Nov 2, 2013

The Conclusion

On August 21st the world woke up to horrifying images of a chemical attack against civilians in Syria. Over time the details emerged: Rockets with sarin filled warheads landed in rebel-held residential areas, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. However, one crucial detail remained unclear: Who carried out the attack? Each side naturally blamed the other, with western intelligence agencies providing evidence supporting the opposition, and Russian intelligence supporting the regime. Both sides issued biased reports with cherry-picked evidence, only adding to the confusion.

This blog was created to counter these disinformation campaigns, by providing an open online collaboration platform to investigate who is behind the attack. It turned out to be very successful with dozens of contributors meticulously documenting and analyzing thousands of pieces of evidence. Due to the sensitivity of the matter, high standards were enforced: Only reliable evidence verified by multiple sources may be used. No unverifiable statements from a single source, no generous interpretations of blurred images, and no cherry-picked circumstantial evidence.

This post summarizes this effort and provides the final conclusion. It should not be read as an opinion piece that tries to promote a certain point of view by choosing convenient evidence and making unsubstantiated claim. It is the result of a ground-up process that started by meticulous collection of all relevant evidence (regardless of what theory it supports), scrutinizing each item, and examining which scenarios can best match the evidence. At the end of the process only one scenario was found plausible. It is presented below in a hierarchical structure that allows the reader to independently verify every statement: Just follow the links and you will always reach hard evidence: a video, an eyewitness report, a mathematical model etc.

The only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces. Following is a description of the main findings, with each one linked to the evidence that backs it.


Background Evidence


This section provides background information on the attack that is not directly related to culpability, but is necessary for understanding the rest of the evidence.

On the night between August 20th and 21st the regime launched a wide scale attack on the Ghouta area.
  • Evidence that a regime attack was ongoing at that time:
    • Regime attacks on this area are a regular occurrence 
    • Report of a non-chemical heavy artillery attack
    • Opposition social media accounts reported heavy fighting at 1:15 AM, more than an hour before the chemical attack was reported.
    • The US reported seeing rocket launches from government territory at about 1:00 AM (60 minutes before the chemical attack).
    • All evidence and more details here (item 3)
On the same night, rockets with large sarin warheads (hereinafter “UMLACA”) landed in Zamalka, an opposition dominant residential area, killing hundreds.
  • Evidence that sarin poisoning occurred only in the Zamalka area:
    • There are dozens of first-hand reports of sarin poisoning, and all of them are from the Zamalka area (see examples here, herehere)
    • It should be noted that initially the attack was thought to encompass nearly all of the Ghouta area. This was later found to be a misunderstanding due to nearby hospitals helping patients from Zamalka. The only town that continued to claim a chemical attack was Moadamiyah. However, this report was found highly unreliable.
      • See full analysis of the Moadamiyah site here
  • Evidence that UMLACAs landed in Zamalka:
    • Multiple videos of UMLACA in their impact sites were found in Zamalka, some of them reported only a few hours after the attack
      • Three UMLACA impact sites are analyzed here
      • Video of a fourth Zamalka impact site
      • Video of a fifth Zamalka impact site
    • Human Rights Watch received from local activists information of 12 UMLACA impact site, all in the Zamalka area. Report and map here.
    • There were no reports of UMLACA impacts anywhere else.
  • Evidence that the UMLACA was the sarin delivery device:
    • They were found immediately after the sarin poisoning, and in the same area. No other munitions were reported.
    • The impact sites and rocket remains show no signs of damage from explosives or incendiary.
    • The impact sites have remains of a container capable of carrying around 60 kg sarin. The remains are stripe-shaped, indicating the container was designed to explode on impact, tear open, and release its content to the environment.
    • The UN has reported finding sarin in soil samples taken near the impact sites.
    • More details in the UN report.
  • Evidence that hundreds were killed:
    • We have not yet concluded our analysis of the number of casualties, but most sources report numbers in the hundreds. A good analysis of the different sources may be found here, reaching an estimate of less than 500.


Primary Evidence


This section contains findings which are directly indicative of a rebel attack.

The attack was launched from an opposition-controlled area 2 km north of Zamalka.
  • Evidence the rockets were launched from the north:
    • One impact site was documented by locals during the UN visit, showing a rocket buried in the ground pointing north
    • A second impact site was documented by locals a few hours after the attack, showing an UMLACA and crater clearly pointing from north to south
    • A third impact site was documented during the UN visit showing a hole in the northern wall of an apartment
    • Full details here
  • Evidence the rockets were launched from 2 km north:
    • The UMLACA’s maximum range is 2.5 km, as indicated by:
      • Computer simulations.
      • Three videos showing launches of this rocket (although with a different warhead).
      • A comparison to other rockets with known range
      • Two expert opinions
      • Full details here
    • The 12 impact sites seem to form an arc around this launch site (see map below)
    • There is an open field in that area, which would make an UMLACA attack (which requires two trucks) easier to coordinate
  • Evidence the area is opposition-controlled:
    • A map prepared by HRW shows it as "opposition contested area" (no separation between full and partial control).
    • A map reportedly obtained from Syrian troops shows the area as "rebel held".
    • The Wikipedia map shows the area as partly "rebels held" and partly "contested". It is very far from regime held territories (excluding the freeway).
The sarin was of low quality and contained impurities that indicate it was likely produced underground and not in a military plant
  • The evidence:
    • The UN reported finding multiple chemical impurities, indicating failures in the sarin production process.
    • Two of the impurities are directly indicative of low-budget underground production.
    • Eyewitness accounts are near unanimous in their reports of strong odors, whereas pure sarin is odorless.
    • The UN report found no indication of chemical stabilizers in their samples, which are often used in military-produced nerve agents.
    • Syria has an advanced chemical warfare program, which can be assumed to produce high quality agents.
    • All evidence and more details here and here.
A video leaked by an anonymous source associates Liwa Al-Islam (a Jihadist rebel faction) with a rocket attack that is likely related to the chemical attack
  • Evidence the video depicts a Liwa Al-Islam attack:
    • The cameraman describes it as such.
    • Liwa Al-Islam flags are seen on the launcher.
  • Evidence the attack in the video is related to the chemical attack
    • The time reported in the video is the night of the attack.
    • The video contains several indications of its location, which could only be matched to the real location of the attack.
    • The video shows three UMLACA launches.
    • The fighters are wearing gas masks.
  • The video is unlikely to be a fabrication, since it is very ineffective as propaganda, specifically:
    • The video quality is very poor, making it unusable for mass media distribution.
    • The specific launches documented in the video are on regime forces, and on different neighborhoods (not Zamalka).
    • The videos show a Howitzer canon being used, which was never associated with the chemical attack before.
    • The videos were leaked nearly 4 weeks after the attack, when the risk of military intervention already subsided.
  • Full analysis of the videos here 

Map of the attack:
Red triangle - Likely source of the attack. 
Red pins - UMLACA impact sites in Zamalka (with calculated trajectories in greeen). 
Purple pins - Areas reported to have been attacked by UMLACA in the Liwa Al-Islam videos. 
Red line - Border between rebel-held area and contested area, according to Wikipedia's map.
Blue line - Border between contested and regime-held areas (i.e. Qabun and Jobar are contested)


Secondary Evidence


Despite the strong primary evidence, the rebel-attack scenario could not be accepted without answering the following questions:

