On Tuesday the White House released a declassified intelligence summary of the April 4th chemical weapons attack in the pro-opposition Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun that killed over 85 Syrian civilians, the majority of whom were children and women, leading U.S. President Trump to issue an American attack on Syrian government military targets just two days later at Syria’s 2nd largest airbase.
The declassified White House intelligence summary explains that they have confidence in their assessment due to a combination of social media accounts, signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence, lab analysis from victims, as well as a “significant body of credible open source reporting” that tells a clear and consistent story.
According to the declassified summary, senior regime military leaders from Damascus were probably involved in planning the chemical attack in response to an opposition offensive in neighboring Hamah Province that threatened key infrastructure.
In late March, personnel historically associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program were at the regime controlled Shayrat Airfield, making preparations for an upcoming chemical weapons attack in Northern Syria and were also present on the airfield during the same day of the chemical attack, April 4th.
Syrian regime Su-22 fixed winged aircraft carrying a chemical agent took off from Shayrat Airfield and were in the vicinity of Khan Shaykhun, approximately 20 minutes before reports of the chemical attack began.
Hours after the April 4th chemical attack, there were hundreds of accounts from victims presenting symptoms that are consistent with sarin exposure, such as frothing at the mouth and nose, twitching, and pinpoint pupils.
Accounts of a hospital being bombed emerged with videos showing the bombing of a nearby hospital that was flooded with victims of the sarin attack.
Local physicians posted videos, specifically pointing out constricted pupils on the victims, a visible sign of nerve agent exposure, along with medical staff wearing body suits and administering medical treatments involving atropine, an antidote for sarin.
Doctors Without Borders reported that medical teams that were treating the affected victims of the attack found their symptoms to be consistent with sarin exposure.
A senior U.S. administration official said yesterday from the White House that the Russians are trying to cover up what happened in Syria and noted the two militaries of Russia and Syria have a decades-long support relationship.
“Based on that historical pattern, we’ve seen that these two militaries operate very closely, even down to an operational and tactical level” the senior administration official said.
The Kremlin has claimed that they had no foreknowledge of the chemical weapons attack on April 4th.
However, the senior U.S. administration official pointed out yesterday that there were Russian forces co-located with Syrian forces at the Shayrat Airfield where the chemical weapons attack was launched on April 4th and said, “we do think that it is a question worth asking the Russians about how is it possible that their forces were co-located with the Syrian forces that planned, prepared, and carried out this chemical weapons attack at the same installation, and did not have foreknowledge.”
The Pentagon said in a released statement on April 6th after launching 59 U.S. tomahawk strikes against Syrian government targets at the Shayrat Airfield that they notified Russia in advance of the attacks to ensure that the Russian forces weren’t at risk of harm where they were stationed at the targeted Shayrat Airfield.
Confusing The World Community With False Narratives
The declassified White House summary explains that the Syrian regime and its key supporter, Russia, have sought “to confuse the world community about who is responsible for using chemical weapons against the Syrian people in this and earlier attacks.”
The Kremlin has claimed that the release of chemicals on April 4th were caused by a Syrian regime airstrike on a terrorist ammunition depot in the eastern suburbs of Khan Shaykhun.
Maggie Tennis from the non-partisan Arms Control Association, told Schweitz Finance yesterday in a statement that it is “not very likely” opposition rebel groups in Syria possess the type of sarin chemicals unleashed on April 4th that killed nearly 100 Syrian civilians.
“It’s possible that rebel groups possess chemical weapons, given that the UN has said that ISIS has used crude chemical weapons and sulphur. But it is extremely, extremely unlikely they would have nerve agents like Sarin, which are highly expensive and difficult, not to mention very dangerous, to produce — much more so than sulphur mustard. And it would also be hard to believe why, if rebel groups did possess Sarin chemical weapons, they had waited until now to use them” Tennis said.
Disconnect With The Russia-Syrian Narrative
The senior U.S. administration official pointed out yesterday that the two narratives coming from Damascus and Moscow don’t align and reveal a clear disconnect with the stated facts surrounding the April 4th chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun.
The senior administration official recalled that a Syrian military source told Russian state media on April 4th that Assad forces had not carried out any strike in Khan Shaykhun, which sharply contradicted Russia’s claim about a Syrian plane bombing a terrorist ammunition depot in the eastern suburbs of Khan Shaykhun.
After denying that ISIS or any other terrorist group in the region possesses sarin, the senior U.S. administration official stated that they know the Syrian regime has sarin that was used in the 2013 sarin attack which killed over 1,000 Syrian civilians in a Damascus suburb.
The senior administration official said yesterday that the Syrian regime hasn’t been transparent about their chemical weapons program and admitted, “there are outstanding questions from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that make quite clear that Syria has not fully come clean on the locations, facilities, types of agents, or personnel involved with its chemical weapons program, causing us additional questions on what’s there.”
Maggie Tennis from the Arms Control Association told Schweitz Finance yesterday that the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have been monitoring the chemical weapons situation in Syria through a number of commissions, but verifying the absence of chemical weapons is a difficult task.
“The OPCW has reported that Syria was not transparent throughout the monitoring process. The Syrian government was even denying access at times to a chemical weapons site in Syria. The United Nations Security Council has not been successful in its monitoring of the situation, but a lot of that inability is due to the Russian veto” Tennis said.
On Wednesday the United Nations Security Council is set to vote on a new resolution drafted by Britain, France, and the United States that requires the Syrian government to cooperate with an investigation of the April 4th chemical weapons attack.
Russia is expected to veto the new measure which comes as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets in Moscow on Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
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