A Chronology of Reports of
Chemical Weapons use in Syria
Working Draft Part 3 [After 21 August 2013]
This is an account of all the reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, including warnings of imminent use. The Chronology is ordered according to the dates on which the events happened
[rather than the dates on which they were reported]
Read Part 1 of this Chronology here
Read Part 2 of this Chronology here
After August 21 2013
22 August 2013: UNSG BAN Ki-Moon has sent a team of CW inspectors back to investigate three reported CW attacks after the large 21 August attack on Ghouta. All three were in the Damascus area: the first was in Bahhariya on 22 August [no further details yet available, though this was apparently one of the attacks mentioned by Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari, attacks he blamed on “terrorists” = rebels], and the other two were on 24 August in Jobar and on 25 August in Ashrafiya Sahnaya.
24 August 2013: A statement issued by Medecins Sans Fontiers [MSF] galvanized reaction to the 21 August CW attacks. “Syria: Thousands Suffering Neurotoxic Symptoms Treated in Hospitals Supported by MSF,” Doctors Without Borders, 24 August 2013, www.doctorswithoutborders.org
From Richard Guthrie’s CBW Events Syria Chronology for Third Quarter 2013: MSF issued a press release reporting that three hospitals it supports in Syria have indicated that they had received some 3600 patients‘ displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on the morning of 21 August. Of these patients, 355 died. http://www.cbw-events.org.uk/2013-0912_SY_chrono_Q3_snapshot.PDF
24 August 2013: Syrian State TV reports on discovery [from RT] of what the reporter says were rebel preparations to make CW in tunnels in Jobar area of Damascus’ Ghouta-area suburbs. Also reported by Reuters here, which noted that The UN’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane arrived in Damascus the same day, “to push for access to the suspected chemical weapons attack site for UN inspectors”.
This report becomes the basis of a bizarre and controversial report published here on 29 August by an internet news organization named Mint Press, based in Minnesota, USA. See follow-up account here. After weeks of dissembling and dithering, see the “official response” from Mint Press Editor-in-Chief Mnar A. Muhawesh, posted http://www.mintpressnews.com/official-statement-on-dale-gavlaks-involvement-in-syria-exclusive/169507/ — published almost a month after the controversy caused by the report [and raising further questions]…
25 August 2013: Ashrafiya Sahnaya [no further details yet available; a second UN CW team is currently investigating the report on the ground. This was apparently one of the attacks mentioned by Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari, attacks he blamed on “terrorists” [rebels].
26 August 2013: Daily Star [Lebanon] report on Hizballah men evacuated to Beirut hospital after exposure to CW last week in Jobar http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2013/Aug-26/228701-hezbollah-fighters-exposed-to-chemical-agents-in-syria-source.ashx …]
28 August 2013: Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Bashar al-Jaafari, made a statement to journalists [and anyone else listening] at a UN TV “stakeout” outside the UN Security Council. Jaafari said that he had just addressed a letter asking the UN Secretary-General to mandate immediately the UN team now in Damascus to investigate 3 “heinous” [post-Ghouta] #CW attacks — on 22, 24 + 25 Aug in Jobar, Sahnaya + Bahariya, affecting Syrian troops [dozens of Syrian soldiers were currently being treated in Syrian hospital, he said]. “Members of Syrian Army inhaled poisonous gas … close to what we call Sarin”, he said, as a result of use of chemical agents by “the terrorist armed groups operating in the countryside of Damascus”.
Jaafari: “This makes 420 letters we’ve addressed to the UNSG + UNSC since the beginning of the crisis this year” about all details related to all developments pertaining to the Syrian crisis.
He said his original request for a UN #CW investigation had 2 parts:
1) Did #CW attack take place or not?
2) Who did it?
“But from Day 1”, he said, the UN SG + his experts in the Disarmament Department + three Western Permanent Members of the UN SC had opposed looking at “Who did it?”
Syrian’s Ambassador to UN said that the UN, and therefore the UN #CW investigation team, already has some evidence of rebel/opposition use of #CW.
This evidence, he said, includes a Turkish report that 12 members, “terrorist members”, Jabhat al- Nasra people were arrested in Turkey with 2 liters [he said “liters”] of Sarin. He said that according to the Turkish report, the Jabhat Nasra people took the 2 liters of Sarin with them on board a civilian airliner from Libya to Turkey. The Jabhat Nusra people confessed after capture in Turkey, he said, that they “intended to use it in #Syria”.