How did the opposition obtain sarin?
Syrian opposition groups have been building chemical capabilities for some time, and most likely manufactured the sarin themselves.
  • Evidence that the opposition acquired sarin:
    • A Syrian opposition group was arrested in Turkey attempting to acquire chemicals that can only be used to manufacture sarin.
    • Production of sarin in the quantities used to attack Zamalka is within the reach of well-funded underground organizations.
    • More evidence here 
  • Evidence that the opposition used chemical weapons in the past
    • While there were many claims of chemical attacks, there was only one prior to August 21st that had a significant number of casualties and was consistent with a nerve-agent attack. This attack in Khan Al Assal in April targeted Syrian troops and regime-supporting civilians.
    • A UN investigator of war crimes in Syria shared her personal impression that prior chemical attacks were initiated solely by the opposition
    • Additionally, the UN has found strong evidence indicating two sarin attacks on Syrian soldiers occurring a few days after the Ghouta attack (details here).
    • Full details and more analysis of previous chemical attacks here
How did the opposition obtain UMLACAs?
While manufacturing sarin is a task within the capabilities of such groups, developing a rocket with an effective chemical warhead is fairly complex. Stealing one would also be very difficult, since Syria’s chemical weapons are heavily guarded. However, it turns out that the UMLACA was originally designed as an incendiary weapon, and not a chemical one. The opposition could have easily captured a stock of these incendiary UMLACAs and refilled them with sarin.
  • Evidence that the UMLACA was a Syrian Army incendiary weapon, refilled with sarin:
    • All previous reports of the UMLACA with this warhead showed clear signs of White Phosphorus or a similar incendiary surrounding the impact sites.
    • These signs were not found in the impact sites of the sarin attack in Zamalka.
    • Chemical and incendiary warheads have similar designs, and in some cases the same design is used for both.
    • Full details here.
  • Evidence that the opposition has access to nearly every weapon of the Syrian Army:
    • Raids on Syrian Army depots are a frequent occurrence.
    • There are numerous videos showing the opposition using looted weaponry, including tanks, APCs, artillery, rocket launchers, and even surface-to-air missiles. 
    • More details here.
    • An opposition raid on a site that was likely to hold incendiary UMLACAs is documented here.

Refuted Contradicting Evidence


While the evidence for a rebel-attack is very strong, we must also verify there is no strong evidence to support the competing regime-attack theory. This section lists evidence which was used in the past to imply regime culpability.

Western intelligence agencies claimed the attack spanned a large area and was therefore beyond the capabilities of the opposition.
  • As described above, this was a result of initial confusion. All first-hand accounts and UMLACA sites are in the Zamalka area. The attack was launched from a single location by a small team, and does not require the large-scale coordination claimed.
Human Rights Watch found that two rocket trajectories reported by the UN (one in Moadamiyha, one in Zamalka) intersect at a large Syrian Army base.
  • First Trajectory (Moadamiyah): 
    • The evidence indicates there was no chemical attack in Moadamiyah.
    • According to the details given by the UN, the Moadamiyah trajectory is unreliable.
  • Second trajectory (Zamalka):
    • The azimuth was miscalculated by 60 degrees. It points north, not west.
    • Two other impact sites in Zamalka also indicated a northern source.
    • The distance from Zamalka to the suspected Syrian army base is 9.5 km, while the UMLACA’s range is 2.5 km.
  • See the map above for the correct source of the attack.
  • Full details here
The UN reported chemical stabilizers were found in the soil samples, indicating a military source.
  • This was a result of a reporter misreading a statement in the UN report. No stabilizers were found. Full details in update 2 here.
The US reported rocket launches from regime-held territory 90 minutes before poisoning reports flooded social media (i.e. 1:00 AM).
  • These were part of a regime conventional attack. Eyewitnesses consistently report the chemical attack started at 2:00 AM.
  • Full details here (item 3).
US and German intelligence claimed to intercept calls confirming regime culpability.
  • These was shown to be highly unreliable here (item 4) and here.
A former Syrian officer claims that he was in charge of chemical warfare, and was ordered to use chemical weapons.
  • His story was found to be unreliable, and probably an attempt to provoke international intervention. The evidence:
    • Photos of him found online indicate he was not in military service during the war.
    • His discussion of chemical weapons shows poor understanding.
    • Full analysis here.
The US and UK intelligence claimed Syria has used chemical weapons on a smaller scale on 14 occasions.
  • These were analyzed one by one, concluding that the regime has used White Phosphorus and possibly less-than-lethal chemical agents against opposition fighters, but there are no reliable indications of nerve agent use by the regime.
  • A similar analysis by the Harvard Sussex program on chemical and biological weapons reached a similar conclusion.
  • Full analysis here.


Refuted Supporting Evidence


This section lists evidence that was claimed to support the rebel-attack theory, but was found to be unreliable. Although not relevant to evaluating this scenario, it is provided here to demonstrate the neutrality of the evidence analysis process.

Local activists admitted that the poisoning was a result of an accident involving chemicals brought from Saudi Arabia.
  • A close reading of the text indicates the locals are most likely referring to another accident and the reporter heavily edited their quotes to make it seem related.
Hostages have overheard a Skype call in which rebel commanders admit the attack was a rebel provocation.
  • Like the calls reported by the US and Germany, these were most likely speculations misinterpreted as actual knowledge.
Full details and more cases here.


Motives


To reliably determine culpability, evidence should be accompanied by a motive. Two possible motives were found plausible:

Targeting Mistake
The Liwa Al-Islam videos indicate that the sarin UMLACAs were intended to be used against regime forces, and the launches are probably in response to the regime attack that started earlier. The attack on Zamalka may therefore have been the result of a targeting mistake – either in azimuth calculation, or in wrongly identifying Zamalka as regime territory.

False flag
Another plausible explanation is a deliberate attack on an opposition neighborhood, in attempt to meet the US’s red line for intervention. This could possibly be an unauthorized decision made by the chemical rocket team.

Detailed discussion of scenarios and motives here


Regime Attack Alternative


Besides demonstrating the high likelihood of a rebel attack, the research also exposed the implausibility of the regime attack scenario: To believe that the attack was carried out by the regime, one would need to assume the following:
  1. The regime decided to carry out a large-scale sarin attack against a civilian population, despite (a) making steady gains against rebel positions, (b) receiving a direct threat from the US that the use of chemical weapons would trigger intervention, (c) having constantly assured their Russian allies that they will not use such weapons, (d) prior to the attack, only using non-lethal chemicals and only against military targets.
  2. The regime pressed for a UN investigation of a prior chemical attack on Syrian troops, and then decided to launch the large-scale sarin attack at the time of the team's arrival, and at a nearby location.
  3. To execute the attack they decided to (a) send forces into rebel-held area, where they are exposed to sniper fire from multiple directions, (b) use locally manufactured short-range rockets, instead of any of the long-range high quality chemical weapons in their arsenal, and (c) use low quality sarin.
Detailed discussion and other regime-attack scenarios here. 


Summary


An analysis of all evidence relating to the August 21st chemical attack indicate it was carried out by opposition forces. According to the most likely scenario, they used looted incendiary rockets, refilled them with sarin they manufactured themselves, and launched them from a rebel-held territory 2 km north of Zamalka.

The evidence was presented above in a unique structure that allows the reader to independently verify every claim. The purpose of this structure was to make sure that you, the reader, can reach one of three mindsets:

  1. Contradicting evidence – You followed the links and found faulty evidence, or you have reliable contradictory evidence that was not yet considered. If so, please post your findings in the page where that evidence is discussed. We will then scrutinize it and if it holds up, the conclusions may change. Thank you for contributing!
  2. Alternative theory – You agree with the evidence but can come up with an alternative theory that better explains it. So far no one was able to come up with a plausible regime attack scenario, but maybe you can. Post your suggested scenario here and we’ll discuss it. Thank you for contributing!
  3. Convinced – Awesome, glad we could be of help. All we ask is that you spread the word and help us change the mainstream perceptions. Let’s prove that an open collaborative effort can overcome governments’ propaganda and disinformation. This is not just an intellectual experiment. Every day that passes with the world thinking the regime is behind the attack, is another day where the real perpetrators are accumulating sarin and improving their capabilities. It is just a matter of time until it is used outside Syria.


Many thanks to all the contributors. Amazing work!
Members of the media wishing to publish the report, please email sasa1wawa@gmail.com.

110 comments:

  1. Comments on Summary Discrepancies - Point criticism.

    Background Evidence

    The reports of gas attack are necessarily later than the attack. Perhaps 30-60 minutes lag?

    The weather conditions at local midnight were optimal for a gas attack. Conditions deteriorated till 03:00 when the wind speed became quite high. Assuming an intelligent and informed attacker an earlier rather than later attack is more likely. To counter this, SNAFU may have delayed attacks.

    Local activist reports are very suspect. Unless more actual missiles are found (and proudly displayed) it seems likely the attack was at most 4 missiles.

