Dec 21, 2013

Review of UN Press Conference

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

Before examining the findings of the full UN report published recently, I thought it would be interesting to review the press conference that accompanied it, which provides some interesting information.

The most interesting findings:

16:00 - While probably not too relevant anymore, Sellstrom makes a very significant statement distancing himself from the "trajectory intersection" theory, saying "The flight paths do not seem to meet as may be indicated in the report", and adds that a range of 2km for the UMLACA is "a fair guess".

9:30 and 17:10 - In these two questions Sellstrom is asked about the sarin's quality, referencing his early statement that hinted at high-quality sarin (which was of course interpreted to imply regime culpability). He seems to avoid the first question (9:30) by addressing only the recent incidents where samples were taken from blood and not from soil. The second question (17:10) is more direct, prompting the interesting and evasive response: “I tried to make some comment on the quality of sarin and I compared it to my experience in Iraq”, which seems like an attempt to downplay the original statement and undo its effect.

41:00 - Probably the most interesting finding. Here the panel is asked whether the munitions reported by Syria to the OPCW were related to those used in Ghouta. The response:
"I could say 'No Comment', but I will give you an answer: Not really, there’s no information that sheds light on what happened in Ghouta”.
To understand the significance of this statement it should be explained that the information provided by Syria to the OPCW is confidential and cannot be shared. Sellstrom therefore cannot answer the question directly, but his response heavily hints that UMLACAs were not reported as a Syrian chemical weapon, which is in line with the analysis that it is a repurposed incendiary rocket. Of course, other explanations are also plausible, such as the government secretly destroying a stockpile of chemical UMLACAs to avoid it being associated with the attack.
Update: This report claims that UMLACAs were indeed not reported to the OPCW, but does not provide direct evidence.

Overall, it is hard to miss the difference in attitude during this press conference compared to the spirit of the interim report. While in September the message was along the lines of "We're not allowed to tell you , but we all know who did it", the team is now much more cautious, clearly stating that the evidence is insufficient to implicate either side (39:00), and there is no "information that will stand in court" (43:30).

Update: This WSJ article about the UN report contains two interesting statements from Sellstrom: 
But Mr. Sellstrom said he believed both sides in the conflict had the "opportunity" and the "capability" to carry out chemical weapons attacks. Mr. Sellstrom had just arrived in Damascus to negotiate a visit to Khan al-Assal when the Aug. 21 attack occurred. He said one of his earliest reactions to the attack was that the Syrian government had to be stupid to pull it off with U.N. inspectors in town.
Did I miss anything? Please share your evidence and analysis and help improve the conclusions.


  1. An interesting site with lots of US military publications is (wow! I now know how to use pack animals for my special forces operations!)

    Of interest here is

    Which has lots of previously hidden technical data on GB that I can plug into my atmospheric model.

    1. OOps -

      Has the technical data. The other fm3-11 stuff is still good background reading.

    2. Double oops. the .mil site has certificate problems.

      Try this FAS mirror

      And in particular

  2. I'm glad you posted this, Sasa. There were a lot of interesting things about this press conference. The most interesting:

    This was the first one (I recall) where members of the press seemed to be openly trying to elicit some blame for the opposition vs. Assad. Now I wouldn't expect Sellstrom to give any answer besides "We don't know," "Not enough evidence," etc.
    What struck me as odd though, was the way all the UN people were answering the questions for the most part without mentioning the existence of 'rebels' or 'opposition'. They seemed to be taking an extraordinary effort to do this.

    That kind of drove home the point that the UN's boss is the respective governments of the member states, not all of humanity. Sellstrom does not have a second belligerent nation to point a finger at because there is none. There is no government or organization recognized by the UN that officially represents the opposition, and what would he even call them? I don't think the UN's 'western' bosses would like if he used the term FSA. There is no legal term for the opposition because they don't exist in the UN's bureaucratic world.

    I'm not suggesting a bias or ignorance on the part of the UN - just the opposite, in fact. They're in the strange position of trying to be impartial when there is *officially* only one party in Syria, not two. To Sellstrom's point, if there was evidence that would stand up in court against the opposition, I'm sure they would figure out some way to say so.

    Lacking legal proof, he has to continually explain how 'investigation' and 'findings' really mean what his bosses want it to mean, not what the public wants it to mean. The commission members are not stupid - they probably have a pretty good idea who used what, and when.

    1. I agree. The exchange at 25:40 was very interesting in that respect.

  3. Please slow down...."but his response heavily hints that UMLACAs were not reported as a Syrian chemical weapon, which is in line with the analysis that it is a repurposed incendiary rocket." that's kind of joke, right? So Syria reported every single type of munition and we know that because Syria said so (sic!) and Sellstrom said "Not really, there’s no information that sheds light on what happened in Ghouta". Uff :-)

  4. About a month ago I read through most of your blog, and you have formulated a compelling narrative for how the rebels are responsible for the Ghouta chemical attacks. One thought, however, has been nagging at me in the weeks since I last visited your website, and has brought me back to ask this question.
    You claim that there was a chemical attack on August 21st and that UMLACAS were used to deliver them, and they were used by the rebels who had looted them from government supplies.
    If this is true, the Syrian government must have figured all this out within hours, or at most, days of the chemical attack. Why didn't the Syrian government publicly declare that UMLACAS were stolen from them, modified by the rebels, and used in the attack? Instead, if I remember correctly the official Syrian news agency (SANA news) highlighted claims made by a Syrian nun that the attacked was faked, and the dead children had been kidnapped from Latakia, and they highlighted the MINT Press report that claimed the attack the was result accident caused by rebels transporting sarin in glass canisters, and other bogus scenarios.
    Why didn’t the Syrian government explain that the government explain what had really happened to the UN and world? They could even point out and demonstrate that the UMLACAS only have a range of 2 km, and therefor had to be launched from territory rebels had access to. In other words, why are you telling the world about this and not the Syrian government?

    1. Very good point that no one has raised so far. Here's what I think. If anyone has a better explanation, feel free to jump in.

      First, I'm not aware of Syria supporting the Mother Agnes report or the MINT report. Those were promoted by Russian officials (correct me if I'm wrong).

      The Syrian government message was generally "We don't know what happened since we don't have any evidence. If chemical weapons were used, it wasn't by us."

      See for example this Assad interview:
      "We’re not in the area where the alleged chemical attack happened. I said alleged. We’re not sure that anything happened."
      "We’re not there; our forces, our police, our institutions don’t exist there. How can you talk about what happened if you don’t have evidence? We’re not like the American administration, we’re not social media administration or government. We are a government that deals with reality. When we have evidence, we’ll announce it."

      Seeing Assad take such a cautionary tone when he's about to be attacked gives some insight into how this government thinks. I would characterize it as "Anything you say will be used against you". We have a good example in the Khan Al Assal case, where a sarin attack on government forces, which caused Syria to push for a UN investigation, was still used by the US to justify an attack.

      I think their strategy in international relations is to shut up unless they have hard evidence. They probably thought that if they claim that an UMLACA launcher was stole from an Army base and used to launch the attack, it would be portrayed in Western media as "Syria admits regime rockets were used to attack Ghouta", followed by a ridiculed description of the looting theory.

      Additionally, I'm not sure they actually knew what happened. No reason to think that some officer who lost an UMLACA launcher would make the connection and contact the right people.

    2. Thanks for responding to my question.

      I will respond to some of your thoughts. The Syrian government did seem to support (or at least re-report as credible) the Mother Agnes and Mint Press Reports. The English language SANA does not allow a search of its archives, but a quick Google search comes up with these examples;

      Mother Agnes

      Mint Press Report

      Also, I think the Syrian government had to know within hours of the attack that UMLACAS were used in this chemical attack, regardless of whether they had taken an inventory of their UMLACA stockpiles . Images of the UMLACA rockets were all over social media/news websites. Within hours Brown Moses and other others had written reports identifying these as the chemical weapon vehicle;

      Looking at the Brown Moses link above, I realize that in fact the Syrian government/military had to know even before the attack that the rebels were using UMLACA chemical weapons, as the UMLACA had been used in a chemical attack in Adra on August 5th. The article links to the page below;
      (The videos shows the remains of an UMLACA with light damage, dead animals and a twitching dog. I don’t know as much about this attack, so maybe I am missing something here)

      So Syrian military officials on seeing either August 21st (or perhaps the August 5th) videos had to say to themselves “Damm, the rebels have got some of our UMLACAS, and have converted them to chemical weapons” or "Damm, the rebels have gotten some our chemical UMLACAS".

      When the government suspected that the rebels had used a chemical rocket in Khan Al-Assal in March, they immediately publicly accused the rebels of carrying out a chemical attack, and asked the UN to investigate; (When France, Britain, and the US wanted the UN to also investigate the other alleged chemical attacks, the Syrian government began to put up a whole bunch of resistance to broadening the investigation.)

      In the case of the Ghouta attack, the Syrian government seems to take the position “I know nothing, I see nothing, and I do not know what those strange rocket thingys are, or what their range is”. They are acting like a guilty party who is stonewalling an investigation, hiding something, and floating the Mother Agnes and Mint Press reports which they know are false.

      You state that the Syrian government maybe had an international relations strategy "to shut up" because whatever they would say would be used against them. When the United States is days away from bombing you, the cost of explaining how the rebels used these weapons against you, would seem to be lower than not explaining that. Also after the government agrees to give up their chemical weapons, this would be an even better time to explain how the rebels stole and used these chemical weapons. They would gain a lot more Western and international support against these Al-Queda allied rebels if they explained that they have these chemical UMLACAS, and Israel, Jordan, or Western countries could be their next targets. In fact, I can not immediately think of any downside to them explaining this (unless it is not true).


    3. "...When France, Britain, and the US wanted the UN to also investigate the other alleged chemical attacks, the Syrian government began to put up a whole bunch of resistance to broadening the investigation..."

      Odd way to view this, hulahoop. Syria asks the UN to investigate the opposition's Aleppo CW attack. One single event in a specific government-controlled area with known munition remnants, plenty of fresh environmental and victim evidence - all 100% accessible and ready for UN and OPCW scrutiny. Nobody running around handling munitions, no 'questionable' victims that would need to be hand-selected by the government. It was a UN inspector's dream come true - hard evidence galore. Just come in an do that inspection thing. So what happened?

      The three-stooges governments you mention began a long very obvious and desperate attempt to delay that inspection. They were arguing about who would and wouldn't be allowed to be on the teams. They didn't want - actually insisted pretty vigorously - that Russian observers NOT be allowed to come along. Don't you find that strange? Apparently, the packs of al Nusra handlers posed less of a threat to the mission than Russian observers.

      Then the gang of three started grabbing a lot of suspiciously convenient (timing-wise), small attacks all over Syria and insist those be part of the Aleppo attack investigation even though they were completely unrelated. Most (OK, *all*) of the western crony's tag-along incidents were in disputed or in rebel-held territory. Syria didn't object to those investigations, but the were pretty upset that the evidence in Aleppo was slowly deteriorating as the UN debated on about an ill-timed, ever-expanding grand inspection tour.

      The final insult was when the UN demanded Syria guarantee the safety of their teams and access to all the sites. Never mind the UN had stalled long enough to ensure nothing fresh would ever be collected from Aleppo, but they also seemed ignorant of the fact that there was a proxy civil war going on.

      Assad didn't say the UN was not allowed in the country to investigate, he said he couldn't guarantee their safety if they wanted to go into the opposition-held territory sites. The UN had to negotiate with the opposition for access. This was spun in western press as some kind of government refusal to cooperate in the inspection process.

      "...In the case of the Ghouta attack, the Syrian government seems to take the position “I know nothing, I see nothing, and I do not know what those strange rocket thingys are, or what their range is..."

      You make that sound like a bad thing. My president was willing to kill a lot of innocent Syrians - releasing mustard, Sarin and Vx gas on whoever was downwind of a Tomahawk target *and* ensure a quick government transition to homicidal salafi jihadists - based on the exact same ignorance you mock:

      - U.S. sensor networks: no CW warhead prep or mixing activity, no transport preparation, no nothing.
      - U.S. spy satellites and drones: no sign of rocket launches, no impacts or geographic detail, no nothing.
      - other 'credible' U.S. intel: YouTube vids and Mossad supposedly gave them a poorly-altered recording of something. They probably had Brown-Moses linked.

      But to your point about them explaining something about Ghouta, exactly what could they say on the 22nd? Everything happened fairly deep in opposition territory. The only thing anyone knew about the situation was on YouTube and social media. The SAA couldn't just waltz down there, look around and offer their own assessment - they were busy shelling Ghouta preparing for an offensive.

      Claiming they could have won some international support with an explanation is preposterous. Assad is in a proxy war *with* the de facto owners of the media: the West and the Gulf States. The U.S. Navy had been shuffling around the Med fleet and just happened to have plenty of muscle bobbing around. It would have been pointless for Assad to say anything - he knew he was being set up.

    4. A few corrections:

      - A SANA report does not equal government endorsement. There are real journalists there that try to bring interesting stories for their audience. It only means the story is not against government policy.

      - MINT and ISTEAMS were promoted by Russian officials, which is not the case in Syria.

      - There is no evidence that Adra was a chemical attack, or even an UMLACA attack at all.

      The rest is getting a bit too speculative for my taste. There could be hundreds of explanations for why a government would take a certain line and not another, and it's hard to evaluate plausibility without fully understanding public sentiment, culture, and the experience of that government in previous cases.

  5. The US didn't know the delivery mechanism. Certainly not to the level of the precise type of munition used.

    The US process initial statement was by the Syrian Support Group (the US NGO that supplies military aid to the FSA). This occurred on August 21 and nominated 122mm chemical Grad missiles as the delivery mechanism.

    Some days after that the US State Department announced that the delivery mechanism was 'improvised 122mm rockets' - which indicates they were either guessing or had extraordinarily good intelligence. That they were 122mm rocket based is not even now fully accepted on the whoghouta site (though there is a strong partisan group who think they are)

    For the Syrian Government to announce the type and characteristics of the missiles used would have plugged a big gap in the US State Department body of knowledge (perhaps not in some US Intelligence agencies). This would have given them much more fuel for a propaganda attack.

    Instead, all the Syrian Government had to do is point out how each guess by the US was wrong.

    We have seen this happen already when the Russian Government announced that the Syrians didn't have the chemical weapons alleged/rumoured by the US - i.e. 122mm chemicals weapons (as Iraq had) nor chemical warheads for the 140mm munitions. The 'improvised 122mm munition' allegations were so vague they didn't need a response. If the US had hard evidence on what type of munition they'd have used it.

    This story really does support the Hersh allegation that the US didn't have a clue and relied of puff and bluster to bully its way. For sure the European allies and internal US opposition saw this.

  6. Thank you all for responding to some of my questions and comments.

    Paveway Mk IV– I actually pretty much agree with you in relation to the Khan Al-Assal attack/investigation. Britain, France and the US probably held up that investigation because they suspected that the chemical attack was in fact carried out by the rebels. I think the Western governments were sincere, though possibly misguided, in strongly suspecting that the Syrian government had carried out some of the other chemical attacks they wanted the UN to investigate.

