Dec 8, 2013

Review of Seymour Hersh's LRB Piece

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

The London Review of Books published today a long piece by Seymour Hersh analyzing the intelligence surrounding the August 21st attack. In this post I'll review the main points raised in the article.

Sensors around chemical weapons sites were not triggered prior to the attack
The article doesn't provide any firm evidence that supports this, but it does provide some circumstantial evidence (when they were triggered in December Obama issued a warning, while no such warning was issued in August), and it's reasonable to assume such an early warning system exists.
Since we already know the sarin was probably not from the government's stockpile, and that the rockets were not standard chemical rockets, this new observation makes perfect sense but does not change the picture significantly. In other words, even if this attack was somehow carried out by the regime, it used non-standard weaponry and should not have triggered the alarm.

The US evidence relating to personnel movements and military orders was cherry picked in hind sight.
This again makes perfect sense. There are probably millions of data points collected every day from Syria, which cannot be analyzed in real time. It's safe to assume that following the attack this data was analyzed in retrospect. The fact that despite this effort, the only evidence presented by the US was very weak and circumstantial, is a strong testimony to cherry-picking. Actually, the fact that nothing incriminating wasn't found in all these sources is strong probabilistic evidence that the regime was not involved. This is analyzed in detail here.

The 330 mm rocket (aka UMLACA) is an improvised munition, implying it is not related to the government.
Here Seymour is of course out of touch with the current research at Brown Moses and WhoGhouta, which clearly indicates that the rocket was developed for the Syrian Army, probably to fit its special needs in short-range urban warfare.
However, this in itself is a weak indication of government involvement, since most of the opposition's heavy weaponry has been looted from Army depots.

The rocket's range is less than 2 km, indicating the NY Times report claiming the attack came from an Army base 9 km away is incorrect.
This was already established here three months ago. However, he does say this range estimate was based on "a thorough study", so unless this refers to the WhoGhouta research, it gives yet more credibility to our range estimate.

US Intelligence estimates the opposition has the capability to acquire and use sarin.
This is in line with our analysis, and while no additional hard evidence is provided, his quotes from intelligence sources seem reliable.

Summary: While Hersh does not provide significant new evidence, his quotes from intelligence sources are in line with many of our findings, and his analysis provides much-needed counterweight to the many erroneous reports in the media.


  1. You have addressed the main points of Hersh's article quite well here.

    For me what stands out in his detailed article is Hersh noting that US Intelligence is aware of Al Qaeda's ability to manufacture sarin. I think this is a first for such a notable journalist? And as you say it only moves to solidify the findings of WhoGhouta.

    But if one adds this to the now proven case in Turkey of Syrian rebels trying to acquire the ingredients of sarin and then learn that this same group of Syrian rebels had sworn allegiance to Al Qaeda in Iraq around the same time that Iraqi Intelligence, who were investigating Syrian government claims that rebels had used sarin, uncovered an Al-Qaeda Chemical Weapons factory where they could manufacture sarin ( ) - coincidence?

    Now we have Hersh citing US intelligence sources that claim that Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed who was "a chemical weapons expert formerly of the Iraqi military, who was said to have moved into Syria and to be operating in Eastern Ghouta. The consultant told me that Tariq had been identified ‘as an al-Nusra guy with a track record of making mustard gas in Iraq and someone who is implicated in making and using sarin".

    When this is all looked at together an interesting picture starts to develop. A picture that runs contrary to the, already discredited, official narrative.

    FAO Sasa

    Came across this video that allegedly shows a selection of chemicals under the control of the rebels. Any ideas what they may be used for? From about 2.20

    1. There were several videos showing chemicals and threatening government supporters with chemical weapons. None of them contained chemicals relevant to sarin manufacture. It's hard to see which chemicals are shown here, other than Nitric Acid, but it seems very similar to the other videos.

  2. The sensors would pick up CW related activity irrespective of the type of missile being used. In particular orders for mixing, and movement of support vehicles such as CW filling tankers.

    The range estimate appears to refer to a Postol Report.

    Mechanically the missiles are very simple and could be made in any small boilermaker shop. They may have been made originally for the SAA but they could easily be reverse engineered.

    It's notable that there is no record of the SAA possessing or firing a 'chemical' version. It's also of note that the 'chemical' version has distinct dimensional differences - which could be explained either by the different payload type and weight, or equally as easily as an adaptation to available rocket motors - e.g. particular length Grad motors.

  3. By the way, I think the term 'sensors' does not mean intelligent rocks or anything like that.

    Sensors almost certainly means automated signal processing systems operating on remote observation data feeds. So, for instance, they can detect when vehicles move and possibly even where they move to. They can also note the use of particular radio frequencies and/or encryption systems that are signatures of CW units. I guess they also do missile launch detection.

    1. I agree with your understanding of 'sensors'.

      My point with the rockets is that they are not part of the Syrian chemical program, so the US would not have seen them being moved from a chemical weapons base.

    2. I disagree with the take on sensors. From the article:

      "...According to the Post summary, the NRO is also assigned ‘to extract data from sensors placed on the ground’ inside Syria. The former senior intelligence official, who had direct knowledge of the programme, told me that NRO sensors have been implanted near all known chemical warfare sites in Syria..."

      On the ground... implanted near... These are more for Israeli intelligence, who is far more interested in Syrian CWs than the U.S. These are undoubtedly something like intelligent rocks.

      I don't know what the red herrings about frequencies and crypto have to do with anything. They're probably monitored as well, but a chemical brigade usually does not 'chatter' like a bunch of little schoolgirls when they're filling warheads - not even in an exercise.

      The article's statements make it even more likely that the sensors are combinations of things like chemical detectors, motion and vibration detectors, visible and IR cameras, etc.

      "...They are designed to provide constant monitoring of the movement of chemical warheads stored by the military. But far more important, in terms of early warning, is the sensors’ ability to alert US and Israeli intelligence when warheads are being loaded with sarin..."

      Ability to alert - presumably without having a person watch video feeds. When they're alerted by the sensor network, then they examine all the intel together. The alerts are real-time:

      "...‘We created the sensor system for immediate reaction, like an air raid warning or a fire alarm. You can’t have a warning over three days because everyone involved would be dead. It is either right now or you’re history. You do not spend three days getting ready to fire nerve gas.’..."

      Obama's 'red line' remark came precisely because an alarm and monitoring and analysis effort was triggered ten months prior:

      "...Last December the sensor system picked up signs of what seemed to be sarin production at a chemical weapons depot..."

