Sep 26, 2013

Summary of Anomalies in the UN Report

If this is your first time here, I recommend starting from the conclusion page.

The UN report has been the main source of evidence in this research. Over time I found in it multiple flaws and misrepresentations, which I list here together, for convenience.

Wrong Trajectory Calculations

The trajectory analysis from the Zamalka impact site was found to be inaccurate by over 50 degrees.
The trajectory analysis from the alleged Moadamiyah impact site was found to be based on faulty evidence, including a rocket brought from another site, dents that are likely not related to any rocket impact, and unsubstantiated speculation that the the rocket hit an adjacent building without it interfering with its trajectory.

These trajectories were later used in the famous “azimuth intersection” calculation to claim the source of the attack was the Syrian Republican Guard base.

Implying Stabilizers were Found

Data about Impurities and stabilizers was the most important information the world was waiting to get from the team. Yet the report chose to hide these in the appendix, and refer to it in the misleading sentence: "In addition, other relevant chemicals, such as stabilizers are indicated and discussed in Appendix 7”, which was indeed quickly misinterpreted in the press to mean stabilizers were found.

Instead of clearly stating that the sarin contained numerous impurities and no stabilizers, they allowed the media to misinform the public.

Implying High Grade Sarin

It was reported that in a private briefing "Mr Sellstrom confirmed that the quality of the sarin was superior both to that used in the Tokyo subway but also to that used by Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war".

This is a highly misleading statement, exploiting the public’s lack of knowledge of Iraq’s low quality chemical program. Iraq’s sarin purity was discovered to be low and it deteriorated quickly in storage, reaching quality levels as low as the sarin used in Tokyo. The statement also ignores the fact that Syria’s chemical program is considered far more advanced than Iraq’s (e.g. having operational binary warheads). 

Naturally, this statement was also quickly misinterpreted to mean the sarin was typical of a military source.

Understating Sarin Impurities 

While all sarin degradation products were described as such in a footnote, the many impurities found by the labs were grouped under “Other interesting chemicals” without further explanation

Omitting Information Crucial for Associating the Rockets with a Chemical Attack

All samples were taken from the immediate vicinity of impact rocket sites. In order to rule out other sources for the sarin contamination, samples should have been taken at locations within the attacked area that are not near any impact site. This was not done. 
Just to avoid misinterpretation: Despite this, there is still evidence associating the rockets found in Zamalka with the attack (unlike the M14).

While results are reported for multiple samples from the rocket bodies found in Zamalka, none of the six wipe samples taken at the site of the M14 rocket body were from the actual rocket. No reason was given for this omission. Since it now seems that the M14 is not related to any chemical attack, this omission is especially concerning.

In page 23, an "Impact Site Number 2" is first mentioned. While other sites were photographed and sampled, this was not. An azimuth was given for it (pointing at the same base), but without explaining how it was calculated. There was also no mention of a rocket body at that location. Based on the omission pattern seen so far, it is probably a safe bet that this site contained evidence of a conventional attack.

Update: Mishandling Blood Samples

In the final UN report another amazing misstep is reported, in which the UN team has mishandled multiple blood samples taken from Syrian soldiers who suffered from an opposition sarin attack. Full details here.


  1. "The chemical Diisopropyl methylphosphonate (DIMP), a well-known by-product of sarin and therefore an indication of low quality production..."

    I disagree with this statement. DIMP is an unavoidable byproduct in Sarin synthesis, *especially* if a binary munition is used. The only way that I can think to avoid it (or at least minimize it) would be to do a slow addition of Isopropanol to DF, with a stoichiometric excess of DF. This is not possible in a binary reaction, where the two chemicals are combined and mixed rapidly. As DIMP is not harmful to Sarin, it probably isn't worth the effort to remove it. So the presence of DIMP cannot be interpreted as a statement of quality.

    “Our findings indicate the sarin used was of a quality typical to low budget manufacturing”.

    There just isn't enough evidence to support that conclusion. We have sufficient evidence that binary Sarin was used. As I stated in the last post, binary Sarin is necessarily going to be impure.

    Some of the thermal degradation products are the same as environmental degradation products--so it isn't always possible to distinguish which came from where. All that's left at ground zero are the residues from the chemical weapon. It's not possible to ascertain the % purity of the chemical weapon based on this. We simply do not know.