    Sasa wawa – thanks for correcting me in relation to the Adra August 5th attack not being chemical. I really did not know too much about that attack and just came across it as I was looking for a Brown Moses link to cut and paste.

    Charles Wood – I agree with you that the Syrian government may not have wanted to publicly state in August that they had UMLACA rockets that were adapted to chemical weapon use, or were capable of being easily adapted to that use. They had historically been completely silent about their chemical weapons program, not even admitting that it existed. But after the Syrian government declared in September that it had chemical weapons, and chemical stockpiles, and would turn them over to the OPCW, I think this would be less of a concern. I guess I just find it strange that this elephant in the room has never been commented on by SANA or the Syrian government. The high-explosive version of the Syrian developed UMLACA have shown up in numerous videos with NDF or Syrian soldiers using them, so this is not top secret. There would seem to be so much upside for them (or their allies such as Russia) to identify the weapon and state that these weapons were stolen from military stockpiles, rather than appearing out of nowhere.

    Sasa wasa – Finally I just wanted to congratulate you on your investigation and blog. Some of your arguments and claims, such as the limited range of the UMLACAS, which were ridiculed by some, have turned out now to be absolutely right. I guess I just differ in how I interpret the evidence you have collected. I see it as casting doubt on the claim of the government carrying out the attack, but does not seem (to me) to offer greater evidence that the rebels carried out the Ghouta attack.


    1. Thank you for the kind words. Glad we could help.

  7. New Postol study at

    It's pretty weak and wrong in a lot of places.

    1. Brown Moses immediately took to misinformation trying to cover his ever weakening narrative. He tweeted:

      "Brown Moses ‏@Brown_Moses 2h
      New Study Refines View of Sarin Attack in Syria - Rocket range likely 2.5-3.5km according to experts by @cjchivers"

      I draw attention specifically to his mistruth "Rocket range likely 2.5-3.5km according to experts". When what the experts actually said is this:

      "The longer estimates seem unlikely, Dr. Postol said" another words Brown Moses was trying to be first out of the blocks to cover his behind because for his conspiracy theory to hold any validity he needs the distance to be further. As he said in his own words:

      "A range of beyond 2.5 kilometers would put potential launch sites in an area between Jobar and Qaboun, to the north and northwest of the impact locations, that has been a hive of government activity for months,”

      What is clear, crystal clear in fact, is that Brown Moses' narrative doesn't stand up to the slightest amount of scrutiny. The experts have concluded what this blog has said from the start regarding distance.

    2. The Postol 'experts' tend to agree with whoghouta, but only by random chance.

      They have for instance stated the motor tube is 122mm and hence a 122 mm Grad motor, when in fact it's not at all. The outer tube slips over the actual motor and supports the enlarged tail-fin. It has obvious longitudinal welds unsuited to a rocket pressure tube. In my measurements the outer tube is significantly thicker than 122mm and obviously adds weight and drag to the rocket.

      They also assume the outer length of the motor tube matches exactly with a "Grad" motor, when in fact the real motor is longer and extends into the payload. It still could be a "Grad" but perhaps an extended length one?

      Then they flabbergab on about nose-domes, which by all evidence don't exist and don't make much difference anyway - especially at the well sub-sonic speeds the missiles fly at.

      Finally, they have not noted the difference in motor characteristics and dimensions between the HE version and the "CW" version, and in particular the radically different burn times. The HE version has a burn time close to 3 seconds while the Liwa Al-Islam ones are 1.6-1.8 seconds.

      They also don't show how they worked out the range estimate, but with obviously faulty input data they will never be accurate.

      And yes, Eliot Higgins will pass an exceedingly uncritical eye on this report as it supports his pre-conceived notion on the launch location - which even with the 'extended' range is still problematic.

    3. As a matter of humour, Eliot Higgins / Brown Moses says today this is the area under Government control on August 21.

      Do I really need to drag out the insurgent videos showing them fighting in several locations inside that on August 21 ? For instance one of the BM suggest launch locations is physically next to the Industrial School which was very definitely occupied by the insurgents on August 21 - as were the power station, Western bus-station, and a number of locations in between.

      We have video evidence that there was combat on August 20 near the power station at the West end of Kenzi

      We have video evidence the insurgents were in possession of the Industrial School literally next-door to the Army base on August 22 and defending it against SAA attack.

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

      The obvious conclusion is that the area south of Kenzi and West of the Southern Bypass was in hot conflict between August 20 and August 22 inclusive.

  8. BM's has changed his narrative again today. He now wants us to ignore the clear northern trajectory and instead assume, against all the evidence, that the munitions were fired from a southernly direction. He also needs the the launching range to be closer to 3km for his conspiracy to hold any weight, this even though the experts have now ruled out as "unlikely" this kind of distance. And he has now stated that Sellstrom has some explaining to do to reason away how rebels could have obtained large quantities of sarin.

    Incidentally it is also worth noting that as Brown Moses' narrative continues to bounce about, like a spring toy trying to find somewhere to settle, there is now an acceptance in his tone that rebels have sarin in their possession. This is after being told this back in March by his close confident Matthew Van Dyke yet he kept stumm about it whilst at the same time labelling anyone that said rebels had CW capabilities as "conspiracy theorists".

    1. Prof. Theodore A. Postol of MIT and Richard M. Lloyd of Tesla Laboratories now say the range of UMLACA is between 2.5 and 3.5 km. More in the relevant thread here.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I think you need to be corrected in what you claim the experts said. They didn't say or claim "the range of the UMLACA is between 2.5 and 3.5km"

      What in fact they said was:

      Depending on the motors propelling different Grad models, the projected maximum ranges can vary from 2.5 to 3.5 kilometres, or 1.5 to 2.2 miles, Dr. Postol and Mr. Lloyd said.

      This needs to be made clear as Brown Moses has already tried to spin their conclusions to fit his narrative. The "maximum ranges" are between 2.5-3.5km but the range is likely more so 2km as Ake Sellstrom suggested.

    4. Dr Postol himself declared, "The longer estimates seem unlikely [2.5-3.5km]"

      Ake Sellstrom, as I said, suggested 2km as a fair assessment and that is the same findings this blog came up with when everyone else was saying otherwise.

    5. Can you link to where BM says a southerly trajectory? I can't find it.

      I've looked at that option before and there are open fields to the South within range that appear to be uncontested. My point then was why would the SAA chose a hot zone to launch when it could have used a southerly launch zone in much greater safety.

      I've also raised the option of a SW launch location with the dispersal of splashes being due to changes in elevation. Again this could have been done in relative safety.

      All of this of course is moot given the known ground-strike azimuth of the UN missile - unless the lawn-dart theory doesn't apply to violently spinning 'helicopter' missiles

    6. note that we also have a hit to a northern wall.

    7. Interesting quote from Postol & Lloyd

      “The line of impacts suggests a launcher that changed loft angle,” Postol wrote. “This is consistent with a strategy aimed at spreading the nerve agent over a wide area.”

      This indicates to me they may support a SW or NE launch location. However they also say

      "Lloyd said Friday that his separate analysis of the reported impact sites suggested that two to four launchers were involved in the Aug. 21 strikes."

      Which does not appear consistent with a single launch point and varying loft angle.

    8. Charles, it was something I picked up on reading a Twitter conversation between him and another person.

    9. I think he's talking about South of 6th Tishreen and North of the river/canal. However there is a massive stack of evidence the insurgents were in possession of much of that area and were heavily contesting it on August 21.

      There were only a few areas of firm Government control. Thes include the military base in the centre, and parts of the bus-station South of the Qaboun bus-stop. However the insurgents are known to have occupied buildings literally next-door. Other areas are basically encounter skirmish locations. Either side can send in forces and there may be a short firefight if the other side sends in forces as well.

  9. What could be the big 570 mm. UMLACA range with 220 mm. 9M27F Uragan rocket motor? Is there any calculations available somewhere in your blog?

    1. No, but all we need is the two diameters, length, and mass and we can plug it in to the existing simulation.

    2. Luccum has done a bit of work on that at

      The total mass appears to be close to 1000kg with 500kg HE payload.

    3. Thanks, found it.

      Using 0.7 drag, 570mm, 220mm, 1000kg and 3m engine length gives 4.3 km. This matches a launch video from Qadam station towards West Ghouta, which I can't seem to find now.

    4. This is the video:

    5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    6. Actually the 9M27F Uragan rocket engine (3,5 m.?,180 kg.) seems to be too long for this rocket. This 220 mm. UMLACA tail section is max. 2 meters + warhead 1.3-1.5 meters so it can´t be part of 9M27F?

    7. If you look at you will see the 220/570 volcano has a fin support tube longer than 2 metres and there is every probability there is some more motor inside the payload cannister.

      Screen measurement off shows the motor and nozzle is 2.95 metres - which is quite plausible

    8. Rocket 9М27F (overall length) 4832 mm. – (warhead length) 1385 mm = 3447 mm. ?

      We don’t have precise UMLACA-570 dimensions available, these are just estimate dimensions given by luccum. There is likely some error possibility in these estimate dimensions. The rocket motor diameter could be 230 mm. or 240 mm. as well since we don’t have precise dimensions and there is no correct missile length dimentions available at all! The tail part is about 2 meters + warhead 1.5 meters so it makes overall length something like 3.5 meters.

  10. Interesting recent discussion in the comments section of EA WorldView regarding the Ghouta issues. Enthusiastic back and forth. Just more food for thought - nothing conclusive.

    Comments for the day (?) immediately below the article and start with Ghouta.

    1. EA World view appears to be a quite partisan blog mostly by Scott Lucas. He manages to badmouth whoghouta in the comments at

      - blithely ignoring the role of whoghouta in inspiring or motivating the Postol / Lloyd report and supplying much of their raw material and ideas.

    2. "The full video of Sellstrom’s press conference has been posted by the pro-regime “Who Attacked Ghouta?” site,.."

      That is unbelievable. That comment says more about this Scott Lucas' position than it does for the position of anyone else. This is the line that pro-opposition types have taken from the outset of this conflict; you are either with us or with the enemy. If you question the official narrative you're an "Assadist" - a term used in this case to attempt to portray the person as not worth debating with. Just a way of trying to silence dissenting voices.

      Yet it is EAWorldview that has, from the outset, held a clearly defined pro-opposition stance that was flaunted by none other than the king of all conspiracy theorists James Miller. Now this Scott bloke, rather than trying to engage in debate, would rather take to trying to ridicule a blog and its contributors on the grounds that they dare question Scott's pro-opposition, pro-interventationist position. This line was also taken by Brown Moses who himself said to Sasa "problem you have is your audience are pro-Assad types" - another words they don't agree with me so I'm gonna try and discredit your blog and its contributors. As if it's the worst thing on Earth to be "pro-Assad" even if you support him fighting the same enemy as the US, Britain, France...hell the same as most of the world, in the form of Al Qaeda.

      Unbelievable ignorance from people who, to be fair, probably don't know any better. What ever happened to debating the facts, sharing arguments and trying to reach a conclusion? Things this blog has tried to instigate from its formation but this has been greeted with this tribalistic mentality of a few people whose careers depends on sticking to the MSM narrative.


    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. See Oksana Boyko in a recent RT broadcast where she is (unusually for journalists) pretty sharp and asking some very reasonable questions about the UN investigation.

    (I especially like the image at 1:20 of a typical Ghouta resident)

    1. Thanks for posting Charles.

      Straight question here: On a scale of 1-10 (1 being highly probable, 10 being highly unlikely) how certain are you, in a personal capacity, that the sarin was distributed by the rockets?

    2. I'm not 100% convinced for a couple of reasons. First, the early August missile attack in Adra doesn't seem to have been Sarin but had the hallmarks of fakery and it was claimed to be Sarin anyway. Second, the August 21 casualty scene was massively manipulated.

      I really don't know for sure. Sarin by missile is the most likely option, but it's not 100% until someone admits to it.

      Incidentally I had brief contact with someone I think is part of the ANNA crew. He seemed convinced the August 21 attack was largely fabricated - to the extent of killing people for the camera, especially women and children

    3. I'm not convinced either, as a few of my posts will attest to. I think we have possibility been allowing ourselves to get sidetracked and caught up in the whole 'Sarin via modified rocket' theory and maybe, just maybe, we have been looking in the wrong place.

      I had suggested a conspiratorial narrative a few weeks back trying to tease out answers and suggestions and that was that maybe the Sarin had been released by an alternative method. What made me suggest this is that we know that people ("victims") in Moadamiyah tested positive for Sarin contamination yet we know that there was no chemical attack there. So the suggestion is that people were bussed from Zamalka to Moadamiyah. It is the only logical conclusion.

      We also have the elephant in the room, the big issue that has been so very easily ignored by the MSM and the Assad-done-it brigade and that is the bodies of the dead. Where are they? Not one corpse was tested or requested to be tested by the UN team. Why? Surely the only way to confirm or deny if someone died of Sarin is to test them for Sarin and not to test someone living and say that is all that is needed to prove the case of the dead. Preposterous position to take by the UN.

      Also, where are the mass graves? Where there any funerals? Where are the pictures confirming the 1400 or so dead? In a war that has seen rebels film and record their every single move it seems very strange that the one time when videos and films are required to support their claims there is a vital lack of same. Side issues, I agree, but issues none-the-less that are too easily overlooked in trying to build up a picture of events on and after the 21st August.

      Then there is the issue of evidence manipulation that you mentioned and that is actually put in plain language by the UN too. The scene was controlled by the opposition, the evidence was "manipulated" and "moved" by the opposition and victims selected by the opposition. All confirmed by the UN.

      I'd like to see a closer look at alternative Sarin distribution theories discussed. As it may be possible we are focussing all our attention in the wrong place. Just a thought.

    4. Well put together your thesis with supporting evidence and plonk it in the "Suggesting Scenarios" post and we can all take turns ripping it to shreds :-)

      ( That kind of reminds me of the old legal systems where they had different types of trials including trial by ordeal )

    5. Oh I see, have me write up a theory and then subject me to "an unpleasant, usually dangerous experience." Why Charles, you old snake in the grass you. LOL

    6. I didn't respond to your earlier post about alternatives because of a presumption about no chemical attack on Moadamiyah, Jim. In my opinion, there is pretty convincing environmental evidence of Sarin from the sampled location in Moadamiyah. I may have missed your reasoning that there may not have been one. Here's what I'm basing this on:

      Samples tested positive for an unmistakable products from either hydrolyzed or thermally-degraded Sarin: IMPA and DIMP. There is no other possible explanation for their presence there. I don't care if one lab didn't find any, one *did*. You don't get a false positive on those specific byproducts out of potentially tens-of-thousands of other compounds and nothing else - that's not the way analytical chemistry works. The second lab was using more sensitive testing than the first lab. I wouldn't expect them to have identical findings. In fact, that would be suspicious in itself.

      They didn't find un-degraded Sarin at that site. That's perfectly reasonable and expected. I wouldn't expect them to find undegraded GB in the apartment or courtyard days later unless Sarin was literally raining down on the place. If it was a finely aerosolized mist or mostly vapor, then it's not going to last *anywhere* in the environment for more than a handful of hours - even though it may have been present in lethal concentrations at some point. In fact, I would be very suspicious if they managed to find *any* at that specific site. It just doesn't last that long.