      I'm not sure why the intel guy described this as detecting sarin *production*. What they saw was the chemical corps going through the motions of filling warheads at one of the chemical depots. It turned out to just have been part of a training exercise, not an actual deployment.

      They can't use real sarin and empty the warheads after an exercise. Once mixed, binary sarin formulations immediately starts outgassing corrosive fumes. You either use a filled warhead within a day or two, or destroy them. There are no stabilizers used in binary premixes precisely because of this reason. About the only addition would be a corrosion inhibitor chemical to scavenge the corrosive fumes for a few dozen hours max.

      Premixing binary sarin is not the only way to make it. There are many other methods of varying complexity that will yield more stable and purer forms of sarin, which then can have additional chemical stabilizers added. The shelf life of that type can be extended for months and years (with re-distillation). Binary sarin was almost treated as a different CW than regular sarin by U.S. forces. They don't even have the same designation: GB2 is the binary form, GB for 'regular'. The UN chemical weapons inspectors look for stabilizers as a fingerprint for GB, not GB2.

    3. You write about the corrosivity of 'fresh mixed' binary Sarin. Is it possible that the 'substandard Sarin ' used in Ghouta doesn't leave any corrosive marks on the rocket remnants? Apparently isopropylamine is used to neutralyse the Sarin but is it that easy? Does that mean no corrosivity left at all? Why would armies bother with the binary sarin then...

    4. No chance, veritas. The final reaction in most unitary and binary sarin production yields sarin and hydrogen fluoride (HF) as final products. Using the purest precursors, you would still end up with a liquid that was roughly 87% pure sarin and 13% HF by weight within seconds of mixing.

      There is no way to keep HF from immediately attacking and corroding the container. HF is so reactive that it will eventually even attack and degrade the sarin, itself. HF is extremely difficult to remove from sarin and the precise distillation process is still a secret. The US, UK, USSR and France (probably more) were known to have figured it out by the late 60's and could produce very pure HF-free sarin that did not need a lot of stabilizers or specialized containers.

      The exotic distillation process is difficult and expensive as well, so I doubt it was ever used except for a few years by those countries in the late 60's. They were moving towards Vx development by then. All the nations that knew the sarin purification process are CW ban signatories, so stocks and weapons of pure (or 'commercial grade') sarin are long gone. I doubt Syria knew since their chemical program seemed to have been binary pre-mix (judging by the intel comments).

      Dumping mono-isopropylamine (MIPA) into the binary brew gives the HF something *easier* to react with, but not to the exclusion of the existing sarin and container - they're just not consumed by the produced HF as fast as they would be in the absence of MIPA.

      I don't know how much MIPA was used, but let's say the same % weight as produced HF. So even with the purest precursors and thorough reaction, binary sarin is still only going to be 75% pure sarin. This does not make it low-quality or kitchen-sink sarin - that's just the basic nature of the chemical reaction.

      The old US binary 155 mm sarin shells could be expected to produce a product of similar purity during flight. I recall the actual figure being something like 60% purity. Iraq had much lower purity than that in their unitary sarin because of storage time degradation and precursor quality.

    5. Would the HF corrosion be noticeable on the rocket remnants?
      I am trying to imagine the procedure following the WG conclusion, would the following script work in your experience?
      1/The rockets were welded together in a local semi professional shop. Seems very realistic, we've seen videos of that type of workshop. Or captured from the SAA who had them made in the same type of workshop.
      2/ Two filling holes are provided to fill the container. There need to be two, one is used for filling, the other hole will leave the air out. Somewhere the Sarin has been prepared (in a pesticide factory??). The rocket is brought to the Sarin or the Sarin is brought to the rocket. I guess they could have used a synthetic container that doesn't get corroded for the bulk transport of Sarin.
      3/Can they fill the rocket container with a funnel? I guess it's possible. 4/When the rocket is full they screw on the bolts. I suppose the base plate is thick enough to get a good grip and make it 'sarin tight' especially at lift off. They don't want the bolts to pop out
      5/From that moment, I guess there is only a limited time before the whole thing will start leaking (2-3 hours???) They rush to the battlefield, fire the rockets, surprisingly everything is kept together and the rockets land in Ghouta.
      Would there be traces of HF corrosion on the metal parts?

      Additional remark:
      Apparently Sarin (or/and the HF that comes with it) makes plants wither. A pity the videos don't show any green plants close to impact...

    6. 1/Since HF can eat through normal glassware, my unscientific guess is that you would clearly see obvious signs of corrosion on a steel cannister.

      Would you see it on UMLCAs? You have to ask others here because I don't think they were used (or even could be used) to deliver 50+L of a sarin/HF payload.

      2/I also don't think the second port is or could function as a filling vent because (my opinion) it holds an ignition/detonation charge and tail fuze. It's not open as seen in spent warheads until after it blows. The force of that blast is well beyond anything that could be used to disperse a CW. But, yes, it could as well be a ceramic fill vent.

      3/When the SAA charged munitions with sarin, they would have done it at one of the CW depots (not a pesticide factory) using dedicated mixing equipment and (I would hope) some kind of appropriate hose/nozzle. The appropriate amount of precursors and HF inhibitors would be mixed in a closed machine and metered into the warheads, which are then sealed and sent off to the artillery sites or airfields. The warhead is sent to the site - the armorer would take care of the preparing the rocket or shell and fuzing the warhead or aerial bomb there.

      For ghetto CW, I guess you could get some crack-head in a rubber suit to mix the precursors inside jerry-cans or a drum and funnel it into the warhead right at the launch site. Maybe even mix everything *in* the warhead if it's 50L.

      4/ The nose and base plates are both welded to the cylinder sides at the outside edge. The rocket motor well (the inside tube) is welded to the base plate on inside edge. The square fill plug has a fibre gasket per the UN. 'Something' is in the second hole, so I guess the warhead would be considered water-tight. If you're talking about the eight bolts on the periphery of one of the plates, I believe that would be part of the nose fuze / bursing charge assembly. It's not clear if those holes go through the nose plate or not.

      5/ If these were SAA munitions launched with Assad's consent, they would have been filled at a chemical corps depot by trained personnel. If it was a rouge act or the opposition, then I would guess the jerry-can method would be used.

      Not sure if sarin would normally affect plants - it's kind of an insecticide, not a herbicide. HF? I'm thinking that would do a bit more damage than withering, but the MIPA would have turned most of it into some kind of amine salt.