Other evidence the UN already has, according to Syria’s Ambassador Jaafari, include an 80-page official Russian report; video from a Russian journalist [Anastasia Popova] who happened to be in Khan al Assel; and Carla del Ponti’s remarks that #CW had been used by the rebels…
Syrian Ambassador Jaafari’s remarks are recorded on video posted on Youtube [in two parts] — the comments below are shown in Part One, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxgfgmKrZlA&feature=youtu.be&a
28 August 2013: The UK Prime Minister ?Tweets: @Number10gov – UK to put fwrd resolution authorising all necessary measures under Ch7 of UN Charter to protect civilians from #chemicalweapons in #Syria [It does not get unanimous support, as Russa + China oppose mention of Chapter 7.
28 [or is it 29] August 2013: UK report: “We have assessed previously that the Syrian regime used lethal CW on14 occasions from 2012…We think that there have been other attacks although we do not have the same degree of confidence in the evidence. A clear pattern of regime use has therefore been established”. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/235094/Jp_115_JD_PM_Syria_Reported_Chemical_Weapon_Use_with_annex.pdf
29 August 2013:UK Government motion voted down after many hours of debate. Prime Minister Cameron subsequently says that Britain will not participate in any military strike, even if new and more convincing evidence is provided: “The British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the Government will act accordingly”…
30 August 2013: US declassified brief = Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013: “The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack… To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence”.
“A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information… A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information… We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs…
We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition… The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21…
We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack. Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks…
‘We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence.
“On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26”.
1 + 2 September 2013: First revelations that UK had approved export licenses to sell and send to Syria two chemicals used in the production of sarin. The Independent reported on 2 September that “The Government was accused of ‘breathtaking laxity’ in its arms controls last night after it emerged that officials authorised the export to Syria of two chemicals capable of being used to make a nerve agent such as sarin a year ago”. ..The disclosure of the licences for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride, which can both be used as precursor chemicals in the manufacture of nerve gas, came as the US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had evidence that sarin gas was used in last month’s atrocity in Damascus…The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills insisted that although the licences were granted to an unnamed UK chemical company in January 2012, the substances were not sent to Syria before the permits were eventually revoked last July in response to tightened European Union sanctions”. Source: ‘Revealed: UK Government let British company export nerve gas chemicals to Syria — UK accused of ‘breath-taking laxity’ over export licence for potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride’ by Cahal Milmo, Andy McSmith and Nikhil Kumar. This is posted http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/revealed-uk-government-let-british-company-export-nerve-gas-chemicals-to-syria-8793642.html
But, on 7 September, The Daily Mail reported that: “Between July 2004 and May 2010 the Government issued five export licences to two companies, allowing them to sell Syria sodium fluoride, which is used to make sarin. The Government last night admitted for the first time that the chemical was delivered to Syria”…
Source: “Britain sent poison gas chemicals to Assad: Proof that the UK delivered Sarin agent to Syrian regime for SIX years”, Mark Nicol, The Daily Mail, 7 September 2013 – updated 8 September 2013, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2415081/Britain-sent-poison-chemicals-Assad-Proof-UK-delivered-Sarin-agent-Syrian-regime.html
2 September 2013: French Government releases its report: declassified intelligence mostly drawn from French-only sources, [which] includes a thorough technical analysis performed on open sources by our intelligence and technical services [and] integrates some complementary elements received through cooperation with [the French Government’s] closest partners.
“The Syrian chemical programme is centered around the Center of Scientific Studies and Research (CSSR), in charge among others of producing chemical warfare agents. Its Branch 450 is in charge of the filling of chemical ammunitions, as well as the security of chemical sites and stockpiles. Formed exclusively with Alawi officers, this unit is known for its high loyalty to the regime. Bachar al Assad and some of the most influential members of his clan are the only ones empowered to order the use of chemical weapons. The order is then forwarded to the commanding officers within the competent branches of the CSSR. In parallel, the armed forces HQs receive the order, decide of targeting and of the choice of weapons and toxic agents to use.
“Syria holds one of the world’s most important [= largest] operational chemical weapons stockpile, accumulated within the framework of a long-standing and diversified programme, which has been monitored for a long time by French and partner intelligence services.