    1. Thank you!
      Removed the DIMP reference.
      Not sure why you disagree with the low-budget conclusion. Isn't the use of technical-grade isopropanol indicative of that? What about the impurities relating to earlier levels (i.e. note related to the binary process).

    2. The use of technical-grade isopropanol could indicate low budget production. But it could also indicate large-scale production (it's easier to buy a lot of technical grade reagents than a little bit of technical grade reagents). In my experience, chemical plants usually use the cheapest reagents possible because it minimizes their production costs/maximizes their profits. Sometimes they pretreat their materials before use (e.g., by distilling or drying), but only if it's critical to product success. Purification steps are often more time consuming and expensive than the synthetic steps. Worth noting is that the Iraqis did not start purifying their reagents until they noticed the impurities were decreasing the shelf-life of their unitary Sarin ( ).

      Also in my experience, ethanol is difficult to separate from isopropanol. Their boiling points are too close (78*C vs. 82*C, respectively) for distillation to be effective. To be clear, the amount of ethanol present in technical grade isopropanol would probably be less than 1 % by weight. So really, whoever produced the stuff may have settled with having small amounts of ethyl sarin present. It's more of a curiosity than a smoking gun.

      As for the other impurities, those are perhaps more enlightening. The real interesting one, in my opinion, is Hexafluorophosphate because its origin can shed light on manufacturing process details.

      Based on eye-witness accounts of fishy odors/rotting garbage, that is consistent with the smells associated with binary components (isopropylamine). But because no amines were found (at least, noted in the report), this also tells me a lot of materials simply evaporated and were not detected. So, unfortunately, the chemical analyses done at this point are going to be non-quantitative and cannot be used to reconstruct the true composition of the chemical weapons used. The limit of what can be said is what was "probably" present--but not in what amounts/concentrations.

    3. DDtea,
      Since I really appreciate your opinion, It's important for me to make sure I get it right.

      Reading this and other sources indicate Syria has the world's third largest chemical program, that has been running for over 20 years, and involves advanced technology and weaponry. It is considered of strategic importance intended to balance Israel's WMD program.
      I just can't understand how scientists involved in such a project would cut corners in such a negligent way, compromising the product's effectiveness and shelf life by using the lowest grade of isopropanol. Looking at online chemical sites seem to point at negligible price differences between the lowest and highest grade isopropanol.

      The Hexafluorophosphate finding: I understand this indicates impurities at 3 different stages. Do you find any of these or the other impurities to indicate sloppiness that is (a) negative to product efficiency or shelf life, and (b) can be removed at a military-grade well funded lab, but not at a low-budget underground operation.

    4. Until we reach an agreement, I reworded my conclusions to be more careful.

  2. You could add a whole section on the medical examination reports.

    There are a number of atypical symptoms that are either not reported in the literature or usually present with different timings relative to exposure.

    Miosis and red-eyes are obvious ones. Spasm is another. These are reported without note.

    Also significant is the 10% - 15% of people who presented with symptoms but did not test positive to Sarin by-products. This was reported but not remarked on.

    Then the weather summary (para 22). It is plain wrong to describe the extant strong inversion conditions as 'air moving downwards'. Inversions are very stable with no air movement up or down inside them. Gas spread is by diffusion and lateral wind transport (FYI I was originally trained in atmospheric physics and specialised in inversions and gas transport inside them).

    1. Thanks. See my update in "UN Report": The miosis discrepancy is just a misunderstanding.
      The other findings may indicate some bad procedures, which is expected given the conditions. I am more concerned with the misleading writing of the report itself.

    2. I don't think this is a misunderstanding. The report clearly distinguishes between the history and the physical examination findings. Based on studies of the Japanese incidents, those who were exposed to sarin at a level high enough to cause symptoms should still have obvious miosis when examined 5 to 7 days after exposure, even if they had been treated with atropine. We'd also expect complaints of ocular pain and darkened vision. The report states that miosis was recorded in the case notes of 4 of the 8 patients whose case notes were examined. There's no direct tabulation comparing case notes with examination findings in these 8, but it looks as if the examinations didn't confirm the case notes

    3. I couldn't find any indication that more than 14% should have miosis after a week. If you could provide it I'll gladly add it to the report.

    4. Sasa, I am confused, exact data is impossible, but you have Dan Kaszeta clearly stating "it should have been more than 14%, but perhaps less than 99% reported in Tokyo" - is that good enough for you? I have given you Dan's tweet on the issue.