    7. First the plants - how do you know the Sarin makes them wither? There is video of missile 197 (the one the UN didn't inspect but every man and his dog did for a week after August 21). In one video a man claims that the Sarin caused all the grass to die, but it could also have been singed in a blast.

      Back to the missiles, some of the cannisters show brown staining - sometimes of different shades. That indicates something aggressive has partly oxidised the steel container? Or perhaps it's a protective coating? One missile - 155 from Adra on the 5th of August shows signs of a darker liquid running down the central cannister shaft prior to impact - at which point the shaft is crumpled. The stains look like they were driven by wind, the missile travelling somewhat sideways, and the liquid was very heavy/thick component. I discount the staining was applied later as it conforms to an unbent shaft,

      Curiously the August 21 missile 197 doesn't appear to show staining while the August 5 Adra missile - which no-one complained about CW gas - does show staining - perhaps a different payload?

    8. Concerning withering of plants: Information is given in docs concerning the Matsumoto incident. 5th paragraph in Forensic investigation paragraph,d.b2I&cad=rja

      The interesting thing about the above reports is that it is first hand information by people who directly witnessed the aftermath of the attack.

    9. Charles,
      Concerning the video with the 'dead grass'. That grass must have been dead before the rocket hit it. It just looks dried out because of drought. Apparently that time of the year, all grass is dry there in Ghouta. You can see trees a bit further on, and they seem ok. But probably these trees are too far from the Sarin source?

      The stained container video. It doesn't seem like corrosion to me (but I'm no expert). Can the brown be an anticorrosion paint? The marks can have been made when painting? Where the shaft is bent, you can see the lining together with the stains come of and there is 'white' uncoated steel visible again on the bend.
      What material is the rest of the rocket made from? It looks like galvanised steel?

    10. You've raised a number of interesting points.

      First withering - it appears to be a result of co-produced Hydrogen Fluoride gas rather than Sarin. That would indicate a binary process rather than a premix with HF absorbing chemicals. The man complaining about the grass did seem to think it was unusual - above and beyond summer drying.

      Second, the Western Australian tests. Basically if they could make Sarin in Western Australia it can be made anywhere. W.A. is not renowned for ready supply of chemicals - if it's not useful in mining it's not stocked. I know they shipped in lab equipment but I doubt they could get precursor chemicals past customs.

      The missile body? I don't think it's galvanised. More like painted with the standard grey rust inhibiting paint - though it must be pretty good stuff because the paint wasn't burned by the motor.

      Brown stain? I'd have to see more examples before plunking on one of paint or corrosion or chemical residue.

    11. The text of dr Seto says, "If Sarin were to be sprayed over a garden, the Sarin left on the leaves would undergo hydrolysis, producing hydrofluoric acid,.." He is not talking about the co-produced HF. In the plant leaves, there is water, the water hydrolyses the Sarin and liberates HF, (I guess IMPA is the remnant of the Sarin molecule). Possibly dr Seto is wrong, but why would he be? As a scientist, he knows he needs to be specific (only the UN scientists don't know that...).
      I don't agree about the grass, the grass lookes normally dried out. The man claiming that everything around died could be saying that 'pour les besoins de la cause'. Another thing I don't understand is how comes people are not more afraid to get close to the rockets that killed hundreds. The video was posted the 24 th. Three days after the attack that killed more than 40 people in this neigbourhood (according to the man in video). But people are getting right next to the rocket, no fear of some poison left. Apparently, if we believe UN, there was even lots of Sarin left, after 8 days, Sarin was not completely degraded yet... I even suspect the video was taken earlier than the 24 th or else the pidgeon and dog they showed were not killed by Sarin. I think 3 days in the heat the dog would look differently. It is starting to swell, but 3 days dead? ?So let's say the dog died 2 days before. That means the video was made the 23rd. That makes it seem even stranger that no more caution is taken when coming close to the source of death.
      That's why,unless someone can explain why I see this wrongly, I cannot trust this man's remark about the green grass being affected.

    12. Veritas,

      This post although of unknown authenticity sounds plausible and describes the production of HF in the hydrolysis process.

      My puzzlement then is why the symptoms of Sarin poisoning don't include HF poisoning as well - presumably strong irritation?

      Dead animals? It was in the high 30Cs each day and never got below 20C at night. Expect any degree of bloating in those conditions. e.g. August 20/21

    13. Charles, That's not a problem to explain. Sarin is about 1000 times more lethal than HF, so anyone who was exposed to any significant amount of HF was dead...

    14. Makes sense Sasa, but what do you think of the lack of corrosion on the rockets. Paveway says that having a minimum of 13% of HF is inevitable and that the isopropylamine doesn't solve everything. That means that inside the rocket, there is a high concentration of HF. If there was a puddle of Sarin after impact, highly concentrated fumes of HF would have corroded the steel.
      There remains my other question, why are the inhabitants not more afraid of touching the rocket remnants? As the bloating of the dog proves the time frame, only a few days after so much death was caused by it, there is no fear anymore.

    15. Paveway,

      Concerning your remark nr 2 cfr the second port on the rocket.Wouldn't you need a 'filling vent', independent of regular army/rebels filling such a device? Otherwise there is no way of getting liquid in? I don't understand the rest of your comment, why do you think it holds a tail fuse?
      How are these things filled when it is HE?. Is it filled and welded when full? Wouldn't that risk igniting the payload?

    16. I'm confused by your first question, Veritas. The square-headed plug would be the main filling port (hole, whatever...). Bulk semi-liquid payloads like incendiary mixtures would be added through that hole.

      If this was used for Sarin, then you would have to think about 1) containing any fumes coming out of the canister (displaced as you added liquid) so it wouldn't kill you first, and 2) HF and other nasty fumes subsequently outgassing from the DF + IPA mixture whether you mixed them inside or outside the can.

      One way to handle that (very old-school, Iraqi and such) is to have a filling device that uses a flexible, accordion-like sleeve over a much smaller metal tube, sometimes called a filling wand. The metal tube can be inserted some distance into the canister. The sleeve is a larger diameter that the filling port and would press against the outside perimeter and maintain a slight suction to contain any gasses. Liquid is dispensed through the metal tube with some kind of hand-operated trigger once the sleeve is in place. Once filling is completed, the wand is withdrawn back into the sleeve and detached from the can. The sleeve suction will hopefully contain evaporates from the wand. I imaging the operator would be eager to have the fill plug back in the fill hole as soon as possible. That's how a single-hole filling machine would work in theory.

      The two-hole method is to attach suction to a separate second hole on the canister (venting port) and add the liquid to the first filling port.