      The only thing you would reasonably expect to find is hydrolyzed Sarin: IMPA or MPA, or DIMP from either thermally-degraded Sarin or a process impurity. Both can be detected for weeks well after Sarin itself degrades. I seriously doubt that anyone in the opposition would know enough (or have access to) BOTH of those compounds and know to use them together to fool the inspection team. Possible, but that's really a stretch.

      They did not find byproducts on all the samples, but they did on a metal fragment in the courtyard, a victim's scarf and on the ceramic floor of the bedroom. That's a fairly diverse set of positive samples found relatively close to other negative samples. This doesn't sound like spiking - you would spray IMPA all over the place if you were trying to fool the inspectors because you wouldn't know what they were going to sample.

      It would have been nice to see *more* samples, but I can hardly criticize the efforts of a couple of inspectors wearing body armor, gloves and masks and shadowed by a gaggle of opposition photographers. Never mind the generous twenty minutes or so they had to do their work at that site.

      I'm as skeptical as they come Jim, but there's just no compelling reason to doubt the UN's findings that there was some Sarin at some point at the Moadamiyah site. It may have had nothing to do with the suspected rocket. It could have came from five meters or five hundred meters away - it doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter if there were victims or not in that apartment or if they died directly *from* Sarin. It seems like there still had to be Sarin in there at some point.

      Sorry if I missed your reasoning in an earlier post - point me to that if I did. I will give you that the Moadamiyah situation was much more murky and confusing than what little we know about Zamalka/Ein Tarma.

    7. Just to tilt the apple-cart a bit, this analysis of the UN report is pretty damned good. The guy is clearly very sharp. Maybe he should do a guest post on whoghouta in the alternative scenario section?

    8. Paveway,

      I think it's obvious the Moadamiyah site was manipulated.
      1. The UN team was led there by the opposition.
      2. It had a rocket body that was filmed at another site earlier.
      3. No crater.
      4. Positive samples were only from the floors. Samples from the bed and other objects were negative. The exception was a scarf which the video doesn't show and is described in the report in words indicating it was handed to the UN by the opposition.

      It's pretty clear someone cooked that site: brought some old rocket body, placed it on the floor, sprinkled dirt from Zamalka, and gave the UN a scarf from a Zamalka victim.

      A very easy manipulation to do, and much more likely than the alternative explanation that 50 people died of sarin, with no rocket remains, no impact sites typical to a chemical weapon, no videos outside the hospital, and samples somehow only positive on the floors.

    9. Charles just read that full report and what an interesting, informative read it was. I highlight a few points he raises that fit with my alternative theory:

      From Page 14;

      "But my point is that in the 6 days between the Ghouta event and the first inspection, any fool with a small shovel and half a wit could have dug a hole and jammed that rocket down into it. Do we now use the direction that rocket is leaning to put this atrocity at the feet of Assad? Not if we have a modicum of skepticism, common sense, or sense of justice."

      And from Page 10:

      "The problem is that there is a tacit, unspoken assumption that if sarin gas was delivered by surface-to- surface rockets, then this must be an SAA attack. Approaching this from the other direction: If the Report had concluded that the sarin had been deployed by baggies or some means other than rockets or munitions, then there would be a strong presumption that the SAA was not responsible."

      Whilst I believe that using the 'modified rocket' theory to deliver the Sarin could still have been carried out by a specialist opposition group I am beginning to feel that maybe the Sarin was distributed by another method. As that detailed report you linked to also points out; the witnesses, victims, crime scene and permitted sites were all controlled by one of the two parties to this crime. How implausible is it rockets were lifted and placed elsewhere and Sarin spread by a secondary method? Leading us all on a merry dance looking for possible launch sites and having poor Eliot Higgins spend the best years of his life watching ANNA videos in the hope he could find something to implicate the government.

      What if, as I suggest above, the azimuths we have all been using are the results of oppositions fighters faking evidence? Thus rendering all the geolocating work pointless to a degree. Could this answer Higgins' question as to why the government didn't report these rockets being fired on the night and the question this blog has asked as to why the opposition didn't report these rockets being fired on the night? Maybe because they weren't? Maybe this explains the lack of witnesses to the attacks too?

      I am just throwing arguments out there. If I get some later I may draft something up and stick in the "Suggesting Scenarios" section for you all to take swipes at me :)


      There isn't any "pretty convincing environmental evidence" of a Sarin attack in Moadamiyah. It looks totally staged. Sasa got an answer to you above.

    10. I'm starting off with a presumption that some physicians in Moadamiyah believe that at least some patients died of what they think was nerve agent poisoning around 5 A.M. on Aug. 21st - and I'm going from there. I should say I'm *willing* to presume that, not that I have any proof of it. I don't base that on accepting HRW's word for it. I can't base it on anything in the UN report because they are presuming the exact same thing without offering any proof.

      I have no idea if there even were any doctors or even a functional medical facility in Moadamiyah at the time. Neither does anyone here. If there was, then I have no proof that the doctors didn't exaggerate or outright lie about victims, or if the UN was even interviewing real doctors. I have no idea if any of the vids are even from any medical facility in Moadamiyah. I'm not even sure which specific videos were suppose to be from there vs. East Ghouta and I can't understand what anyone is saying.

      If I already believe there was a victim in that apartment, then I accept what the UN found as 'pretty convincing environmental evidence of Sarin. If I don't believe there was a victim there, then of course it's easier to say it was all staged.

      If there were no victims, then there is absolutely no reason to believe anything else HRW claims or the UN found - it's pointless because that means all the doctors lied, all the witnesses lied and all the victims lied. Do I really care about the range of rockets and Sarin impurities if there were no actual victims? It's not going to make the lie any worse - a lie is a lie.

      I can't dismiss Moadamiyah as fake without dismissing East Ghouta - they are both based on the exact same presumptions. If there were really no victims, then the doctors, victims and witnesses would all have to be lying or the doctors, victims and witnesses are themselves, all fabricated.

    11. None of that is meant to discredit your theory, Jim. You may be right. I just don't have anything valuable to add to the conversation if that's the case. My chain of reasoning (which may be completely wrong) just starts at the point of understanding what happened *if* there are at least some actual CW victims in Moadamiyah and Ein Tarma.

    12. No I get what you're saying Paveway and you could be right. I am just offering up my theory that is based on the facts as I see them.

      Of all the environmental samples taken from Moadamiyah none tested positive for Sarin and the Un concluded "Fragments and other possible evidence have clearly been handled/moved prior to the arrival of the investigative team".

      We now have a growing body of evidence that the rebels have access to Sarin and now we have Richard Lloyd stating that Higgins has been wrong all along in his assertion that only the SAA could have carried out the attack. So this whole debate is starting to take on a whole new dimension.

      Based on that and based on what the UN said about evidence being manipulated I believe that Moadamiyah was staged.

    13. Paveway,

      I think there is a huge difference in plausibility between the 'Moadamiyah impact site was staged' and 'The whole CW attack was staged' theories.

      The first just required moving a rocket, sprinkling some soil from Zamalka, and handing the UN a scarf of a Zamalka victim. The victims in the hospital were already there from the day of the attack, like all over Ghouta. You just need to make sure they don't talk too much, which is exactly what happens in the UN videos (see "what happened in moadamiyah?").

      The second requires producing Sarin, getting hold of SAA rockets, planting rockets in the ground, staging very authentic videos of people (including children) in panic and with CW symptoms, getting dozens of eyewitnesses in the area to provide reliable and consistent testimonies and much more.

      The first is easy and reasonable, and was accompanied by tons of evidence for staging. The second would be by far the most elaborate and professionally executed hoax in history.

    14. Hospital? Er... Sasa, Moadamiyah hasn't had anything resembling a hospital for probably a year. Not sure if they ever had one. It was kind of a semi-poor outer-ring suburb with a sprinkling of Palestinian refugees and assorted agricultural workers. Nobody 'important' that anyone really cared about. Red Crescent had some kind of clinic there, but bailed out a long time ago.

      Moadamiya had the misfortune of being one the opposition's gateway from the outlying orchards, farmland and mountains to the more 'interesting' areas of Damascus. As opposition forces were periodically beaten back by the SAA, they ended up just sort of accumulating in Moadamiya. The residents were generally sympathetic to the FSA, but never invited them to set up shop there. Last year, Assad's forces surrounded the place and cut it off from the outside. All in all, maybe 15,000 residents that hadn't left and four or five thousand opposition militants. Total siege - nobody and nothing goes in or leaves.

      The place has been shelled daily since the beginning of this year. No electricity. No clean water. Food ran out last summer. Assad won't let Red Crescent or anyone else in to help. Whatever they do have for medical facilities are pretty much rooms with tables, and they probably don't have anything left for medical supplies.

      There's not a lot of graphic videos of Moadamiya because few people have cameras or cell phones and there's no internet access. There are the HRW and UN interviews of victims, one by the AP and a few videos. The Moadamiya videos actually seem the most realistic to me - nothing is really being done for the victims, which is what happens when you have no medical equipment or doctors.

      I realize it's 'only' 80 people, but I'm kind of surprised how easily everyone here can dismiss it as a hoax based mostly on the UN stuff. It sounds like people there were poisoned by *some* kind of chemical agents. No idea if the 140mm rockets were involved - residents just assumed they were. Granted, half the victims would have died anyways by now from the continued shelling, injuries, starvation or dysentery and the rest will be dead soon. I still think they are worth the benefit of a doubt based on the reported injuries regardless of the UN details.

    15. Moadamiyah does have a number of genuine victims from August 21th, although it is theoretically possible that these were somehow teleported from East Ghouta.

      Hospital? That is where ever the victims are collected. A field hospital in a cellar was visited by the UN team on August 26, as seen in this playlist collected by Brown Moses. I believe it would be possible to geolocate the spot, if we knew the route of the UN tour.

      The same cellar space with CW victims is shown in earlier YouTube videos by mrkzmoadamia alsham from August 21.

      There are however still features consistent with "the most elaborate and professionally executed hoax in history". There is no context; the victims pop up from nowhere. The videos show the signs of centralized video production, as if the cameramen had been given prior orders to be at a certain location at a certain time and to produce predefined type of video footage. We see closeups of dying victims and nothing else.

    16. There is an interesting article from Sharmine Marwani from back in September in relation to the Ghouta attacks. This is what she says in relation to Moadamiyah:

      "Furthermore, in Moadamiyah, the environmental samples were taken five days after the reported CW attack, whereas in Ein Tarma and Zamalka – where many samples tested positive for Sarin – UN investigators collected those samples seven and eight days post-attack, when degradation of chemical agents could have been more pronounced.

      Yet it is in Moadamiyah where alleged victims of a CW attack tested highest for Sarin exposure, with a positive result of 93% and 100% (the discrepancy in those numbers is due to different labs testing the same samples). In Zamalka, the results were 85% and 91%.

      It is scientifically improbable that survivors would test that highly for exposure to Sarin without a single trace of environmental evidence testing positive for the chemical agent.

      I spoke with Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commander of the British military’s chemical defense regiment and CEO at CW specialists, SecureBio Ltd. “I think that is strange,” he admits, when told about the stark discrepancy between human and environmental test results in Moadamiyah.

      “It could be significant. Nobody else has brought that point up,” says Bretton-Gordon, who has read the UN Report closely since he actually trains doctors and first-responders in Ghouta via an NGO.

      “I think that it is strange that the environmental and human samples don’t match up. This could be because there have been lots of people trampling through the area and moving things. Unless the patients were brought in from other areas. There doesn’t seem another plausible explanation.”

    17. Petri, your site gives a wonderful overview of the Moadamiyah videos. I think it is time to reevaluate the videos in the light of the existing evidence. It is highly improbable that M´yah was attacked with Sarin (= conclusion of WG, cf UN report + rocket evidence). How did the M´yah videos come about??? Teleporting the victims from E Ghouta seems very unlikely (at least not the victims shown om video´s 21-8, it´s a different matter for the UN-victims...). There is the distance and from the videos it is clear that the medical facility is not much more than a basement! It would have made a lot more sense for the doctors to go to E Ghouta than the victims.
      If it is not the aftermath of Sarin attack, WHAT do we see on these videos??? The symptoms don´t look very Sarin like. The treatment looks very chaotic, people at random on the floor, some receiving heart massage, some receiving no treatment at all, others are surrounded by ´health care workers´, an injection here and there, no one monitoring the vital signs... We know that in modern hospitals a lot of people die because of bad treatment, would this be the case here also?
      1-If these victims are not Sarin victims, what are they victim of? 2 If they are Sarin victims, how did they get affected (not through the M´yah rockets, we know that). Is there another way in which they could have gotten poisoned?

    18. One last time in case you folks missed it:

      T O T A L S I E G E

      No busloads of fake UN victims were let into Moadamiyah for the UN team because nobody AT ALL was allowed in or out of Moadamiyah. There were no checkpoints, no gate guards, no anything. Everyone there was trapped in that neighborhood, period. If they left, they would be shot in the back by the opposition and shot in the face by the SAA. I think I can safely go out on a limb here and assume bus traffic wasn't happening either.

      If anyone insists on staged victims for the UN to sample, then at least give a hat-tip to reality and plainly state that they are local to Moadamiyah and were intentionally exposed to Sarin sometime after the 21st in Moadamiyah in order to fool the UN inspectors.

      No Ein Tarma victims were presented to UN inspectors as Moadamiyah victims because they couldn't have entered Moadamiyah - nobody could.

    19. OK Paveway let's take a look at your argument then and let's say that we accept the "Total Siege" scenario as a reason why people couldn't have been brought in to Moadamiyah from anywhere else.

      So Moadamiyah is in lock down and the only people allowed in or our were the UN on the day of their investigation. Now whilst considering this "total Siege" argument we must also accept then that there is or has been no way, to use your words, "AT ALL" that anyone has been able to get food, ammo or reinforcements in or out of Moadamiyah for, how long do you reckon? A time period is important here for your argument to hold up as we need to gather how long the people there have been surviving without food supplies or how the rebels have been holding out without ammo supplies.

      But whilst awaiting you answer to this let's move on with your assumption of 'total lockdown'. So with no one allowed in or out of the town bar the UN yet some people tested positive for exposure. This whilst all the environment samples taken by the UN proved NEGATIVE for Sarin. This whilst, as sasa says, there were no rocket remains and there was no crater or impact site to fit with the rocket fragments that appeared in two separate videos from two locations.

      So with no rocket, no crater, no positive environmental results for Sarin then how do we account for the people who tested positive for Sarin? What is your hypothesis on this? Bearing in mind that the SAA are being blamed with launching "sarin rockets....on their own people" how do we explain the Sarin exposure in Moadamiyah given that there clearly wasn't a rocket attack there? If there was no rocket attack, and I think compelling evidence that supports that argument is found here, then how else did the SAA get Sarin into the town in order to affect the victims there?

      I suppose this also belongs over the "Suggesting Scenarios" section. Maybe sass, if feeling up to it, could transfer the relevant posts over there?

    20. " long do you reckon?"