    Numbers of dead are highly political. From a personal observation scores of people were buried. Less than hundreds. The videos clearly show manipulation of the dead in medical centres to maximise the death toll.

    Primary Evidence

    Eskimo (UMLACA) range. Although I have strongly argued for a shorter range the 'definitive' 2.5km range is not absolute. Slightly longer and certainly shorter ranges are possible. In particular, altering the elevation of the launcher has a major effect.

    The arc around a potential launch site also matches a longer range launch from Mezzeh to the SSW with little lateral dispersion but reasonable distance dispersion. Ground strikes may possibly be misinterpreted and terminal wind direction may affect missile trajectory in cruise phase. The UN direction estimates indicate a more westerly azimuth.

    Contested areas / rebel held are not definitive. In most cases the possession is nominal so either party can enter territory without much risk (old army doctrine of 'aggressive patrolling' is relevant.)

    Sarin Quality - much of the odd reports could be put down to a hoax or simply exaggeration. If a rumour of a gas attack starts, many people will immediately invent symptoms and perceptions - See Tokyo and Iran examples.

    The Liwa al-Islam video may have been released as 'gilding the lilly'. Media control in Syria is strong but not absolute. Perhaps elements of the NDF decided to 'do their bit'?

    Secondary Evidence

    Turkey chemical reports sound very weak. There is a deafening silence about them asides from the known propagandists.

    Khan Al Assal sounds promising - but could also be explained by a disinformation exercise or even a Government attack gone wrong.

    Opposition possesion of Eskimo (UMLACA). This sounds weak. We should have seen videos of it before.

    Summary Section.

    It's a very powerful argument that the Syrian Government is not responsible because it would be suicide. It's also a very powerful argument that the extreme opposition would want to do this.

    Both these arguments assume a rational Government and Opposition. In both cases there is a broad spectrum of positions and motivations in the different groups. Rogue elements in the Government may have done it, Rogue (i.e. religious) elements of the opposition may have done it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1. It's not the reports that are later. The impacts themselves are 60 minutes later. US detected regime launches at 1:00 AM, and eyewitnesses reported the rockets fell at 2:00 AM. Definitely unrelated.

      2. I agree it's possible that only 5 rockets fell.

      3. The UMLACA 2.5 km is at optimal elevation. Could definitely be shorter - the map assumes 2 km.

      4. Not sure I understand how an attack from Mezzeh is consistent with range and impact site directions.

      5. In Halabja victims were very consistent in describing the "correct" odors (e.g. fruit for tabun), so I think there is something to learn from that here.

      6. Maybe the videos were gliding the lily, but why make them so ineffective?

      7. The Turkey report is pretty strong. You have the public prosecutor listing chemicals that can only be used to make sarin. What other explanation can that have?

      8. If they capture one UMLACA launcher and decided to use it for the chemical program, I doubt we would have any videos. I agree it would be great to have direct evidence of its capture, but not everything is documented.

      9. A rogue government attack is unlikely since they would need to manufacture sarin, and also be very stupid not to understand the implications.

      Delete
    2. Re: the 1am 2am issue.

      Local time was UT+3 - summer time. Standard time is UT+2.

      Is it possible the US used Standard time? So their 1am is actually local 2am?

      Re: Turkey. I've read elsewhere that the 2kg Sarin was actually Ethylene Glycol. This may be disinformation. What hard links do you have to ongoing prosecutions / reports on this?

      Delete
    3. The 1 AM was calculated from the US statement of "90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media", which was 2:25 AM. We also have evidence of a conventional government attack at 1:00 AM, so it fits.

      At one point Turkey tried to downplay it as "anti-freeze". This was probably a reference to Methanol, one of the chemicals required to make sarin, and also a type of anti-freeze. Apparently, they couldn't get the prosecutor to play along.

      Full details here http://whoghouta.blogspot.com/2013/10/sarin-and-syrian-opposition.html

      Delete
  2. Map evidence is not convincing at all. The supposed SAA map is from last autumn/winter, and if you think control hasn't changed since then, I've got a bridge to sell you. You can't seriously use a months-old map to try and demonstrate present control in a hotly-contested frontline area.

    The HRW one depicts central districts like Rukn al-Din, Adawi, and Tajarah as "contested". The only other map I've ever seen that shows this is this (http://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/opposition-advances-damascus) contentious one from now-disgraced ISW researcher Liz O'Bagy (see here for a rebuttal: http://exitleftproject.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/motives-behind-the-chemical-strikes-the-theory-of-a-rebel-advance/#more-240 ).

    In addition, I'm not sure I would not treat the Wikipedia map as "reliable" for this. Notable is that it depicts this large government military complex (33.55 N, 36.33 E) as "contested" even though rebels have never at any point controlled it.

    Then there's the fact that two of the three maps you provide don't show the area as "opposition-controlled", but rather "contested". While you disclaim this in the notes for each map, the header makes the bold statement of "control". There's a very real difference between the two concepts, and it's a little concerning that the "evidence" relies on conflating them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have some good points. I think we need stronger evidence there.

      Irbin and Zamalka are definitely opposition neighborhoods. Jobar is mostly deserted, but seems to be controlled by opposition fighters, with occasional army incursions.

      So a field surrounded by the opposition from three directions sounds like a reasonable location for an opposition rocket attack, and a very bad location for an army attack.

      How do you suggest we reach a more definite conclusion?

      Delete
    2. Well done all simple all dead are Sunnis u morons only Shia kill Sunni and Shia are all aligned with Asad no Shia is in the opposition... Unless the Sunnis decided to bomb themselves... Wow wat bs.. For further proof contact me I will try to give u chance to speak to people from there... Or goto live updates from Syria Facebook etc

      Delete
    3. Abbie,

      The claim is that someone decided to attack Sunni civilians in order to bring international intervention. He might have thought he was saving more lives than he's killing.

      I would definitely be interested in talking to people from Zamalka and Irbin. Contact me on sasa1wawa@gmail.com.

      Thanks!

      Delete
  3. what a load of horse crap only someone evil or perverse in thinking of defending Assad is some how being anti-imperialist

    logic like Assad slowly winning then why use chemicals- let me ask if rebels could use chemicals and this chemical capability to kill thousands why not on Assad since it would win them the war since the rebels are organised enough to kill thousands of there own people in there own controlled areas they obviously lack that morality

    somehow Assad who is destroying entire cities and committing massacres would hesitate to do this in areas he is finding hard to dislodge

    so because you think the range is 2.5KM (which doesn't discount Assad using chemicals) and some fake videos are real you put two together the hey presto its the rebels

    obviously ignoring common sense and any evidence that rebels could anything

    will focus on few BS leaps of imagination by author but need to write an whole post for this joke

    western intelligence unanimous use by Assad

    all countries including France & Germany agreed that Assad used chemical weapons

    there conclusions not just based on sources or some curve ball nonsense from iraq

    - DIRECT satellite observation of use chemicals or identified ULMCA from assad bases
    - DIRECT intercept evidence of communications that contain Assad officials admitting use of chemicals

    liwa islam video your biggest source of BS and delusion

    a dark unclear short video containing just enough to know its associated with chemicals but obscures any evidence of anything else of the area even general area or environment as well as identification of the individuals happens to get released on the internet months after containing some BS about captured by kurds

    rebels in Damascus have never captured D-30 howitzers because they have never captured any strategic bases containing them also they have never shown to use them in the Damascus area and the rabbit story debunks the whole video anyway

    the liwa islam flag like other Islamist group is the standard black banner with addition of there logo, that flag is crude one not ones exactly used by them

    - importantly anybody following islamists will know the manner of how they talk, considering its the biggest even of the WAR and there about carry out this massive event the TAKBEER Is completely wrong, no muslim groups pronounce takbeers as in the video with weak following chants

    this a little bit of common sense



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello and welcome.

      Please try to refrain from name calling, and focus on the evidence.

      Most of the items you raised are addressed on the specific page of each subject.

      The reports by western intelligence were found to be unreliable. For example, they report the rocket launches on 1:00 AM, but all eyewitnesses report the rockets fell at 2:00 AM. Obviously, these are different rockets.
      See more here: http://whoghouta.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-us-intelligence-assessment_19.html

      The liwa al islam videos are covered here:
      http://whoghouta.blogspot.com/2013/09/evidence-contradicting-regime-attack.html
      The flags are ok. The Takbeer is of course muffled because they're wearing gas masks.
      If you claim it is a fabrication, you need to explain why they decided to make it seem like a different attack.

