempt to divert the attention of the world community from the military catastrophe that they arranged in Mosul + domestic political pressure on Trump, which forced him to make a “decisive act” (strikes by Tomahawks on the Shayrat airfield) to at least somehow improve his situation/rating.

    In next few days Russia is going to introduce its own resolution on the extension of the OPCW mission in Syria. This will be a serious project that should make OPCW work REALLY (but do not create the appearance of work), to force OPCW to go to the places of incidents (but not to work remotely(!) using various doubtful sources/”evidences” from unknown persons). FFM must also be reformed to have in its composition not mainly British and Americans, but representatives of different countries, first of all, non-Western countries, to make FFM’s work really impartial and objective.
    WIll be interesting to look how USA (and its allies) will react on this resolution. If they will accept it – good, it will mean they REALLY interested in serious objective work of OPCW. If they will decline it – well, draw your conclusions.

    • DDTea

      There you go again. Writing walls of text without taking the time to do some basic library/google searching to answer your questions–most of which have been discussed ad nauseum. So let me spoon feed you.

      “USA (and ‘Collective West’ on the whole) almost INSTANTLY accused Assad of chemical attack.”
      ***Right. Because the attack came from the air, was directed at Assad’s enemies, and Assad has a proven Sarin stockpile.

      “Stubborn reluctance by OPCW FFM to visit the Shayrat airfield and take samples after the “incident” happened.”
      ***The OPCW mandate was to determine whether or not a chemical weapons attack happened, not to assign blame. Visiting Shayrat would not have furthered that goal in any way.

      ” That’s obvious even for non-specialists that crater is NOT from airbomb. ”
      ***You plainly have no idea what you are talking about. Read Dan Kaszeta’s excellent article on the ‘anatomy of a sarin bomb.’ Burster charges in Sarin bombs are typically only a few kg’s of high explosive surrounded by tens of kg’s of liquid. It’s entirely conceivable that such a device can leave a small crater without causing significant damage to the surroundings. Because that’s the entire point of the design: to disperse chemicals.

      “These means of protection are absolutely not capable of protecting you from sarin, so these “experts” should have died long ago because of chemical poisoning”
      ***Once again, you’re repeating the same, tired arguments that have dogged this site since April 4. Sarin is non-persistent, totally dispersing within 30 minutes to a few hours depending on the temperature. That’s what it was designed to do: to subdue a position quickly, then disperse to allow troops to advance. By the time sampling took place, there were insignificant amounts of volatile Sarin present. Moreover, Sarin does not penetrate skin easily.

      You would know this if you read, e.g., “The Medical Aspects of Chemical Warfare.”

      But you do not read. You just write walls of text based in proud ignorance.

      • Mad Dog

        It is only of interest to discredit every little detail, not to look at facts. A very Russian oriented approach and the response of Russia to this attack just backs that claim up. They aim to discredit the fact finders in any way possible, because it is not in the interest of Russia to discredit Assad. All these different scenarios do not hold water and they fail to address the whole delivery system problem, i.e. how do you get about 100 kg of Sarin into the area with the weapons available to the opposition?

      • kraaiiii

        ”charges in Sarin bombs are typically only a few kg’s of high explosive surrounded by tens of kg’s of liquid. It’s entirely conceivable that such a device can leave a small crater without causing significant damage to the surroundings. Because that’s the entire point of the design: to disperse chemicals.”

        for me:
        problem 1: those few kg are placed in a buster tube which runs from tail to the nose of the device, so close to the ground its far far less high explosive. And theirs a correlation between them so even if it 20 kg, at the nose is only a couple of kg.
        problem 2: Dispersion devices have zero time contact fuse otherwise the bomb will brake up on impact (it is thin walled) or the dispersion will be limited to a small area. the don’t dig into the ground like a normal aerial bomb with time fuses.

        Do to the Ukraine/Syria conflict i have seen hundreds of impact site off grad missiles, mortars, etc with more explosive filler then a couple of KG, and more high explosive close to the ground, the don’t penetrate the tarmac (zero/no delay time fuse) the don’t leave a big crater only shrapnel damage. This crater if the pictures i have seen are correct, is almost a square meter and a foot deep, this a hell of a lot more then a couple of kg and also suggest a delayed fuse.

        Even it the device worked like it supposed to their would be a lot of bomb casting or tail shrapnel due to the low amount of explosive.
        Wrong fused, faulty fuse, digging into the ground, bomb falling flat on its belly on the ground, it all will only amount to more bomb shrapnel close by, which apparently is missing.

