A closer analysis, however, raises doubts and highlights the challenge of confirming whether the Syrian government–or anyone else–is using chemical weapons…. Looking at video and photos obtained by GlobalPost at the scene, experts say the spent canister found in Younes’ [a victim’s] house and the symptoms displayed by the victims are inconsistent with a chemical weapon such as sarin gas, which is known to be in Syria’s arsenal.
Here’s a picture of the spent canister:
Kurdish police and members of a Kurdish militia gather the remains of a device witnesses say was dropped by a helicopter onto the courtyard staircase of a family home in Sheikh Maqsoud, a neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. Syrians suspect the device is some kind of chemical weapon. But experts have their doubts. – [Rojhat Azad/Courtesy]
The GlobalPost continues:
Looking at video and photos obtained by GlobalPost at the scene, experts say the spent canister found in Younes’ house and the symptoms displayed by the victims are inconsistent with a chemical weapon such as sarin gas, which is known to be in Syria’s arsenal. Sarin is typically delivered using artillery shells or spray tanks, not in the grenade-like device found in this Aleppo attack and in other similar attacks reported in recent days.
While analysts have not been able to identify the canister, they said tear gas, some kind of generated smoke, as well as any number of chemicals found in military munitions and devices, could also have been responsible. Chemicals used for riot control are not prohibited by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.
Experts say an attack by sarin gas would cause virtually anyone who had come into contact with the toxin to immediately feel its effects. Exposure to even a very small amount of sarin could be lethal. While there were casualities in the Aleppo attack, most of the victims survived, which would not likely be the outcome of a sarin attack in a confined environment.
Adding to the doubts, some analysts are now wondering if the attack might have actually involved chlorine, which is also a chemical weapon but can be bought over-the-counter. A March Reuters story described a possible chemical attack in the northern town of Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo, after which residents said they could smell chlorine. The Telegraph reported at the time that Syrian regime forces accused rebels of using a homemade chlorine solution in the attack.
Charles Faddis, who headed the CIA’s operations against al Qaeda in Iraq’s chlorine bomb network, told me in 2010: “[T]he attacks are not being particularly successful. The people are dying in the blast, but fortunately nobody is dying from chlorine.”
As Foreign Policy’s Blake Hounshell points out, Khan al-Assal was a regime-controlled area at the time, which suggests that if anyone were to attack it, it would probably be rebels. (Hat tip to Hounshell for resurfacing these March articles.)
Similarly, Tony Cartalucci points out that the Syrian government has no motivation to use chemical weapons. And Lew Rockwell argues:
Of course anyone whose brain fired on more than one cylinder should have questioned why in the hell the Syrian government would use in such a limited and militarily insignificant way the one weapon it knew would likely bring on a US and NATO Libya-style intervention. It made no sense at all for the Syrian government to use “just a little” sarin — not enough to do more than kill a few people, nothing to alter the course of the war — knowing about “red lines” and a US/Saudi/Qatari/Israeli/Turk bloodlust to invade.
On the other hand, it made all the sense in the world for the insurgents to release some sarin here and there, make some videos of the victims, and email the links to some very willing Israeli generals and McCainian rabid warhawks in the US and their absurd poodles in the UK and France.
CNN points out that the Syrian rebels have had chemical weapons training.
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