“In combat against the opposition, President Assad’s regime has already used such weapons, including sarin, in limited attacks against the population, in particular in April 2013… French competent services have obtained samples either biomedical (blood, urine), environmental (ground) or material (munitions debris), taken on victims or on the sites during the attacks in Saraqeb (Apri 29, 2013) and Jobar (mid-April 2013). Our analyses have confirmed the use of sarin.
The analysis of information we have now gathered leads us to consider that, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian regime has launched an attack on some suburbs of Damascus that were being held by the opposition forces, using together conventional means and a large amount of chemical agents. [In the 21 August attacks, “The doctors conclude that a high concentration of toxic agent was used”.]
“Conventional air and artillery bombardments took place between 3 and 4 am on the Ghouta East. In parallel, the locations of Zamalka, Kafr Batna and Ayn Tarma were reached by chemical attacks. At 6 am, a ground offensive was launched by the regime against these cities…The regime then lead important air and ground strikes on the attacked areas. It made efforts to delay the arrival of inspectors over several days. These elements confirm a clear willingness to destroy any evidence a posteriori. Furthermore, the military set off fires, aiming apparently at purifying the atmosphere thanks to the air movement generated by the intense heat. Our intelligence confirms that the regime feared a wider attack from the opposition on Damascus at that moment. Our assessment is that the regime was trying by this attack to loosen the grip and to secure sites strategic to control of the capital. For example, the area of Moadamiyé [[n.b. in Ghouta West]] is located close to the Mezzeh military airfield, which houses the barracks of the Air Force intelligence.
Source: ‘National executive summary of declassified intelligence: Assessment of Syria’s chemical warfare programme’, French Government report dated 2 September 2013, posted http://www.defense.gouv.fr/actualites/international/programme-chimique-syrien-et-attaque-du-21-aout-2013/%28language%29/fre-FR#SearchText=Syrie#xtcr=5
French original: “Bachar al Assad et certains des membres les plus influents de son clan sont les seuls habilités à donner l’ordre d’utiliser des armes chimiques. L’ordre est ensuite transmis aux responsables des branches compétentes du CERS. En parallèle, l’état-major des armées reçoit l’ordre et décide des cibles, des armes et des toxiques à mettre en oeuvre. Plusieurs sources font état d’utilisation de roquettes d’artillerie, différentes de celles du stock de munitions le plus connu (missiles et bombes)…
“Le régime a ensuite conduit des frappes terrestres et aériennes importantes sur les zones des attaques. Il s’est attaché à retarder l’arrivée des inspecteurs pendant plusieurs jours. Ces éléments confirment une claire volonté de destruction des preuves a posteriori. De plus, des militaires ont déclenché des incendies, qui visaient vraisemblablement à purifier l’atmosphère grâce au mouvement d’air généré.
“Nos renseignements confirment que le régime redoutait une attaque d’ampleur de l’opposition sur Damas dans cette période. Notre évaluation est que le régime a cherché par cette attaque à desserrer l’étau et à sécuriser des sites stratégiques pour le contrôle de la capitale. A titre d’exemple, le quartier de Moadamiyé est localisé à proximité de l’aéroport militaire de Mezzeh, emprise des services de renseignement de l’Armée de l’Air.
5 September 2013: The UK says there have been at least 14 previous #CW attacks: At G-20 dinner in St Petersburg on 5 September, UK PM Cameron said: “We were confident and remain confident that Assad was responsible not only for this chemical weapon attack, when we saw children being gassed on our television screens, but also we know that there have been at least 14 previous chemical weapons attacks.” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/05/russia-west-gas-attack-syria
5 September 2013: The US Secretary of State John Kerry earlier mentioned that there had been at least 11 #CW attacks in Syria: On 5 September, US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki took questions from journalists about Kerry’s remark:
5 September 2013: McClatchy’ Matthew Schofield published some details about the Russian report submitted to the UN on 9 July [concerning a #CW attack on Khan al-Assel on 19 March in which 26 people died and 86 were sickened] —
The Russian FM statement said “Russian investigators studied the site, sent the materials they found to study to the Russian laboratories of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and followed agreed-upon United Nations investigation standards. Russian officials had broken the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ code of silence on such probes only because Western nations appear to be ‘preparing the ground for military action’ in retaliation for the Aug. 21 incident…It was that incident that the U.N. team now probing the Aug. 21 attack was originally assigned to investigate, and the Russian statement noted that the investigation had been sidetracked by the sudden focus on the later incident.
