New Analysis Of U.S. Misjudgement on Sarin Gas Source

Filed in International by on January 21, 2014

Robert Parry, of ConsotiumNews and noted investigative reporter has just published an investigative report on the August 21 Sarin Gas attack in Syria.  The report is entitled “The Mistaken Guns of Last August” and can be seen at  He cites the work of Richard Lloyd of Tesla Labs and Theodore A. Postol, science professor at MIT.  Parry says:

“A new report by two American weapons specialists, entitled “Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack,” makes clear that the case presented by Kerry and the Obama administration was scientifically impossible because the range of the key rocket carrying Sarin was less than a third of what the U.S. government was claiming.

The controversial map developed by Human Rights Watch and embraced by the New York Times, supposedly showing the flight paths of two missiles from the Aug. 21 Sarin attack intersecting at a Syrian military base.

The controversial map developed by Human Rights Watch and embraced by the New York Times, supposedly showing the flight paths of two missiles from the Aug. 21 Sarin attack intersecting at a Syrian military base.

The two rocket specialists – Richard Lloyd, a former United Nations weapons inspector who is now associated with Tesla Laboratories, and Theodore A. Postol, professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – concluded that the rocket’s limited range meant that it couldn’t have come from Syrian government-controlled areas as delineated by a map released by the Obama administration last August.”

Parry reports that the work of these researchers debunks the report issued by Humans Rights Watch and the NYT attributing the Sarin attack to the Assad regime.

There remain more questions than answers as to the source of the Sarin attack and in my opinion, raises red flags about the certainty on the source voiced by both President Obama and Secretary Kerry.  The lesson for me here?  Question authority until you share the certainty of those we elect to office on issues of life, death and destruction.  I also recommend the work of Sey Hersh on this issue.



About the Author ()

Comments (14)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. cassandra_m says:

    Interesting, I think, that this report bypasses quite completely the UN report on this, specifically the samples and analysis of tissues, environment AND remaining parts of the delivery vehicle. Very detailed.

    To be sure, the UN investigation was not meant to assign blame (even though they are certain that this attack was a war crime), but it is difficult to conclude that this came from the rebels.

  2. FenceSitter says:

    What she said. Hard to wrap my head around the regime agreeing to destroy its precursor chemicals and leaving the rebels with sarin capabilities. Will be interesting to see who was responsible for the intelligence failures.

  3. CR says:

    I also remained convinced that the UN report was the most accurate. A lot of these so-called debunking articles (including Sy Hersh’s) have been in turn completely debunked.

    The strongest evidence that the rebels didn’t have (much less use) sarin gas — or even the necessary launching system — is a simple one: there’s no video evidence. In this conflict, ordinary foot soldiers (especially on the rebel side) have been uploading copious amounts of video footage of just about everything happening and have inadvertently provided extensive details on exactly what weapons they do and do not have. So far, there’s been no videos showing anything remotely capable of launching sarin. These rebels have already proven themselves to be fairly incoherent and disorganized. It’s absurd to think that they somehow managed to get it together enough to acquire the necessary weapons and launching systems, then launch an attack, and then not let it get out that they were responsible. Somewhere, there would have been a leak. It’s just inconceivable that they have the cohesion necessary to mount a coverup of this size.

    So, Occam’s Razor suggests we continue to assume that the people we know definitely have chemical weapons and the necessary launchers were in fact responsible for the attack. I didn’t support the response plan either, but I don’t need to convince myself that the rebels launched a false-flag attack on their own civilians in order to come to the conclusion that I shouldn’t support that plan. It’s possible to think the regime forces were responsible and that a military strike wasn’t the right answer in this particular situation.

  4. Liberal Elite says:

    “…concluded that the rocket’s limited range meant that it couldn’t have come from Syrian government-controlled areas…”

    So, it’s not considered possible to shoot a weapon in enemy controlled territories? Nice try…

    It really was done by the Assad regime.

  5. liberalgeek says:

    Is this reprinted with permission? This post certainly exceeds the fair use threshold. Not to mention hat there is no additional text by Progressive Populist.

