Oct 2, 2013

Sarin and the Syrian Opposition

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

Since it seems that over 500 kg of sarin were used in the attack, and the regime is known to have large amounts of sarin, this is circumstantial evidence supporting the regime attack theory. To evaluate its strength, we need to estimate the likelihood that the opposition could obtain sarin.

Update: The final UN report published after this analysis was written provided strong evidence that the opposition has obtained and used sarin on several occasions (see here).

Direct Evidence Connecting the Opposition to Sarin 

Carla Del Ponte, a senior UN investigator who interviewed victims of previous attacks, shared her personal opinion that chemical attacks were initiated solely by the opposition. I usually ignore opinions brought without concrete evidence, but unlike other reports, this comes from a very reliable and relevant source. Given that the clarification the UN issued following her interview does not contradict her claims, this testimony may have some value.
Update: In a later interview (minute 4:17), she reiterates her assessment, and explains this is what the initial evidence indicates, but recommends waiting for the final report. (Found by Jim Dobbin).

In a chemical attack in Khan Al-Assal, whose victims were Syrian troops and regime-supporting civilians, a Russian investigation determined the use of sarin. While the report attempts to lay blame on the rebels, it does not share its evidence and is therefore difficult to evaluate. More here.

On June 2nd Syria reported seizing 2 canisters of sarin. Additionally, on two occasions (Barzeh April 26th, Jobar August 24th) Syria reported a chemical attack on its troops, describing symptoms typical to sarin.
Since evidence was not presented, these reports are of no use.

On January 2nd an FSA official claims to have chemical capabilities, but does not provide specifics.
This video also shows an activist claiming to have chemical weapons, but does not provide specific evidence.

This well-known video threatens Assad’s supporters with chemical weapons, and demonstrates their use on rabbits. The video uses the term “Reeh Sarsar” which is later mentioned in the Liwa Al Islam rocket launch videos. Assuming it is authentic, it would only demonstrate intent and not capabilities, since poisoning an animal in a small confined space is very different from an operational chemical weapon. Additionally, the chemicals shown are not directly related to sarin production.
Update: In a comment below Charles Wood showed this video most likely shows chlorine poisoning.

Another video shows two Liwa Al Islam operatives coordinating bombardment of a building. One of them says he will bring just one sarin (translation verified independently). It is heavily edited, and can easily be fabricated, but still worth noting.


Two days after the chemical attack in Ghouta, the Syrian TV broadcasted two phone calls, which were presumably intercepted by Syrian Intelligence. In the first a rebel reports to his Saudi sponsor that his group carried a chemical attack in Homs. In the second a transfer of sarin is coordinated.
They seem authentic but are not strong enough as evidence: The first does not include details about the attack, and may be an exaggeration to impress the sponsor, and the second can possibly be interpreted as sarin antidotes.

Evidence of Attempts to Acquire Sarin

The most important evidence for opposition involvement in acquiring sarin, is the arrest of 11 Al-Nusra operatives in Turkey in May 2013. They were initially reported to possess 2 kg of sarin, which was later claimed to be antifreeze. They were eventually charged with attempting to acquire chemicals for the production of sarin. Interestingly, the prosecution listed these chemicals, including:
  • Thionyl Chloride (SOCl2)
  • Potassium Fluoride (KF)
  • Methanol (CH3OH)
  • Isopropanol (C3H8O)
  • Isopropanolamine (C3H9NO)
  • White Phosphorus (P4)
Comparing this to the sarin production process (in the appendix here), shows this is unmistakably a sarin shopping-list. The initial downplay as ‘antifreeze’ probably referred to the Methanol, which is one type of antifreeze.

Interestingly, only one week later, Iraq arrested five Al Qaeda operatives that were planning to produce sarin for use in Iraq and abroad.

Complexity of Producing Sarin

Last, let's examine the difficulty of producing sarin in underground conditions.