      Re: HE filling

      The unexploded HE payloads we see in videos seems paste-like or fairly dry. There really isn't a practical way to get that through the small fill hole in the tail plate without screwing around with slurries and vacuum drying. I would think the HE mixture goes in the top somehow and then the noseplate and fuze/booster cup are attached after filling. There wouldn't be any need to weld the top (or nose plate) for cake HE.

      Tail fuzing (rear of canister, not rear of rocket):

      The tail fuze and 'bicycle pump' charge (my opinion) mostly applies to a liquid payload. It would be fuzed for an inertial or percussion trigger and set off an ignition/detonation charge. That would be for what I guess would be a thermobaric EBX or FAE payload. I'm basing that on deformities seen on all (except the 'dry' unexploded HE version) of these rockets: a longitudinal dent a half-meter or so long on the side of the central tube closest to the second, smaller tail-plate ceramic-plug hole. That's a particularly difficult deformity to make without a liquid payload and a linear charge paralell to the central (rocket motor) tube inside the can. Spent rockets slamming into the ground tend to fold the leading edge of the central tube over the dented part, suggesting the dent occurred first. That presumes everything else blew like it should have before striking the ground.

      Sasa has suggested that the device bicycle-pump thing associated with that port may be part of a proximity-fuze, functioning in some way with the nose charge. Having a dispersion charge inside the can *in addition to* the nose 'peeling' charge would be a good way to aerosolize a liquid payload.

      In any case, the armorers for the larger UMLACAs can clearly be seen manipulating some kind of longish-devices into both the nose and tail of the canister before launch. The tail device seems to have wires/cables attached prior to launch. It could be some kind of control mechanism. Nobody really knows - the few pictures of the scorched tire-pump remains found near spent rockets don't give many clues to its purpose.

    17. Thanks for explanation Paveway.
      One more question. Would you expect to see corrosion due to Sarin-HF- plus all the rest mixture? Or is contact time too short.

    18. My uneducated guess: you would see a coating of corrosion after minutes on an unlined steel canister - that's using some scavengers and inhibitors. You would still use them to maintain some stability of the Sarin, not to protect the can.

      Since it's fill and fire, the armorer would be indifferent to the rapid corrosion. If the can lasts five minutes, then it's not even worth attempting to coat it. Most paint would react with HF anyways.

      The visible nature of the corrosion one would expect is interesting. I would think rust-like on an uncoated can, but quantities of hexamine or other components in the brew might show as the white, irregular coating more frequently seen in the vids.

      There's just too little information to go on. That's why I'm sticking with the Occam's razor theory: incendiaries or explosives in the rockets unrelated to the chemical attack - don't care who fired them when.

      Easier/quicker delivery method: pickup truck, 55 gallon drum and a pressure washer driven slowly from the North-East corner of Zamalka in no-man's land several blocks to the South. No electricity, so no lights and no witnesses. After that, it's just a matter of finding impact points in the plume area and blaming whatever munition landed there as part of an attack.

      Look at the HRW impact points and imagine how a plume would travel in a light, WSW breeze. It looks like Aum Shinrikyo's Matusumoto attack without the boiler:

    19. It would have been handy if there were clear corrosion signs on the canisters. I don´t see any, but the absence of visual corrosion traces doesn´t prove anything I guess.
      But I would think loading the cans a few days earlier in the ´sarin production plant´ wherever that is, would cause corrosion risks? And leakage risks... So the lead time must have been kept short (IF rockets were used for Sarin, which you seem to doubt)

    20. The cans wouldn't be loaded in the production plant. The one exception would be if the opposition all ready had a bulk production facility up and running. I don't think anyone has suggested that they have that capability yet. If they do and they're using the di-di process for binary Sarin, then the DF precursor may be very low purity and have a lot of HF they can't remove. They would have a hard time storing the DF and end up with even more corrosive Sarin after mixing. In that case, I suppose filling a warhead right at the production facility might make sense, but it would be pretty impractical. I just don't think they have that capability at all yet.

      If the opposition used Sarin in East Ghouta, then they most likely brought in the somewhat purified DF precursor for GB2 that was produced somewhere else. Their Sarin would have looked relatively clean because they couldn't have transported in corrosive, unprocessed DF. If it was from Libyan stockpiles, then it was fairly pure DF. If it was Saudi, Israeli or American, then it was surely high-purity DF. Nothing Iraq may have hid in Syria would be usable today.

      Fluoridating DC to produce DF (the so-called di-di process) does not produce a clean DF. It contains a lot of HF and several other process chemicals when first made. It needs to be cleaned, distilled and stabilized. The cleaner and purer the DF, the longer you can store it and the better quality Sarin eventually produced. Relatively pure DF can be stored in drums and transported to wherever it will be mixed and used. Unprocessed, raw DF, on the other hand, probably would need some kind of elaborate teflon-lined pressure vessel if you even wanted to ship it somewhere else.

      Syria's military Sarin program produced purified DF which was shipped in bulk to the various Chemical Corps storage bunkers. Mixing/filling equipment is on-site next to the bunkers, as well as the unfilled munitions. The bunkers themselves would be close to the consuming units: right at the airport for aerial bomb filling; near missile launch sites for missile warheads or near artillery units for shells. The whole mixing/filling operation is just-in-time for a specific type and number of munitions. If Assad wants one Scud launched with Sarin, then the Chemical Corps is going to mix and fill one warhead and drive it over to the missile guys.

    21. "...IF rockets were used for Sarin, which you seem to doubt..."

      Sasa has laid out evidence and logic in this blog that supports a conclusion involving rockets. I'm just a drive-by dissenter, too lazy to start my own blog and do all the intellectual legwork Sasa has done to support my own low-conviction hunch. I'll be the first to insist there is far more solid evidence for the canister rockets than my Elvis-in-a-pickup speculation.

  4. A possible rocket launch detection system is interesting. How likely is it that the US/Israel monitors Syria in this way? I'm sure it's technically viable, with constant satellite surveillance producing a near realtime video image, at least of the major scenes of the conflict. And at 2AM these rockets would have been bright and conspicuous.

    1. If the US isn't Israel will be. Though how much attention they are paying at the moment is questionable as there is no immediate strategic threat.

      Also the satellites they use will probably be lower orbit and so only have limited surveillance time. The higher geostationary units are more for nuclear weapon detection and possibly for ICBM launch detection.

      With realtime imagery you need to have a reason to look. Most likely low orbit satellite scans are digitally processed for triggers that can then get eyeball analysts having a look. Add in the intermittent nature of satellite passes and a lot can be missed.

