NBC Weapons: The Evidence In Syria




September 27, 2013: UN chemical weapons inspectors in Syria found conclusive evidence that sarin nerve gas was used by Syrian forces against pro-rebel civilians on August 21st. Although the survey of the area (a Damascus neighborhood) took place several days later (August 26-29), there was still sufficient evidence to confirm the type of chemical weapon used, how it was delivered, and where from. Blood, hair, or urine samples were obtained from 52 people who survived the nerve gas attack. Over 90 percent of the samples tested positive for sarin. Samples could not be obtained from those killed because Islamic law calls for burial within 24 hours of death and exhumation is forbidden.

Many parts of the rockets used to deliver the nerve gas were found, and they were 140mm and 330mm models with special (Russian made with Russian language markings) warheads designed to disperse nerve gas. None of these rockets showed the presence of explosives, which are not used in warheads designed to disperse nerve gas. The warheads were tested and showed evidence of sarin. Many of the rockets inspected had buried themselves in soft ground as such nerve gas rockets would when they had finished dispersing sarin and completed their trajectory. Others had hit structures or hard ground and broken up. The location where many of the rockets landed, and the angle of those buried in soft ground, indicated that they came from areas currently occupied by the Syrian Army.

After this report was released Syria ceased its denials of a nerve gas attack. The Russians also stopped insisting that the rebels has carried out the attack to encourage the West to attack the Assad forces. Russia then proposed a deal where Syria would agree to surrender its chemical weapons in return for a Western guarantee that it would not intervene to help the rebels. Syria then agreed to this and asked for at least a billion dollars and a year to allow the chemical weapons to be destroyed under UN supervision. This is still being negotiated. The U.S. has gone along with the proposal, and the rebels call that a betrayal, as it would make the Americans responsible for protecting the Assad forces while the chemical weapons were inspected and destroyed. It usually takes more than a year to bring in the special equipment used to incinerate nerve gas and other chemical weapons.

The Assads believe that with enough time they can starve out the pro-rebel population and drive many of them out of the country. With continued support from Iran and China, the Assads believe their forces (including the growing number of mercenaries provided by Libya) will be able to crush the rebel factions. While the rebels dismiss this as a fantasy, they do believe that the lack of Western air support, as occurred in Libya in 2011, will result in more Syrians dying and that this is the fault of the West. Yet the rebels also admit that many of the rebel militias are Islamic terrorists or groups comfortable with post-Assad Syria becoming a religious dictatorship that supports Islamic terrorism. The rebels also admit that there is increased violence between Islamic radical and secular rebel groups and that there really is no overall rebel leadership that has any control over rebel strategy and combat operations. It’s the lack of rebel unity more than anything else that scares away the West, which seems to believe that it is more prudent to let the rebellion run its course and then deal with the winner. If the fighting results in the country being partitioned and some areas becoming terrorist sanctuaries (that host groups attacking the West) then that will be dealt with. Meanwhile, getting the Assad chemical weapons stockpiles neutralized is seen as more important.





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close