One way to examine the difficulty of underground sarin production is by examining the only case where this is known to happen: by the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan (source1, source2, source3). The cult started producing sarin and other nerve agents after failing to produce a biological weapon. They made significant investments in lab equipment intended to produce 70 tons of sarin. In practice, technical problems and government investigations limited their total production to less than 100 kg over their year and a half of operation.

However, Syrian opposition groups may have some significant advantages over Aum Shinrikyo:
  1. Much weaker government supervision. Treating the opposition as a non-state actor would be inaccurate, as they have full control of some areas of Syria, making them the de-facto state there. This is critical: Aum Shinrikyo had stopped their process several times and destroyed products because of police investigations. 
  2. Possible access to former Chemical Warfare professionals from Iraq, Libya or Syria.
  3. Access to lab technology that is 18 years more advanced. This was specifically addressed in this detailed analysis of Aum’s chemical program, which estimated that current lab equipment would make a similar effort much cheaper. Quotes:
    “Such an effort might be well disguised or established on a smaller scale, however, by taking advantage of the development over the last decade of powerful, low-cost micro-production chemical capabilities”.
    “… the chemical industry has, over the last decade, introduced modular and flexible designs where reactions may occur in a solvent-free environment, at increased concentrations and in much smaller and less expensive facilities”.
  4. International allies. This could prove very helpful when trying to obtain regulated chemicals or lab equipment.
  5. Internet access, which makes information on sarin production widely available (e.g. details of Aum Shinrikyo’s process). This can significantly accelerate production - Aum Shinrikyo scientists spent much of their time in trial and error.
This indicates that sarin is not a chemical that “anyone can make in their kitchen”, as is often claimed. However, an organization with sufficient funding and trained professionals can produce large quantities of sarin within several months.


Conclusions:
  1. There is strong evidence that Syrian opposition groups have attempted to acquire sarin, and some weak evidence that they succeeded in doing so.
  2. There is some weak evidence that Syrian opposition groups have carried out chemical attacks.
  3. Production of sarin in the quantities used to attack Zamalka is within the reach of well-funded underground organizations.
Did I miss anything? Please share your evidence and analysis and help me improve my conclusions.

54 comments:

  1. Just to add to the low-budget nature of the sarin, the UK Defense Science Technology Laboratory found sarin in cloth samples and that it was in liquid form. Also a liquid "kitchen sarin" form is consistent with the irregular and inconsistent symptoms witnessed and the relative lack of (at least initial) injuries sustained by first responders.

    An article by Youssef Bodansky also claims:

    "That the jihadist movement has these (liquid sarin) technologies was confirmed in jihadist labs captured in both Turkey and Iraq, as well as from the wealth of data recovered from Al Qaida in Afghanistan in 2001/2."

    The piece (you've probably seen it) goes further by adding details about the supposed battlefield operations going on. How the rebels just got defeated in Jobar and were desperate. This brought in the special brigade personally headed by Liwa al-Islam's leader Alloush... http://tinyurl.com/pn9lpqn

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    1. Thanks!

      I've seen the term 'liquid sarin' used in many contexts but I have no idea what it means chemically. Do you know?

      Medical personnel consistently report being contaminated from victims coming in.

      The article doesn't provide any sources. Would be interesting to know if indeed Liwa suffered a significant defeat that day.

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    2. Sarin is a liquid agent at normal temperatures, but is typically vaporised or turned into an aerosol through a weaponized dispersal process. I don't know the mechanics but getting an answer on liquid vs. aerosol dispersal would give additional evidence as to the sophistication of the operation.

      I have not seen anyone definitively answer the question of whether the UMLACA , as understood, would be capable of aerosolizing the liquid Sarin. It does not appear that way from what I can see over at BM's blog (he speculates affirmatively but it seems to be based on non-existent evidence and his guess has major problems, as identified by Khalid in the comments). So the weapon would appear to have had to rely on a rather crude liquid dispersal based on impact and evaporation. This may also account for why Sarin was still found in some quantities and had not been totally evaporated.