      I also cited a scientific paper that says that wich heavy exposure, the presence of miosis would last closer to on the order of several weeks, rather than several days.

      What other source/paper/statement do you need to be convinced? I am not certain I could give you lab results, if that's what you are asking for :)

      You are in error to dimiss miosis. I am not sure how you don't see that.

    5. Sorry, could you post the link to the scientific paper again? It's hard to keep track of all the conversations.

    6. I just realized you misunderstood my response to Anon to be directed to you. I was asking Anon to share the report about miosis progression after the Tokyo attack.

      I think this report is pretty clear:
      "The duration of miosis is variable ranging from several days (to regain normal dilatory activity in indoor lighting) to as long as 9 wks to regain
      maximal dilation in total darkness"
      Since the tests were conducted indoors, 14% sounds perfect for 1 week.

    8. Sasa, you are not accounting for the fact that the duration of the symptom's (miosis') presentation will correlate directly with the level of exposure. Kaszeta's entire confusion comes from the fact that the symptoms described by the surveyed victims (he is taking the victims' accounts at face value) very symptoms of very SEVERE exposure. Accordingly, says Kaszeta, 14% miosis a week later is too LOW a presentation rate for this specific symptom. Kaszeta does not speculate as to whether the victims' accounts overstate the symptoms (seizures, loss of consciousness) they experienced. However, he is very clear:

      1 week later, MORE than 14% of the surveyed victims should have presented evidence of miosis (I.e. given the apparent HIGH level of exposure, miosis would have remained closer to the 9 weeks range, rather than several days range). He further says that, perhaps, it would have been lower than 99% (given the passage of time and the variability of the level of victims' exposure). However, he is pretty clear that rates of presentation of miosis should have been at least somewhere IN BETWEEN 14% and 99%. I would argue that, if the accounts of the severe exposure and correlating symptoms are true, then the rate of presentation should have been much closer to 99% than to 14%.

      In terms of your paper, I'll read it later, but you should look for how the paper correlates the LEVELS of exposure to the rate of presentation of miosis. For the purposes of Kaszeta's (and my) analysis, indoor lighting vs. total darkness is irrelevant. For instance, if the paper you cited refers to low-to-mild levels of exposure, I would not be surprised, at that level of exposure, if all signs of miosis (except maybe in complete darkness) would be gone several days later. With severe exposure, this is not so easy to determine.

      Overall, there is no easy answer to the rate of presentation of miosis post-exposure to Sarin. One thing is clear - the percentage will depend on the following factors:

      1) level of exposure - the higher the level, the longer miosis will be present, regardless of whether tested in light or darkness - at the highest level of exposure, it will be present for up to several weeks (recall that very high levels of exposure appear to be indicated by the accounts of the surveyed victims);

      2) the passing of time following exposure - the later following exposure the tests are done, the less evidence of miosis there will be, depending on the level of exposure;

      Separate from that will be this:

      3) whether or not tests are conducted indoors, outdoors or in total darkness. This does not technically change the rate of presentation of miosis. It only changes the likelihood of detecting miosis in particular lighting conditions. Miosis is obviously a term that encompasses a range of impairment to dilatory activity of the iris.Thus:

      (a) miosis is still present if it can be detected in total darkness, even if it cannot be detected in indoor lighting.

      (b) In any event, you are assuming that all tests were conducted in indoor lighting and were not conducted in a variety of lighting situations.

      (c) The range of lighting situations can be simulated by how light is shined in the eye for testing purposes - how bright, from what angle, etc.

      It would be surprising to me if this was not known to the UN team - but, then, what do I know.

      The issue with strange rates of presentation of symptoms continues when you consider lachrymation, vomiting, urination, other involuntary bodily functions - all these are conspicuously low rate. To me, this is not a question of whether Sarin was used, but whether the accounts being reported are accurate or exaggerated.

      Here is the paper I originally referred to:

      Munro NB, Ambrose KR, Warson AP
      Toxicity of the organophosphate chemical warfare agents GA, GB, and VX: Implications for public protection. Environ. Health Perspect. 1994;102:13-37.

    9. I'm pretty sure the UN did not have the time to do a test as complete as this one:
      And it shows within 6 days pupils that are typical to indoor lighting. I really see no problem here.

  3. This may also be useful to consider - perhaps a small Russian Version

    “On the occasion of the incident in the vicinity of Aleppo on March 19, 2013 when the United Nations, under the pressure of some Security Council members, didn’t respond to the request of the Syrian government to send inspectors to investigate, Russia, at the request of the Syrian government, investigated that case, and this report, i.e. the results of this investigation are broadly available to the Security Council and publicly,” Lavrov said.

