IMPORTANT CORRECTION TO The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur

By Theodore A. Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT.  Postol’s main expertise is in ballistic missiles. He has a substantial background in air dispersal, including how toxic plumes move in the air. Postol has taught courses on weapons of mass destruction – including chemical and biological threats – at MIT.  Before joining MIT, Postol worked as an analyst at the Office of Technology Assessment, as a science and policy adviser to the chief of naval operations, and as a researcher at Argonne National Laboratory.  He also helped build a program at Stanford University to train mid-career scientists to study weapons technology in relation to defense and arms control policy. Postol is a highly-decorated scientist, receiving the Leo Szilard Prize from the American Physical Society, the Hilliard Roderick Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Richard L. Garwin Award from the Federation of American Scientists.

For background on Dr. Postol’s previous essays on this issue, see:

The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur:
Analysis of the Times and Locations of Critical Events in the Alleged Nerve Agent Attack at 7 AM on April 4, 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria


This report corrects an important error in the earlier report released on April 18, 2017 titled The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur: Analysis of the Times and Locations of Critical Events in the Alleged Nerve Agent Attack at 7 AM on April 4, 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria.

In my earlier report released on April 18, 2017 I misinterpreted the wind-direction convention which resulted in my estimates of plume directions being exactly 180° off in direction. This document corrects that error and provides very important new analytic results that follow from that error.

When the error in wind direction is corrected, the conclusion is that if there was a significant sarin release at the crater as alleged by the White House Intelligence Report issued on April 11, 2017 (WHR), the  immediate result would have been significant casualties immediately adjacent to the dispersion crater.

The fact that there were numerous television journalists reporting from the alleged sarin release site and there was absolutely no mention of casualties that would have occurred within tens to hundreds of meters of the alleged release site indicates that the WHR was produced without even a cursory low-level review of commercial video data from the site by the US intelligence community. This overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the WHR identification of the crater as a sarin release site should have been accompanied with an equally solid identification of the area where casualties were caused by the alleged aerosol dispersal. The details of the crater itself unambiguously show that it was not created by the alleged airdropped sarin dispersing munition.

These new details are even more problematic because the WHR cited commercial video as providing information that it used to derive its conclusions that there was a sarin attack from an airdropped munition at this location.

As can be seen by the corrected wind patterns in the labeled photographs on the next page, the predicted direction of the sarin plume would take it immediately into a heavily populated area. The area immediately adjacent to the north northwest of the road is may not be populated, as there was likely heavy damage to those homes facing the road from a bombing attack that occurred earlier at a warehouse to the direct east of the crater (designated on map below). However, houses that were immediately behind those on the road would have been substantially shielded from shock waves that could have caused heavy damage to those structures.

Since the reported wind speeds were very low, and the area is densely packed with buildings, a sarin dispersal would certainly not have simply followed a postulated plume direction as shown with the blue lines in the map below. Sarin aerosol and gas would have been dispersed both laterally and downwind by building fronts and would also have been dispersed downward and upward as the gases and aerosols were gently carried by winds modified by the presence of walls, space ways and other structures. A purely notional speculation on how a sarin plume might be dispersed by the structures as prevailing winds push the aerosol and gas through the structures is shown in the figure at the bottom of page 4.

The complicated wind pattern inside the densely populated living area would have resulted in sarin accumulating in basements and rooms that are roughly facing into the wind. There would also have been areas in spaces between buildings where sarin densities were much higher or much lower as the gentle prevailing winds moved around corners and created pockets of high and low density sarin concentrations.

In addition, the crater-area where the alleged sarin release was supposed to have occurred was close enough to the densely populated downwind area that significant amounts of sarin that would have fallen near the crater during the initial aerosol release would have resulted in a persistent plume of toxic sarin being carried into this populated area as the liquid on the ground near the crater evaporated during the day.

The close proximity to the crater would have certainly led to high casualties within the populated area.

Postol P1Postol P1a

The images on page 4 are taken from two different videos published on YouTube by the same crew of journalists who reported in detail on the site of the alleged sarin attack. Additional video frames from these two videos are shown on pages five and six.