      While many medical personnel report being contaminated (and apparently died as a result) this did not appear to be immediate or even within a few minutes based on the videos we all saw. My understanding is that exposure to vaporized Sarin (in the hair or clothes for example) would result in almost immediate symptoms and result in death very quickly - as the molecules are re-disturbed, activated and then inhaled. This is as opposed to liquid drops, which act much slower through the skin. But I am certainly no expert...

      It is obviously a tantalizing piece by Bodansky, as it ties together a lot of things, but the lack of hard evidence is a problem. One thing I am trying to track down is this meeting in a base in Hatay, Turkey, whereby top commanders were apparently told of a "war-changing development." And obviously any battlefield confirmation of what was going on in the preceding days/hours would be immensely helpful.

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    3. According to my research here:
      http://whoghouta.blogspot.com/2013/09/analyzing-previous-umlaca-attacks.html
      it seems plausible that the attackers used UMLACAs that were designed to disperse White Phosphorus payloads, and used them for sarin dispersal instead.
      It's the simplest explanation I could think of, but let me know if you can come out with anything better.

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    4. Thanks for reminding me of that research. I think you've probably nailed it. But to be clear, while you note that using a WP warhead for use by CW "is not a new thing" it does appear to be a very crude (and not very effective) way of delivering the Sarin. As a commenter replied:

      "As your diagram shows (and as most others do as well) CW rounds are dispersed by a central column charge. The use of a small charge at the very tip of the missile to disperse a very large quantity of liquid just doesn't make sense. The majority would not be aerosolized and would simply rain down in the immediate area."

      Delving deeper into the aerosol vs. liquid aspect may be of little consequence in determining who used it. Except to reinforce what we already know - that the UMLACA are not at all likely to be the Syrian army's preferred method for using Sarin and is a very imperfect device for doing so.

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    5. I must say I didn't understand the claim that the location of the booster charge at the tip would cause such a dramatic difference in dispersal. Do you?

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    6. sasa,

      Standard military rounds use a column charge to disperse the liquid. If a nose charge was better they would use that instead.

      A small charge like that would produce mostly droplets rather than an aerosol - or at least a mostly very heavy aerosol that would rain out immediately. A small portion would be evaporated in the blast, another small portion would be a fine aerosol, and the majority would be droplets.

      The advantage of the column charge is that no part of the liquid is more than a few centimetres from the explosion. A far larger portion of the liquid would be converted to fine aerosol by the shock-wave.

      Delete
    7. got it. so it's about maintaining a relatively constant distance between the charge and the contents of the container.
      In that case, it seems that in the UMLACA's very wide warhead, there's not much difference in the distance distribution whether it's a column or at the tip. No?
      The tip charge also has the advantage of contradicting the downward momentum of the rocket.
      In practice, the engineers chose to place it at the tip for the WP warhead, and it has very similar requirements. So I guess they had a reason.
      What do you think?

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    8. The SLUFAE device has the same geometry and uses a column charge.

      http://www.google.com/patents/US4273048

      I think the FAE and CW theory on the 300mm+ devices are both weak.

      Your WP theory makes more sense but has little supporting evidence.

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    9. Agree it seems better. Just not sure it's a dramatic difference when the container is that big anyway.

      Delete
    10. Sasa, not sure if you agree 100% with them, but a quick look at "BM's diagrams) would seem to indicate there would be a large difference in the distance from most of the Sarin to the charge, depending whether it was just at the tip (per the BM drawing) vs. a center column that ran throughout the length of the warhead. I did not take the time to measure, but it seems obvious. Am I missing something?

      But I have to say, I am still not convinced by the WP part of the story. Have we seen any real WP burn injuries? We may have seen thirst or respiratory, but we should have seen some serious skin melting burns with a WP attack, right? Also WP leaves a very telltale smoke in the sky. Have we seen any photos? Is there other evidence besides the white smoke at the scene and dark stains on the rockets (both explainable, I would think)?