According to the statement, the report said the shell “was not regular Syrian army ammunition but was an artisan-type similar to unguided rocket projectiles produced in the north of Syria by the so-called gang ‘Bashair An-Nasr’.” The Russian analysis found soil and shell samples contained a sarin gas “not synthesized in an industrial environment”, the statement said. The report said the chemical mix did not appear to be a modern version of the deadly agent but was closer to those “used by Western states for producing chemical weapons during World War II”…
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said U.S. officials were unmoved by the Russian report and held the Assad government responsible for both the Khan al Asal attack in March and the Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus.
… Jean Pascal Zanders, a leading expert on chemical weapons who until recently was a senior research fellow at the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies, said that the Western Allies did not produce #CW in World War II and “were not aware of the nerve agents until after the occupation of Germany,” he wrote in an email.
Richard Guthrie, formerly project leader of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said the Russian statement on the makeup of the sarin found at Khan al Asal, which the Russians indicated was not military grade, might reflect only that “there are a lot of different ways to make sarin…The messy mix described by the Russians might also be the result of an old sarin stock being used. Sarin degrades (the molecules break up) over time and this would explain a dirty mix”. He also said there could be doubts about the Russian conclusion that the rockets that delivered the sarin in the March 19 incident were not likely to have come from Syrian military stocks because of their use of RDX, an explosive that is also known as hexogen and T4. “Militaries don’t tend to use it because it’s too expensive,” Guthrie said. He added in a later email, however, that it’s not inconceivable that the Syrian military would use RDX “if the government side was developing a semi-improvised short-range rocket” and “if there happened to be a stock available”…
5 September 2013: VERTIC – “In July this year, the ‘Independent International Commission of Inquiry for the Syrian Arab Republic’ reported to the UN Human Rights Council that “[i]n four attacks … there are reasonable grounds to believe that limited quantities of toxic chemicals were used. It has not been possible, on the evidence available, to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator” … The [UN Human Right’s Council’s] Independent International Commission relied on first-hand accounts, but did not have access to Syria. France, the United Kingdom and the United States have not given sufficient information on how they reached their conclusions or to prove the veracity of their findings. For example, they have not claimed how chain of custody of the samples was adequately maintained. Much importance has therefore been placed on the only international investigation mechanism available in this case, namely the UN Secretary-General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons. http://www.vertic.org/media/assets/Presentations/VERTIC_Asser%20UNSG%20and%20Syria%20statement_5sep2013_FINAL.pdf
5 September 2013: Cheryl Rofer [NuclearDiner blog] combined the three intell reports [French, US, UK] in one summary:
“Conventional aerial bombing and artillery of East Ghouta took place between three and four o’clock in the morning. In parallel, the communities of Zamalka, Kafr Batna and Ain Tarma were affected by chemical attack. [FR] US lists Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. At six in the morning, a ground offensive plan was launched on those locations. [FR] US says that multiple streams of intelligence, including satellite detection, corroborate the attacks. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack. [US] Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas. [US]”
There were reports from Syrian activists of other #CW attacks, some alerts were later downgraded.
9 September 2013: Barbara Opall-Rome reported that “A new Israeli academic report detailing Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities cites “a real and immediate threat” that chemical weapons, agents or precursors could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations. In a 12-page report released Monday by Israel’s Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), senior research scholar Ely Karmon cites multiple scenarios in which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad intentionally transfers or loses control of the country’s vast stockpiles of gas, nerve and blistering agents…While the Assad government or loyalist militias maintain control of chemical depots and storage sites in most major cities, the ICT report said “it is unclear who holds” facilities in at least two urban areas temporarily held by rebel forces.“Opposition forces have cemented control over northern and eastern governorates and are continuously trying to overrun Syrian weapons depots, which they have not succeeded to do except for the suspected takeover of a factory outside of Aleppo by Jabha al-Nusra in August 2012,” the report stated.
