Experts Doubt Syrian Chemical Weapons Claims

Preliminary Evidence Indicates that the Syrian Government Did NOT Launch a Chemical Weapon Attack Against Its People

CBS News reports that the U.S. is finalizing plans for war against Syria – and positioning ships to launch cruise missiles against the Syrian government – based on the claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people.

The last time the U.S. blamed the Syrian government for a chemical weapons attack, that claim was was debunked.

But is the claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people true this time?

It’s not surprising that Syria’s close ally – Russia – is expressing doubt.  Agence France-Presse (AFP) notes:

Russia, which has previously said it has proof of chemical weapons use by the rebels, expressed deep scepticism about the opposition’s claims.

The foreign ministry said the timing of the allegations as UN inspectors began their work “makes us think that we are once again dealing with a premeditated provocation.”

But Russia isn’t the only doubter.

AFP reports:

“At the moment, I am not totally convinced because the people that are helping them are without any protective clothing and without any respirators,” said Paula Vanninen, director of Verifin, the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

“In a real case, they would also be contaminated and would also be having symptoms.”

John Hart, head of the Chemical and Biological Security Project at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said he had not seen the telltale evidence in the eyes of the victims that would be compelling evidence of chemical weapons use.

“Of the videos that I’ve seen for the last few hours, none of them show pinpoint pupils… this would indicate exposure to organophosphorus nerve agents,” he said.

Gwyn Winfield, editor of CBRNe World magazine, which specialises in chemical weapons issues, said the evidence did not suggest that the chemicals used were of the weapons-grade that the Syrian army possesses in its stockpiles.

“We’re not seeing reports that doctors and nurses… are becoming fatalities, so that would suggest that the toxicity of it isn’t what we would consider military sarin. It may well be that it is a lower-grade,” Winfield told AFP.

Haaretz reports:

Western experts on chemical warfare who have examined at least part of the footage are skeptical that weapons-grade chemical substances were used, although they all emphasize that serious conclusions cannot be reached without thorough on-site examination.

Dan Kaszeta, a former officer of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps and a leading private consultant, pointed out a number of details absent from the footage so far: “None of the people treating the casualties or photographing them are wearing any sort of chemical-warfare protective gear,” he says, “and despite that, none of them seem to be harmed.” This would seem to rule out most types of military-grade chemical weapons, including the vast majority of nerve gases, since these substances would not evaporate immediately, especially if they were used in sufficient quantities to kill hundreds of people, but rather leave a level of contamination on clothes and bodies which would harm anyone coming in unprotected contact with them in the hours after an attack. In addition, he says that “there are none of the other signs you would expect to see in the aftermath of a chemical attack, such as intermediate levels of casualties, severe visual problems, vomiting and loss of bowel control.”

Steve Johnson, a leading researcher on the effects of hazardous material exposure at England’s Cranfield University who has worked with Britain’s Ministry of Defense on chemical warfare issues, agrees that “from the details we have seen so far, a large number of casualties over a wide area would mean quite a pervasive dispersal. With that level of chemical agent, you would expect to see a lot of contamination on the casualties coming in, and it would affect those treating them who are not properly protected. We are not seeing that here.”

Additional questions also remain unanswered, especially regarding the timing of the attack, being that it occurred on the exact same day that a team of UN inspectors was in Damascus to investigate earlier claims of chemical weapons use. It is also unclear what tactical goal the Syrian army would have been trying to achieve, when over the last few weeks it has managed to push back the rebels who were encroaching on central areas of the capital. But if this was not a chemical weapons attack, what then caused the deaths of so many people without any external signs of trauma?


The Syrian rebels (and perhaps other players in the region) have a clear interest in presenting this as the largest chemical attack by the army loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad to date, even if the cause was otherwise, especially while the UN inspectors are in the country. It is also in their interest to do so whilst U.S. President Barack Obama remains reluctant to commit any military support to the rebels, when only the crossing of a “red line” could convince him to change his policy.

The rebels and the doctors on the scene may indeed believe that chemical weapons were used, since they fear such an attack, but they may not have the necessary knowledge and means to make such a diagnosis. The European Union demanded Wednesday that the UN inspectors be granted access to the new sites of alleged chemical attacks, but since this is not within the team’s mandate, it is unlikely that the Syrian government will do so.

Stephen Johnson, an expert in weapons and chemical explosives at Cranfield Forensic Institute, said that the video footage looked suspect:

There are, within some of the videos, examples which seem a little hyper-real, and almost as if they’ve been set up. Which is not to say that they are fake but it does cause some concern. Some of the people with foaming, the foam seems to be too white, too pure, and not consistent with the sort of internal injury you might expect to see, which you’d expect to be bloodier or yellower.