    “The main conclusion is that the type of sarin used in that incident was homemade. We also have evidence to assert that the type of sarin used on August 21 was the same, only of higher concentration.”

    1. Thanks for sharing this. My initial reaction was that this could be very valuable. However, after reading that their "compilation of evidence" used the Mint Press report and the Mother Agnes report, both of very low quality, my enthusiasm quickly subsided.
      At this point I think this is usable only if Russia shares the raw lab results.

  4. Also, don't forget the Russians' statement of the delivery vehicle in Aleppo - they refer to a Basha'ir-3 rocket, allegedly used by the opposition. I have no further data on that, but the Russians refer to it as not being industrially manufactured.

    1. You have probably already seen this, but the following is a quote from Vitaly Churkin, the Russian UN ambassador, about that rocket described in that unpublished report, (from Reuters)

      "According to the information at our disposal, the production of Basha'ir-3 unguided projectiles was started in February 2013 by the so-called 'Basha'ir al-Nasr' brigade affiliated with the Free Syrian Army," he said.

      When I read this I assumed that he was talking about the "hell cannon" discussed at length on the Brown Moses cite, but I did not look into it further.

    2. Yes, I noticed this in their report, but couldn't find anything about it.

  5. The Sellström team is already back in Syria. The "Wednesday" in your linked article refers to yesterday.

    1. Yuck.
      I'll correct the article.
      Let's hope the new report is better.
      Thanks for pointing this out.

  6. Directly related to the Jobar chemicals are the reports of a chemical attack in Jobar on September 12. The incident is covered by Clay Claiborne here.

    The reports say that the chemical agent is chlorine. There are many other indications that chlorine was also used on August 21. My analysis says that if chlorine was used, then it was most likely done by the rebels.

    You seems to be working from the premise that the victims of August 21 were killed by chemical weapons delivered in a rocket attack. This would be the case if Assad was guilty.

    If this is a false flag attack then there is not really a need to kill a massive number of people with rockets. What is needed is a staged performance that makes the western audience believe that the rocket attack happened. A few rockets may be fired, a few people may may be killed. If you can deliver the bodies, no one will come asking how they died.

    In fact none of the existing evidence can connect the shown victims to a target area of a chemical rocket attack. There is no video of rescue or recovery work. None of the victims have been filmed in situ. The victims just mysteriously appeared at the hospitals before the doctors got there – all of them fully dressed at 3 am.

    From the evidence it is possible to conclude that people died, but they could just as well have been hostages gassed to death in some confined spaces.

    1. Petri,

      1) It is appropriate to work from a premise that people were killed on August 21, 2013 by chemical weapons. The best evidence available at this time is that a number of people were harmed by what appears to be Sarin. It is not unlikely (and therefore the proper subject of a hypothesis or even a working theory) that others died on August 21, 2013 as a result of exposure to Sarin that others (including the ones examined by UN) were harmed by. There is nothing wrong, and everything right with this position.

      2) Pursuant to relevant customary international law, as well as the 1925 Geneva Protocol (to which Syria is a signatory), it is unnecessary that there be any victims resulting from the use of chemical weapons. It is sufficient that chemical weapons were used in war (one could quibble as to where an internal civil conflict is included in the 1925 definition of "war" but I see no value in such equivocation). Death or harm by chemical weapons is irrelevant - only use is.

      3) Use of chemical weapons, or, at the very least, use of chemical substances in the context of war has been fairly sufficiently established.

      4) None of what I have stated above assumes ANYTHING about the regime responsibility - attribution could be either to rebels or to the regime, but the fact remains - use of chemical weapons is a war crime, and, I would argue, a crime against humanity.

      5) I find it counterproductive to start with any form of emotional argument in analysing the issues presented by the Aug 21, 2013 incident - whether the emotional argument is about a "false flag attack" or about the "1,400 martyrs killed by the devil al Assad" - both are emotional arguments, albeit for different reasons.

      6) the only question that remains is attribution. And, as I tend to follow the path of legal analysis, our first task is to determine whether Assad's guilt can be established beyond a reasonable doubt and all inconsistent theories arising from the pattern of circumstantial evidence can be excluded. The evidence is continuing to come out. It does not hurt to consider alternative theories, but it would not be my approach to start from the standpoint of an alternative theory to "prove innocence" - guilt must first be sufficiently established for the accused to seek to try to prove his innocence.