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    11. Note that this diagrams are based on wrong measurements. The warhead is actually wider (accurate diagrams are in the UMLACA simulation page).
      I agree that the average distance increases, but it's something like a factor of 2, not an order of magnitude. So I don't think it's critical, especially since the material has significant downward momentum.

      The WP evidence is pretty strong. We have a smoking gun (literally):
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68YeijuMHec
      This thing is still emitting smoke!

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    12. Sorry for my ignorance, but is a bit of smoke emanating from a rocket that has just landed that unusual that it points to only the use of WP?

      Delete
    13. I'm not aware of any warhead except WP that causes a small crater, black/white scorching, and smoke. If you find any, it would of course be very important to know.

      Delete
  2. What exactly is the claim of 500 kg of sarin used in the "attack"? A HRW calculation of 12 UMLACAs with 60 liter capacity each? This calculation assumes that the CW rocket attack happened and the sarin was that main cause of death. This is far from proven. I suspect 1 kg of sarin would be enough to falsify all the results obtained by the UN team.

    I have been cataloging the videos and going through them. It seems that in all the hospital videos the patients are suffering from and treated for asphyxia. Also noteworthy is the slow, delayed death. We see children who are clearly alive and receiving treatment in hospitals, later to be seen dead in morgues.

    These symptoms are not consistent with sarin but are consistent with chlorine poisoning.

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    1. I will analyze symptoms in the next post. However, the claim that people were poisoned with sarin for the sole purpose of cheating the UN, requires much stronger evidence to be believable.

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    2. If they were killed with sarin, then it is not cheating the UN. It is possible that small amounts of sarin was used to register as positive in UN tests, while most of the people we killed with other simpler means. How cheating in blood test could be done using IMPA-albumin adduct is discussed here.

      On the unbelievably argument. We do not know why the crime happened. Who ever did it was willing to kill the people to achieve his aims – whatever they were.

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    3. of course. everything is possible. just saying i don't see enough evidence to contradict the many sarin indications.

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    4. I neither see evidence of 500 kg of sarin used.

      I see two completely different theories on what happened:

      1. The government made a CW attack with plenty of Sarin
      2. The "opposition" staged a false flag event using some Sarin

      If it was a governmental CW attack and the opposition sources stating there were lot's of victims due to that is believed than plenty of Sarin was used. But if it was a rebel false flag attack designed to deceive the world public into attacking the Syrian government then he amount of actual used Sarin might be very much fewer. What actually was found by the UN inspectors were very few molecules of Sarin.

      If, repeat: if, the CW attack was designed to deceive the world public we have to be prepared for big cheats on every level. Just a few rogue thoughts, what might not be excluded in such a case:

      - Victims buried as alleged CW victims might have been killed in another way
      - Rockets might have been used as decoy to cover up CW use in IEDs
      - Some Sarin might have been sprayed on ground the UN was expected to investige, especially for the UN to find it
      - CW IEDs might have been used in closed buildings to produce many victims with few available Sarin
      - Victims analyzed in blood might have been intoxinated in a very specific way - even injection would be possible - especially for the UN to find Sarin

      I think, what we definitely have from video analysis of the allegedly intoxinated children is the conclusion that a propaganda operation to deceive the public was going on. This is the only explanation for children being shown in different locations as everytime fresh CW victims.

      But many questions remain. One such question might be if it was a complete false flag attack or if there was a real government CW attack and some rogue oppositional forces seized the occasion to exagerate a real governmental CW attack with fabricated propaganda to get the US into bombing Syria. As we know, for example, from the "Moscow theater hostage crisis" 2002, using some CW weapons in an anti terror fight is not something very far fetched.

      I think, the mission of independent observers shall be to poke through the propaganda of both sides.

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    5. Bandolero - We'll get to possible scenarios soon. Now we're just collecting evidence.