Source: ‘Israeli Report on Syria Bolsters White House Concerns: Warns of Transfers, Leaks to Terrorist Groups’, by Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News, 9 September 2013. Posted http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130909/DEFREG04/309090021
10 September 2013: Human Rights Watch [HRW] presents its report, “Attacks on Ghouta: Analysis of alleged use of Chemical Weapons in Syria”, documenting the 21 August attacks in two places in the opposition-controlled suburbs of Eastern and Western Ghouta, located 16 kilometers apart. “The evidence concerning the type of rockets and launchers used in these attacks strongly suggests that these are weapon systems known and documented to be only in the possession of, and used by, Syrian government armed forces”. http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/09/10/attacks-ghouta-0
According to the HRW report [introductory summary]: “Our investigation finds that the August 21 attacks were likely chemical weapons attacks using a surface-to-surface rocket system of approximately 330mm in diameter — likely Syrian-produced — and a Soviet-era 140mm surface-to-surface rocket system to deliver a nerve agent. Evidence suggests the agent was most likely Sarin or a similar weapons-grade nerve agent…
Human Rights Watch and arms experts monitoring the use of weaponry in Syria have not documented Syrian opposition forces to be in the possession of the 140mm and 330mm rockets used in the attack, or their associated launchers. The Syrian government has denied its responsibility for the attack, and has blamed opposition groups, but has presented no evidence to back up its claims…
Based on the available evidence, Human Rights Watch finds that Syrian government forces were almost certainly responsible for the August 21 attacks, and that a weapons-grade nerve agent was delivered during the attack using specially designed rocket delivery systems. The scale and coordinated nature of the two attacks; against opposition-held areas; the presence of government-controlled potential launching sites within range of the targets; the pattern of other recent alleged chemical weapon attacks against opposition-held areas using the same 330mm rocket delivery system; and the documented possession of the 140mm and 330mm rocket systems able to deliver chemical weapons in the government arsenal—all point towards Syrian government responsibility for the attacks.
Human Rights Watch has investigated alternative claims that opposition forces themselves were responsible for the August 21 attacks, and has found such claims lacking in credibility and inconsistent with the evidence found at the scene. Claims that the August 21 deaths were caused by an accidental explosion by opposition forces mishandling chemical weapons in their possession are inconsistent with large numbers of deaths at two locations 16 kilometers apart, and documentation of rocket attacks on the sites that morning, as evidenced by witness accounts, the damage visible on the rockets themselves, and their impact craters…
The full Report is posted http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/09/10/attacks-ghouta
[This HRW report closely foreshadowed the conclusions drawn by the UN’s #CW team, published on 16 September [see below].]
11-12 September 2013: WSJ reported that Syrian CW were being moved to 50 locations. Other reports at the same time said that Syria’s #CW were being sent to Iraq +/or to Lebanon [Hizballah]
13 or 14 September 2013: UN Secretary-General BAN Ki-Moon tells a women’s group meeting [in remarks that his spokespersons said were not to be public, though they were recorded and aired on the UN’s in-house TV channel] that he understands the UN #CW team’s report contains “overwhelming” evidence that a #CW attack did occur in the Ghouta area near Damascus, Syria in the early morning hours of 21 August 2013.
14 September 2013: After three days of intense negotiations, a US Russian Framework Deal was announced in Geneva.
US + Russia Federation, preparing draft resolutions for the OPCW and for the UNSC, “have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons involved, and are committed to the immediate international control over chemical weapons and their components in Syria. The United States and the Russian Federation expect Syria to submit, within a week, a comprehensive listing, including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities”.
“We further determined that the most effective control of these weapons may be achieved by removal of the largest amounts of weapons feasible, under OPCW supervision, and their destruction outside of Syria, if possible…with the objective of completing such removal and destruction in the first half of 2014.
“In addition to chemical weapons, stocks of chemical weapons agents, their precursors, specialized CW equipment, and CW munitions themselves, the elimination process must include the facilities for the development and production of these weapons. The views of both sides in this regard are set forth in Annex B.
“The United States and the Russian Federation have further decided that to achieve accountability for their chemical weapons, the Syrians must provide the OPCW, the UN, and other supporting personnel with the immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in Syria.
“Under this framework, personnel under both the OPCW and UN mandate should be dispatched as rapidly as possible to support control, removal, and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities…
“The United States and the Russian Federation note that there are details in furtherance of the execution of this framework that need to be addressed on an expedited basis in the coming days and commit to complete these details, as soon as practicable, understanding that time is of the essence given the crisis in Syria.