      Delete
  4. strangerthenred,

    Your arguments follow a standard narrative that is simply wrong.

    Relying on any "western Intelligence" reports is plain daft. We know they have a political interest in the defeat of Bashar. We know they have massively lied in Iraq including use of fabricated evidence, and we know that all announcements / leaks are made by political rather than military sources.

    Putin says that the Government didn't do it and points out the stupidity of wanting to do it. That's a pretty good argument.

    Bombarding civilian villages and towns is one thing - the US does it all the time. Risking getting your entire military apparatus destroyed and likely losing the civil war is something else again.

    Your 'debunking; of the video is hilarious. Try putting a gas mask on and see how your takbirs sound.The howitzer? I've seen plenty of videos of the insurgents using every type of heavy weapons including heavy howitzers.

    There's plenty of reasons you could use to disagree with the conclusions, but you've managed to hit a trifecta of daft, wrong, and irrelevant ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. your daft and evil enough but anybody who is a Muslim or follows Islamism will know what I mean

      Assad murdered thousands women in children and this pathetic low life who thinks he is on anti-imperialist mission to defend him

      the biggest joke is how the opposition obtained sarin

      absolute joke article with anyone with common sense

      then ULMCA acquisition

      so we know Assad uses them which the opposition has never captured or used this ULMCA

      presumably the industrial capacity to make this amount of sarin then fit them to these "captured launchers" with the right fuzes exists somewhere in outer space

      Delete
    2. I presume by ULMCA you mean 'Eskimo' - sometimes referred to as UMLACA (itself a suspicious and political term).

      What we know about Eskimos is almost entirely what has been told to us by insurgents channeling through Brown Moses / Eliot Higgins.

      That in itself is very suspicious, We have this carefully presented narrative over many months linking the missile type to chemical attack from the very start - despite there being no verified chemical attacks by this means until probably August 21.

      If I was a suspicious type I'd say that the Eskimo 'chemical' narrative was deliberately developed from the first time this missile type was used - in anticipation of a later false-flag operation.

      The continual 'teaser' releases by Eliot Higgins and his fixated association of them with chemical weapons is entirely consistent with a callous and murderous scheme to frame the Syrian Government.

      The degree of sophistication and planning required tends to indicate a foreign intelligence agency involvement, rather than a purely home-grown act of bastardry.

      Unless someone can give an innocent explanation of how Eliot Higgins knew, or at least his informants knew, that the missile type he dubbed 'UMLACA' was a chemical weapon well before it ever became one, we have a very strong argument the 21 August events were orchestrated by the insurgents - probably under the direction of a foreign intelligence agency.

      Delete
    3. Putin is also a master of disinformation (ex-KGB) and has a vested interest in aligning himself with the Syrian Government: they both have a 'terrorist' problem in their back yards apparently requiring extreme measures to deal with it: remember the Moscow Theatre Siege of 2002?
      Launching a chemical attack at a most unlikely time could actually be a strike of shear brilliance: the UN were never going to produce the strong evidence required to frame the Syrian Government due to the mass bombardment to destroy much of it. All they were ever going to say with any certainty was that sarin was used. Don't forget you are dealing with 2 nations here with Troops trained in chemical offensive warfare, not just defence. The Syrian Government never had anything to fear from the UN. In addition, are Western nations really going to war alongside those same jihadis who they have been opposing in recent history? The argument that the rebels wanted to drag the US into the war, although I do see the logic, is weak in my opinion. Grouping all opponents of the Syrian Government into the 'rebels' category is also wrong: some would want US involvement and some wouldn't.
      I agree with Charles's point above re the UMLACA/Eskimo, although would argue it's not a foreign agency but Syrian Government involvement. Strange how BM seems to spot something then all of a sudden, lo and behold it appears in a video... Like that ridiculous 'bicycle pump' positioning... I very much doubt Eliot did know it was a chemical weapon: it was merely associated with the attacks and consequently 'misinformation' occurs leading to that conclusion. If that flying bean can is a chemical weapon, I'll be damned! I think BM may have done the Syrian Government's misinformation campaign all by himself and saved them the bother.

      Delete
  5. Look at all the FSA groupies squealing in horror at this conclusion. LOL. Where were you for the last couple of months when this blog started and the author asked for help? Where were you to make your "considered contributions" BASED ON VERIFIABLE EVIDENCE.

    Whoghouta has been clear from the start of this project. No partisan perspective, no bias. The methods employed have been transparent and have been open for everyone to improve or amend with corrections (unlike Brown_Moses).

    You can cry all you like. You can not argue with logic and physics. Assad could not have been responsible. Suck it up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And just to clarify - if anyone can provide contradicting evidence, I will gladly update the conclusions.

      Delete
    2. you also simply didnt have answer to points like sarin used in multiple areas as Dan K has showed

      you ignored most if not all points on rebuttals

      just linked them saying yh im rebutting this look on this point with some implausible suggestion

      you haven't even read the human rights watch report i know that because you didn't mention anything about the witnesses seeing the rockets coming from regime controlled areas only


      your complete regime hack, truly evil person ideologically ignoring mass murder

      thinking Assad the sectarian butcher is some kind of anti-imperialist and the opposition is some western controlled army

      hopefully the injustice that you do in fooling anyone will come to you or in hell

      though anyone reading HRW report, brown Moses blog together with common sense about whats possible will know things clearly

      Delete
    3. All these points have been addressed.

      Sarin used in multiple areas is addressed here:
      http://whoghouta.blogspot.com/2013/09/what-happened-in-moadamiyah.html

      The HRW report is addressed here:
      http://whoghouta.blogspot.com/2013/09/brown-moses-analysis.html

      If you want to quote a reliable eyewitness testimony seeing the rockets coming form regime areas, I will gladly discuss it.

      On a more personal note, you seem to be very emotional about this. The fact that one extreme opposition group used chemical weapons does not mean Assad=good rebels=bad. We're here to find out who is behind the attack. Nothing more. If you want to help, you're more than welcome.

      Delete
  6. More points

    Immediately after the attack there were reports that SAA soldiers had been affected by Chemical Weapons in/near Ghouta. In themselves the reports are 'interesting' but the story was then reported by Robert Fisk where he stated this was evidence the Government wasn't involved.

    This different Fisk piece on the attacks, while technically inaccurate reveals multiple sources expressing doubt of a Government attack.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/gas-missiles-were-not-sold-to-syria-8831792.html

    This piece summarises a lot of the doubts covered here and suggests Saudi Intelligence was responsible.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/questions-plague-un-syria-report-who-was-behind-the-east-ghouta-chemical-weapons-attack/5351337

    Finally, the fact that Syria did have a large arsenal of chemical missiles and did not use them is a very good counter-argument to the "Assad didn't care about the West and gassed his own people anyway" Gassing them the hard way with substandard Sarin and improvised delivery missiles seems unlikely when he could simply have deployed his CW missile batteries and got a very predictable and lethal attack.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We don't know that he didn't: http://rogueadventurer.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/alleged-fuze.png?w=640
      ATK-EB fuze unlikely to function on a non-spun rocket.

      And we have a good idea that he has converted ZAB munitions to CW: http://defense-update.com/analysis/analysis_230907_syria_cw.htm

      DDTea also suggested the sarin used was likely binary and possibly mass produced. Hence, the 'low-quality'. Do you need 100% pure sarin for you to take advantage of its effects?

      Delete
    2. The interesting finding is not the purity level, but the use of low-grade chemicals. This is a clear indication of underground production.

      Delete
    3. Low grade = cheaper. There are definite advantages here for both sides. We actually don't know the quality of chemicals held in the Syrian Armoury. The blog simply assumes that because they are for military purposes they must be high-grade. Not necessarily: again I refer you to DDTea's point of mass production.

      Delete
    4. Syria's chemical program is intended for long-term storage and as a strategic deterrent. Using low-grade chemicals will cost them more in the long-run, not less.
      On the other hand, if you're an underground organization manufacturing sarin for the first time, intending to use it within days, this is exactly where you'll cut corners.