      I understood since the end of last year, but things were suppose to have been really tight after March of 2013. In October, the residents claimed to be under siege for over a year with this letter:

      There's certainly plenty of other individual reports from the last year about the situation.

      I don't know if the 12K people referred to in the letter include militants or not. A few weeks after the letter was written, there was negotiated 'release' of 4,700 people from Moadamiyah to a refugee camp. The remaining residents and militants were immediately back under siege and are now in the process of being starved out by Assad. Like the starvation siege in Yarmouk, the victims are nobodys with little contact with the outside world. Nobody cares and there's not much reporting. I wasn't aware of this until last November.

      "...A time period is important here for your argument to hold up..."

      This isn't an argument - I don't have anything to prove a siege a posteriori. I'm taking it on blind faith that 12K people don't fake starvation and the 4,700 permitted to leave at the end of October did so to avoid further starvation. I'm also taking it on blind faith that *some* of the 4,700 non-combatants have an IQ over 40 and would have left months before the October release if it was as simple as sneaking out some back alley. If you're looking for 'proof' of a siege, I have none. Nor do I have proof of Assad's starvation strategy being imposed on the nearby Yarmouk Refugee Camp either. Could be a hoax too, but I'll take dead children as 'reasonable suspicion' that nothing and nobody is going in or out of that camp, either.

      The transport of faked evidence assumes no siege. Dirt from Zamalka. Scarf from Zamalka. 140mm motors from somewhere. Victims bussed in from Zamalka. All entirely possible if the neighborhoods were open and one could easily drive from one to another. Yet, there are 'claims' the neighborhood was besieged, people were eating grass and tree bark, clerics said they could eat dogs and donkeys if they had to and babies and old people were dying of malnutrition.

      If the borders were so porous to bring in all the Zamalka Sarin fakery, why wouldn't a family in Moadamiyah get in a car and drive their starving child to some place that had food? Or why wouldn't they get word to a friend or relative outside Moadamiyah to bring them some infant formula (or at least a few crusts of bread)?

      My thoughts on 'How did Sarin get there" and about the UN's results are uninteresting if they have to somehow prove the existence of either the victims or the siege of Moadamiyah. They do neither.

    21. Paveway,
      I don´t think there was a total siege back in August. The WG-page about M´miyah dates from September and at the time everyone agreed there was traffic between the Ghouta regions. No signs of total siege either when inspectors came in. It is only later (from October?) that the siege tightened.
      Victims didn´t look emaciated either.
      Talk of siege is often used as a propaganda tool. Only later on there seems to be have been a ´real´siege.

    22. You may be right - I don't know.

      Here's a Google search on 'moadamiya starvation' using a custom range of 2013.01.01 to 2013.08.20:

    23. Petri,

      "...I believe it would be possible to geolocate the spot, if we knew the route of the UN tour..."

      No idea if the facility is still there. But I would strongly discourage anyone from doing that unless they fully well *intend* to help Assad's artillery zero in on the facility and kill the staff. Both the SAA and opposition seem rather keen to bomb each other's hospitals, blast ambulances and kill doctors.

      No doubt the SAA was eager to monitor the UN movements in Moadamiyah for this exact reason. I trust the doctors didn't bother using that location any more unless they're suicidal.

    24. This comment has been removed by the author.

    25. Paveway

      "This isn't an argument - I don't have anything to prove a siege a posteriori."

      I think you misunderstood my point. I was suggesting that if what you said was correct in that there was a "Total Siege" of Moadamiyah and that nobody could get in or out "AT ALL" that they are pretty definitive statements with no room for debate. So I was asking for how long you believed this was the case.

      You said that according to residents the area was under siege from last year but that 'things really got tight from March 2013'. So then let's take March then as our guide for this "Total Siege" - is that fair enough? So between March and August there was no way that any food, ammo or reinforcements could have gotten in or out of Moadimiyah do you believe? That is a pretty long time for 12k residents to survive without food and armed men to survive without ammo, would you also agree? And let's face it this siege would have only gotten worse over time, that is, if you accept that "Total Siege" can get worse.

      My point is that it is implausible to argue total lockdown for the town under these circumstances. I agree with veritas above in that I believe these claims have been very much overinflated for propaganda purposes pre-21st August. I say pre-21st August because we know that the SAA have been working to cut off and isolate the towns in Ghouta and so this was pretty much part of the plan but they only seem to have been successful in doing so over the past few months. And at that I would argue that it would be pretty difficult to completely seal off the town given the terrain. Take Quasyr for example. A city that was said to have been 'totally surrounded and cut off' and for all intents and purposes it is hard to argue that the SAA and Hezbollah didn't close it down beyond most military planners expectations. We had reports from rebels about the city was under 'total siege' and that people couldn't leave etc etc. Pretty much the same story as we are asked to believe about Moadamiyah. Yet when the SAA and Hezbollah moved to take the city the rebels were able to escape to Dabaa and some across the Lebanese border to hospitals there. Again can you see my point?

      But I digress and accept that it is possible that nobody was bussed in from anywhere and that my theory holds no water itself. But I will admit that I struggle to work out how else people were poisoned with Sarin in Moadamiyah when we can be pretty sure that Sarin wasn't released via a rocket as the evidence doesn't support that theory.

      "My thoughts on 'How did Sarin get there" and about the UN's results are uninteresting if they have to somehow prove the existence of either the victims or the siege of Moadamiyah. They do neither."

      I am not suggesting that you must prove anything I am simply asking you for your hypothesis following your set of points. Again let's assume that there was total lockdown and that were genuine Sarin victims in Moadamiyah. How to assume the people were poisoned? Do you support the argument that there was a rocket attack there?

      (Previous post was deleted due to crucial spelling error)

    26. OK - as long as you understand what I can't support with any confidence, but believe to be the case.

      I won't belabor the siege argument other than to agree with your point of it being an extremely long time to be without food. The links I posted describe the increasingly desperate situation by the middle of last year and into the fall, which prompted the negotiated release of 4,700 residents on humanitarian grounds. PR value for the opposition or not, Assad has and is continuing to use the 'starve into submission' routine in several other locations in Syria pretty effectively.

      Ammo shouldn't be a problem. Fifty well-placed snipers is enough to keep unmounted SAA out of the no-man's land around the city without using much. The SAA hasn't mounted a direct assault all this time despite all the armored units and artillery bases right in the area. If they thought the opposition was lightly armed and running out of ammo, they would already have taken Moadamiyah back by now. If the opposition was starving, running out of ammo and could leave Moadamiyah, they would have done so by now.

      Sarin use:

      *Some* Sarin was used, but it wasn't used exclusively. Some victims were exposed to Sarin. Some may have died from Sarin, but it's also possible that none of them did. This is the location where multiple witnesses described a greenish gas at one of the impact sites. I would think there were other agents involved, so there isn't any reason to expect hundreds of liters of Sarin had to have been used.

      If one thinks the 140mm rockets are entirely responsible, then I doubt they were tipped with a 2.2kg chemical agent warhead. The 140's are one of the rockets used for IRAMs or flying IEDs. They are modified with a smaller version of a soup-can with a built-in nose cone, giving them more like a 10 or 15kg payload.

      Then again, they may have just been regular 140mm incendiary or HE warheads. The wind was from the SW and WSW at 9 mph by 6:00. I don't know the two impact locations (seven rocket total), but it would be interesting to see if a single, bulk CW release on the Western side of Moadamiyah at the same time could account for the casualties.

      This could also be a potential explanation for East Ghouta. Either by design or by accident, the plume would be associated with the coincident rocket impacts regardless of whether they carried CWs themselves.

      Note that in both situations, either side could have executed a bulk release. The Western boundary between government and opposition forces is less than a kilometer away.

      The last possibility I'll toss out is that - in either case - conventional HE rockets could have struck opposition stores of CWs. That would explain a confounding mix of symptoms and direct association with the rocket impacts. It sounds like residents were kept in the dark about opposition CW caches, so they wouldn't know one way or the other.

    27. Thanks for that.

      So just to be clear, you believe that there were rocket attacks on Moadamiyah is that correct? If so have you seen any impact craters whilst trawling info on the internet or have you come across any evidence of rockets being used?

    28. Jim and Paveway,
      Please have a look at Petri´s videos of the victims in M´may. We know there were no Sarin carrying rockets in M´may. I have a few questions to you.
      1-Do the victims in these videos look like Sarin victims?
      2- If yes, how did the Sarin get there.
      3- If no, what could they be victim of?

      M´yah together with rest of Ghouta was not a poor little isolated area. According to several sources the rebels were assisted by foreign intelligence and equipment (see If we are witnessing a false flag, maybe there is some truth in the above mentioned article (especially the intro).
      If it´s a false flag, the local rebels would have needed assistance, that seems clear to me.
      I think it is important to try to fit the evidence for M´yah with a plausible explanation. It could shed light on the rest of the events.

    29. Yes, I think there were rockets used based on the descriptions of residents waiting for morning prayers in the Rawda mosque ( HRW: ) and a doctor from the field hospital ( Yalla Souria/DCHRS: ). I remember seeing other witness reports - I don't have all the links. They may or may not have carried CWs - I only consider them one possible route of Sarin delivery as described in my earlier post.

      The local council apparently had seven 'sites' (rockets?) that they wanted the UN inspectors to examine on the 26th, but the UN only had time to check one impact site and one house ( ). According to that video, their working time was cut in Moadamiyah because of the sniper attack on their convoy, a delay at a checkpoint and shelling as they were inspecting the first site. Earlier reports from witnesses described seven individual rockets from the airport that morning, so I assume residents had located remains or impact sites of all seven rocket motors to show the UN.

      No vids of any sites besides the one or two that the UN inspected. No craters, and I wouldn't expect any from a proximity-fuzed, air-burst warhead aside from whatever little hole a 140 motor would make after it continues its trajectory and hit soft ground. The payload will get blown apart, but would use a smaller bursting/dispersion charge. I don't think the motor would be destroyed like it would for a stock HE warhead. In any case, you would be looking for lighter fragments (relative to an eskimo) blown radially from the rocket maybe 10 or 15 meters above the ground and dozens of meters up range from the motor impact.

      Brown-Moses had this on the 140mm IRAMs: . Note the article shows that the Syrian army had that type of rocket, and that (in this case) al Nusra had captured a launch truck and rockets from the SAA. So both sides apparently had and could have used 140mm IRAMs, although witnesses in Moadamiyah said they came from the airport. The launch truck or launcher really isn't necessary - a pipe or iron rails would work fine for a 140mm rocket. There's no history or video of the IRAM version carrying liquid payloads like CWs, but no more or less probable than the eskimos, I suppose.

      One of the articles also mentions the first four-rocket site as next to the Rawda Mosque, and the second three-rocket site as 500m East. This would put them somewhat in line for a plume traveling from the WSW direction. We have no idea if anyone in between those two points or anyone further East was affected, so that's just my idle speculation.

    30. Plenty of people were affected if you look at the Petri videos. You need enough rockets to explain the scenes in the M´yah videos... Not just a stray one...
      Some suggest the sniper´s intent was to delay the UN mission to have time at least to stage some of the evidence. I´m not saying it was the case, but we should consider it.

    31. Veritas - Sorry, I was writing my previous reply when you posted at 4:55. In response to that:

      Do the victims look like Sarin victims?
      Hard to tell who is dead, and dead Sarin victims that died quickly don't look particularly different than people that died of other agents. There are almost no 'classic signs' victims being treated like the notable few in East Ghouta videos.

      [Petri: Yes, all the vids are plainly very purposefully done and I'm sure were edited further for effect before posting. The local coordinating councils or local activists are the only ones I can think of that would step over victims in a rush to tape every last one and would elicit a dramatic response from someone looking directly into the camera. Normal, grieving people do not do that. So, -1 for poorly done propaganda and -100 for exploiting the situation. If these videos were the only evidence, I would write it all off as fake.]

      How did the Sarin get there?
      (response above)

      What else?
      Incapacitating agents, BZ, blood agents... who knows. I'm not sure which of those could be detected a few days after the fact or if the UN tested for them in the labs.

      Foreign assistance:
      I know that's the case in general across Syria. I don't know how much that applies to SAA besieged sections. It seems like the opposition wouldn't waste trained people or new weapons on stalemate areas like that and just go around them.

      Jordan, i.e., Israel / US / UK-trained FSA:
      Groups of anti-tank weapon trained FSA had entered from Jordan a few times prior to August. The mid-August group was supposedly trained in aspects of chemical warfare and supplied with appropriate gear to secure Assad's CW facilities. Just in case - say - the U.S. unexpectedly decided to Tomahawk the SAA in the next few weeks and those facilities needed securing. The timing - a week before the Aug. 21st attacks - seems all to convenient. I wouldn't be surprised to find out years from now that the entire thing was a massively bungled attempt at a false flag that was never intended to kill anyone, but they royally screwed something up and caused the fatalities themselves. That's not a tinfoil-hat theory, that's just the corrosive cynicism beaten out of me by the everyday shenanigans of my so-called government.

      Opposition said it came from a SAA intelligence building. The Moadamiyah locals seemed willing to show all the sites to the inspectors. One would have to assume the near-by mortar rounds that abruptly ended their inspection probably came from outside the city. Seems like the opposition would not want to hinder the UN if the sites were staged. They knew the UN was coming for days - I doubt a couple more hours were needed for any reason. Seems like the government had more incentive to make sure the UN had to rush in and out in Moadamiyah. Hard to say on this one, though.

    32. Thanks for answering Paveway,
      Sniper: I remember that the choice of M´yah as first inspection site was quite unexpected to the ´public´. Maybe it was also unexpected to the rebels? The sniper fire delayed the UN mission, they needed to turn back and exchange cars. I guess the rebels showed them what they had (which was not much, just the contaminated scarf). I´m not aware the mission was aborted because of a mortar.
      Do they look staged to you? Some elements are a bit strange (all the heart massaging going on eg) but if staged they did a very convincing job. How do you stage the dead? I´m talking of 2nd and 3rd ´Petri´video. The first one is indeed not convincing.
      The UN bio-samples:
      I think it is time for Sasa to open a ´definitive UN report page´. What a missed chance to get some scientific evidence. If we knew what had been found in blood and urine samples, we would have a whole lot more indications of what happened. If eg IMPA was found in urine, probably the setting was staged. Finding IMPA after 5-6 days would be unlikely. But the report is not specific enough. And that cannot be a coincidence. The UN team are scientist. They know what a report should look like. What is the UN hiding?

    33. Moadamiyah probably had an easier-to-distinguish leader or group of leaders to negotiate an inspection. They would have started the process a couple of days before the actual inspection - the UN was going back and forth between the government and opposition to get the timing of this set up. Too many details for it to have been arranged the night before. Nonetheless, the opposition would have known it was coming with plenty of warning.

      Limited time:
      The video I linked above ( ) is from a regular Moadamiyah poster, mrkzmoadamia alsham ( ). One commenter translates:

      "...The man in the video says that UN team for chemical weapons has only visited two houses and one site of missile's falling in Madamyat Asham city in Damascus suburb. Also the guy says the team wasn't given enough time to finish its investigations as a shell fell in the area and forced the team to leave however the team already lost 3 hours in the beginning becuause of waiting at a regime millitia check point..."