      Delete
  3. The 'rabbit' video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcYH-5uz91k

    shows chemicals that are very well suited to manufacturing chlorine by a simple chemical reaction. The chemicals simply could not have made Sarin or any other well-know CW agent.

    It's highly likely the rabbits died of chlorine gas poisoning.

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    1. Chlorine can be produced from salt and water. No need for all these chemicals.

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    2. Chlorine can be produced in tiny quantities from salt and water and electrolysis from batteries or low-powered electricity sources. To produce any serious quantities you need industrial size cells.

      On the other hand, the Potassium Permanganate and Hydrochloric acid we see in the video produces large volumes of Chlorine - certainly enough to gas a rabbit.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ0_SC_VsOc

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    3. Good point! Indeed looks like there's some dark material there. So chlorine poisoning it is. I'll add to the post
      Thanks for the contribution!

      Delete
    4. Old news already, but just wanted to bring your attention to a post on reddit regarding the rabbit video, where the author discusses the various chemicals on display, and what the likely chemicals used to poison the rabbit are.

      http://www.reddit.com/r/syriancivilwar/comments/1mljt1/brown_moses_blog_an_examination_of_videos/ccah431

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  4. What about this guy?

    Abdul Tawab Shahroor was head of Syria's medical forensics department in Aleppo province before he defected last month. He talked to WSJ's Nour Malas about the aftermath of what he says was a chemical attack in Khan Aasal in March 2013.

    http://live.wsj.com/video/syrian-doctor-on-aftermath-of-chemical-attack/C7AA8CB9-AEB2-4338-889D-BE3CD9D56170.html#!C7AA8CB9-AEB2-4338-889D-BE3CD9D56170

    Is he credible?


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    1. No idea if he's credible, but he doesn't claim or provide evidence that Khan Al-Assal was a regime attack. The fact that sarin was used there was already confirmed by a Russian investigation.

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  5. Here is an important aspect of the case that I have yet to see discussed, let alone analyzed publicly: the quality of the CWs that were used. I'd sure like see someone who is well-versed in chemical weapons attempt to refute the following, compelling claims. They clearly undermine the foundation of the Administration's "case", and buttress the theory that it was opposition forces using a lower-grade form of CW. (source: Golem's excellent site)


    Ole Guy September 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Finally someone who gets it. Great article Golem. Being in the chemical field myself for over 30 years, this was not a nerve agent attack. I have posted this on many sites. This could be a chlorine gas that you or I could make in our homes with everyday cleaning products.

    Military grade nerve agent is deadly. One drop can kill 40 people. As soon as the videos were being posted online I knew this was a bogus flag to try and get us back in yet another war. There are actually two types of agent, persistent and non-persistent. No matter the agent used a nerve agent in a residential area would need to be decontaminated. All fabrics collected, bagged and hauled off.

    As soon as I watched parents and medical personnel without chemical protective gear handling corpses and treating casualties, I knew this was not a nerve agent. You see just touching a contaminated corpse or casualty can indeed and will kill you if you happen to touch contaminated clothing. Decontamination would take weeks in the residential area. No decontamination stations set up, no decontamination going on at all. What a farce. Now the world is finally waking up to the scheme.

    Can you even imagine the scale of decontamination to clear up this mess? I am glad to see some people actually see through the rhetoric and use critical thinking skills.

    [snip]

    How Nerve agent works. Pin pointed eyes is one symptom. Nerve agent when dispensed smells like new mowed grass not chlorine. What nerve agent does is block the muscles ability to absorb the chemical the body produces to control muscle functions. (I could add a long chemical term but trying to keep it simple stupid as I prefer the KISS method.) Every muscle in our body uses two chemical to contract and relax. Nerve agents block the muscle receptors to receive the chemicals to control your muscles. Real casualties if still alive would lose the ability to control their muscles and would be shaking all over as they lose control of muscle function. Sorta, kinda like having a high temperature and involuntarily shivering. Nerve agent is even worse.