      Delete
    5. Isn't one of the advantages of a binary system is that you can store it for longer? We also have no idea when sarin production stopped: it could have been made relatively recently.

      Delete
    6. Indeed a binary system increases storage time. However, the rockets were not a binary delivery device, which means it would require mixing the precursors before launch - a very risky process with no justification. Why not just use one of the binary rockets they already have?

      Bottom line, if you insist that the sarin was government-made, then a case can be made for why they decided to use low quality chemicals - it's just much less likely.

      Delete
    7. So if the rockets aren't a binary delivery device and DDTea's excellent analysis shows that binary sarin was likely used, we have a contradiction don't we

      Delete
    8. It just indicates the last stage of production was done through simple mixing of the fluids. Doesn't have to be in-flight.

      Delete
    9. But by your own analysis, opposition fighters have no requirement for binary sarin as apparently they were making it not long before launch in any case; they didn't need to store it. Why put themselves through a very risky process for the sake of a very short time period? It just doesn't make sense to me. The size of the holes in the rocket warhead would almost definitely ensure that anyone filling these things got a good dose of the contents. To me, binary sarin is a huge indicator for the Syrian Government, not fragmented opposition fighters.

      Delete
    10. 1. They couldn't definitely need a binary process of the precursors are prepared in a remote site and delivered to the battlefield to be mixed on site.
      2. Even if the sarin is made in one site, the last stage could be binary-like, involving simple mixing of the precursors.
      3. Warhead filling is of course done in full protective gear.

      Delete
    11. 1. C'mon Sasa, that'll take ages...those warheads are huge...out on the battlefield in a contested area??!! Don't think so.
      2. Again, why bother if not necessary for storage? Better mixing if done prior to filling: especially with that rocket motor filling up to one third of the warhead volume!
      3. Agreed.

      Delete
    12. 2. I probably didn't explain this well: the last step of the process (DF+isopropanol) can be done in a 'professional' way and can be done by simple mixing. Simple mixing would be easier but will damage purity, and will give indications similar to a binary process.
      So this is a case of a low-budget process producing results which seem binary-like.

      Delete
    13. Simple mixing does not confirm DDTea's explanation of the smells reported on the day of the attack. In addition, the conditions of the mixing process would be different from a binary mix: simple mixing should be done in a dry inert atmosphere so as not to degrade the product. The byproducts reported by the UN included hydrolysis products, possibly indicating moisture was present when the reaction occured. It makes no sense to quickly make up your sarin in a production plant, to then ship it onto the battlefield in an insecure area to then quickly mix your sarin, fill and then fire the rocket. You'd be much better off filling and mixing in a secure environment, likely one where you have the equipment necessary to the task. This would give different results from a binary sarin mix.

      Delete
    14. What in DDTea's analysis disagrees with the scenario that the sarin was produced on a low budget and the last stage was a simple mix, then pouring into the warheads and shipping to battle?

      Delete
  7. Insurgents with D30 Howitzers - the same as used in the Liwa al-Islam video.

    http://cjchivers.com/post/58151716217/syrian-rebels-with-d-30-howitzers-this-is-an

    ReplyDelete
  8. "...The purpose of this structure was to make sure that you, the reader, can reach one of three mindsets..."

    It's absolutely worthy of a critical look, sasa. I understand your purpose was to have a reasonable set of endpoints and this blog has done much to bring a lot of the scattered bits together for consideration.

    However, I'll still have to go with the unmentioned mindset #4:

    There are tangled layers of genocidal psychopaths at play here - take your pick: Israel, US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. The crony core NATO powers with their lapdogs Turkey and Jordan. Assad, his mutant Ba'athist cronies, the Syrian DHS thugs and assorted pro-regime militia child-killers. And finally, the opposition: the now-crumbling FSA street-gangs, ISIL and Iraq thugs and Al Nusra jihadis.

    A reasonably intelligent person has to assume ALL parties above cannot be trusted to tell the truth and all have their own agendas. A reasonably intelligent person has to assume that a common Syrian citizen is going to say whatever the closest party with a gun listed above wants them to say at any given time.

    Given all that, there is the clear possibility that no logic or physical evidence will every be so overwhelming to eliminate mindset #4: It could have been either 'side' or it could have been one of the outside parties. No conclusion possible.

    Mindset #4 doesn't really care 'who did it', anyway. It's insulting to the Syrian people who really could have used some help way back when Assad cracked down on their Arab Spring protests. It's two years too late today - Syria has been destroyed, and nobody running around with guns in Syria is actually on the Syrian PEOPLE's side. 10,000 or so Syrians have died from war violence or illness, or have just starved *since* the chemical attack.

    Dragging the perpetrators of the East Ghouta CW attack in front of the Hauge in ten years is meaningless to an average Syrian today. They are in mortal danger from ALL the psychopaths listed above. It would have been nice to find the one holding the smoking chemical bomb in August, but it's meaningless to them now. They are (and rightfully so) terrified of *all* of them. They don't have the luxury of playing "Which side is more evil?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The casualty rate today is half or less than at this time in 2012. Mainly as a result of diminished supply to the insurgents.

      If the insurgent supporter nations stopped feeding men, money, and weapons into Syria the insurgency would die in a couple of weeks and restoration and reconciliation could begin.

      Delete
    2. Paveway,

      I agree that ending the civil war is more important than finding who is behind the chemical attack, but there are several reasons why this is of importance:

      1. This was the largest single attack on civilians during the war.

      2. It was used as a false pretext for war. After Iraq, it's important we find a way to stop governments from repeating that.

      3. There is a terrorist organization with advanced chemical capabilities. If we continue ignoring it, we will see more Ghoutas all over the world.

      Delete
    3. sasa: Exactly - it will always be worth the effort.

      Delete
    4. Charles:

      "...the insurgency would die in a couple of weeks and restoration and reconciliation could begin..."

      If it were only that easy. Unfortunately, psychopathy, inhumanity and misery breed more of the same.

      Reconciliation? The Republican Guards and Syrian secret police are much more likely now to treat any dissenting public as a threat worthy of unrestrained cruelty. Assad's crony criminal gang is entrenched in Syrian government - replacing Assad changes little. On the other side, homicidal Jihadists in Syria don't care if anyone supports them - they kill in God's name and nothing about any infidel peace plan interests them. Their war will never end. Machetes, IEDs and suicide bombers will continue to do the job just fine. The situation is far worse than before the civil war when Syrians only had to worry about Assad.

      Restoration? Every major city in Syria is in ruins. Infrastructure in the worst areas has been destroyed - they haven't had electricity or water for over a year. There are a million external refugees and probably as many internal. There are plenty of well-armed local criminal gangs that exist on looting or extortion. Syria is broke, and any money flowing in now will never get to the people. It will be drained away by crooked politicians and criminal corporations, like it has been everywhere else.

      The world lost Syria a while back - you would need a miracle to bring it back to life. Rearranging the vultures picking over it's bones tomorrow is both futile and sad.

      Delete
    5. What you see on the Internet is a wildly exaggerated view propagated mostly by the insurgents but also by Government supporters.

      For most Syrians life goes on pretty much as before - though things like trade embargoes make some goods hard to get.

      For comparison, the natural death rate in Syria is around 200 per day.

      http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Excel-Data/mortality.htm

      The present insurgency related death rate has dropped remarkably since the end of 2012 and is typically under 50 per day, often under 25.

      http://www.documents.sy/statistics.php?lang=en

      In comparison to other civil wars the Syrian one is remarkably un-bloody.

      http://edition.cnn.com/2013/01/08/world/meast/syria-civil-war-compare/

      You can be certain that when the warm war stops the EU will start pouring many billions of dollars in for reconstruction - probably China will as well.

      Former Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and Sri Lanka show that even very bitter civil wars can dissipate in short order and civil life quickly return to normality.

      Jihadis? Russia sounds like the next big thing on the jihadi tourism calendar.

      Delete
    6. Re: jihadis, I completely agree. Strange how the Russian Government have not kicked up more of a stink since apparently these jihadis have access to Saudi-funded chemical weapons...or do they know something about the chemical attack that we don't...?