      Another commenter on the translation:

      "...Dear Gwion ...... he is speaking about UN visit to sites where Syrian army is bombing it by chemical weapons >>> he said UN visiting 2 sites only ( but its 7 sites) .... and them don't have enough time to completion the Investigations about the Massacres where the Syrians Government Committed in Syria - Riff Damascus..."

      Other sites mention the mortar, but I think it can be heard on one of the shots of the UN gathering samples.

      Odd victim scenes:
      Nobody looks like a doctor in those vids to me. Any proper medical professional would have chased the cameraman out of a treatment room. This may just be an area where they are trying to decontaminate and triage the incoming victims, or where they have temporarily abandoned the deceased. Maybe both. The healthy people caring for them seem to be ordinary people, not medical personnel. Even if they were coached to 'look like you're trying to help them,' for the PR camera, I have to believe there are dying or dead people in that room and the medical personnel are treating victims in another room.

      There has also been references to the UN potentially taking samples from the dead in Moadamiyah. I don't think this was the UN's plan - the locals iced down some victims in order to *let* the UN take samples. Can't imagine how that worked out. The OPCW inspectors do not perform autopsies and I saw no mention on their report of such samples. This just speaks to the locals willingness to provide the UN with evidence, rather than keep the UN from collecting any.

      "...Finding IMPA after 5-6 days would be unlikely..."

      If you mean in urine samples, I think it's more like two or three weeks after exposure with modern analytical methods. The blood IMPA is interesting, but they're much more interested in the blood's bound butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE). BuChE is non-neuronal cholinesterase in plasma that is also bound by Sarin. They can re-fluoridate the binding molecule in a lab to return it to it's original form for absolute identification. In this case, reconstituting the original Sarin molecule.

      The bad effects of Sarin come from disrupting the neuronal cholinesterase cycle. Acetylcholine (ACh) are the little ON switches and Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) are the little OFF switches in the nerve junctions. Sarin binds the OFF switches in the junction and the nerve is overwhelmed by ON switches with nothing to turn them off.

      Spiking a person with IMPA to fake Sarin exposure would be easily detectable by UN analytical labs. If they found IMPA in blood or urine but did not find bound AChE or the blood plasma version: BuChE, they would know the person was never exposed to Sarin. Not sure if they do the refluoridation thing to positively identify Sarin, but the presence of IMPA and bound BuChE in blood is proof enough.

      The UN report we see is obviously garbage meant for mass consumption, not what the politicians and lawyers get to see.

    34. The Moadamiyah siege issue was discussed a while back and was undecided. If we could determine there was a total siege it would of course refute the current understanding of the Moadamiyah site.

      I currently don't think this is the case. There was some evidence indicating travel was limited but not totally blocked. For example, there are videos showing victims from Moadamiyah transported to Daraya (e.g.

      In general, I don't think the SAA is capable of holding Moadamiyah under total siege. It would require securing a perimeter of around 10 km in length, making the troops sitting ducks for sniper fire.

      Does anyone have evidence that the siege is so tight that activists can't travel to Zamalka?

    35. Regarding the identification of the IRAM as 140mm rockets. I've never seen this measurement before. How did you find it?
      In any case, note that the IRAM engine is not a BM14 rocket: It has 8 nozzles and not 10.

    36. IRAM is an informal term and only describes a class of improvised munitions (or sometimes: _m_ortar), not a specific model. It's usually a standard artillery rocket modified to carry a larger payload.

      As a practical matter, the motors are in the 80mm - 150mm caliber range. Something that one or two guys could handle and load (if a launcher was even needed). Nothing as large/heavy as the UMLACA and nothing that would require a tail stabilizer.

      The only reason I mention 140mm is because we're discussing the motor they found in Moadamiyah. It wouldn't matter if it was a 107 or 130 - you could build an IRAM with any of them.

      The USSR didn't export any CW variants of the 140mm rocket they found, so someone would have had to make their own CW warhead for it. That is, if that's where the chemical agents came from in Moadamiyah.

      It's hard to say anything about that 140mm engine they found because we know nothing about the other six that they say landed that morning. If the other six were just rocket bodies without the warhead, then that might give us a clue to how they worked, i.e., they may have been IRAMs. If there was only the one (or two?) rocket engines already identified and all the rest were just explosion sites, then we could write the single one already identified as a dud or grazing break

    37. Sasa - the video you posted was of some guys on stretchers. I assume you've seen a translation or something that suggests they're going to Daraya. I also saw reports of a lot of Moadamiyah people ending up there for care. I don't know how to reconcile those events with the months of reports of starvation and siege that are also being reported.

      Logic would have it that if the neighborhood was not besieged, then people would travel in and out freely to get food or just leave on their own. They apparently were not doing that.

      If they were free to leave, then I have no idea why NGOs would need to arrange anything special for the 4,700 people to leave at a certain point at the end of October. Maybe the opposition was also preventing residents from leaving but permitting movement of military in and out of the area. If that was the case, then I suppose they could have smuggled in victims and fake evidence.

    38. My understanding is that it's like closures in the West Bank. You have checkpoints that prohibit normal civilian traffic, but activists know how to get around.

    39. Concerning siege: This is map from August. Contested area right from Jordan border to Damascus. How could there be an effective siege at that time. If under TOTAL siege, how could the rebels continuously fire mortars in Damascus? Their stocks must have been huge since they still haven´t run out.

    40. I don't know, veritas. If Moadamiyah was faked, then the doctors, victims and witnesses fooled the UN, MSF and HRW. Therefore, the UN, MSF and HRW can't be counted on for *any* similar claims they make. Therefore, there is no credible evidence that the East Ghouta attack was real. There is simply more fake evidence and fake witnesses interviewed by the same three wholly-unreliable sources of Syrian CW attack information: HRW, MSF and HRW. If you gather together all the evidence that does not depend on any of those three organizations, then there is nothing. No additional amount of fake evidence provided by unreliable organizations will change anything. We can conclude that the eskimos are irrelevant and had nothing to do with a CW attack because there was none. Whoever fired them is irrelevant - there was no CW attack.

    41. Paveway,
      Why do you treat it as a black and white issue? One case is a very badly-executed manipulation involving a few people and a handful of evidence, while the other contains mountains of authentic-looking evidence and reliable eyewitnesses.
      It doesn't have to be "everything's fake on nothing is". It depends on the specific evidence and the difficulty of fabrication of each case.

    42. Specific evidence provided by whom? Humanitarian work is important. Much too important for the easily fooled or opportunists.

      If MSF got information medical information from the doctors or medics in West Ghouta and got information from the doctors or medics in East Ghouta, why should one be more believable than the other? If they were duped in West Ghouta, how can you assume they're right in East Ghouta? Doctors or medics have opinions on human organophosphate poisoning regardless of rocketry or motive. They were fooled or they are lying. Are the doctors in East Ghouta more trustworthy, or are you mixing in evidence unrelated to their opinion as medical professionals?

      Anti-Assad media activists took staged, fake victim video in West Ghouta at the same time Anti-Assad media activists took similar video in East Ghouta. If one faked victims for propaganda purposes during the same event that other media activists provided victim videos, why shouldn't I believe those are faked as well? MSF and HRW were fooled and their interest was exploited in West Ghouta. Are they less gullible when interviewing people in East Ghouta for the same purpose?

      If I can't count on UN inspectors to identify planted evidence in West Ghouta, then why would they be any more discerning in East Ghouta? Remember, the UN said they're 110% confident in their results. Not only are they easily fooled, but are convinced that they were looking at the real deal. They expressed absolutely no hesitation about their findings in West Ghouta. They mentioned the constraints they worked under, but didn't suggest that altered the reliability of their findings.

      I'm not saying everything is fake. I'm saying that the three main sources of information: the UN, NGOs and the locals, don't have magically different credibility in West Ghouta than they do in East Ghouta.

      You're asking the readers to ignore one set of data from either deceptive or naive parties, but suggesting another set of data from the same people might not be deceptive or gathered naively.

      I might relax my assumptions and buy this if the issue was the Aleppo attack months earlier and the East Ghouta attack. Sources and circumstances are a bit different, the events are relatively unrelated. I wouldn't treat the credibility of sources or plausibility of events quite the same. We're talking about the same 'Aug. 21st Ghouta Attack' here, the NGOs are the same, the UN findings are similar and the remainder comes from local media activists at either Ghouta site.

      Picking away at evidence piece-by-piece in this case - as if East/West Ghouta are unrelated - quickly degrades into a guessing game of "Bust the Trickster If You Can" and then analyzing the evidence that makes it through that imperfect filter of scrutiny, however well-meaning it may be.

    43. This map may explain some of the confusion. Type in Darayya on the search box and zoom out. The siege area encompasses Darayya as well, but is not contiguous with anything in East Ghouta.

      It's made by Yūḥannā ( @AbraJohn2 )

    44. MSF - No one fooled the MSF. They reported that hospitals treated people. We don't know which hospitals those are, and in any case the assumption is that Moadamiyah treated patients from Zamalka.

      There were no staged videos.

      The UN report was found to be highly unreliable, but we do have tons of direct evidence from Zamalka, which we don't have in Moadamiyah.

      Someone in Moadamiyah decided to stage a single impact site and did it very badly. This is clearly indicated by the evidence. On the other hand, the Zamalka evidence is very strong and consistent. Claiming that someone staged all of it is highly implausible. I'm not sure I understand where's the problem in this theory.

    45. sass, to use an analogy, I think Paveway is working by the ethos that if someone tells one lie then everything they have ever said must be a lie too. It is an illogical argument.

      This doesn't have to be the case Paveway. The bottom line is that for Moadamiyah to NOT be staged we must partake in a lot of assumptions, theorising and leaps of faith. There is no evidence of 7 impact sites. There is no evidence of a single impact site. Irregardless of one or two "witnesses" may have said (I highlight the term witnesses as we must bear in mind that these people were preselected by the rebels to speak with the UN, they are also under rebel control as were all the sights "approved" for the UN to visit) there is no evidence of impact craters.

      So to accept that rockets landed in Moadamiyah is to require one to take huge leaps of faith based on very little. If you are prepared to do this then of course you will see things differently.

      Has anyone at all ever uploaded any alleged images of impact craters or rocket remnants from Moadamiyah that you are aware of?

    46. Ok, let´s accept nothing happened in M´yah because no rocket craters. How do you explain the Petri videos MD2 and MD3? Staged too? If yes there must have been a very good organization behind it because they look as convincing as the Zamalka videos to me. If the videos are not staged, how did these people get affected?
      The only evidence we have for M´yah are the videos. Let´s analyse them.

    47. Veritas I think you misunderstand how the burden of proof concepr works. It is the rebels that are saying that 7 rockets were fired at Moadamiyah and that some of these rockets contained Sarin. They then present footage of victims who appear to be suffering from exposure to some chemical substance.

      If we accept that no rockets were fired in Moadamiyah then the burden of proof lies with the opposition to either prove rockets landed there or else explain how the victims were poisoned. It isn't up to us to explain how these people were poisoned, the burden of proof lies with the accuser. But if no rockets landed in Moadamiyah and people were poisoned by Sarin then this raises a very interesting question. How did the SAA get in there to poison these people? This is of course assuming the SAA are to blame for the events there.

      Maybe if we move over to the Moadamiyah page and let's try and see if we can source any evidence that the town was attacked by rockets? Everyone in agreement?

    48. I agree to moving!
      Last one here: cf burden of proof. You are right if we were in a court. But we´re not. We´re just people trying to find out the truth. That is why we should continue our quest.

    49. Yeah fair enough, I agree with that. I'll start something over on the Moadamiyah page.

  12. Lack of specific details in UN report (method used, specific chemicals detected, concentrations found, equipment used...) make it seem as if they are hiding something. Compare the Swiss Yasser Arafat report with the UN report and it is clear Un report is missing a lot of information to be convincing.

    1. To my earlier post though, Veritas: The inspection team is preparing their report for their bosses at the UN, not for us. Whatever they put in the full set of reports seems to have satisfied their bosses just fine. Whether they're hiding anything from us or not, we'll never know. We're just the little people.

  13. Now this is an interesting turn-up for the books. The Eliot Higgins' narrative of who was responsible for the 21st August alleged Sarin attacks has just taken a massive blow. His Assad-done-it conspiracy theory has been mainly grounded in his assertion that only the government had the capability of launching these Volcano rockets. He has continually argued this in support of his theory and he continually cited "constant contact' with Ted Postol and Richard Lloyd of MIT in relation to same.

    Now the way that Higgins framed this "constant contact" would have one believe that he and they were in agreement with each other, indeed, he never once suggested there was ever any disagreement. That's how I read things anyway. This had gained him some credibility having two such distinguished gentlemen 'onboard' as it where.

    Well today that 'relationship', Higgins' credibility and, most of all, Higgins' conspiratorial narrative have taken a serious blow.

    Here is what Richard Lloyd said about Eliot Higgins' Foreign Policy article and his claim that only the government could have done it using these alleged rockets: (emphasis is Lloyd's)

    “I know Eliot Higgins and have discussed much with him about Syria. I have much respect for him for his humanitarian work. However, I am NOT in agreement with his article [Foreign Policy] and it’s just wrong. His entire article is based solely on the Syrian government having these launchers. This is a bad assumption because you do NOT have to have these launchers to launch these rockets. Eliot suggests that only the Syrian army could make these rockets. FALSE! These rockets are DIY and are World War I technology and there is NOTHING high tech.”

    How's that for a knock-down punch?


    1. I should have also added the following paragraph which is possibly the most damning of all:

      "Lloyd concluded through research that the rebels have better skills in making weapons than the Syrian army. These chemical rocket warheads are poorly designed and can be made by the rebels.

      But he doesn’t know who fired the rockets.

    2. Very interesting article. Thanks for posting!
      Although I'll have to go with Elliot on this one. The evidence for those rockets being an SAA design is pretty strong.

    3. So we have Richard Lloyd of MIT, who Eliot heavily relied upon and trusted, saying "Eliot suggests that only the Syrian army could make these rockets. FALSE! These rockets are DIY and are World War I technology and there is NOTHING high tech.” and you disagree with him? OK I Think I'll draft up an email to him in the hope he clarifies his conclusion.

      May I ask based on what evidence you disagree with him?

    4. Sorry, Richard Lloyd is not of MIT my apologies I was confusing him with Dr Postol.

    5. I think we have like 20 videos of Volcanoes being launched from SAA locations. For the rebels we only have videos of the August 21st launch.

    6. I do agree with Richard that the opposition is probably capable of designing such a rocket. Just doesn't seem like they did.

    7. When you say "Although I'll have to go with Elliot on this one. The evidence for those rockets being an SAA design is pretty strong." you should be aware that Eliot is now moving to a position that they were likely a Hezbollah made product. That may again change next month though.

      What is also interesting is that Lloyds' response to Higgins' claims in the FP article is rather blunt and does Eliot no favours considering he liked to present a good working relationship with both Postol and Lloyd and I just wonder why Lloyd chose to be so brutal in his rubbishing of Higgins' claims? He doesn't sound to be in any doubt that the rebels could have made these rockets and indeed fired them which puts him in agreement with Ake Sellstrom in that the rebels had the capability to launch the CW attacks.