    Read the full comments made by "ole guy", who certainly seems to have CW knowledge, by following this link:

    http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/09/syria-cui-bono/#comment-139009

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    1. Thanks for contributing, Paul.

      I see a few problems with this analysis:
      1. There is no need to decontaminate sarin. Within hours after an attack it degrades and the area is safe. Some pockets may remain for a few days, but that's it.
      2. Being near a contaminated person can affect you, but only for the first hour.
      3. There are several reports of medical personnel being contaminated.
      4. Sarin does not smell like mowed gas. That's Phosgene. Sarin is odorless.
      5. Chlorine has a very distinctive smell. Of all the smells reported in the attack (see "chemical analysis") due to the many impurities of the sarin used, none mentioned chlorine.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your response. But if this is the case:

      "Within hours after an attack it degrades and the area is safe."

      would there not have been mass contamination of those locals who rushed immediately to the scene in order to help those initially afflicted? Wouldn't there have been reports of such an event? Wouldn't the purported videos of people helping those initially afflicted have shown the debilitating effects of being in a contaminated area and (more importantly) engaging in close contact with victims?

      Delete
    3. Medical personnel report being contaminated. From the UN report:
      Several of these "first responders" also became ill, with one
      describing the onset of blurred vision, generalized weakness, shaking, a sensation of impending doom, followed by fainting.

      Many other testimonies may be found online.

      Delete
  6. What I think you missed is the "chemical incident" reported by "opposition" on 24/05/2013 in Adra - not far away from Douma/Zamalka and well within reach of Alloushs "Islam brigade". It's interesting for some reasons:

    One "opposition" video of the victims in Adra then - male, in fighting age - seems to be filmed inside a rest room of an installation for handling dangerous chemicals, with gasmasks in boards and so on.

    - One of the videos was presented by Mohammed Al-Saeed on the ground, apparently a close friend of "Islam brigade" leader Zahran Alloush who visited him for example at his marriage
    - One of the "rebel" guys in the video has wearn a T-Shirt with a company logo of "Fuchs"
    - Fuchs is a German chemical company having a joint venture with a Saudi company Abdul Karim Group operating in Adra

    It seems like the Fuchs/Abdul Karim chemical company in Adra is or was under control of the "Islam brigade" so the "Islam brigade" may have more than a kitchen to produce dangerous chemicals, ie a real (petro-)chemical company, probably with laboratories and so on. The 24/05/2013 might have been an accident of rebel fighters trying to produce dangerous chemicals in that facility. Remember recent reports that Germany delivered chemicals to Syria, it may well be they went to Adra and are in the hands of the Islam brigade now.

    "Islam brigade" rebel Mohammed Al-Saeed was also presenter of later videos featuring UN inspectors in Zamalka and in Moadamiyah - he obviously can move between these locations. His facebook page was deleted in recent days after urs1798 reported in her blog about his Islam brigade media acitivities, but Urs 1798 kept most of the propaganda in screentshots:

    http://urs1798.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/weitere-propaganda-uber-eingesetzte-chemiewaffen-in-adra-damaskus-laut-terrormilizen-syria-syrien/

    http://urs1798.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/erganzt-zu-der-chemischen-attacke-am-21-08-2013-in-damaskus-syrien-syria/

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    1. Bandolero - Sorry for the late reply. There is some interesting stuff here. I'll analyze it and add to the next post. Thanks!

      Delete
  7. Hello sasa wawa, I'm the guy who had the Hezbollah theory. I had to put my work on that on hold due to other priorities, but I just wanted to chime in and say that I'm thoroughly impressed with your work here. You seem unbiased, you present all of the sides of the story (even though it seems like a ton of work,) and I wish you the best in continuing your efforts. Here's hoping your blog sees at least much popularity as Brown Moses :)

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  8. Liquid Sarin,

    sasa asked what is 'liquid' Sarin.