      Delete
  9. Sasa, did you make a special section on "Le Monde's" "evidence"? They have claimed that their reporters had smuggled out samples of chemicals used by the SAA (ref to the article in the acloserlookonsyria page). Thanks for your work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not yet. Will get to it someday.

      Basically, if you read it closely, the reports are consistent with the strong riot control agent we've seen in the past. They try very hard to make it seem like military-grade chemical weapons, but fail to bring any evidence.

      The video they attach is ridiculous. Many shots look staged (laughing in the background, wearing gas masks for what is obviously the first time etc).

      That's what you get when you put reporters looking for a big story with people whose lives depend on convincing the world chemical weapons are being used.

      There is no documentation on how the blood sample was collected. In itself it is very weak evidence since an underground group developing sarin, should have many poisoning accidents (Aum Shinrikyo had several), so obtaining a positive blood sample to give the reporters is easy.

      Delete
  10. Trying to poll out a criminal form a crime without realising that the article put the regime on another crime.The article said that in the area attacked by chemicals and killed hundreds which means that there should be at least a thousand civilian,this same area was being attacked heavily by the regime by conventional weapons according to the same article, so the regime dose not care about civilians their.And how could the rebels hit the same spot attacked by conventional weapons? even a Si-Fi army could really struggle in doing that knowing the fact that the most powerull division of the syrian army is their (4th) on the mountains nearby, not to mention also Mazze military airport and hundred of blockaed and tanks around that area.The article is also not accurate in the maps and timing.It also make any source that promot the story about the regime involvment is unreliable! and the Syrian TV is?? we cannot see this article as the ultimate true story,it is another point of view of the pro Assad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should try to read the pages in their entirety. But if you have decided in advance that it must be the regime, you won't be convinced by logical arguments, as far as I can see.

      Delete
    2. The regime did not attack Zamalka with conventional weapons. Zamalka eyewitnesses did not report any attack prior to the chemical one.

      All we know is that the US detected launches in regime territory 1 hour before the chemical attack. We don't know where those rockets landed.

      So the rebels did not attack "the same spot" - those are two separate attacks.

      Where did you see anything relying on the Syrian TV?

      Delete
    3. Syrian Government actually admitted to launching a major offensive in the early hours of 21 Aug on suburbs east of Damascus: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/21/syria-conflcit-chemical-weapons-hundreds-killed
      Are you saying they missed Zamalka?
      What would be the motive for them to deny this?
      In addition, according to the US Report, the rocket launches were only part of the overall attack launched from (allegedly) Government controlled areas:
      http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/30/government-assessment-syrian-government-s-use-chemical-weapons-august-21

      Delete
    4. Zamalka is a residential neighborhood, which is rarely targeted. Most of the fighting in this area centers around Qaboun and Jobar.
      The launches detected by the US one hour before the chemical attack were likely just one of the many government attacks on Qaboun and Jobar.

      Delete
    5. Even if the residents are considered 'terrorists' by the Syrian Government? How accurate are these rockets anyway?

      Delete
    6. Even if the residents are considered 'terrorists' by the Syrian Government?
      I try to avoid this type of analysis. In practice the government rarely attacks such areas, and there is no evidence they did so on August 21st.

      How accurate are these rockets anyway?
      Good question. We don't know, but it's not relevant here: The range is 2.5 km, and Zamalka is 2 km across.

      Delete
    7. Zamalka looked pretty targeted to me when I watched the footage!

      Delete
    8. I would suggest that the rebels rarely attack their own in practice also. However, one side did attack on 21st Aug: your point about the Government rarely attacking these areas is therefore not valid.

      I understand why you don't want to speculate. However, an accurate analysis of the Zamalka target is essential to establishing a motive for the attack: it could lead to more evidence towards one side over the other.

      Delete
    9. I was referring to the 'standard' conventional attack from 1AM (one hour before the chemical attack). All I said is that it's very reasonable the government will not include Zamalka in it. That was in response to the original question of why they "missed" Zamalka.

      If the government's objective was to terrorize civilian population with chemical weapons, then of course Zamalka is an ideal target.

      Delete
  11. — Video of a fourth Zamalka impact site
    Where is this place? Did anyone localization?

    ReplyDelete
  12. "There is a terrorist organization with advanced chemical capabilities. If we continue ignoring it, we will see more Ghoutas all over the world."

    There are actually two such organizations: The state of Israel and the US DoD.
    Now what are we supposed to do about them? That's the real question.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Very interesting and convincing evidence, confirming why international political reality was so quick supporting Lavrov/Russia. Especially with (at the time) pending Iran negotiations. Diplomatic rumor Saudi Arabia was forced not to accept UN security seat and "Prince" Bandar's future insecure to say the least. Please continue and succes

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hello, read this nonsence:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/18/eliot-higgins-syria_n_4269417.html?

    Very first sentences:

    "There was something strange about the rockets that landed on Zamalka, a town south of Syria's capital, just after two in the morning on Aug. 21. They didn't explode. Yet even lodged into walls of homes or injected into the dirt fully intact, they proved lethal..."
    "...His work unraveling the mystery of the rocket strikes of Aug. 21 played a key role in bringing much of the world to the conclusion that it was indeed a chemical weapons attack, one unleashed by Assad's forces..."

    I mean who is right? Higgins or Kaszeta ?
    "...Dispersing a payload of Sarin in one load of liquid all in one place (like dumping a bucket) causes a great hazard in one spot, but not wide effects..."

    Can anyone ask them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When attacking a residential area (rather than trained soldiers) the dispersion mechanism is not critical. The attack is just as deadly even if the sarin takes 20 minutes to evaporate and is carried by the wind

      Delete
    2. yes. 10 minutes of breathing concentration X is similar to one minute of concentration 10X, so immediate dispersion is not critical, unless the victims can protect themselves.

      Delete
    3. Sasa, you're not considering the tactical military advantage of capitalising on the confusion/panic/injuries/deaths brought by a quick dispersal: if you want an agent to linger, why not use something more persistent or add a thickener? The whole point of using a volatile non-persistent agent is to attack an unprotected area - you can mount a quick offensive with little/less resistance. If the attack was executed by opposition fighters, as your blog suggests, so that they can just kill people and possibly bring others into the conflict, why not use something more persistant and/or easier to make than sarin?

      Delete
    4. I think they would prefer it to be dispersed quicker, but were content with the UMLACA's weak dispersal mechanism - and indeed it was very effective.

      Delete
    5. Then why not just increase the explosive burster content inside the warhead? This would be easy to do and would improve dispersal considerably.

      Delete
    6. Because they didn't design the rocket. They looted it from the government, who designed it to be an incendiary warhead.
      Note however that we don't know they didn't enlarge the booster. We just assume they wouldn't, but maybe they did.

      Delete
    7. So they stole the rocket, took out the incendiary composition (through the rear holes on base or fuze well?) and refilled it with liquid sarin? If you can do that, adding a little more explosive shouldn't be that difficult should it? Unlikely they did do it: remnants of warhead are fairly intact and close to crashed rocket. You're probably right when you say it simply 'peeled off'.

      Delete
    8. Changing the contents is much easier than redesigning the booster charge. It's also possible that the warheads were empty when they found them, so there was no need to remove the incendiary.

      Delete
    9. Do you KNOW that changing the contents is easier or or are you just assuming? There is also no evidence of the opposition having these rockets at the time of the attack on 21st Aug.
      Why would you bother changing the contents in any case? You are right when you say it would just be easier to fill an empty munition. However, unless we have evidence that opposition fighters actually took over a 'factory' where these rockets were being manufactured, the likelihood of finding them empty in the wider area is slim: they will only likely be taken outside for deployment due to the lack of security for them once on the ground.

      Delete
    10. 1. I'm just assuming. I think it's a reasonable assumption. Do you disagree?
      2. There is indeed no evidence of that. However, they have very little motivation to expose that information.
      3. I think it's definitely possible that the rockets are stored empty, and the incendiary is filled on demand. But this is really not important. They can empty the warheads if needed.