  6. stan merriman says:

    CR, please provide the documentation on who/what “completely debunked” Sy Hersh’s report which cites intelligence community uncertainty on the source of the Sarin gas attack of August 21? Hersh discusses the months earlier history of rebel attributed crude Sarin attacks on a smaller scale in other locales, which was widely reported.
    Is is also not possible that rouge elements within Assad’s army, including his own brother, might have had a hand in the August 21 event? Remember our own rouge military history in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan in similar non-gas war crime events, as well as our not so rouge use of Agent Orange in Vietnam?

  7. Delaware Dem says:

    LiberalGeek, yes, I am having PP edit this article now.

  8. liberalgeek says:

    It looks like a planted story to me. Like one of those news aggregator sites that pay people to put up their stories. It also looks a lot like a post that would appear on DelawarePolitics.

    Just sayin’

  9. Liberal Elite says:

    And if you carefully read the NYTimes article cited as an admission of error, you get a very different picture of what happened:

    “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”

    There is some confusion as to what areas the Assad government actually “control”.

    What I wonder is why Robert Parry would push an obviously sketchy story as fact, and why would ProgressivePopulist repost it here? What is to be gained by running a FUD campaign supporting the Assad regime?

  10. cassandra_m says:

    When Obama looked like he was on a glidepath to some type of intervention in Syria this past summer, the very left voices were pushing a narrative that it was the rebels who were responsible for the chemical weapons attacks. They were mostly relying on a story much like this one — that the Syrian government could not have been responsible at the ranges reported. It was an odd defense — making it look like the atrocity of those weapons was somehow OK since the rebels did it and that we should leave the Syrian government alone.

    I don’t have a dog in this fight — other than I think that these folks need to settle their differences and stop the atrocities and that we should not be on the ground interfering with whatever is going on. The dismantling of the Syrian CW complex is an undeniably good thing — a thing that would not have happened if the rebels were really in possession of a CW capability themselves.

  11. Liberal Elite says:

    Yes, but if the rebels had the gas, wouldn’t they be lobbing them towards the palace? …or at least towards the military forces that have been killing so many of them?

  12. stan merriman says:

    Thanks for the heads up LiberalGeek. Displaying my blogging inexperience. Will do better.

  13. CR says:

    I’m willing to accept the possibility that the attack in question was led by rogue elements of the regime/Army, just not that it came from the rebels.

    As to the question of the Hersh debunking, here’s an example:

    Unfortunately it’s behind a bit of a paywall, I think. The key points were summarized in my first comment.

    This insistence that the rebels could equally have done it reeks of Trutherism and it’s not a good look on liberals and progressives. As I said before, it’s possible to oppose certain military actions on very solid policy and political grounds, without needing to spin elaborate conspiracy theories.

  14. Dana says:

    Mr Elite wrote:

    Yes, but if the rebels had the gas, wouldn’t they be lobbing them towards the palace? …or at least towards the military forces that have been killing so many of them?

    Well, maybe not. If the rebels had a small supply of sarin, and were the ones who released it, hasn’t the result been about as favorable for them as it could have been?

    President Assad’s forces were winning; there was no reason for them to use the gas. But that’s a conclusion based on Western logic, and Mr Assad and the Syrian military aren’t Westerners; they are part of a culture which does not reason the same way we do. They might have decided that this would terrorize the local support for the rebels, they might have decided that this would somehow splinter the rebels, they might have thought that the whole thing would look like a rebel false flag operation, or it could even be that they don’t look at the use of poison gas as a qualitatively different step, the way we do.

    In a way, I can agree with that: I fail to see how the 1,429 people the United States claimed were killed in the sarin gas attack are any deader than the 100,000 who were killed by bullets or bombs. The real questions are:

    1 – Does the United States have any particular reason to favor any particular side in the Syrian civil war?
    2 – If the United States has a particular side it favors or should favor, can that side actually win?
    3 – If there is a side we favor that can win, but that victory is contingent upon some real support from the United States, is that victory worth the cost of that support?

    I’d say that there are reasons to support a particular faction — the non-Islamist rebels — but that isn’t a side which shows much promise of being able to actually win, with or without material support from the US.