      7) how do we even start speculating as to whether videos do or do not capture accurately what happened on August 21, 2013? I hate videos, they are such poor evidence, so open to misinterpretation and manipulation. I think the use of videos on the part of the supporters of the theory that "al Assad did it!" is plain silly. What do videos add to the argument that the "rebels did it!"?

      8) this all may be just a rant, but, as a result of the obfuscation of evidence on everybody's part (including the UN team) we have all been placed in the position of judges, and, as a result, have been denied the ability to also be advocates. At least that's my position on this debate. I would suggest we behave as judges would.

    2. @Gleb Bazov
      7) how do we even start speculating as to whether videos do or do not capture accurately what happened on August 21, 2013? I hate videos, they are such poor evidence, so open to misinterpretation and manipulation.

      1) First by cataloging all the videos, as we are in the process of doing. 2) Then grouping together videos that show the same location or same victims. 3) Combining the video evidence with other sources; photographs, activist reports, newspaper stories. 4) Geo-locating the scenes, as he have done for some location here. 5) Finally, treating each location as an individual crime scene.

      If the individual crime scenes show evidence that other factors are at play than sarin released into the atmosphere – as some do – then we have to question the whole narrative of a chemical weapons rocket attack.

  7. 1. According to the UN Charter war of aggression against Syria is the most serious crime against the humanity, defined in the Statute of the Nuremberg Nazi-war crime trials:

    "To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

    The Nuremberg Principles, War of aggresion

    2. A war of aggression by irregular troops against the people and the government of a country, falsely presented as a "civil war", has already been judged by the International Criminal Court. The perpetrators are apparently still on the run:

    Apart from this, the NATO-Qaedas had and have every reason to use poison gas because of the "red line", the Syrian government has no reason because of same the "red line" and their victories against the foreign NATO-Qaedas. Other allegations are irrational because

    - the almost defeated foreign NATO-Qaedas had every reason to use poison gas in order to gain military air support by crossing the "red line", then to blame others for their own crimes, and

    - foreign NATO-Qaedas had shown in their videos that someone supplies them with poison gas, months before 21 August 2013, and

    - foreign NATO-Qaedas said in their videos months before 21 August 2013, that they will use the supplied poison gas for mass murdering civilians to assert that they are not defeated, and

    - foreign NATO-Qaedas were desperate to prevent the UN from doing their real job, to investigate of poison gas attacks in northern Aleppo, for which the NATO-Qaedas been accused by the victims, the witnesses and the UN, and

    - in the videos, published by foreign NATO-Qaedas, parents from Latakia have recognized their children, previously abducted by foreign NATO Qaedas, and

    - Syrian government called the UN to investigate the poison gas attacks in northern Aleppo, but the traveling of the UN inspectors was prevented for months.

    Whoever calls this lies has to prove it, or the unproven claim will be the only proven lie. Whoever wants to offend the victims should not try, or the only offended person will be the own one.

    One question remains: Who supplies poison gas to foreign NATO-Qaedas?

    1. Thank you. Most of what you wrote could become relevant once we try to reach the final conclusion.
      However, I would be interested in seeing the evidence of the Latakia parents.

  8. 'The ISTEAMS / Mother Agnes Report
    This report mostly analyzes videos from the event and attempts to show they were staged. As it doesn't seem anyone takes this claim seriously, I will not perform a full analysis of the report, and just give my general impression:'

    actually quite a few people take it and Mother Agnes efforts seriously...that you dont is because you start with the conclusion Assad did it and work back from there..Mother Agnes we all know..but who are u?

    1. Welcome brian,
      I suggest you go through other posts first, and especially the conclusions. In nowhere was a conclusion assumed beforehand. Actually, it seems like most of the evidence is not consistent with the regime attack theory (at least not as commonly presented)
      You are the first person here to give the Mother Agnes report any weight. If after reading the evidence on this site you still think it's accurate, here's what I suggest: Choose one claim from the report which you find believable and we'll analyze it together.
      Thank you!

  9. A report critical of the UN investigation, also with a look at Eliot Higgins and HRW involvement. The author works at MIT

    1. Thanks!

      His work is a bit sloppy, but I agree with the conclusion. Someone in the UN team played with the evidence to make it match the claims made at the time.

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