      Yes we have videos of the SAA launching volcanos but that doesn't mean the rebels haven't done likewise. Remember that everyone has been looking for any signs of rebels having these truck to mount the launchers on when Lloyd says:

      "This is a bad assumption because you do NOT have to have these launchers to launch these rockets."

      This then sheds new light on the Ghouta investigation for if Lloyd is correct in that then the rebels no longer need to have captured trucks from the SAA to use as launchers. If Lloyd is also right in that rebels could make these rockets and are indeed better placed to make them than the SAA then we now move to another level in the debate.

      My take on the Lloyd outright dismissal of Higgins' theory is that Higgins decided to go after Hersh based on information that Lloyd had previously told Higgins was incorrect and this has upset Lloyd. Remember that Hersh also said that these rockets were DIY rockets and that he too was in talks with Lloyd in writing his piece. A piece that Higgins challenged. Even though Higgins' source was Lloyd.

      I don't believe we've heard the end of Lloyd on this.

    8. My choice of words was probably incorrect. I actually agree with both of them. Lloyd is right that this is not a sophisticated rocket, and Elliot is right that it was manufactured by the SAA/NDF/Hezbolla.

      These are pretty heavy rockets, so it's pretty difficult to launch them without the 2 trucks. It would also mean the Liwa Al Islam videos are staged. Pretty rare to see the innocent side forge evidence.

      The repurposed looted rockets still seems to make the most sense.

    9. There is still the issue of design differences, The CW variant is different dimensionally and appears to be based on a Grad motor variant -though not the one nominated by Lloyd and Postol. The HE variant appears to use a custom motor.

      The difference in motor is 3 second burn for HE compared to 1.6-1.8 for CW,

      A plausible inference is that the insurgents roughly copied the HE design but used the only available motors - '9 foot' 122m units.

    10. I should also point out that not only have the insurgents never been seen with the 122mm chemical Volcano, neither have the SAA. (c.f. Liwa Al-Islam)

      This is a mystery weapon that appeared first in early August and disappeared on August 21. The HE variant was around well before and well after August 21 and has been seen in SAA possession. It has also been seen in insurgent possession well before August 21 (a spent dud).

      The only possession evidence we have of the CW variant is the Liwa Al-Islam videos. The only options there are it was genuine Liwa Al-Islam (or JN or ISIS trying to pass the blame) or it was a Government fakery.

    11. Hezbollah in Iraq had them by the truckload back in 2008:

    12. There is no doubt that the Liwa al-Islam videos deserve more attention as they could hold quiet a view answers.

    13. Does seem like a reasonable explanation for the harsh words.

    14. Charles - Note that the incendiary/CW version was used in January:

    15. sasa,

      Thanks, it looks like I was wrong on dates.

      Being picky, I can't absolutely determine if the Darayya one was an HE fizzer or CW/WP. The longitudinal splits are indicative of a CW/WP variant but are not definitive without detailed examination of an HE cannister. There is no image of a two-hole base at Darayya - nor of any base.

      Arguing against myself, scoring of the container in HE weapons usually involves a harder shell and smaller scored elements for fragmentation - assuming they don't as usual rely on the steel brittleness to fragment into useful sizes.

      Longitudinal weakening is indicative of CW/WP or FAE

    16. I've just looked in depth at your link. I now tend to agree two access holes.

      Was there any serious evidence of 'chemical' attack - miosis, death etc, or was it just the generic 'chemical' attack narrative?

    17. Intresting video uploaded three days ago of an ISIS column. 1.30 in is a truck with what could be a UMLACA under cover? Clutching at straws in a big way but you never know. Seems to be the right size etc. Or it could just be a truck. The chap filming it seemed to be exited by it.

    18. joseph, your link doesn't work.

    19. Apologies,

      could be a launcher at 1.30?

    20. Could be anything really.

      Proper link sasa:

  14. To stimulate discussion about the HRW based narrative for Zamalka I've run computer dispersion models for the 12 HRW locations in Zamalka. I assumed 48 kg Sarin per splash after allowing for Isopropylamine scavenging. Weather conditions were as at 02:00 - 03:00 local time. The data was post-processed by a custom Matlab program and converted to KML format.

    Draft image of the LCT50 kill zone of 100mg.min/m³ is at

    Myosis zone of 1mg.min/m³ is at

    Other contours of interest are lCt50 (mild) 15 mg.min/m³ and lCt50 (severe distress) 55 mg.min/m³. lCt50 (mild) extends nearly as far as the Miosis zone - or at least to 14 km where the model gives up.

    Google Earth has issues rendering the polygon fills consistently. Something I've seen before.

  15. Wow... I can't believe you did that in Matlab, Charles. That's impressive. I was just trying to get one of the free plume modeling tools to work without success.

    One suggestion: You may have inadvertently used the 2 PM - 3 PM wind direction, rather than the 2 AM - 3 AM:

  16. I should have been more specific: the wind was from the WSW at 2 A.M. that evening. Is your model the straight Gaussian dispersion? The height of the predominantly four-story buildings is significant as they would be nearly as high as the middle of the plume. I was thinking this would result in more lateral dispersion. That's not a critique of your model - the baseline straight gaussian plume is critical. Modeling tools have a roughness factor that can be changed, but few seem to account for a built-up urban area with a lot of tall structures.

    I would expect a desired air burst of a UMLACA to produce an initial windward ground plume or splash area of 75m in diameter, assuming a 20m burst height. Is your model point-dispersion?

    If you run it using a WSW wind, there will be a significant amount of overlap in all the zones. You'll see why I concocted the possibility of the Elvis in a Pickup Truck bulk-release scenario. Two bulk releases slightly further upwind fit nearly as well.

    1. I used SLAB for the plume sample points and Matlab for the geographical layup and contouring for KML

      Wind speed and direction are the 03:00 local time OSDI METARS observation which is an average observation time of 02:30. The value of 280 degrees gives a reverse azimuth of 100 degrees transport direction)

      Calculation is based on ground burst 100% vapor. Plotted values are 1.5m elevation.

      As the SLAB manual says, the result is an ensemble of many different runs, and individual runs will have different meanders. SLAB does have difficulty with urban terrain in calculating wind speed at lower levels. This affects instantaneous values but doesn't really affect LCT50. There's not much you can do about large buildings but there are plenty of gaps for the gas to flow around - within the same dimensions as typical meanders.

      The instantaneous gas cloud height gets to 10m at 238m downwind and 74m at 13,000m downwind.

      I think the line of strikes was an attempt to lay splashes across the line of the wind rather than anything to do with where they were fired from.

    2. This is a plot of the METARS on the day. The 02:00 reading was unusual.

    3. Definitely impressive!
      One thing I'm missing here is sideways dispersion. Shouldn't the cloud grow through standard dispersion as it progresses?

    4. It does spread sideways, just not as much as you'd expect. You can see the contour lines near the heads showing that.

      See for the raw model output

      Manual -

      Based on this model and the geographic mark-up I did - ignoring wind direction for now - there are some surprising figures.

      * Everyone up to 13 km downwind would be showing miosis - that's 13,000 hectares or 260,000 people at an average 20/hectare (guess)

      * At least half the people up to 13km downwind would have noticable breathing and muscle symptoms. (130,000 people - perhaps more because it's more built-up closer in)

      * At least half the people up to 5km downwind would be showing severe respiratory and muscle symptoms (min 50,000 people)

    5. Interesting. Definitely counter-intuitive to see it spread so narrow.

      Here's a US DoD model that DDTea once quoted. Is it consistent with what you got?

      "A U.S. Defense Department model illustrates the problem. Releasing ten kilograms (22 pounds) of sarin into the open air under favorable weather conditions covers about one-hundredth of a square kilometer with lethal effects. Since population densities in U.S. urban areas are typically around 5,000 people per square kilometer, such an attack would kill about 50 people.
      Releasing 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of sarin into the open air affects about ten times as much area and therefore would kill approximately 500 people. Releasing 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) into the open air would cover several square kilometers, killing about 10,000 people. "

      ("Terrorism, Asymmetric Warfare, and Chemical Weapons," Anthony H. Courdesman, published by Center for Strategic and International Studies, Feb. 14, 2001.)

    6. 1/100 of a square km is 10,000 sqm. Multiply by 4.8 (48 kg) and you get 48,000 sqm.

      Measuring one of my LCT50 plumes at 1600m long by an average 33 m wide gives 52,800 sqm.

      My estimate of the average width using google ruler may be a bit shaky but the numbers are close enough.

  17. METARS are instantaneous readings, not averaged readings. If you were averaging the 2 A.M. and 3 A.M readings for some reason, you would end up with 260@8Kt

    METAR OSDI 202300Z 24006KT CAVOK 23/17 Q1009
    METAR OSDI 210000Z 28010KT CAVOK 22/18 Q1009

    I understood the bulk of the Zamalka/Ein Tarma impacts happened starting just before 2:00 and lasted until 2:30. Internet postings started about 2:45 and continued for hours. Were there reports of impacts at those locations after 2:30? Maybe I missed them. Seemed like the 240 at 6kt report would have applied better here.

    SLAB can model an air-burst if you approximate the size of the mostly-vaporized payload inside a cylindrical area. I think your model's 2m source height and approx. 6m diameter source circular area might be a little small for the initial cloud. In any case, the height of burst is going to be at least 10m and maybe higher. Inertia from the droplets drags the vapor cloud towards the ground, so a cylinder isn't a bad approximation. With an absolute ground-level or even a 1m or 2m height of burst, you're going to bury a lot of liquid instead of vaporizing it. A 10m HS source height and 500 sq.m or so AS source area would be closer to the initial cloud produced by the UMLACAs. Maybe even 1000 sq.m. for AS. I'm not sure if you have to give it the density or if it can figure it out from the release mass. Which is precisely why I should be running these alternatives myself instead of sounding like an ass and just flinging suggestions at you after you did all your work, Charles. Sorry if it sounds like that.

    Re surface roughness: Your surface roughness looks OK the way it is, Charles. I see the manual says to us a Z0 of 1/10th of the element height as an approximation. 10m seems reasonable for the size and spacing of those buildings and your ZA measurement height is << Z0. Rough enough.

    1. SLAB is not a passive player in this game. It will adjust your figures as required. One of the figures is the surface area of the release vs height.

      I entered source area (as) as 25 sqm i.e. 5.6m diameter. It determined source height of 0.48m despite me entering (hs) of 2.0m. I expect that if you frig around with the source area you will be able to force the source-height to some value.

      Annotated input is at

      strip off commas and comments to use. Remember to keep leading and trailing spaces.

      METARS like any meteorological observations are not instantaneous. However I was wrong to say they were an hour average. They are an average for some period before the nominal time. I'm not sure of the exact period but 10 minutes rings a bell. Timing of observations has always been a problem because digitised values off a wax paper chart are usually averages centred on the hour mark while electronic data is inevitably averaged for x minutes prior to the hour mark.

      If you want to give me your best estimate for wind speed and direction in original units I can more or less easily rerun the processing chain. Remember that Damascus was on summer time when reading the Zulu figures.

      Actual source height is purely hypothetical. However in the potential ranges of height it won't make much difference beyond a few tens of metres downwind.

      Answering your earlier question, SLAB goes into puff mode for instantaneous releases with a zero liquid fraction. You can see this in the results where it gives a cloud duration time.

  18. For wind, automated METARS uses a two-minute average reported every minute. And yes, I had to look that up. Manual METARS wind observations use to be instantaneous measurements taken 54 minutes after the hour (or as fast as I could scribble). There's other METARS measures that are averaged over longer periods:

    The two METARS I posted considered the UTC+3 Damascus Daylight Savings Time offset, so they are the actual 2 A.M. and 3 A.M. hourly reports from the Damascus Airport station (OSDI). I have not found any finer resolution wind measurements for them on the internet.

    I thought the East Ghouta rockets were reported landing around the same time, and regular artillery resumed after that. It may just be confirmation bias on my part. I secretly want the wind to support my Elvis in a pickup truck bulk release scenario.

    1. Reading your link in pedantic mode I see that the reporting interval is 2 minutes for wind. That says nothing about the averaging interval. Also, the talk of 'algorithms' has me a bit alarmed,

      They also have special rules for hourly observation reports.

      While you may be right on 2 minute reporting it's not yet proven that its not a 2 minute average or a 1 minute average or a 10 minute average or any other average.

      Asides from that, to save me the effort, give me one pair of wind speed and direction measurements in original units and in local time that you think is 'the' measurements to use.

    2. Incidentally, and apropos of nothing, I'm the inventor of the unit 'tsug'

      This is the lowest speed recorded in a measurement interval of a wind speed report. This is in contrast to the better known 'gust' which is the highest speed.

      Regrettably this scientific innovation has failed to get mainstream acceptance.

    3. The US NIST refers one to the ACOS Users Manual for METAR observation details: The algorithms for ACOS measures are standardized so there's no ambiguity between observation stations regardless of equipment. ICAO airports reporting METAR data follow the ACOS standards.

      3.2.2 "Wind Algorithm" says the basic measure is a five-second average (equiv. 'instantaneous measurement'). Every minute, the running average of the preceding two minutes' five-second averages, or the last 24 five-second measurements, is reported. Wind character and wind shift computations are based on those.

      This applies to ACOS-generated METARS reported by the airports and used in most of the on-line sources. The Federal Aviation Administration has a technical manual specifying standard algorithms, but it's not accessible by mere mortals.

      In the U.S., there's a more comprehensive set of data - Integrated Surface Data - collected by the National Climactic Data Center and used by the U.S. military. The algorithms or methods used for non-ACOS sources have different averaging periods and given as part of the DS3505 data set described here:

      Your graph was generated from METARS hourly data according to the link, and each hourly reading is the running average of the last 24 five-second averages. I agree it's a strange way to report hourly observations, but pilots understand them as a relatively instantaneous measurement at the time of the report. Commercial jets usually have access to the live minute-by-minute ACOS data feeds and are unlikely to use the hourly observations for anything but a rough idea of conditions.

  19. In the absence of any other opinions and considering the way the measurements are reported, I would say the 2 A.M. Damascus local METAR wind gives a better approximation for the dispersion calculations. That observation was 240° at 6 kt (3 m/s). I'll see if I can find anything else that would help with the actual timing of East Ghouta impacts.

  20. New version based on Paveway Mk IV request for 240° at 6 kt

    To verify applicability actual casualty locations should be matched - not casualty station reports.

    1. Oops. My error. Correct version at

  21. By way of comment on my gas model. The range results won't differ much whichever way the wind was blowing.

    I'm pretty happy with the modelled kill-zones They match the published areas remarkably closely. The lower grade distress, discomfort, and miosis zones are a natural consequence of the kill zones and so should be fairly accurate.

    The headline figure is that hundreds of thousands of people will have been obviously affected by the chemicals, half of them with breathing and muscle problems. Several scores of thousands would have been severely affected. All of this over an area of around 13,000 hectares.