    Asides from the obvious physical state compared to gaseous Sarin, the answer is in lethality.

    - As an aside, there are two types of Sarin that are isomers and have different lethality and different metabolic processes in the body. Normal Sarin has equal quantities of both.

    Liquid vs gas lethality? Basically liquid Sarin is far less dangerous than gaseous Sarin. The percutaneous LD50 for liquid Sarin for a 70kg man is a whopping 1.7 grams! None of this 'a single drop will kill' baloney. You need to get quite a lot of liquid on you to die.

    What is much more likely to kill you is the liquid evaporating and you breathing it in. 2-10 minutes of breathing air with 70mg/m3 is fatal - i.e. roughly 1.5 to 10 milligrams in total.

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    1. From what I could find sarin has only one isomer. Could you provide a source for multiple isomers with different lethality?
      Thanks!

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    2. isomer reference plus lots of detail on Sarin

      http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2007/Long-Term-Health-Effects-of-Participation-in-Project-SHAD-Shipboard-Hazard-and-Defense/SARINNERVEAGENT.pdf

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    3. Thanks but this doesn't seem to be related to liquid sarin.

      Delete
    4. If you read the article fully you would have seen plenty of references to percutaneous transmission.

      That's liquid sarin. In particular the description of the UK subject dying from liquid dropped onto his forearm

      You also actually asked for information on isomers which this article provides.

      Delete
    5. Yes, the isomer information was new and interesting. Thanks for sharing it.

      What I'm missing now is a description of what liquid sarin is, and how it is different from the stronger stuff. The article describes sarin as a liquid without making any distinction, so I'm at a loss.

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    6. I have no idea what you mean by the difference between "liquid Sarin" and "The stronger stuff"

      As I posted, Sarin in liquid form per gram is not anywhere as lethal as gaseous form. It's the same 'stuff' just in a different physical phases.

      The LD50 for Sarin in liquid form on exposed skin by one source is 1.7 grams. In comparison the same chemical inhaled can kill with a few tens of milligrams.

      Can you point out what sources are talking about 'liquid Sarin'? If they say anything other than what I write above then they will be the usual Internet Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt and of no practical use.

      Delete
    7. Some people implied that underground sarin is liquid while military sarin is gas, and tried to use information about sarin carried out in fibers to determine the quality of sarin used in the attack.

      I understand we agree that is not the case?

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    8. Under any scenario Sarin will preferentially stay in fibres and other traps that limit evaporation.

      In the article I linked, the protocols stated that washing hair thoroughly was very important. This is (I surmise) from deposition of aerosols or from adsorption of Sarin from the air.

      Military Sarin is invariably liquid until final dispersement when it becomes an aerosol or is sprayed on surfaces to evaporate.

      There is NO military gaseous deployment system for Sarin.

      'Civilian' Sarin obeys the same physics rules and so it will inevitably be in liquid form before deployment after which it becomes an aerosol or becomes a surface liquid evaporating Sarin vapour.

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    9. A final nail in the concept of 'military gaseous sarin' is the boiling point of sarin at 158C.

      Consider a gas cylinder of H2O gas at room temperature. H2O has a boiling point of 100C and a cylinder of vapour at 20C would pull a mighty hard vacuum as most of the vapour will condense.

      Sarin at 158C boiling point is even more difficult to contain in a gas cylinder. Like water it would need to be kept at elevated temperatures to keep any vapour at all in the cylinder. And even then the total mass of the vapour would be very low,

      So to get useful 'military' gaseous Sarin the cylinders would need to be kept at hundreds to thousands of degrees C and at very high pressure to get enough Sarin inside.

      No. 'Military Gaseous Sarin' is a fiction.

      This is not to say that Sarin vapour at standard pressure and temperature is not possible. But to get there it has to evaporate from a liquid whether it be 'military' or 'civilian',

      Delete
    10. In an attempt to be more clear, can you respond to the following Charles. I just think it is an important point and I'm not satisfied there is not validity to it.