Chemical and biological weapons researcher Jean Pascal Zanders said  that the footage appears to show victims of asphyxiation, which is not consistent with the use of mustard gas or the nerve agents VX or sarin:

I’m deliberately not using the term chemical weapons here,” he said, adding that the use of “industrial toxicants” was a more likely explanation.

Michael Rivero asks:

1. Why would Syria’s Assad invite United Nations chemical weapons inspectors to Syria, then launch a chemical weapons attack against women and children on the very day they arrive, just miles from where they are staying?

2. If Assad were going to use chemical weapons, wouldn’t he use them against the hired mercenary army trying to oust him? What does he gain attacking women and children? Nothing! The gain is all on the side of the US Government desperate to get the war agenda going again.

As I type these words, US trained and equipped forces are already across the border into Syria, and US naval forces are sailing into position to launch a massive cruise missile attack into Syria that will surely kill more Syrians than were claimed to have died in the chemical attack.

Last time there was a chemical weapon attack in Syria, Bush administration official Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson said that he thought Israel might have given chemical weapons to the Syrian rebels to frame the government.

British MP George Galloway just floated the same theory in regards to the new chemical weapon attack.

Of course, we don’t know who carried out the attack, or what weapon was used.

But given the well-documented fact that the U.S. has been planning regime change in Syria for 20 years straight – and planned to use false ploys for 50 years – it is worth being skeptical until all of the evidence is in.

Indeed, many are asking whether this is Iraq War 2.0.   For example, the Independent writes:

Pictures showing that the Syrian army used chemical weapons against rebel-held Eastern Ghouta just east of Damascus are … likely to be viewed sceptically because the claims so much resemble those made about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) before the US and British invasion of Iraq in 2003.


Like the Iraqi opposition to Saddam, who provided most of the evidence of WMDs, the Syrian opposition has every incentive to show the Syrian government deploying chemical weapons in order to trigger foreign intervention.


But the obvious fact that for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons would be much against their own interests does not prove it did not happen. Governments and armies do stupid things. But it is difficult to imagine any compelling reason why they should do so since they have plenty of other means of killing people in Eastern Ghouta, such as heavy artillery or small arms, which they regularly use.


The evidence so far for the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army is second-hand and comes from a biased source.

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  • Troy Ounce

    This war is guaranteed over in a day if Assad takes 2-500 men, ships them in vessels/aircrafts/trains/busses and starts fighting a guerilla war in the leafy towns & suburbs of the USA.
    It will change the whole war game.
    Don’t tell him, though.

  • Old Guy

    Herein lies my problems with the claim of using chemical weapons. Having been in the field myself if a chemical agent had indeed been employed, people handling the corpses without protective gear would indeed be dying. Taking a look at the videos and seeing women hugging their dead children and people hugging their parents clearly show it is not a military chemical agent. It is definitely not a nerve or mustard agent. Why? Because just touching contaminated clothing can and will either burn you if a mustard agent or kill you if it is a nerve agent.
    Looking at the videos I know it was not a mustard agent (no blistering). Definitely not a blood agent of they would be blue tinted.

  • watchman48

    I am no expert on warfare or nothing else, but I am certain that America is in the crosshairs of the Muslims and something like this is coming for America… God never allows the destruction of a people or nation that He doesn’t send His warnings out first. Amos 3:7
    Man reaps what he sows and America’s is about to receive the consequences for the embracing of the agendas of homosexuality, abortion, evolution, rejection of The Ten Commandments and the rejection of Christ has their Savior.
    To read God’s judgment for America, Google: “The Message For America, Hand of Help Ministries.” Google, “The Eagle and the Serpents, Hand of Help Ministries.” To read how I was led to this: Google, ”watchman48 BlogSpot com, America ~ Mystery Babylon? ” To read the message of the 2nd major terrorist attack; And for where I believe the location of the 2nd attack will be; Google, “watchman48 BlogSpot com, The Eagle and the Serpents (Part 2).”

    • leakman

      This reminds me of the Crusaders yelling” God wills it” right nefore they go to slaughter the heathen muslim. Then in turn the Muslim’s yell “Alla akbaur” before they hurl theirselves at the non-believers. Religion should be a personal spiritual experience not something that is highjacked by fake leaders hoisting their insecurity and hatred on their followers.

      • watchman48

        Leakman- May I ask, have you ever had a true spiritual experience with God… God is not an imaginary figurine or imagination. He is as real as real can get.
        God has chosen to hide Himself, but to those who fear Him, He will reveals His heart’s desires. In Psalms 91:1 He refers to His place of hiding as the secret place. Only those who fear God will find this secret place, as we are told: The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. Psalm 25:14 NIV.