Principles for Decision Document by OPCW Executive Council
The decision should address the extraordinary character of the situation with the Syrian chemical weapons…[and] should oblige Syria to cooperate fully on all aspects of its implementation…
The decision should address a schedule for the rapid destruction of Syrian chemical weapons capabilities. This schedule should take into account the following target dates:
A. Completion of initial OPCW on-site inspections of declared sites by November.
B. Destruction of production and mixing/filling equipment by November.
C. Complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.
The shortest possible final deadline, as well as intermediate deadlines, for the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons capabilities should be included into the schedule. The decision should provide stringent special verification measures, beginning within a few days, including a mechanism to ensure the immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites…
The decision should refer to the provisions of the CWC obliging the Executive Council, in cases of non-compliance with the Convention, to bring the issues directly to the attention of the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council.
Joint Framework on Destruction of Syrian CW
The Russian Federation and the United States of America agree on the need to achieve rapid elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons, thus reducing the threat posed to the people of Syria. They are each prepared to devote high-level attention and resources to support the monitoring and destruction mission of the OPCW, both directly and in cooperation with the United Nations and other States concerned. They agree to set an ambitious goal of eliminating the threat in a rapid and effective manner…
We agree on the importance of rapid destruction of the following categories:
1. Production equipment
2. Mixing and filling equipment
3. Filled and unfilled weapons and delivery systems
4. Chemical agents (unweaponized) and precursor chemicals. For these materials, they will pursue a hybrid approach, i.e., a combination of removal from Syria and destruction within Syria, depending upon site-specific conditions. They will also consider the possibility of consolidation and destruction in the coastal area of Syria.
5. Material and equipment related to the research and development of chemical weapons
The two parties agree to utilize the “universal matrix”, developed in the course of consultations by our two National Security Councils, as the basis for an actionable plan.
They agree that the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria should be considered an urgent matter to be implemented within the shortest possible time period. The parties agree to set the following target dates:
A. Completion of initial OPCW on-site inspections by November.
B. Destruction of production and mixing/filling equipment by November.
C. Complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.
The Russian Federation and the United States will work together closely, including with the OPCW, the UN and Syrian parties to arrange for the security of the monitoring and destruction mission, noting the primary responsibility of the Syrian government in this regard.
12 hours later: Paul Adams ?@BBCPaulAdams on 14 September 2013 US officials in Geneva say Americans and Russians have been discussing how to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons for a year.
15 September 2013: UNSG BAN Ki-Moon received the report of the UN #CW team from team leader Professor Ake Sellstrom.
16 September 2013: UNSG BAN Ki-Moon transmits the report of the UN #CW team to the UN Security Council and to the UN General Assembly: “the Secretary-General expresses his profound shock and regret at the conclusion that chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale, resulting in numerous casualties, particularly among civilians and including many children. The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons and believes that this act is a war crime and grave violation of the 1925 Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare and other relevant rules of customary international law. The international community has a moral responsibility to hold accountable those responsible and for ensuring that chemical weapons can never re-emerge as an instrument of warfare”.
The UN #CW investigation team wrote, in their report, that they were in Damascus on 21 August preparing to conduct on-site investigations into allegations of #CW use in Khan al-Asal, Sheikh Maqsood, and Saraqeb. Ordered to divert, the UN #CW team headed by Dr. Ake Sellstrom said they found “clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used in Ein Tarma, Moadamiya, and Zamalka in the Ghouta area of Damascus. This result leaves us with the deepest concern”.
The report said that “weather conditions, including falling temperatures between 0200 and 0500, meant the air was not moving from the ground upward, but the opposite – meaning the potential impact of #CW was maximized, as the heavy gas can stay close to the ground and penetrate into lower levels of buildings and constructions where many people were seeking shelter”.
Several surface-to-surface capable of delivering significant chemical payloads were identified and recorded…Samples later confirmed to contain sarin were recovered from a majority of the rockets or rocket fragments. Blood and urine samples taken from survivors provided evidence of definite exposure to Sarin tested positive for sarin for almost all of the survivors assessed by the Mission.