      The most explicit finding to-date (pre-UN report) comes from the UK’s Defence Science Technology Laboratory. Soil and cloth samples “tested positive for the nerve gas sarin”. The sarin in the cloth was in liquid form that soaked into the cloth. As discussed below, this finding reinforces the conclusion that “kitchen sarin” was used. Hence, so much will depend on the UN’s findings when their tests are completed.The claim that the agent used was a “military sarin” is problematic because military sarin accumulates (like a gaseous crystal) around the victims’ hair and loose threads in clothes. Since these molecules are detached and released anew by any movement, they would have thus killed or injured the first responders who touched the victims’ bodies without protective clothes, gloves and masks. However, opposition videos show the first responders moving corpses around without any ill effects. This strongly indicates that the agent in question was the slow acting “kitchen sarin”. Indeed, other descriptions of injuries treated by MSF – suffocation, foaming, vomiting and diarrhoea – agree with the effects of diluted, late-action drops of liquified sarin.

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    11. leftside

      The normal rules for evaporation change when the substance is in intimate contact with another material like cloth as compared to being in bulk form like droplets or in a beaker.

      Molecular forces from the host material as well as occlusion of the path to free atmosphere both tend to reduce evaporation.

      Free droplets will adhere to cloth and hair and usually tend to wick unless the material is repellent to the liquid - such as silicone treated fabric in the case of water.

      Gas can be adsorbed on cloth and hair at the molecular level. Depending on exposure type aerosol droplets can also be captured by the hair/fabric. Due to local processes these microdroplets can partly evaporate and the resultant gas become adsorbed on the material.

      I have never hear of 'gaseous crystals'. I doubt they exist.

      Any type of Sarin will behave the same if it is in the same physical state - gas, droplets, bulk liquid. The only thing I can imagine that might make a difference is if impurities in the Sarin acted as a wetting agent to make the droplets adhere and wick differently. That is pure speculation however.

      Any question about concentration of Sarin in 'military' or 'kitchen' sarin is pretty irrelevant unless you have orders of magnitude difference in concentration of active agent vs carrier/impurity.

      In summary. It's the physical means of delivery that's important, not the origin unless a particular variety has modifiers that alter its physical properties. And these modifiers would be easily seen in analysis.

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  9. An interesting snippet from the paper I referenced:

    "Because of the nature of nerve agents and the terror they create, psychogenic effects are very common following their use or perceived use. In the Iran-Iraq war, soldiers would frequently inject themselves with atropine and insist they had been exposed to nerve agents, when all evidence indicated that they had not been exposed (Newmark 2004a). In the Tokyo attacks, over 5000 persons reported to hospitals to be treated while, by the best estimate, only about 1000 people were actually exposed (WHO 2001). Because of the high prevalence of psychogenic effects and the need for immediate treatment upon actual exposure, it is important to be able to distinguish between psychogenic events and actual exposure."

    Mix that with the Syrian National Sport of lying and exaggeration and you have to seriously question the reported casualty figures.

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  10. Sasa wawa.Great work as usual.I am glad your blog is reaching to a larger audience,you really deserve it.As far as I am concerned,from what I am reading,I don't feel any particular bias (unlike Brown Moses blog which is sinking into a "Syrian opposition" propaganda sinkhole).I also appreciate the fact that you take the time to reply to most comments. You may not be as popular as Brown Moses (yet) but you have integrity & show intellectual honesty,& no one can take that away from you.

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    1. Thank you! That's really great to hear.

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  11. For further consideration of whether a rogue group could organize a clandestine CW program, consider this excerpt from CIA's WMD Iraq Report (2004), Volume 3.
    (Note that my opinion is that the possibility of opposition developing these capabilities is less than the possibility of foreign participation).

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B43h4G0cv2ViZ044MnF2d0liOHc/edit?usp=sharing

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    1. interesting stuff. thanks for contributing!

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