    The question now is were there that number of casualties?

    50 people per hectare is a European norm compared to 20 per hectare for US cities. Zamalka seems to be more like European density. However, the high density seen in the GE views near the Zamalka splash points are countered by the agricultural areas further downwind.

    Returning to the question. Were there casualty reports in any direction up to about 13km away? There should have been, but I've not noticed any from longer distances.

    Barring evidence of distant casualties, the options are that either HRW was telling fibs about the numbers, or the missiles didn't carry 48kg of Sarin each.

  22. Thanks for uploading both layers, Charles. The 'true' plumes would surely be somewhere between the two you illustrated. There's all kinds of interesting things evident from them.

    I was favoring the 240° direction for a couple of reasons. First, let's say it was the SAA that was responsible. Their artillery barrages that morning were claimed to be in preparation for an assault on Ein Tarma and Zamalka. If they wanted to proceed up the Southern Bypass, they would have needed to suppress the sniper and anti-tank fire from either side of the road. If they were using CWs, then they would have been considering the local winds and adjusting their fire accordingly. Depending on when the rockets impacted, you could imagine a pattern where they are doing just that over time: attempting to clear a block or two in on both sides of the Southern Bypass all the way to Hamoryah to begin a ground/armor assault. It would also have split the East Ghouta opposition forces at the Bypass by creating a SAA-controlled corridor between them.

    That doesn't speak to evidence that it was the SAA, but at least there's some (however weak) tactical reason evident for them to use CWs at all.

    I have no idea if there were strategic targets in the centers of Ein Tarma, Zamalka or Hazeh. They could have been targeted, but that would almost guarantee a massive number of civilian casualties. It doesn't seem like that would buy the SAA much unless they thought there were opposition troop concentrations there.

    Now if this CW attack was actually an al Nusra false flag, then they would have at least made it look like a probable SAA strategy, e.g. the one described above. Randomly lobbing gas in civilian areas with the UN in town hardly seems like something Assad would choose to do when he's trying to retake East Ghouta.

    So - for whatever it's worth - I don't think the apparent target area helps much for identifying the guilty party. If there were any information on time and location reports for both impact sites and victim sites, the picture might be clearer. No way we're ever going to get that.

    The other reason I wanted to see the 240° plumes was that it raises questions for a couple of assumptions about the opposition using Sarin. In one scenario - if they used UMLACAs - they wouldn't have needed 13. It looks like four may have been enough to cover the same ground for the first few km since there is so much overlapping. It's a little more plausible that they acquired and used four SAA rockets than 13.

    In the second scenario, my Elvis in a pickup truck bulk release. This would assume the UMLACAs were unrelated to the CW attack and only part of the SAA artillery barrage in anticipation of the planned East Ghouta land assault. If the opposition figured out some way to disperse a drum of Sarin, then they wouldn't need to be right at any rocket impact location.

    Victim reports would be interesting here because there should not be any to the West (or upwind) of the claimed impact locations. If there were, then the rocket impact locations were not the source.

    If I look at the 240° plume model and imagine the winds slowly shifting towards 280°, I can imagine as few as two bulk release points a little further upwind of the most westernly impact locations covering roughly the same area. Considering that everyone in Zamalka or Hazeh didn't die, the actual amount of Sarin needed to produce that many casualties could have been two 48kg releases. Still a lot of Sarin for the opposition to cook up or obtain, but disbursing a standard industrial barrel of it off the back of a couple of pickup trucks shouldn't pose any problem for Elvis or al Nusra. These guys seem pretty resourceful. I'm sure they could have used a tank of compressed air or a pressure washer if they were really concerned about producing a proper aerosol. Just dumping it down a street would give the appropriate lethal plume downwind.

    1. There is some internet chatter about Hamoryah and casualties - but probably only for treatment.

      The SAA didn't attack anywhere near Zamalka for at least a month or so after August 21. The main attack point on August 21 was at the North-West of Jobar against the Teacher's Tower area and the power sub-station. Other attacks were in/around the Jobar/Qaboun industrial area with a concentration at the Eastern end near the bypass - which eventually got as far south as Zamalka

      There was no tactical reason to bombard Zamalka either by artillery or CW on August 21.

      BTW Brown Moses is encouraging Chris Kabusk (sp?) to create a fanciful map of the alleged attack and target area that's clearly wrong in detail and includes ANNA material from weeks to months later. Expect this soon at a BM post near you.

    2. Another question - the cloud travels through many buildings. Wouldn't you expect that to significantly slow down progress, and cause much of the sarin to 'stick' to stuff on its path?

    3. If you mean stick as in deposited, then not quite. Think of Sarin more like evaporated gasoline - does it stick to anything on it's path? At high concentrations, the vapor will linger on porous surfaces and make them stink for a while. The vapor itself will linger in low-lying, undisturbed areas. But even though gasoline is a liquid at room temperature, the vapor will not re-condense out of the air on cooler surfaces downwind.

      If you mean stick in the sense of quantities of the vapor being stuck inside or in between buildings when wandering around them, then the modeling tool tries to take that into account. SLAB uses a surface roughness adjustment to some extent but only in a most general way. It can figure how much a solid object the size of a building will affect flow on average, but it wouldn't take into account the complex ways vapor could be trapped inside a building in a basement, for instance. The modeled plumes are longer than they would be in reality. SLAB is a fairly old tool. Good for basic dispersion modeling to give some idea of the plume intensity.

      There are a lot of newer programs (none free) that take a lot of other complexities into account. They would not be of much more use than SLAB here because they also demand a lot more information (minute by minute wind speeds, detailed obstruction information) and would rely even more on the exact timing of impact and more precise details on initial dispersion cloud - none of which we will ever know.

    4. sasa,

      The gas is slowed down at ground level by surface roughness causing a velocity drop with lowered height. The wind-speed is measured at 10m. Velocity increases above that and decreases below that. The terrain it is passing over is mostly individual multi-story buildings with gaps between them - changing to fields and orchards. The change in terrain roughness will affect lower level average wind speeds but won't really change cumulative exposure.

      The vast majority of gas is never in contact with any part of the ground or structures and so there is low probability of chemical adsorption. The cloud height reaches 10m only 200m downstream, and eventually reaches nearly 80 metres.

      Incidentally, the calculated inversion level is around 200m, so the cloud is always well below the inversion and there is no 'reflection' effect to increase ground concentration. The comments about falling winds / falling temperatures are a fantasy.

      Paveway, you said "The modeled plumes are longer than they would be in reality". That is not really correct. The model results are cumulative exposure. The gas is not going anywhere other than in an expanding puff travelling downwind. There will be small amounts adsorbtion/re-emission - which has no effect on cumulative concentration. There will be some hydrolysis using entrained water vapour but most of that will occur in the upper reaches and edges as the gas diffuses into clean air. The part we are interested in - cumulative exposure at the 1.5m level - will be relatively unaffected by hydrolysis.

      The main reason the exposure peters out downwind is because the gas puff expands sufficiently to no longer give enough cumulative exposure.

      Remember also, the model is an ensemble of runs. In reality the wind meanders and so the calculated results take into account meander averages as well as diffusion. Individual buildings do cause unmappably small variations in concentration. there will be some 'holes' behind them followed by 'hot spots' as the wind swirls. Simply remember that this is a cumulative exposure model using data averages. It's good at the epidemiology level but not at the individual building level.

      The model is reasonably on the money in the LCT50 surface area (better than I expected). So I have no real worries the overall results are seriously wrong.

      Back when I was writing and using dispersion models (plume and puff) I used 10 minute data from multiple weather stations and sounders in an area, sometimes for up to a year's worth of simulation of 3D gas transport. Yes, more data does give a more precise result. However in this case we only have one station and hourly figures and no precise idea when the individual strikes occurred.

      What we do have is a fairly accurate estimate of cumulative exposure by surface area and potential casualty numbers resulting. In reality the area affected would be multiple differently curved strips separated in space and time. However when you added up all the areas of those curved strips you'd end up with about the same area as shown in this simple model and with plume lengths pretty similar as well.

    5. Ok. I think I understand better now.
      Would be great if you and Paveway could agree on an analysis, and write something I could publish.

    6. My comments were more speculation that the 240° plumes exposure areas seem unusually long. On looking at both of the two different models you generated Charles, I see I'm making the mistake of assuming shorter LCT50 zones for lower wind speeds, while the exact opposite is true for puff models as you stated.

      The cold war rule of thumb CW model they use to teach army medics was for any agents other than VX - like Sarin - a 10 lb shell in standard wind (10-15 mph by the army's reckoning) would produce three expanding ovals downwind: 1 mile was lethal, 2 miles had incapacitating and serious effects, 3 miles had moderate effects. That actually matches pretty well with the 280° plumes in your model.

      Unfortunately, the Soviets were expected to use several thousands of shells across a broad area. For a well-trained soldier downwind, the only rational response was to run around with your hands in the air squealing like a little girl... because you were going to die very soon. The purpose of our gas mask was to muffle the squealing, allowing soldiers to maintain some last shred of dignity before their demise.

    7. Sorry... they match pretty well with the *effect zones* in your model (not the plumes).

    8. Just realized something: Could you make a simulation for Moadamiyah? It seems like it would completely cover Mazzeh airport and possibly some government-controlled neighborhoods. This could be a strong argument for "no chemical attack in moadamiyah".

  23. Are the different medical centers where videos originated from mapped somewhere? Are they all outside of the plume?

    A question I have been asking myself is how did the victims know where to run? I guess they didn´t run but got evacuated. But that means the rescuers had to enter the plume. How long would it have taken for the lethal concentrations to have been sufficiently diluted and degraded to be relatively safe to entre that zone.

    1. The Kafr Batna and Saqba field hospitals have been geolocated, see here.

      Question 2: You are trying to visualize something that most likely never happened. All we see on the videos is that victims were somehow dumped at the field hospitals and morgues. We do not see any sign of rescue work, no triage. We do not know if any attack ever happened, or where it happened. Based on the video evidence, the victims could just as well be hostages gassed in some cellar and dumped at the hospitals to dye.

  24. Petri, very interesting info on the site. It might be interesting to add the info of location of the medical centers on Charles´map. If these centers are in the sarin plume, something is wrong...

  25. Veritas,

    We don't know when precisely missiles struck; and the wind veered 50 degrees between 2am and 3am. All we can say is that the plumes had a strong easterly component and probably some Northerly if the 2am strike reports are correct.

    The individual releases travelled at 3-4 m/s at 2am (10-15 km/h). In the lethal zone the cloud duration was typically 500 seconds at 1000m downwind. At the far end (13 km), the duration was 2000 seconds, but the only effect was miosis.

    sasa, nominate a time, how many kilos per strike, and strike locations for Moadimiyah and I can run a model.

    By the way, anyone can take the Google Earth kml files I published and add significant locations to see what-if?

    1. Let's start with the current claim of 7 rockets of 2.2 kg. If I understood correctly, the claimed impact locations are near 33.463,36.198, so distribute 7 sites in this area.
      Thank you!

    2. Would modeling a single release site (eg At Al Rawda mosque) not be useful too? No evidence for M14 as dispersal vehicles in M´yah....

    3. Charles,
      So you mean if someone would have entered the lethal zone roughly 10 minutes (500 s) after rocket impact, the effect of the remaining Sarin wouldn´t have been lethal anymore?

    4. veritas,

      Yes. After 10 minutes it's starting to be safe again - or at least non-lethal.

      People will feel sick from remnant fumes coming off surfaces and venting of rooms/cavities but the main danger has passed. They'll certainly get Miosis. In fact if there's no Miosis then they haven't been exposed.

    5. sasa,

      What time for your strikes? I have very little idea when except possibly later than Zamalka?

    6. oh right, sorry. an eyewitness claimed 5:00 AM, so let's use that.
      i agree with veritas that a single site is also interesting.

    7. Charles Wood how you explain that arriving victims for medical care had Mydriasis and not Miosis?

    8. @Anonymous

      Atropine? Used as a first-line treatment whether or not the subject had been exposed. Research shows far more people complain of being gassed than are actually gassed.

    9. Charles: Atropine is an inappropriate, criminally negligent first-line treatment if automatically used for any kind of patient-reported CW poisoning in the absence of all the other proper clinical signs. I'm sure you mean it *appears* to have been the preferred treatment in the Ghouta field hospitals judging by the videos.

      I'm pretty sure that 'first-line treatment' also resulted *directly* in the deaths of many patients. Atropine administration to a child exposed to BZ is especially lethal - they both do the same thing so you're making the BZ poisoning far worse.

      Mydriasis (enlarged pupils) takes a half-hour or so to manifest after atropine dosing - it's not immediate. It takes much longer - maybe an hour - after BZ exposure.

      If *anyone* comes in to your clinic after a CW attack in a stupor with mydriasis, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat) and they are hot and dry, then you better damn well figure they may have been exposed to an anticholinergic incapacitating agent like BZ or Agent 15. If other victims show signs of Sarin or other nerve-agent exposure, then you have to be especially careful deciding who to treat and how because you can do far more harm than good.

      Even with the most basic CW medical training, clinic personnel should be able to spot the girl in the video as a potential BZ victim, not a Sarin victim:

      I'm particularly interested in the availability of atropine AT ALL to otherwise ill-equipped field clinics, especially in the thousands of adult doses range. Why would the US or any NGO supply that much atropine to a besieged field clinic prior to August when there was almost no evidence of prior Sarin use, and certainly not on that large of a scale?

      I would bet my bottom dollar that the 'helpful' US troops or CIA goons at the training bases in Jordan didn't hesitate to hand over crates of atropine without warning about the lethal effects of use if anticholinergics were also used.

    10. Paveway,
      You seem to have a lot of insight in the medical aspects. What do you think of the treatment the kids are getting in this video:

      Do you have a specific video image to refer to this mydriasis?

    11. "...You seem to have a lot of insight in the medical aspects..."

      ...for a random guy on the internet. Anyone could Google the same information.

      The video's purpose was to splash suffering children's faces on the internet, not to show what was wrong with them or how they were being treated.

      While I resent the apparent eagerness to use poisoned children for propaganda value, that does not mean there were not trained medical people there trying to do their job as best they could. Then again, maybe there were no real medical people there and it's all show for the camera. Impossible to tell with any level of confidence. Nitpicking details in the video for clues is absolutely useless here.

    12. I don´t think looking at the videos in detail is useless. As it is, we are considering the videos as the most important and undeniable evidence! If we didn´t have these videos, I think lots of us would think there were no real victims.

      The thing what struck me in the video I mentioned is the multiple injections of the children without apparently any follow up (no checking vital signs as respiration, pupils, heart rate). Living children in the beginning of the video seem to be completely crashing by the end.

    13. @Paveway,

      The target zone was littered with atropine vials and gas-masks well before August 21. There's quite a few videos of 'terrorist dens' being turned over and the CW kit displayed.

      It's getting hazy now but in my NBC training we were given atropine auto-injectors - to "Stab in thigh and press button if you notice any symptoms"

      Atropine/Adrenaline mix is often given to patients near death to boost their heart and breathing.