      Delete
    11. 1. I don't necessarily disagree, however, if you can manufacture and fill a warhead with sarin, I think adding extra explosive would be fairly easy to do. Especially in a crude munition such as this.

      Delete
  15. Are you sarcastic?

    1.Sarin vapor is heavier than air + dropping night time pressure. Without effectivly spreding agent high up and creating proper vapor condensation it couldnt wide spread and all whats naturaly vaporizes from puddle would stay down the ground (heavier than air) in impact area
    3.Without effective detonation/spreading/vaporizing it would create only pudle on impact site. Only chance of wide infecting "locals" is if they all together gather 10-20 meters arround impact point ululate and dance arround while doing yoga breathing threw nose exercise and roll in puddle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First of all, the UMLACA has a small booster charge, as indicated by the bent canister parts. My point is that it's not necessary - sarin is volatile, and even a small puddle will eventually be full vaporized and can cover a very wide area by diffusion and wind.

      In fact, the original method for dispersing chemical agents was by opening canisters upwind from the target. It's not as effective, but definitely enough against people who can't protect themselves and are forced to breath the vapor for a long period of time.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_warfare#Delivery

      The downwards wind only helps. It keeps the sarin at ground level. Note that it can still expand a few meters up by random air movements and diffusion.

      Delete
    2. There isn't any 'downward' wind in an inversion. All air basically stays at whatever level it is.

      Sarin gas diffuses at the molecular level horizontally and vertically independently of the other gasses. The standard Gaussian plume model applies.

      Postol did an analysis of an attack based on 100kg of Sarin (as compared to the 60kg we think was used). The result was a lethal plume a bit over 2000m long and 100m left and right of centreline. This assumed 2m/s wind, high stability, and urban rather than country. The lethal zone is much narrower nearer to the release point, so people tens of metres away from centreline would be unaffected.

      If you very roughly scale 100kg to 60kg then you get a lethal plume around 1700m long, and 60m either side of centreline at the far end. Vertical extent would be under 15-20m. Also, fatalities would occur up to 20 minutes after impact.

      2m/s is optimal. Higher wind speed as mostly seen in OSDI METARS will reduce the plume length and fatality time.

      Delete
    3. When I went to bed I suddenly realized 'downward' wind is silly. Thanks for correcting.

      Delete
  16. To Charles Wood:
    Postol analysis is pure nonsence. Any vapor or gas getting distance from its source point spreads, thins looses its density, condensation, effects etc. You not gonna have same effect 5m and 50m from source and you here talk killometers!

    To Sasa Wawas - puddle will eventually be full vaporized and can cover a very wide area by diffusion and wind :

    Dan Kaszeta
    "..dividing it too finely over a large area will cause it to disperse quickly and not have a concentration adequate to cause !!! incapacitation !!! or death !!!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Postol used standard US military planning figures.

      Under very stable night-time atmospheric conditions the gas will stay concentrated for far longer and lethal for far longer than under unstable conditions - e.g. daylight windy conditions. This is the reason every EPA study on potential accidental gas releases assumes the worst case of a clear still night.

      Here is the Postol paper. It has many mistakes in it but the gas kill zones (which he copied straight out of previous papers) look pretty accurate.

      http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/world/syria/iraq_syria.pdf

      Delete
    2. Concentration is not important if the subject can't protect himself. Concentration X for 10 minutes is similar to 10X for 1 minute.
      So if all the puddle eventually vaporizes in roughly the same direction and people can't wear gas masks, they will eventually be exposed to the same dose as if it was vaporized immediately.

      Delete
  17. I have just one criticism of what is otherwise a truly remarkable and valuable analysis. It is very simply stated:
    Why do you use the word 'regime' to identify the Syrian government and its forces?

    Deliberate use of the term is a long-standing stratagem among western elites to brand governments of which it disapproves as bad and its effect is insidious. The BBC is perhaps its most subtle exponent.

    This is still the UN recognised government of Syria you are effectively (if unknowingly) demonising with the term 'regime'. It is as legitimate as any other UN recognised government and the terms used to refer to it should reflect that bald, unarguable fact.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the compliments and welcome.
      I just used the most common terms. Didn't give it much thought.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Sasa. I was offered as a constructive criticism.

      I guess it's a fairly fine point of language but, believe me, it is a very important one. You will rarely find a native English speaker who does not recognise the distinction - even if only subliminally. It carries a clear message.

      For example, I challenge anyone here to find an example of the US or UK - or any NATO-member government being referred to as a 'regime'. in the Western MSM. Whereas in dealing with The Serbia of Slobodan Milosovich or Sadam Hussain's Iraq, or Gaddafi's Libya or NAZI Germany or pretty much ANY government that is disapproved of and which needs to be demonised, the term 'regime' is de-rigeur usage.

      Propaganda is often crude, but it can be VERY subtle too.

      Delete
    3. What terms would you suggest to describe each side in this conflict?

      Delete
  18. I suggest the same terms as would be used were there an armed insurrection assisted (not to say dominated) by an invasion of foreign financed mercenaries in any NATO-Western country. viz:

    'Government' for the legitimate government and 'Rebels' for the rebels when dealing with the collective opposition - with other terms appropriate to differentiate the various rebel factions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I prefer the term Insurgents rather than rebels. Rebel implies all anti-Government fighters are citizens, whereas we know for certain there are many imported fighters in Syria.

      There is also room for the term Brigands, given the number of criminal gangs that have sprung up and who fight primarily for booty rather than politics or religion.

      Delete
  19. Sasa,
    I still have a feeling of unease accepting the conclusion that the Volcanoes are the (only) source of Sarin. Trying to follow your discussion with Charles, Jody and Co I had another look at the videos of the reported rockets. Out of the 5 you have documented (under evidence UMLACA Zamalka area), 3 where in open space or nearly open space, with living areas minimally 10´s of meters away. How many victims can these rockets have made at 2 AM, people being asleep in their homes? If we apply this ratio of 3/5 as "ineffective" to the rest of the 12 mentioned Volcanoes, there are in total only around 5 hits which would have lead to "high" casualty number. The videos give evidence of 100s of victims. Are you still sure about the UMLACA/Volcanoes being the (only) vehicle of chemical agent? Or am I missing something vital here in the discussion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Two points to consider:
      1. A rocket falling in an open area can still affect victims hundreds of meters downwind.
      2. There was more than enough amount to account for the number of victims, so we can 'afford' to lose a few rockets.

      Delete
    2. Sasa, Have you mapped the impact sites in relation to where the casualties occured, along with wind direction on the night in question?

      Delete
    3. Hourly Wind Speed and Direction for Damascus Airport is shown at

      http://www.shoutwiki.com/w/images/acloserlookonsyria/d/d1/OSDI-spd-dirn.png

      The attack is sometime between 02:00 and 03:00 - so wind-speed is 4-5 m/s (a light breeze about walking pace, not still) and direction is blowing towards East South East.

      Impact locations according to HRW are at

      http://www.shoutwiki.com/w/images/acloserlookonsyria/0/07/Zamalaka_map.jpg

      Delete
    4. Oops, sorry, I confused my m/s with km/h in the description.

      5m/s is 18 km/h - which is 3.5 times faster than a walking pace of 5km/h.

      The gas would have gone 500m in around 100 seconds - just under two minutes - though allow three minutes for ground effects and perhaps 4 m/s not 5.

      I'm presently installing and configuring an EPA simulation program to confirm and refine the kill zone estimates made by Postol, which I'll report on later.

      Delete
    5. Charles - sounds awesome.
      Anon - I'm not aware of any mapping of the casualties other than 'Zamalka'. If you find anything, it could be very valuable.

      Delete
    6. This modeling sounds great. You guys are doing a great job!

      Delete
    7. WeatherUnderground gives Damascus METARS data as:

      1:00 Wind [from the] West at 4.6 mph (2 m/s, 7.4 km/h)
      2:00 Wind WSW at 6.9 mph (3.1 m/s, 11 km/h)
      3:00 Wind W at 11.2 mph (5 m/s, 18 km/h)

      http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/OSDI/2013/8/21/DailyHistory.html

      Delete
    8. The wind speed and direction, corrected to local time and SI units are at

      http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/File:OSDI-spd-dirn.png

      The relationship of OSDI to Ghouta is shown at

      http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/File:OSDI.png

      Temperature and humidity are at

      http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/File:OSDI-tmp-hum.png

      Actual ICAO METARS are recorded in knots rounded to the nearest unit.

