After reviewing the three reports supporting the theory of a regime chemical attack on August 21st, I would like to examine in this post other evidence that was not included in these reports.
I'm so far aware of two reliable reports. If anyone has any more (reliable!) evidence supporting a regime attack not covered here or in previous reports, please post in the comments and I will add it here for analysis.
The Hezballa-Iran call
This is a leak from a closed meeting in which German foreign Intelligence (BND) reported intercepting a call between a Hezbollah official and the Iranian embassy in which the Hezbollah official says Assad's order for the attack was a mistake and that he was losing his nerve.
As with all second-hand Intelligence reports, it is very difficult to assess its reliability without seeing the raw information. However, in this case a simple probabilistic analysis can prove the evidence has no weight:
This is a call between two officials who are very far from any decision making or inside information regarding chemical attacks. A Hezballa official having such sensitive information would imply thousands of others (much closer to the regime) also have such knowledge, which would inevitably result in better intelligence than what we saw so far.
So this is just probably one of thousands of intercepted calls made in the area speculating about the attack, and given weight only because the speakers are associated with Syrian allies.
Testimony of the Chemical Officer of the 5th Division
According to the testimony of Brigadier General Zaher Al-Saket, he was commander of chemical warfare (in some places "chief scientific officer") in the Syrian army’s 5th division, was ordered to attack rebels with chemicals and refused.
Examining this story closely raises many doubts:
- It doesn’t seem like anyone publishing this story actually verified Mr. Al-Saket held the position he claims. I could not find any such evidence. If anyone has it, please share.
- His facebook page shows a picture of him wearing Amid Insignia (Brigadier General, as claimed), but he seems 15-20 years younger (see below). It is rare for senior officers to remain so many years in service without promotion.
- Syria’s chemical weapons are a strategic asset that is not handled at the Division level. Division chemical officers are charged with protecting against chemicals, not attacking. Also, they are junior officers, definitely not Brigadier Generals (which is one rank below the Division commander).
- His discussion of chemical weapons is generally unprofessional, bordering on incoherent. For example here, after accusing the regime of using sarin, he says: "Worse still, this regime has binary chemical weapons. The world must understand that there are chemical binary weapons in Syria". Whether a chemical weapon is stored in binary form or not is of minor significance in this context.
- He claims to have been ordered to use Phosgene, a chemical weapon that has not been in use for over 70 years, and was never considered part of the Syrian arsenal.
- In live interviews he seems very dedicated to the goal of getting International intervention.
So unless there is more substantial evidence, it seems like Mr. Al-Sakat did not hold the position he claims during the civil war, and is just using his military past to help get International support for the opposition.
There are many mentions of his name in Arabic. Help of an Arabic speaker that can shed more light on this story would be appreciated.
This concludes my analysis of the evidence for a regime attack. As shown, the only evidence of any weight presented so far is the munition analysis by Brown Moses, which demonstrates with high probability that the attack on Zamalka was carried out by rockets developed and used by the regime.
I will next examine the evidence contradicting a regime attack.
Did I miss anything? Please share your evidence and analysis and help me improve my conclusions.