        For the man who thinks he knows all that there is to be known, is nothing but a fool unto himself. Man is a created being and wisdom is gained from what man has experienced in life, but true wisdom comes from God. There is nothing in this life that man can say for a certainty, unless he has seen, or experienced directly or indirectly that which pertains to his statements, beliefs, or faith. In other words, for man to say, “I know God does not exist,” just because he personally has not experienced a life changing event is nothing less than pure ignorance. But even with that said we know at times that even our eyes can fool us sometimes in what we think we see….

        But, even if a wise man claims he is wise or he displays his degrees from years of studying, without faith in God he still lacks the ability to comprehend or understand the existence of …God, because his wisdom is that of the world’s. If you say you are wise then please, what is God’s purpose for man? And tell me if you can, why should God reveal himself to someone that does not seek Him, or to someone that is not seriously wanting to know him in a personal way, much less to someone that does not believe in Him?

  • Don Robertson

    Death of a Guitar Playing Soldier, by Don Robertson

    To all the Obama supporters we should all wish, good luck with that Syrian nonsense. The common delusion is wrapped up in thinking going forward is just a matter of applying a more progressive reason to get over the shortcomings of that which has given rise to everything going on today.

    The problem unfortunately, is fundamental and human.

  • gozounlimited

    While we are on the subject of truthiness…. may I point out a sick sort of NSA mea culpa to the ex-spouse of the salmon fisherman who was left to die in the Pacific of hypothermia by the Coast Guard….and then phone tapped her prior to the hearing that established government culpability…….

    That would be me…..

    The AP is reporting that at least one of the abuses involved an NSA employee spying on a former spouse. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal suggests that spying on love interests happens somewhat more often:…..

    • gozounlimited

      Funny side story….. while I was under surveillance, my neighbor hoisted up a ‘Don’t Tread On Me” flag right smack dab on our property line….(he knew nothing about my situation). Didn’t take long for the surveillance team to show up and question my neighbor about me…. thinking it was my flag. They left… neighbor took his flag down.

  • colinjames71

    At this point, I wonder why they even bother going thru the motions. It’s so flippin obvious, they want a war, and it’s war they will get. I’m no expert, and i thought the scenes of dead children looked staged. This is sick. America will reap its due rewards for embracing death and destruction. Letting individuals be who they were born to be and love whom they wish to love is about the only good thing we’ve done in a generation. On the brink of invading a nation based on lies and propaganda for nothing but the wishes of Imperial overlords, and its teh gay? Cmon. Think what you want, but the evil lies in the slaughter of innocents fore material gain and lust for power imho.

    • Ron Spain

      Say what? People are being imprisoned for love in the USA every day. People aren’t allowed to be who they were born to be; they’re hated just for being themselves. Try falling in love with a fifteen-year-old and see how well you can love and be yourself. Or try being Kate Hunt. Or try downloading a picture. If you’re talking about all the homofascism today, then I guess that’s really great if you’re an adult homofascist, but lies, propaganda, imperialism, and lust for power certainly remind me of homofascism.

      • colinjames71

        I was saying the legalative/ court victories and increasing tolerance for LGBT people is about the only good thing this country has accomplished lately in resonse to ‘watchman48, and not declaring AmericaThe be-all-end-all of love, freedom, and human rights, to be clear. I don’t know what homofascism means. It sounds made up by intolerant uneducated rightwing ideologues who tag “something-ism” on the end of everything they don’t like, don’t understand, or don’t agree with, so if having tolerance for gays makes me a homofascist, then I’m Benito f*cking Mussolini. And since I’m 42, I’ll be not trying to love any 15 year olds, though i do agree that some people are well beyond their years at that age, and the prosecution of teenagers as sex offenders for the very common high school Senior / Freshman relationship is disturbing. All that said, I don’t see the connection between tolerance and imperial war-making, by any stretch of the imagination. Oh wait homofascism. Oh wait i did declare myself Musolini… now i get it!

        Get it?

  • I hate to say this but use of chemical weapons is legal domestically and is not a war crime.
    The UN can’t pass any resolutions even if there was rock solid evidence of chemical weapons by the Syrian gov’t on it’s own citizens.

    • MaoSayTongue

      Clinton used chemical weapons against the Branch Davidians at Mount Carmel in 1993–and everyone congratulated him on his great victory.
      53 babies died in that attack; 39 were children of color.

      • You mean the one started by the warrant that alleged no crime and the fictitious accusation of child molestation that was “leaked”

        The result was never in doubt because dead man can’t talk.

  • ja1

    the guilty: Israel, usa of Israel, euro punks.

  • louisproyect

    But given the well-documented fact that the U.S. has been planning regime change in Syria for 20 years straight –

    “There’s a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.”