The website of the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs http://www.un.org/disarmament/ displays the report, https://s3.amazonaws.com/unoda-web/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/SG_Report_of_CW_Investigation.pdf
and also a Fact sheet summarizing some of its main points, posted here https://s3.amazonaws.com/unoda-web/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Fact_Sheet_SG_CW_Report.pdf
The UN SG’s remarks to the UN Security Council are posted http://www.un.org/sg/statements/index.asp?nid=7083
And the UN SG’s remarks to the press are posted http://www.un.org/sg/offthecuff/index.asp?nid=2985
17 September 2013: HRW urged that “The UN Security Council – including Russia and the US – should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court as part of the upcoming resolution”
17 September 2013: A HRW expert analyzed munitions information contained in the UN #CW report on the 21 August attacks: “Impact site number 1 (Moadamiya) and impact site number 4 (Ein Tarma)’, the inspectors wrote, ‘provide sufficient evidence to determine, with a sufficient degree of accuracy, the likely trajectory of the projectiles’. They go on to say that 3 of the rockets they inspected had bearings of 34 and 35 degrees for 2 of the rockets that landed in Moadamiya, and 285 degrees for 1 of the rockets that landed in Ein Tarma. Connecting the dots provided by these numbers allows us to see for ourselves where the rockets were likely launched from and who was responsible. The two attack locations are located 16 kilometers apart, but when mapping these trajectories, the presumed flight paths of the rockets converge on a well-known military base of the Republican Guard 104th Brigade, situated only a few kilometers north of downtown Damascus and within firing range of the neighborhoods attacked by chemical weapons. According to declassified reference guides, the 140mm artillery rocket used on impact site number 1 (Moadamiya) has a minimum range of 3.8 kilometers and a maximum range of 9.8 kilometers. The Republican Guard 104th Brigade is approximately 9.5 km from the base. While we don’t know the firing range for the 330mm rocket that hit impact site number 4, the area is only 9.6km away from the base, well within range of most rocket systems”.
Source: ‘Dispatches: Mapping the Sarin Flight Path’, by Josh Lyons, Satellite Imagery Analyst, Emergencies Division, Human Rights Watch, 17 September 2013, posted here http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/17/dispatches-mapping-sarin-flight-pathR
[The HRW graphic used above was taken from this HRW Dispatches report on Mapping the Sarin Flight Path by Josh Lyons…]
18 September 2013: Based on the HRW analysis, the New York Times’ military correspondent, C.J. Chivers, reported that: “Details buried in the United Nations report on the Syrian chemical weapons attack point directly at elite military formations loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, some of the strongest findings to date that suggest the government gassed its own people…
Chivers wrote that “In presenting the data concerning two rocket strikes — the significance of which was not commented upon by the United Nations itself — the report provides a stronger indication than the public statements of intelligence services of the United States, France or Britain that the Syrian military not only carried out the attack, but apparently did so brazenly, firing from the same neighborhoods or ridges from which it has been firing high-explosive conventional munitions for much of the war…Mount Qasioun is Damascus’s most prominent military position. It is also a complex inseparably linked to the Assad family’s rule, a network of compounds and positions occupied by elite units led by members of the president’s inner circle and clan. The units based on the mountain are “as close to the Assad regime as it’s going to get,” said Emile Hokayem, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Mr. Hokayem added that theories that the chemicals had been launched by a rebel mole seeking to discredit the government were unlikely because of the solidity and tight control of those units…Mr. Assad’s government and its ally Russia have continued to claim publicly that Syrian rebels were responsible for the attacks, which killed hundreds of people, many of them children, in the most lethal chemical warfare attack in decades. But the United Nations data, if accurate, would undercut that claim and appear to erase some of the remaining ambiguity. Rebel forces have never penetrated the major military installations of Mount Qasioun. In tactical and technical terms, they would almost certainly have been unable to organize and fire sustained and complex barrages of rockets from that location undetected. The United Nations’ evidence was gathered through standard measurements and investigative techniques at the places where sarin-filled rockets struck on Aug. 21”.
