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August 31, 2013

Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons

[This detailed press release means that the US will attack but with what goal.]

WHITEHOUSE PRESS RELEASE

The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian
government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on
August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the
attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and
geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting. Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress
and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot
publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an
unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what
took place.


Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21

A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack
took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S.
intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian
medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media
reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area;
journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental
organizations.

A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were
killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children,
though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the
chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs
on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed
the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to
make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s
preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of
intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack
observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and
the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position
that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will
continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding
of what took place.

Background:

The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents,
including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be
used to deliver chemical warfare agents.

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the
chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to
ensure security and loyalty. The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research
Center (SSRC) – which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense –
manages Syria’s chemical weapons program.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical
weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last
year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on
multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials
planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of
physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed
exposure to sarin. We assess that the opposition has not used chemical
weapons.

The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to
carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike
simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the
opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery
attack like the one that occurred on August 21.

We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last
year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it
has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this
regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons
as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic
missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.

The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of
opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime
targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus
neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on
August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems.
We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large
portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical
weapons on August 21.

Preparation:

We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons
personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC –
were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days
prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial
intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated
with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of
‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August
21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including
sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons
attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks.
Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications
in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to
use chemical weapons.

The Attack:

Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket
and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of
August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a
regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks
reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and
Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime
controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before
the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of
flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the
regime used rockets in the attack.

Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs
began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there
were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12
different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described
chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.

Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients
displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three
hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible
international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the
epidemiological pattern of events – characterized by the massive influx of
patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the
contamination of medical and first aid workers – were consistent with mass
exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and
Syrian medical personnel on the ground.

We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of
which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent
with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of
victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth,
constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of
the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible
injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and
inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister
agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available
videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the
general times and locations described in the footage.

We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate
all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs,
and other information associated with this chemical attack.

We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us
to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on
August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official
intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons
were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N.
inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have
intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease
operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage
targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the
24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and
rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding
days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the
neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.

To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the
Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took
place on August 21. As indicated, there is additional intelligence that
remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being
provided to Congress and international partners.

  • Posted by Ted Belman @ 5:26 am | 1 Comment »

    One Comment to Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons

    1. mrg3105 says:

      But does anyone have a sample that has been analysed by an independent laboratory to verify its military grade nature?

      Here is information from the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion & Preventive Medicine.
      Cholinergics, i.e. Organophosphate pesticides (as well as sarin and VX nerve agent) irreversibly inactivate acetylcholinesterase, which is essential to nerve function in insects, humans, and many other animals: cause an over-stimulation of nerve cells that result in a wide range of mild to life-threatening effects depending on exposure – this is same mechanism used by chemical warfare nerve agents like Sarin
      which was used in the Tokyo Subway terrorist incident. Examples include pesticides e.g.: Parathion, Malathion.
      “ Mild effects: runny nose, reduced pupil size, shortness of breath, feeling of tightness in chest
      “ Moderate effects: excessive salivation, sweating, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, muscle twitching, involuntary defecation and urination, and confusion
      “ Severe effects: seizures, paralysis, coma, and respiratory arrest leading to death

      Syrians are know to use pesticides extensively due to failing agricultural sector, and are known to use unsafe storage and transportation procedures (by EU standards) for many hazardous chemicals.
      After World War II, American companies gained access to some information from Schrader’s IG Farben laboratory, and began synthesizing organophosphate pesticides in large quantities. Parathion was among the first marketed, followed by malathion and azinphosmethyl. The popularity of these insecticides increased after many of the organochlorine insecticides like DDT, dieldrin, and heptachlor were banned in the 1970s.
      How do we know pesticides are popular in Syria? “In 2003, 95 per cent of world olive-oil production (more than 2.5 million tonnes) was In the Mediterranean. Over the past 40 years the world market for olive oil has undergone a sharp rise In production and consumption, which has practically doubled, while trade has increased by a factor of five. Syria is a notable example, with production that has increased 33 times in the coastal region and 10 times in the whole country in 30 years (1970-2000).” A Sustainable Future for the Mediterranean: The Blue Plan’s Environment and Development Outlook, Guillaume Benoit, Aline Comeau, p.268.

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