    14. Charles: "...The target zone was littered with atropine vials and gas-masks well before August 21..."

      What I remember seeing in the bunker vids was a handful of each that would typically be used by a unit handling chemical weapons. Nothing looked American.I assume they were for opposition forces planning on using CWs, not for clinics treating CW victims.

      Veritas: Sorry, I mean useless beyond a certain point. Of course the evidence of victims and attempts at treatment are important, but you will end up chasing your tail if you try to read too much into the details without any other information from the scene or knowledge about the people treating them. There is no smoking gun to be discovered in the details here - at least with any degree of credibility.

      Example: I don't see any IVs (bags of solution) being used on anyone in the video you posted. I doubt the clinic would even have enough. There is one seen laying on the ground. Yet, quite a few of the children are seen with poorly-inserted or leaking IV catheters in their elbows or necks. A neck catheter seems odd unless the kids have almost no blood pressure. Some have tourniquets on their arm to raise veins, but nobody seems to be trying to start an IV on them. Some of the children seem dead already.

      Now as much as each of those sound damning, I can think of reasons why all of those might happen in a field clinic inundated with an initial wave of victims. But this initial wave of victims (in this vid) seem to all be children, so what's to be made of that? And just like everywhere else on earth, when you have a child in any kind of medical crisis, there is usually a distraught mother clinging to the child or at least within earshot. Since half the neighborhood seems to be milling around this clinic, I would expect nothing less here. Maybe I can reasonably explain that, too and keep on going on and on with other inconsistencies (and more explanations given the circumstances) all day.

      The videos are valuable and they're all we got, but that's not enough to say much of anything besides people were injured and died from something.

    15. Paveway,
      I´m really not expecting to find the smoking gun through the videos, but they can give an indication if scenarios are plausibel. E.g. for M´yah attack (Sasa disagrees... I´m not saying I´m right!), the videos don´t add up to what you would expect to see if victims are transported from Zamalka. In my opinion that would mean, either there was an attack in M´yah (rockets or something else) or the videos are staged (is not the same as being fake....).

      The videos might also shed light on the number of victims. This number is used as a basis to calculate the amount of Sarin delivered by the rockets (eg it must have been 7 rockets like reported by HRW, else there is not enough Sarin to kill all these people). Dan´s complete argumentation is build on this: 1.there are so many victims, 2.therefor so many liters of Sarin were used, 3.this amount is so big that only Syrian government could have done it.

      Maybe the amount of victims (especially the children) is increased due to the treatment they got. Sasa already pointed out that in literature Atropine is not deadly, even in high doses. But if we look at the video at the way these children were injected (a.o. neck catheters) maybe with a cocktail of medicines, the high death toll of children might be increased by their treatment. What were the chances of a child being admitted to the hospital from the video, of getting out alive?

      I don´t want to be disrespectful to the medics who tried and did their best, but I can´t help myself asking this question when I see the video.

    16. I'm confused again, Veritas (see how easy that was).

      The video you linked was posted at 5 A.M. and shows East Ghouta victims at one of those clinics. It has nothing to do with West Ghouta, the Moadamidya rockets and poisoning unless I'm missing the point you're trying to make.

      Moadamiyah's basement 'clinic' looks like it has all of two tables and almost no equipment. That would be the MD1-3 vids from Petri's page on the acloserlookatsyria wiki. Some of the initial victims were been brought there, but *most* would have been sent to the seemingly better equipped and staffed facility nearby in neighboring Daraya. If Moadamiya was just a front-line field clinic, then it's perfectly understandable that medics were just starting IVs on the children and stabilizing them for transport to Daraya, not trying to treat them.

      The Daraya Local Council videos DA1-DA9 give a better idea of the Moadamiyah ( = Medmah Sham = Medmah Levant) victims and treatment that morning. The Darayya Media Center videos are a little more confusing - they're a mix of Moadamiyah poison victims and local Daraya rocket victims. Daraya was also being blown to pieces that morning courtesy of the 4th AD Grads, but those were conventional rounds.

      Moadamiyah and its larger neighbor Daraya are part of the same contiguous West Ghouta siege area - all that area was under opposition control at the time. Transport wouldn't have been a problem except for the occasional showers of SAA 122mm Grads.

      I know Sasa feels otherwise, but I wouldn't even begin to consider clues from these videos in an attempt to somehow prove these victims were not from Zamalka. With all due respect, the idea just seems impossible *to me* given the situation in Moadamiyah and Daraya that morning. Keep in mind that I don't care what evidence the M14 rockets provide or don't provide while Sasa puts great weight in what they mean re: victim credibility and evidence of any CW attack there.

      I think there were CW victims from *something* that happened in West Ghouta that morning regardless of what role the M14s played, if any. And I have nothing to offer as proof - even the videos are weak if you're looking for hard evidence. My irrational, personal bias is that the medical people in West Ghouta wouldn't lie about victims for propaganda purposes, and HRW and MSF are reporting what the medical people in West Ghouta said.

    17. Paveway,

      The claim that Daraya is part of the same siege area is very interesting, but no one was able to provide any evidence to support it. A google search only shows mentions of a siege on Moadamiyah.

      MSF reported about 3 hospitals, but didn't give their locations, so we can't use that.

      HRW provided the raw evidence and it doesn't match a chemical attack. It also came from activists and not from doctors.

      I still want to be clear that I'm uncomfortable with our current understanding of Moadamiyah. It's just that no one was able to offer a better explanation that fits the evidence.

    18. You certainly don't have to defend your position to me, Sasa. I'm the rude, disruptive guest here. I'm way more interested in what you and everyone else is doing here and how far you'll get with it than the actual conclusions.

      I maintained way back when that there was *never* going to be enough solid evidence (YouTube vids, various reports, etc.) that would ever prove something one way or the other and only the intelligence agencies would ever know what happened.

      You pointed out that I was underestimating the power of a collaborative effort to gather information and sift through it for credible evidence, allowing one to support various conclusions. You were absolutely right and this becomes more evident as time goes on and more information is analyzed.

      Your standards for what constitutes credible evidence is fine and I'm not implying that they're somehow flawed in my comments. If anything, I'm trying to distinguish my unsupported tinfoil-hat opinions from what you have taken pains to support or discard for now. All your comments above are rational considering the uncertainty or lack of evidence and are completely consistent with the spirit of your blog.

      If you were not putting those stakes in the ground for reference, the blog would have degraded to the standard internet script of "War of the Tin-Foil Hat Nutters". Those become tiresome and boring. I wouldn't even read mine if I had one. On the other hand, your blog hasn't wandered to the other internet extreme of an intellectual fascist prison of "Approved Truth". Your blog strikes a nice balance of critical thinking while politely tolerating dissent, and I honestly try to respect that.

    19. Paveway,
      The video of the children doesn´t relate to my prior M´yah comment (the only videos for M´yah I know of are the MD1 and MD3). Sorry for confusion.

      The comment about the children's video was concerning the use of analyzing the videos, in this case concerning the high number of children's deaths. I brought up the treatment because you referred to the dangers of atropine in children).

      I want to endorse what Paveway said about your blog. The way you lead it and encourage open debate is wonderful. Your blog makes a difference! If it didn´t exist, it would be missed.

    20. Veritas, OK. The problem with the children/atropine issue is that nobody could possibly tell from the videos if that's what they were getting, how much of it they got, or how long after exposure they were being treated. We only have an interview of a doctor(?) saying they used up their atropine and had to get several thousand more doses from a warehouse. Then we have confusing vids of children being injected (or maybe having blood drawn) and some don't even look like they're still alive. All this in a CW mass casualty situation where there *also* appears to be child BZ victims, meaning you have to be especially paranoid about automatic atropine use. Conclusion? None - just more unanswered questions.

      I do think the Daraya vids specifically labeled 'Moadamiyah Attack' are of note. I didn't realize the connection because of the odd spelling. There was no CW attack in Daraya that morning, so at least the reported victim numbers for Moadamiyah make more sense. Unfortunately, nothing else for Moadamiyah makes much sense. Something for the Moadamiyah page, I guess...

    21. Paveway and veritas - Thank you for the kind words.

  26. Truth is making its way

    1. Is there any link to the actual document? It sounds like a rehash of the NYTimes document - for one thing they are now using a longer Grad motor according to :

      By the way, the Moadamiyah analysis is still happening. I decided to restructure the processing chain to eliminate spreadsheet steps that were a potential source of error. Now I'm getting a numerical failure in the spot-to-grid section that is proving difficult to track down. At least I'm learning to program in Matlab!

    2. I just noticed. The star-telegram diagrams are badly flawed. Their range circles are significantly less than 2km radius. That plus they are using some other strike locations rather than HRW - Original Government Locations? Or something from Lloyd and Postol?

    3. Original report at

      And I should note that this report is a direct result of whoghouta research! The authors have said they used material and ideas from whoghouta

    4. Charles, I cannot see Lloyd & Postol making any reference to WhoGhouta or any of their sources.

      About the only source I can find that mentions Lloyd & Postol and WhoGhouta at the same time is this article on Consortiumnews by Robert Parry:
      NYT Replays Its Iraq Fiasco in Syria – December 20, 2013

    5. There was some twitter exchange with Syricide/BM about an email from Postol to Syricide where he said they had got a lot of stuff from whoghouta. @HRIMark has seen the email.

      Postol and Lloyd have been very deficient in not crediting whoghouta in the latest paper.

      On reflection they also have material obviously generated by (MIT?) students showing their working - which may explain some anomalies.

      For example, their range calculations appear to be based on 20.45 kg of fuel, yet in other sections they talk about fractional parts of the fuel. It looks like several people involved and not very coordinated.

  27. no no no no! Thing is Mydriasis was SYMPTOM and not treatment side effect

    1. Then those particular victims were not suffering from Sarin poisoning. Considering the chemical attack, it could have been BZ or some other incapacitating agent delivered along with the Sarin.

      We'll never know from looking at the videos, nobody is going to admit to using them. Unfortunately, the UN and the West seem uninterested in anything besides nerve agents like Sarin.

    2. I should also add, Anonymous, that positively identifying an incapacitating CW like Agent 15 or BZ at this point in time used at any Syrian CW site would be strong evidence that the opposition is responsible for that attack (regardless of where the agents were ultimately sourced from).

      The Syrian government declared no incapacitating agents or precursors to the OPCW. If they were used, then they couldn't have come from the government side. Western and Israeli intelligence never suspected Syria of having such agents. They always suspected mustard and nerve gas, and that's exactly what Syria declared. If the US thought Syria did have undeclared BZ, then the Tomahawks would already be flying. I'll take Obama's restraint (so far) as a sign that they think Assad declared everything.

      No idea where anyone could even obtain incapacitants like that. Iraq was thought to have Agent 15, a BZ-like hallucinogen and anticholinergic, but it turned out they only did some experimenting and dropped development of it a long time ago.

  28. Moadimiyah - finally!

    7 random targets around the mosque in Moadimiyah and subsequent plumes for 5am local time August 21.

    In summary, not only would the Mezzeh airforce guys have been quite upset - if not dead - , so would all the diplomatic people in the Mezzeh diplomatic district, and finally, Mrs al-Assad would certainly have had some cross words for Mr Assad in the Palace.

    (delays due to linux version of octave(matlab clone) breaking on Delaunay triangulation. Moving to a Windows platform made the problems go away)

    I will republish the Zamalka data as i discovered the model assumes 1013 mb pressure rather than the 940mb pressure at the Damascus altitude. This has been compensated for in the Moadimiyah run.

    1. Awesome!
      Do you want to write a guest post describing what you've done and the amount of damage expected in each area?

    2. Thanks, Charles. I asked @YallaSouriya to look at the map. The Al Rawda mosque is further southwest, but I'm not sure. I assume you just did a general dispersal of shells in Moadamiyah, or were you trying to tie them to the reported locations somehow?

    3. I used the coordinate provided by sasa and generated a random group centred on that. Remember It's only illustrative, not forensic. However the extent and direction of the ensemble plume will be pretty accurate.

      If you have better coordinates I can rerun using them.

      Sasa, I'll look at doing a write-up but it may take a few days or so.

    4. I don't have any coordinates, Charles. Just thought it would be a good idea to ask the Syrians. Agree that the specific impact points don't seem to matter here, given the nature of the dispersion pattern. This seems quite different than the way the Moadamiyah was described back in August.

    5. That's the point of the exercise. Seven Sarin rockets 2.2 kg each somewhere in Moadimiyah would have affected the airbase and Mezzeh suburb for sure.

      There are no such reports so it's looking likely a Maodimiyah Sarin attack didn't happen.

      P.S. Al Rawda Mosque is North-East of Old Damascus. Unless there are two Mosques of the same name, YallaSouriya has it wrong.

    6. Charles,
      Are you going to do the single source dispersal too as Sasa suggested? Would it make a difference if the release site were inside a building accompanied by internal explosion compared to open air?

    7. Give me this data:

      Coordinate (UTM or Lat/Lon),
      Local Time,
      Kg of Sarin

      And I can run a model.

      My only restriction is that I presently assume the Sarin is completely vapourised at one instant. I can run models that have a partial vapour/liquid fraction but I have slightly less confidence in the result for two reasons:

      - The wind may change over the evaporation period
      - There is one physics parameter for Sarin that I have approximated from related data that may affect rates of Sarin evaporation. It's not relevant to the 100% vapour release I have used.

      However, in the overall scheme of things these are likely to be minor.

    8. Veritas,

      To answer the second part of your question I'd have to assume a timed release of gas rather than a puff. The problem is I don't know the time scale of release from a building. The best I can do is assume the release has sufficiently small time scale that it's all vented in say 15 minutes. This can be modelled using a single set of wind-speed and direction data.

      Again, if you give me kilograms, location, time (and perhaps duration) I can model it.

    9. Charles - there are at least three Al Rawda mosques in greater Damascus. I think Assad actually went to the one you mentioned in Old Damascus for some reason. There was press on it a while back.

      There is (or was) absolutely one in Moadamiyah. SAA shelling brought down the minaret and damaged it extensively last June. There's plenty of reports of the incident. I have a hard time finding its exact location on maps - there's nothing obviously labeled Al Rawda that I can find. It might have a different name on the maps.

      "...Unless there are two Mosques of the same name, YallaSouriya has it wrong..."

      I never corresponded with him and don't seriously expect him to reply to a tweet. Never heard back from the Moadamiyah Media Center, and I don't think the LCC could figure out my english email. They still don't have electricity or internet, and only have occasional cellphone service. If I had more time, I'm sure I could find *someone* from Moadamiyah that could provide some useful detail.

      It's sort of pointless now. Syria is lost. I feel bad for everyone there.

  29. OK Charles

    I suggest a single amount of Sarin of 5l, dispersed through an explosion in a building. I can´t find Al Rawda Mosque, but Petri´s witness also mentioned Al-Zeitoune street. I found an Al-Zaitouna Mosque (coord 33.464170 and 36.197971), so maybe that is a good choice.
    The time is 5:00AM (also according to the Petri witness). Dispersal time of 15 min seems ok. I assume a lot of the Sarin will have degraded before release out of damaged building, but since we are only guessing the initial amount, that factor isn´t important for the moment.
    Thanks for trying this out.

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