        • DDTea

          We have no evidence of the placement of the burster charge within the device–whether it ran along the axis of the bomb or was placed toward the nose is unknown. The bomb may have been designed to fall nose first and detonate with the burster situated beneath the sarin payload, thereby projecting it upward (and raining back down on the target due to gravity). So arguing this level of detail is as meaningless as arguing how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.

          What do you mean by “close by”? I’ve been running with the numbers 100-300m radius of the impact site. 5 kg of TNT is enough to throw pieces of a car that far (such a video is available online, which i have cited in comments on other articles on this site).

          But this comment is interesting. Others have previously claimed the crater is too small. It’s a “mosquito fart,” in someone’s words. I’m of the opinion that it is the expected size from a small charge falling from the sky at high speed.

    • DDTea

      One additional, interesting point:

      ” …well-known and respected organization Swedish Doctors for Human Rights (SWEDHR) concluded…”

      SWEDHR is neither well known nor respected. They were founded in 2015. Their conclusions are only cited by Russian state media, and they only advocate positions in accord with Russian statements. Nobody in international humanitarian circles has heard about them. They appear to be a sock puppet/shill organization.

  8. Peter Guillam

    “So I’m not bothered by the shortcomings in the chain of custody–and I believe you (and others) are trying to hype up their significance because you simply do not like the conclusions found by the UN-OPCW JIM.”

    It’s not shortcomings, there simply is no chain of custody as the OPCW defines it.

    The samples are worthless.

    • DDTea

      I think the OPCW has a better grasp on their standards of evidence than you do. And you also forget that the OPCW had full chain of custody of biological samples taken from patients. You further forget that samples provided by the regime itself tested positive for sarin and its degradation products. So your laser focus on an issue with the environmental samples is noted, not least by the Mechanism itself, but it does little to detract from the weight of evidence that 1) a sarin attack occurred and 2) the regime is the most likely culprit.

      • Peter Guillam

        The OPCW in fact publicly expressed their standards of evidence.

        They said what made the OPCW reliable was that the OPCW was in full control of the chain of custody at all stages.

      • AdrianKent

        No the OPCW did not have full chain of custody of the medical samples. From the JIM report – an ‘impossible’ finding:

        “78. An inconsistency was identified in one of the Fact-Finding Mission’s
        biomedical results from samples lacking a chain of custody. In sample No. 13,1 the
        blood sample tested negative for sarin or a sarin-like substance, while the urine
        sample tested positive for the sarin degradation product isopropyl
        methylphosphonate. There is currently no explanation for the inconsistency.
        Medical experts consulted by the Mechanism indicated that the combination of the
        negative result in the blood and the positive result in the urine was impossible. That
        inconsistency was considered to be most likely the result of cross-contamination in
        the sampling process.”

        And we must beleive the integrity of it all?

  9. Peter Guillam

    DDTea – November 5, 2017
    “This has already been done by the Bellingcat team.”

    I don’t think they’ve definitively proved anything one way or another.

    • DDTea

      They’ve corroborated the timing of the attack. If you have specific disagreements with their methods and conclusions, let’s hear them.

      • Peter Guillam

        Have they? How exactly did they do that given that youtube videos have no timestamp?

        • bellingcatadmin

          You can find the exact time a video was uploaded using the Amnesty International YouTube Data Viewer. In the case of April 4th the video showing the bombing in the morning was posted shortly after the attack, and was Tweeted about shortly after that.It’s also possible to geolocate the impact sites and find them on satellite imagery. I believe the JIM report also said it had access to April 3rd imagery that confirms the impacts appeared on imagery from after the April 4th attack, further dating the video.

          • bellingcatadmin

            Here’s the JIM report “Moreover, based on satellite images of 3 April 2017, which do not show the presence of
            the crater at that time, the Mechanism has confidence that the crater was caused by
            an impact on 4 April 2017.”

          • Peter Guillam

            I don’t care when it was uploaded. I care when it was actually filmed.

          • bellingcatadmin

            As the damage at the impact sites only appear after the April 3rd image the date of filming would be April 4th.

          • DDTea

            It was filmed between april 3 and the time the video was uploaded on the morning of april 4.

  10. Woody

    Hi, I admire your lack of criticism. Yes, no traces of a bomb that weight 500 kg but the dig is smaller what a bazooka would result. And of course the plumes of Sarin climbed upwind if the US says so.


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