Chivers added: “At one impact site, investigators found both the place where the rocket had passed through a “vegetal screen” above a wall just before it hit the ground, and the small impact crater itself. They noted that ‘the line linking the crater and the piercing of the vegetal screen can be conclusively established and has a bearing of 35 degrees’. At another impact area in another section of Damascus, a 330-millimeter rocket landed on what investigators described as ‘earthy, relatively soft ground, where the shaft/engine of the projectile remained dug in, undisturbed until investigated’. The rocket’s shaft, the investigators noted, ‘pointed precisely in a bearing of 285 degrees’. There the investigators’ public comments about their observations at impact sites essentially stopped, except for a parting explanation that shows how to reach a conclusion that the United Nations itself, in accordance with its mandate, did not say. These azimuths, or compass bearings, they noted, can be reversed to show the direction from which the rockets had been fired. They point back toward the geographic source of the attack, which investigators on the ground presumably would have been able, with their own eyes, to see high above them in the city. When taken together, the azimuths drawn from different neighborhoods lead back to and intersect at Mount Qasioun — so far an impregnable seat of Mr. Assad’s power — according to independent and separate calculations by both The New York Times and Human Rights Watch. ‘Connecting the dots provided by these numbers allows us to see for ourselves where the rockets were likely launched from and who was responsible’, Josh Lyons, a satellite imagery analyst for Human Rights Watch, noted in a statement[i] on Tuesday. ‘This isn’t conclusive’, Mr. Lyons added. ‘But it is highly suggestive’. The map that Mr. Lyons and Human Rights Watch prepared, and a similar map made by The Times with no consultation or exchange of information, suggested that gas-filled rockets, which sailed over central Damascus and landed in civilian neighborhoods, originated ‘from the direction of the Republican Guard 104th Brigade’, which occupies a large base on the mountain’s western side. Depending on the degree of accuracy in the measurements, the flight path for at least one of the rockets could also be read to lead back to the government’s sprawling air base at Mezzeh, near the foot of Mount Qasioun”…
Source: ‘U.N. Data on Gas Attack Points to Assad’s Top Forces’, C.J. Chivers in the New York Times, published on 17 September 2013, posted http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/18/world/middleeast/un-data-on-gas-attack-points-to-assads-top-forces.html?ref=global-home&_r=1&pagewanted=all&
[i] [Dispatches: Mapping the Sarin Flight Path, Josh Lyons, Satellite Imagery Analyst, Emergencies Division, Human Rights Watch, 17 September 2013, posted here http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/09/17/dispatches-mapping-sarin-flight-path
18 September 2013:
Reuters report published by Huffington Post: “Germany exported 111 tonnes of chemicals to Syria between 2002 and 2006 that could be used in the production of sarin gas, according to a government document published on Wednesday”.
“The chemicals – sodium fluoride, hydrofluoric acid and ammonium hydrogen fluoride – are classified as ‘dual use’ under European Union law, meaning they can be used for either civil or military purposes. They require special export permits. In a written response to a parliamentary question from Germany’s Left Party, the economy ministry said the chemicals sold between 2002 and 2003, in 2005 and 2006 had a total value of 174,000 euros ($232,300) and were sold for civilian use…Jan van Aken, foreign affairs spokesman for the Left party condemned the sale of the chemicals to Syria – a country which ‘the whole world knew had a huge chemical weapons programme’ … Arms exports are a sensitive issue in Germany, given the country’s Nazi past and the role arms makers like Krupp played in fuelling numerous 19th and 20th century wars. Modern chemical warfare began on the battlefields of World War One, pioneered by the Germans”.
18 September 2013: Bashar al-Assad, in an interview in Damascus with Greg Palkot of Fox News, “acknowledged that his government has chemical weapons. ‘It’s not a secret anymore’, he said, referencing his government’s decision to join the international Chemical Weapons Convention”
“Yet Assad adamantly denied that his government was behind the attack, continuing to push the theory that the opposition was behind the strike. ‘We have evidence that terrorist groups (have) used sarin gas’, he said. ‘The whole story (that the Syrian government used them) doesn’t even hold together. … We didn’t use any chemical weapons’…Assad said that an outside government could have brought in sarin, and added: ‘The sarin gas (is) called kitchen gas. You know why? Because anyone can make sarin in his house’” he said. ‘We know that all those rebels are supported by governments’.”
Source: ‘Defiant Assad claims government did not use chem weapons, vows to abide by agreement’, Fox News interview, September 19, 2013. Story posted http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/09/18/defiant-assad-claims-government-did-not-use-chem-weapons-vows-to-abide-by/
19 September 2013: The BBC reported that in his interview with Fox News, Assad said that destroying Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons would be “a very complicated operation, technically…And it needs a lot of money, some estimates (say) about a billion. So it depends, you have to ask the experts what they mean by quickly. It has a certain schedule. It needs a year, or maybe a little bit more… If the American administration is ready to pay this money and take the responsibility of bringing toxic materials to the United States, why don’t they do it?”
Source: ‘Assad: Syria needs one year to destroy chemical weapons’, BBC World Service, 19 September 2013 Last updated at 07:11 GMT. Posted http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24155674
— End of Part 3 —