      You can virtually guarantee there is no intelligence group tasked with 24 hours eyeball monitoring of Damascus or Aleppo as it's mostly done by algorithms looking for particular signatures.

      The most likely scenario is that every morning the intel guy tasked with the Damascus desk will review the alerts and produce a summary based on the imagery presented to him in the alerts. If the situation is hot that may come down to every two hours, but I doubt Syria or Damascus was hot on August 21.

      If they are not very interested the review may even be every week.

  5. Seymour Hersh on Democracy Now speaking about his article on Syrian rebels having sarin capabilities. Very interesting to listen to him talk. This guy knows something.

    1. Hersh on CNN

  6. Agreed. His analysis is very thorough and shows how fragmented things must be inside the White House. He's probably spot on when he says that the Pentagon has known for at least a year that Assad is the only safe bet for a reasonably stable and secular future Syria. Also that the Israeli will immediately strike a salafist neighboring state. But with public statements about a red line they've painted themselves into a corner where they will have to stand still until everything is quiet.

    The article from Hersh may start snowballing something. And if we add in the SEA VanDyke-leaks - (Matthew Van Dyke, Mr. Loose Cannon personified), I must confess it's been a very interesting day.

    1. A lot of things are snowballing in the days before the publication of the UN report. Players have to show what they have in hands now and not later. That's the link you point to
      Frankly, these wannabees are genuine psychopaths.

    2. Matthew VanDyke is known to suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, and is obviously damaged goods. Keep that in mind when assessing his claims, and don't be too hard on Brown Moses just because he was approached by this raving lunatic.

    3. I think what the issue is with BM sitting on this claim is that whilst he was investigating it or awaiting further clarification from MVD he continued to attack and deride all and any that even suggested that the rebels/Al Qaeda had CW capabilities as "pro-Assadists" yet here was sitting on a claim from a source he deemed as 'credible'. That's what I'm picking up from social media.
      Now what we are seeing is BM throwing MVD to the wolves in order to protect his own skin.

      Whether or not MVD had OCD or not that doesn't mean we should lend any less credibility to his claims. I mean look at BM's latest article on FP which is riddled with holes and yet we don't question his mental state.

      MVD is only saying what Russia has said, what Hersh has said and what we seen by the Turkish arrests of JaN trying to acquire sarin ingredients. Now if MVD was a lone voice in these claims then I'd agree that we tread carefully therein.

    4. I've given it some thought and agree that what MVD says is most likely factual, and that the OCD should not disqualify him. Despite resembling Herzogs Grizzly Man, only among jihadists, not bears - the man is lucid, well connected and close to the action. And what he discloses about CW in Aleppo should be headline news. Because it explains why the Syrian gov invited the UN inspection team in.

    5. Absolutely Amund.

      I mean Syria fought for months to get the UN to send a team to investigate the Khan al-Assal sarin attack in Aleppo but, according to the Russians, the US, France and Britain frustrated and delayed all attempts at dispatching the team. This went on from March 2013 to August to 18th August when the UN team eventually arrived in Damascus.

      When the attacks happened in Khan al-Assal the victims were Syrian army personnel within a regime held area. It was the Syrian government that immediately requested the UN send a team to investigate and it was then the west moved to delay the process. Why?

      The Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told AP when the UN team eventually arrived in Syria on the 18th August:

      "“I assure you, on behalf of the Syrian Arab Republic, that we will fully cooperate with this team and provide it will all information we have and all facilities to reach a rational conclusion,” he said.

      “Our basic target is for this team to find facts on ground, especially about what happened in Khan al-Assal, because we, as a government, do not know about any other cases other than the case where chemical weapons were used by terrorists there,” he continued, "We said that these weapons were used in Syria, and Syria was the first to inform the United Nations that armed groups used these weapons in Khan al-Assal".

      2 days after the UN team arrived in Syria at the request of the Syrian government to eventually investigate the Aleppo sarin attacks on Syrian troops, a few kilometres away from their hotel the 21/8 sarin attacks took place in Ghouta. Now some would ask us to believe that the Syrian government (who were winning on the ground using conventional weapons) waited on the UN team arriving in Damascus at the request of, wait for it, the Syrian government to investigate a chemical attack on their troops before launching a chemical attack themselves a few kilometres from were the UN team were staying. Not even in another city but right outside their hotel. Why would they wait to the UN team arrived? Why would they cross the US's red line? Why did they choose Damascus? Why did they use a poor grade of sarin? Why would they ensure the UN team didn't get to visit the site in Aleppo that they had fought months to get them to look at? Why when the UN team left after investigating Ghouta did the Syrian government again request they return to investigate Aleppo?

      Then we have MVD saying that he knew that rebels in Aleppo had CW and that they were prepared to use them on children if it meant the west would intervene. He also said that the reason the regime were so vocal about having the UN investigate Aleppo was that they knew it was the rebels that had used CW.

      But all this is just nonsense. It was the regime that done it even though no one can prove it.

  7. Very dodgy : you seem far to close to brown moses , who is far to close to serial interventionist Matt can dyke to make your analyses seem objective

  8. Higgins has now published the entirely predictable attack piece on Hersh at

    He again raises the canard of a hypothetical nosecone and tacks on an extra kilometre in range! -

    It is remarkable in its ability to blur facts in an entirely convenient way and in particular his chaotic description of the tactical situation in Jobar on August 21.

    He fails totally to define a safe launch location in any part of Northern Jobar and he ignores the fact that no-one saw any LOUD and BRIGHT missiles being fired from that hypothetical safe location - despite the entire area being a hot battleground.

    He then pretends that the missile target location was a military objective when in fact it is still in insurgent hands and the SAA has never made any attempt to take it. At present the SAA game plan - as it was on August 21, is to cut lines of communication between Zamalka and Jobar across the Southern Bypass. Bombarding a civilian area with gas a kilometre or so away from any fighting does not play any part in a tactical battle.

    He has failed to establish that the missiles COULD have been fired from Government territory (range). He has failed to establish that the missiles WERE fired from Government territory - witnesses. He has failed to establish any tactical reason for the targeting.

    Beyond these minor imperfections he has also deliberately mixed up the various types of volcano and their capabilities and range and he has quite studiedly ignored the fact that the chemical variant has NEVER been seen in possession of the SAA or any other Government military force.

    1. Having read Brown Moses’ latest article in FP I am not sure whether he actually gained anything from it apart from maybe self gratification.