    –Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on “Face the Nation,” March 27, 2011

    • Harriet Logan

      Louis, you can’t handle any open debate with your own rotten political positions calling for supporting US government efforts to create multiple regime changes to D.C. advantage, so you censor all those many people who disagree with you about Syria and Libya and remove them offline from your own websites that you control. But here you are now at this site pretending to debate issues? I find that so laughable…. and pathetic, too.

      Why don’t you open up your own controlled, BY YOU, web sites for debate then? What? Are you so scared of real dialog as to never allow that to happen? Come on Comrade! You’re acting just like the SWP-USA leaders you once rejected did.

      I don’t find you to be any new wave at all of leadership inside the US Marxist Movement, but instead that you are merely representative once again of the same old censorious mindset that the CP and eventually the SWP fell organizationally victim to. You are just a fuddy duddy ‘marxist leader’ censor trotting out semi public once again… to try to pretend otherwise. BUT you carry a lot of old rot baggage when you post on Syrian events. Yes you most certainly do!

  • MaoSayTongue

    It was a malfunction, or operational error, of a Halon fire-suppression system. Early Halon systems had odorless gas; people who inhaled it wouldn’t even know, they would just be out of air and unable to expel the heavy Halon from their lungs. People hunkering in tunnels, bunkers, and basements would be affected by it as it settles and displaces the Oxygen.
    In concentrations above %10 Halon becomes a neurotoxin. When it comes into contact with burning metals, it breaks down into even more toxic substances.

    • TruthDetector

      Do you also believe that the CIA piloted the airliners on 9/11/2001?

      Tell the ‘truther’ now…

      • MaoSayTongue

        I believe that Silverberg said, “Pull it,” as he left Building 7. I also believe that he was losing money on the former lease.

        I believe my lying eyes when I watch the video of the Five Dancing Israelis as well.

        I don’t know what temperature makes molten metal flow like water down the sides of burning buildings, but I’m pretty sure jet fuel won’t burn hot enough.

        I also believe that the government lies, mainly because of their own many admissions.

        • TruthDetector

          Outed indeed.

          No need to waste my time on this Stalin supporter.

          • solerso

            then do us all a favor and stop turning factual discussions into a soap box to lauch into your little cultural fringe group stereotyping session. and fuck off back to daily kos or free republic or wherever

          • TruthDetector

            Your 6th-grade obscenities fail to shock, junior.

            Grab the nearest bar of soap for a good gargle.

  • Ron Johnson

    Good article, unfortunately it likely to be unheeded by Obama.

  • Rehmat

    Syrian government has nothing to gain from such terrorist act. The only country which gains from such evil deed is Israel.

    In July 2012, Gabriel M. Scheinmann, a visiting Fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), admitted that the Zionist entity is in fact the winner of the so-called “Arab Spring”.
    “The so-called “Arab Spring” has, paradoxically, made Israel stronger as Israel’s enemies have turned on each other. While Arab capitals burn, Jerusalem has calmly and carefully steeled itself against the possible immediate deleterious effects, building fences along its Egyptian and Jordanian borders and accelerating the deployment of its Iron Dome anti-missile system,” wrote Scheinmann. He then added: “Even as it rightly plans for the changes wrought by the “Arab Spring”, Israel should also recognize that as the Middle East convulses, it is more likely to be left alone. As Alawites battle Arab Sunnis and Kurds in Syria, as Kurds target Turks in Turkey, as the Imazighen fight Arabs in Libya, as the Army contends with Islamists in Egypt, and as Sunnis and Christians confront Shiites in Lebanon, people don’t have the time, energy, or resources to fight the Jews in Israel. The more the region tears itself apart, the more Israel floats to the top, unscathed economically, militarily, or diplomatically. While an Islamist ascent is undesirable, the intervening disorder only makes Israel stronger.“

  • dell boy

    please look at news shown on Syria free press to confirm what you believe

    • solerso

      Is that what you call Al Jezeera America? Why don’t you go look at Time magazine and Haaretz to confirm your asinine opinions

  • josh

    The New World Order is desperate to attack Syria, they need a GIANT DISTRACTION here at home in order to cover up the scandals and the engineered economic collapse. Better get prepared, WW3 is coming

  • dunderduck

    This is a very convenient distraction for the Egyptian (military) government! I suspect that Mossad, CIA or Egyptian/Jordanian intelligence is behind this. Or perhaps even the Turkish military.

  • Media Mentions

    There is ample evidence of Syria’s use of chemical weapons,
    though as far as proof goes, one source – to me – is more credible than all the
    rest combined:
    . Fair warning, this one’s not for the faint of heart.

  • petey big balls

    bomb that child killer assad back to the stoneage

  • Samion Eric

    I believe this is actually the most useful blog I’ve been through this entire day.