      OSDI 211200Z 28008KT CAVOK 37/06 Q1008
      OSDI 211100Z 32008KT CAVOK 36/08 Q1009
      OSDI 211000Z 00000KT CAVOK 34/09 Q1009
      OSDI 210900Z 31006KT CAVOK 33/11 Q1010
      OSDI 210800Z 25006KT CAVOK 31/14 Q1010
      OSDI 210700Z 25004KT CAVOK 28/17 Q1011
      OSDI 210600Z 29006KT CAVOK 25/18 Q1010
      OSDI 210500Z 26006KT CAVOK 23/19 Q1009
      OSDI 210400Z 26006KT CAVOK 21/19 Q1009
      OSDI 210300Z 25008KT CAVOK 21/19 Q1009
      OSDI 210200Z 22012KT CAVOK 21/18 Q1009
      OSDI 210100Z 21012KT CAVOK 21/17 Q1009
      OSDI 210000Z 28010KT CAVOK 22/18 Q1009
      OSDI 202300Z 24006KT CAVOK 23/17 Q1009
      OSDI 202200Z 27004KT CAVOK 24/15 Q1009
      OSDI 202100Z 28004KT CAVOK 25/14 Q1009
      OSDI 202000Z 27002KT CAVOK 25/07 Q1009
      OSDI 201900Z 34002KT CAVOK 27/07 Q1009
      OSDI 201800Z 34008KT CAVOK 28/05 Q1008
      OSDI 201700Z 34008KT CAVOK 30/06 Q1007
      OSDI 201600Z 32012KT CAVOK 33/08 Q1007
      OSDI 201500Z 33012KT CAVOK 35/07 Q1006
      OSDI 201400Z 25004KT CAVOK 37/07 Q1006
      OSDI 201300Z 23005KT CAVOK 37/04 Q1006
      OSDI 201200Z 22006KT CAVOK 36/07 Q1007
      OSDI 201100Z 34004KT CAVOK 35/10 Q1008
      OSDI 201000Z 25002KT CAVOK 35/06 Q1008
      OSDI 200900Z 24004KT CAVOK 33/14 Q1009
      OSDI 200800Z 24004KT CAVOK 30/17 Q1010
      OSDI 200700Z 28004KT CAVOK 27/18 Q1010

      The elevation of OSDI is 660m. Atmospheric pressure at OSDI would be around 918 mb given the MSL pressure of 1009 mb

      What is significant is that the wind-speed and direction are collected at 10m agl. This is not the wind speed and direction seen at immediately higher altitudes. In particular the wind veers with altitude as well as increasing in speed.

      Delete
    9. Sasa, Anon, you have all completely ignored the geolocation work we did at the A Closer Look on Syria wiki in September.

      We have identified four locations of interest:
      1) a grave site in Zamalka with a mass grave containing no less than nine bodies!
      2) an abandoned house in Zamalka with nine more bodies.
      3) a field hospital and a morgue in Kafr Batna with about 100 bodies.
      4) a schoolyard in Saqba with a few dozen victims.

      The distance from the impact site of UMLACA #197 to the Saqba schoolyard is 2650 meters in direction 103.5 degrees. The Kafr Batna morgue is 1 km to the west. There is also a hospital in and morgue in Erbin, but we have not been able to locate it. It has been suggested that the victims were moved from the attack site in Zamalka to these field hospitals, but we have no evidence for this.

      On the video record we never see the victims in situ at the site of the attacks. I believe the bodies in the abandoned "ghost house" were planted. The victims may have been killed by a sarin rocket attack, but based on the video evidence they could as well have been murdered by chlorine gas in some cellar or other confined space.

      Delete
    10. Petri - Very interesting work. Is there any particular conclusion of this work that you think is currently being missed?

      Delete
  20. Seymore Hirsch aligned with whoghouta.

    Plus he adds a lot of detail we didn't know of before.

    http://www.lrb.co.uk/2013/12/08/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

    ReplyDelete
  21. No, he doesn't. He criticises the US intelligence network and the Obama Administration; one of his points is that they disregarded information about the Syrian Opposition's access to sarin. He never once states that he believes they did get access to it: it's all potential.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hersh's report discussed here: http://whoghouta.blogspot.com/2013/12/review-of-seymour-hershs-piece.html

      Delete
  22. Those interested might also inspect ANNA-News documentary footage from Jobar and other Damascus suburbs:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srmvYhUY6Z8
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCcbjJ-SPU4&t=1m55s

    I'm volunteering to translate ANNA subs and will be eager to grep through these to help those investigating to bring more documentary on wahhabi mercenaries obtaining, testing, and deploying chemical agents in Syria.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I may have missed it but has anyone thought about the possibility the sarin could have spread, purposely or not, through the ventilated tunnel systems that the rebels have on almost all urban battle fields in Syria?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't doubt that sarin was delivered via rocket but it may not have been the only delivery system, whether intended or unintended.

      Delete
    2. Do you have some information about this tunnels?

      Delete
  24. Great work on this blog Sasa and the other contributors. A couple of issues still bug me.

    1. This point has been raised but as we all know the UMLACA's are government rockets possibly modified for urban warfare since the conflict began. It troubles me that there is no evidence or even hear say the rebels have looted or obtained them. You could understand the rebels not continuing their use after the attack but none beforehand?

    2. Again we all argree (even BM) that the rockets hit Zamalka from the north from about 2k. But a huge part of the investigation is still, for want of a better word, 'contested'. Untill we can discount the SAA special forces base lunch site and be certain the rebels were in 'comfortable' control of the open land its all abit blurred. Judging by the maps it suggests the rebels rocked up a few meters from a highway controlled by the SAA. Seems like a risk assesment to far.

    keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!

      1. I don't think we should expect to have documentation of every move of the opposition. Perfectly reasonable that one launcher was captured and once it was assigned to the chemical program it was secret.
      Also, note that we do have videos of the opposition using captured Volcanoes of the smaller type: http://brown-moses.blogspot.com/2013/08/proof-syrian-military-is-using.html

      2. While the 2km is now consensus, many are yet to accept the northern trajectory evidence. This is important, since the field to the north is much closer to rebel neighborhoods, and far from the Qaboun battelfield. Charles Wood has done some interesting work to show rebel control in this area.
      However, I don't think that's really relevant. Once we've established the launch location is not under firm government control the case for a govt attack becomes very shaky - Why would they shoot untested improvised short-range chemical rockets from contested territory when they can launch advanced weapons from within army bases?

      Delete
  25. Thanks for your reply Sasa.

    1. Untill we have have evidence of the UMLACA's in rebel hands it will continue to be stumbling block of this blog. Videos of smaller types of volcanoes or alike in rebel hands are not good enough i'm afraid. We need those fins!!!

    2. I agree with your point of why would the government not fire the rockets from within an army base but others would just say to make it look like the rebels.

    It just frustrating after getting so close to some nailed on answer's the doubt still remains.

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Note that claiming the government tried to make it look like a rebel attack is the double false flag scenario discussed under 'suggesting scenarios', and found highly implausible.
      So even though we don't have evidence of UMLACAs at rebel hands (other than the Liwa Al Islam videos), what we have is enough to discredit any scenario involving a regime attack.

      Delete
  26. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/01/15/214656/new-analysis-of-rocket-used-in.html
    New report is on the right in pdf file. The range is now 1.2 km.
    Any thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The range they say is 2km, not 1.2km maybe you mean 1.2 miles?

      There is much oddity on the Grad they posit. It seems obvious the entire length of the tube is used to hold the motor, including the part inside the payload. However it looks like they use 20 kg of fuel in their trajectory calculations which is a 189cm grain out of a certain Grad model.

      The strike locations they use are not the actual strike locations. They are the casualty clearing stations? We know of two locations exactly and another 10 potential locations based on the HRW report. All are clustered in Southern Zamalka.

      There is still the anomaly that ANNA reported SAA troops injured by gas - presumably at the west end of Jobar?

      Delete