      Hersh simply said that the munitions used to deliver the CW attacks were not standard SAA munitions, which they weren't. As BM notes:

      "Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Hersh that the Volcano is "something you could produce in a modestly capable machine shop" -- in other words, a weapon the rebels could make".

      Postol is right as much as Hersh is in quoting him. So they could have been made by the rebels or they could have been looted by the rebels if they were made by the SAA. BM's point on arguing against what Postol/Hersh is saying here is moot.

      Hersh quotes Postol again on the 2km range which is correct. And on cue BM answers that claim with:

      "This range means that the munition certainly could have originated from regime-held territory."

      Well it could if you wanted to partake is some mental gymnastics. But BM's attempt at refuting Hersh & Postol could as easily have read:

      "This range means that the munition certainly could have originated from rebel-held territory."

      Using this statement doesn't require the mental gymnastics.

      On the use of sarin we once again see BM ignore the mounting evidence that Syrian rebels have the capability, desire, knowledge and motives to acquire and use sarin least of all from obviously well placed intelligence sources whom Hersh spoke with. BM also refuses (again) to explain the low quality grade of sarin used but when pursued on this passes the buck to Dan Kazeta. Dan says that the reason the sarin was of a low grade is because Syria's chemical weapons program wasn't even as advanced as Iraq's and Iraq's program was itself of poor quality.

      Well if indeed Syria's CW program was behind that of Iraq then Dan may well have explained the low grade of sarin used in Ghouta. But Dan cannot and has not offered a single shred of evidence to support that theory. He says he can't talk about it due to him being restricted by "NDAs" and that he knows what he knows due to one of the chemical weapons experts that worked on Iraq's CW program telling him so.

      When pushed a little further and asked can he provide ANY evidence to support his theory that Syria's CW program was inferior to Iraq's he again says he can't talk anymore about it due to "NDAs" but if he was paid he could go find the evidence. Why does he need paid to find evidence he says he already has? What about the NDAs?

      So I guess that's it then; we either take Dan's word for it and just move along or we assume that unless Dan can prove what he says he must be ignored and his claim lodged under "unverifiable". In doing that the ball falls back in Brown Moses' court and as he is the accuser he must prove his case and explain why the grade of sarin was not of military standard and a standard that we expect given the nature of Syria's CW program (Defence against Israel).

    2. To follow-up on Dan's claim that Iraq's CW program was more advanced than Syria's; according to the British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant: "Mr Sellstrom (The UN's chief investigator re Syria) confirmed that the quality of the sarin was superior both to that used in the Tokyo subway but also to that used by Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war,"

      We also know at this stage that the grade of sarin used in Ghouta was not military grade so if it was not military grade and yet it was "superior" to Iraq's how does My Kazeta work out that Iraq's program was more advanced than Syria's?

      I have found many, many sources all claiming that Syria's CW program was one of the most advanced in the M.E. and not one source claiming that Syria's program was in any way inferior to Iraq's.

    3. Another follow-up on Dan's unsubstantiated claim from his close associate Brown Moses' blog. Today Brown Moses had a "A guest post by Olly Morton and Hamish de Bretton-Gordon of SecureBio." in which they say:

      "Unlike Iraq, Syria sought to develop an offensive chemical weapons (CW) capability from the outset; the programme began in 1971, fuelled by growing concerns about regional stability and the immediate threat posed by Israel. "

      So Syria was developing CW as offensives weapons, unlike Iraq, and Syria's aim was to protect itself from Israeli aggression. Still trying to work out why Syria would have a lesser CW program than Iraq when Iraq wasn't producing sarin to use in an offensive manner for self preservation?

    4. Dan has probably forgot more about CWs than I'll ever know, but I don't understand his remarks about the CW programs of both Syria and Aum Shinrikyo. He has to know better. If not, he can Google numerous credible references to the contrary. I'll gladly stand to be corrected, but he seems to stick to his odd statements about both..

      1) Syria's Sarin Program isn't as advanced as the former Iraqi program:

      Syria's program is different and far more advanced than the Iraqi program, period. Syria produced and stockpiled high-quality GB2 precursor DF as well as tonnes of some kind of Vx variant. Iraq made some impure, fairly quickly degrading *unitary* batch Sarin - GB.

      Iraq had the basic chemical formula to make Sarin, but lacked any of the sophisticated techniques or equipment to purify it throughout the steps in the production process. The relatively fresh Iraqi unitary Sarin was estimated to be somewhere around 40% purity. After a couple of years of storage, it degraded to less than 10% purity.

      Syria pursued the more technically challenging di-di process for binary Sarin - GB2. They apparently successfully produced a stable, relatively pure, long-lived DF binary agent and had a dedicated chemical corps to pre-mix and fill warheads.

      I'm not sure why anyone would consider Syrian GB2 low-quality or crude. Di-di process GB2 can't be pure because of the basic chemical nature of the binary components. If you want pure, potent, stable GB for long-term storage inside or outside a munition, then you don't make binary GB2 components - you make unitary GB and purify it. GB2 is made specifically to be deployed just-in-time at the 70% or whatever purity level that will always result from the DF+OPA reaction. I suppose it could be purified like GB, but Syria apparently never had any reason to do that.

      Aum Shinrikyo cost/quality statements misleading:

      Dan's remarks are something like "Ten million dollars - 'only' a few liters of low-quality Sarin" The Tokyo subway attack was not Aum Shinrikyo's final goal. It was almost an afterthought - their production facilities were dismantled or abandoned weeks earlier anticipating a police raid.

      The Tokyo subway Sarin was produced overnight from some DF they had stashed away. The chemist was pulled away from his Aum illegal drug-making operations the night before. Of course it was impure - it literally *was* kitchen sink GB2.

      What Dan fails to mention is that $10M went into building a lab designed to crank out something like two tonnes of Sarin a day, not the occasional few liters. They hadn't scaled up to that and were still working out the large-scale process, but there's no reason to think they wouldn't have got there in a few more months. This was an end-to-end facility - they even had automatic dispensing and plastic bagging equipment.

      The chemists had already produced bench-scale batches mustard gases, nearly all Gx nerve agents and (most worrisome) Vx nerve agents. Between Matsumoto, some small attacks and the subway attack, they had produced maybe a hundred liters of Sarin. And a lot of this was part-time on the chemists part - the drug-making (another facility) took priority.

      You can conclude that $10M *did* buy Aum Shinrikyo a well-equipped, well-stocked fairly large-scale clandestine nerve gas production facility - not a one-off kitchen-sink operation. The chemists don't sound too confused about the synthesys - they did make di-di process Sarin, but more importantly were successful in making Vx.

    5. Thanks for the response Paveway.

      I think it's a case of Dan making a statement he was unsure about and and is now trying to cover his tracks. What I know about chemical weapons could be written on the back of a postage stamp. But even I thought it absurd to claim that Iraq's CW program was more advanced than Syria's. I thought it that absurd that I set about trying to find out if what Dan said was correct but I cannot find a single source, anywhere that corroborates Dan's claim and he refuses to provide evidence to the various people that have asked him to prove his claim.

      He says that the reason for the low grade sarin at the crime scene in Ghouta should not be viewed as evidence that the government didn't do it but to the contrary that the low grade sarin is evidence that the government did do it. This is because, he argues, the Syrian government's CW program was inferior to even that of Iraq's so that claim forms the basis of Dan's Assad-did-it theory. But he still refuses to back that claim up with evidence citing his inability due to "NSA's". But in a recent tweet Dan said that if he was paid he could go find the evidence. So it looks like he doesn't actually have any.

      That being the case his 'testimony' would not be admissible in any investigation that relied upon verifiable evidence to support claims.

  9. I prepared this comment for Eliot on that neo-con page for nearsighted people called "Foreign Policy". The comment section, with all its bells and whistles - did not compute, so i post it here instead:

    I have also seen the 22 ANNA news videos from Operation Qabon and I have one question for you, Eliot: How many meters would you have dared to walk in a Syrian Army uniform, into Qabon, from where you see the tanks operate? The videos show an extremely hostile urban warfare territory with sniper positions potentially everywhere. It is grossly misleading to write that  "government forces (rarely) coming under anything more dangerous than occasional sniper fire." But everyone can see and judge this for themselves. Search for ANNA news on Youtube.

    1. This is not an ANNA video, but it shows the Higgins 'safe area' being mortared by a mobile 82mm mortar on or before July 30 2013.

      Hardly minor sniper fire.

    2. oops - link

    3. Incidentally, Google places Qabon as North of Kenzi and Jobar as South of Fares al Khouri.

      The bit between Kenzi and Fares al Khouri appears to belong to neither. Or at least according to Google.

      Contrarily according to wikimapia Jobar extends North to 6th Tishreen but stops in the South at Mohammed Anwar Kamel - where it borders Al-Maamouniye. Google places the Southern border of Jobar further South on Al-Ghouta St.

      I guess this means you have to be careful describing geographical regions and perhaps just stick to street boundaries

    4. There is newanna video from Jobar (at the end of the shot the speaker translates what the soldier is saying) allegedly taken on August 20. From the film it looks that - at least - some parts of Jobar are secured (soldiers are not nervous etc.).

    5. Good find. I've seen this, but that was before the geolocation of the videos began. Would be very interesting to map this one, very close in time to August 21. There is talk about a power plant (the rebels move alongside it) and the army continuing the cleanup in the direction of the Water Reserve Square. Does anyone have a clue about these two locations?

    6. Interesting that these recent findings match the Liwa Al-Islam videos description of attacking government forces in Qaboun and Jobar.

    7. This screenshot may help. It's on a major road, there is a water tower in the background, and they were operating under high tension transmission lines. That puts it probably on 6th Tishreen or the North/South bit of Fares al-Khouri.

      There is an electricity (power) station over several block centred on 33°31'51.94" N 36°19'39.71" E south of Kenzi at the far west of Jobar/Qabon

      The industrial school at 33°31'58"N 36°20'5"E was occupied by insurgents using it as a fighting base on 22 August.

      "Very violent clashes in the industrial school in the neighborhood of Qaboun and attempt to thwart the infiltration of shabiha 22/08/2013"

      The last video shows insurgents fighting in the centre of the area nominated by Brown Moses as the launch zone and also next door to the army base and in proximity to water towers.

    8. nice! can you prepare a map showing all these locations relative to the proposed launch site?

    9. I know there is another mention of the water supply building in ANNA videos - where it is pointed out as a favorite target of the militants - it looked like a tall, white administrative bld, not an actual water plant.

    10. Charles where exactly is Higgins saying the government launched from?

    11. The sector image on

      shows two red markers BM1 and BM2. BM2 is the North West corner of the Army base. Directly South of that and still next-door to the Army base is the technical college which was an occupied insurgent stronghold.

    12. I have been studying these maps and been trying to keep an open mind but I am at a lose as to how Higgins believes this is the launch site? I must be missing something crucial as it simply doesn't appear possible that the army could launch such an attack from here, from the front line and without anyone seeing it. Is Higgins still using the line 'the rebels could have been sleeping' to answer that question? The reason I ask is that last week when I debated with him on his blog he asked that we accept that rebel "eye witnesses'" who apparently seen the launches and claimed they came from a government position actually got the launch location wrong. But only wrong in terms of launch location and not that they weren't launched from government positions. Higgins asked that we accept that the launch position was actually 1km way and to the west. I find myself having to accept a lot of improbabilities mixed with some mental gymnastics in order for Higgins' narrative to make sense.

      In his favour Charles am I misrepresenting his claims any way or am I missing something from his analysis?

    13. You've got his point of view correct. The trouble is it's a very ill thought-out one.

      I think he's realised that but is not prepared to abandon it because it suits his agenda.

      When he mentioned his eyewitnesses did he include his friends the Syrian Support Group who said they were launched from Baghdad Bridge and the Syronics factory?

      His latest ploy is to ask why no-one in the Government saw or reported 'rebel' launches - ignoring his own lack of eyewitnesses.

      Separately I've put up new comments on the two Liwa al-Islam posts here. The "Amer Mosa" August 21 'chemical weapon' launch video has a burn time of 2.3 seconds compared to the HE burn time of 3.0 seconds so it's not the same type of missile. The Liwa al-Islam missiles have a burn time of 1.6-1.8 seconds which is radically different to the HE variety.

    14. "When he mentioned his eyewitnesses did he include his friends the Syrian Support Group who said they were launched from Baghdad Bridge and the Syronics factory?"

      This is what Higgins says and it requires a lot of mental gymnastics to fathom:

      "Well, one thing that was interesting is in the HRW report on the attack they had this statement
      "A doctor working in the medical center in Erbeen, a town in Eastern Ghouta, told Human Rights Watch that the attack there began at 3 a.m. on August 21. He said that at the time there was no fighting taking place between government forces and opposition fighters. Activists in the area told him that 18 missiles, carrying what they said was a chemical agent, fired from the direction of the October War Panorama, a military museum in Damascus city, and of Mezzeh military airport, hit Zamalka, Ayn Tarma, Douma, and Moadamiya."

      The October War Panorama is about 1km west of that area, so could it be possible the witness was slightly out with the point of origin?"

      He then says:

      "Other witness also point to the direction of the October War Panorama
      "A media activist in the town of Ayn Tarma told Human Rights Watch that the attack there began between 2:30 and 3 a.m. He said that around 2:30 a.m., he and others saw a missile launched from the direction of the October War Panorama in Damascus city. At the time, he said, he was at home with friends. He described what he thought was a surface-to-surface missile striking nearby and releasing a chemical substance:"

      If you check the map, the area just in front of the October War Panorama, between it and Ayn Tarma, is the area controlled by the government."

    15. Rather than go over all these points I will just reproduce my response to him which covers my feelings well:

      "Thanks for all your time on this Eliot.

      Right now you are going to think that I am deliberately being awkward but please note that is not my intentions. But take an objective look at that statement for a minute.

      "A media activist" who "thought [it] was a surface-to-surface missile...[that released] a chemical substance"

      So HRW's source of this information is a rebel but not even a rebel fighter (who may have known it could have been a surface-to-surface rocket) but a rebel media activist. A media activist who knew what was and wasn't a "chemical substance". I just have a difficulty with accepting that single source as proof Eliot. Let alone HRW which has already been found to be misrepresenting facts in relation to the 21/8 attacks. Let me put it this way; say the shoe was on the other foot and this was a government "activist" trying to implicate the rebels, would you lend his/her statement much validity under the circumstances?

      On the doctor's report. Again afford the story some objectivity. Why would rebels tell a doctor specifics such as the time of the attacks, that "18 missiles" were fire, that they were "carrying...chemical agents" and that they were fired from a particular area to particular areas? Does a doctor need to know all that? Again the source is HRW.

      Now that isn't to rubbish these stories entirely. This guy/girl could quite easily be telling the truth as could the doctor and if so this deserves a second look. Have you uncovered any additional witness testimony or reports to support what they say?

      You also suggest that whilst the "October War Panorama" is 1km away from the suggested launch area that the "witness (a rebel) was slightly out with the point of origin"? 1km is a big distance to mistake when trying to locate were up to 18 rockets were fired from. Especially when one is being very specific about all the details.

      But let me look into this some more before ruling it out and if you come across any other information I'd really appreciate it if you could post it in reply to this thread?"

  10. New support for Hersh article and a few bouncers at Eliot Higgins from Tony Cartalucci

    1. Tony doesn't miss a shot in that article with each one hitting their target.

      I had never heard of that guy Whitaker until recently and even then I didn't think he was very relevant. Is he? I read he worked at the Guardian until he got sacked recently.

  11. As far as training in handling chemical weapons, CNN itself revealed the United States had long since taken care of that.

    CNN’s December 2012 report titled, “Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons,” stated that:

    "The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.

    The training, which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials."

    How has this argument not figured more in the Ghouta investigations? We now know as fact that al-Nusra fighters were caught in Turkey acquiring the chemical ingredients for sarin. We know as fact that al-Nusra pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in Iraq. We know as fact that Iraqi intelligence, who were investigating claims that al-Qadea in Iraq had supplied al-Nusra with chemical weapons, uncovered a chemical weapons factory in Iraq that could produce sarin. We know as fact that Syrian army troops were attacked with sarin in Aleppo. We know that the US had been training Syrian rebels on how to handle chemical weapons sites and their materials. We know that US intelligence has long known that al-Nusra has sarin capabilities and know-how.

    But of course we have no evidence that al-Nusra used chemical weapons in Syria (according to Brown Moses) and we have no evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in Syria. But according to Brown Moses that all means that the Syrian government did it. Work that out.

    1. Syrian Support Group (the only licensed US aid supplier to the FSA and likely a US Intelligence Service front) has supplied a lot of 'non-lethal' aid to the FSA - or more likely insurgents in general.

      This aid includes gas-masks, atropine, covert communications equipment, and other medical supplies.

      SSG has a litany of press releases blaming the Syrian Government for gas attacks over much of 2013. In fact they primarily report on gas incidents rather than normal humanitarian issues. When they do they tend to cover the FSA's ass over unfortunate incidents. Their focus on CW appears to be part of a focused publicity campaign that is politically driven.

      The Brown Moses blog at one stage was accepting paid advertising from the SSG for their services in Syria, so we can assume SSG and Eliot Higgins are well aligned in their views on Syria and have a common interest in a 'Government gassing the people meme' to the exclusion of alternate theories.

    2. Thanks for that Charles. Yes I remember the adverts on his blog which I think caused him enough embarrassment that he had them removed.

      Incidentally his new theory on why the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people isn't that it he thinks it was sinister but that it was merely "a fuck up".

  12. It seems that the US/UK have decided not to be blamed for the next CW attacks of the desperate djihadists:

    1. "medicine, vehicles and communications equipment" and the under-mentioned Atropine, Gas Masks, and Decontamination Equipment.

    2. Unfortunately, you can't let the genie half-way out of the bottle. They have both set in motion a series of all-too-predictable tragedies that guarantees tens-of-thousands of additional dead Syrians and a good million or two more refugees in the coming months.

      If the US and UK would simply admit to their crimes against humanity, they would start down that long road to recovery and redemption. That's hardly likely with the psychopaths in charge. I would expect Assad to magically reform before they do.

    3. Not to mention Hollande/Fabius.

  13. I think the more territory around Ghouta and Aleppo that is retaken by the SAA we will eventually uncover more about the sarin debate.

    More and more people are starting to accept that part of the Syrian opposition has access to chemical weapons. There is a mountain of evidence that points to this now but all that is missing is that conclusive piece of evidence or proof. The same as is missing from the "Assad did it" conspiracy circle.

    But what the difference is now is that initially that circle lambasted all and any for even suggesting that Syrian rebels had access to chemical weapons whereas now their tone has started soften. To think that I was once also of that same mindset is frightening for me as once you allow yourself to think for yourself and look at the evidence objectively a whole new picture emerges.

    To be honest Eliot Higgins has done more to persuade me it was the rebels that carried out this attack than anyone else. He has convinced me that the only thing missing from the evidence of rebel culpability is them being seen with a launcher.

  14. UN report out:
    At first sight, no improvement compared to the previous one concerning Ghouta!

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