In one of the video reports the journalist takes the observer on a short walk to the location of a dead goat. A close-up of the dead goat suggests that the animal was foaming at its mouth and nose as it died.

Video taken from a drone at high-altitude operated by the television crew shows the location of the dead goat, which is clearly well up wind of the sarin release point. Under all but implausible conditions, the wind would have carried sarin away from the goat and it would not have been subjected to a significant dose of sarin had largely been within the area where it was found.

If one instead guesses that the goat might have been wandering around and had wandered into the path of the newly dispersed sarin, the goat should have been found on the ground near the release point as the sarin dose within the plume would have killed it very quickly.

Other images from the video report are of two examples of dead birds. Neither of these video images can be connected to the crater scene as there was no continuity of evidence from the movement of the cameras.

This assessment with corrected wind directions leads to a powerful new set of questions – why were the multiple sets of journalists who were filming at the crater where the alleged sarin release occurred not showing the numerous victims of the alleged release who would have been immediately next to the area?

It is now clear that the publicly available evidence shows exactly where the mass nerve agent poisoning would have occurred if in fact there was an event where significant numbers of people were poisoned by a nerve agent release. This does not rule out the possibility of a nerve agent release somewhere else in the city. However, this completely discredits the WHR’s claims that they knew where the nerve agent release occurred and that they knew the nerve agent release was the result of a airdropped munition.

There is a second issue that I have refrained from commenting on in the hope that such a discussion would not be necessary.

The mainstream media is the engine of democracy. Without an independent media providing accurate and unbiased information to citizens, a government can do pretty much what it chooses without interference from the citizens who elected it. The critical function of the mainstream media in the current situation should be to report the facts that clearly and unambiguously contradict government claims.

This has so far not occurred and this is perhaps the biggest indicator of how incapacitated the mechanisms for democratic governance of the United States have become.

The facts are now very clear – there is very substantial evidence that the President and his staff took decisions without any intelligence, or far more likely ignored intelligence from the professional community that they were given, to execute an attack in the Middle East that had the danger of creating an inadvertent military confrontation with Russia. The attack has already created a very serious further downward spiral in Russian-US relations, and has had the effect of seriously undermining US efforts to defeat the Islamic State – a common enemy of the United States, Russia, and the Western European powers.

As such, it is a sacred duty of the mainstream media to our democracy and its people to investigate and report on this matter properly.

Video Images of the Area where the Alleged Sarin-Releasing Crater Was Extensively Photographed and Reported on by Local Journalists in Khan Sheikhoun

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Video Images from the First of Two Videos of the Area where the Alleged Sarin‑Releasing Crater Was Extensively Photographed and Reported  by Local Journalists in Khan Sheikhoun

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Video Images from the Second of Two Videos of the Area where the Alleged Sarin‑ Releasing Crater Was Extensively Photographed and Reported on by Local Journalists in Khan Sheikhoun

Postol P6

Here’s the .pdf version of Dr. Postol’s essay: Postol – Important Correction to the Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur__Analysis of the Alleged Nerve Agent Attack at 7 AM on April 4_2017 in Khan Sheikhoun_Syrian_(April21,2017)_Optimized

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  • seesee2468

    Thank you very much, Dr. Postol, for this enlightening update, which throws the veracity of the obviously hastily written WH “report” into even more doubt. I would like to know what you think about president Bashar Assad’s recent statement in an interview that the Syrian air attack took place not in the early morning as first alleged but at around 11:30 a.m. If this is the case, how would the overall situation change? For example, the shadows prove, as you point out, that the White Helmet videos show actions that take place early in the morning. If so, then the poor gassed people (including some not-gassed actors?) in the videos died more than four hours before the Syrian air attack took place. That would seem to be conclusive evidence that the air raid had nothing at all to do with the deaths and that Al Qaeda in Syria is once more guilty of mass murder, perhaps of people it kidnapped from another village a few days before the alleged CW attack. Of course, that would also prove from still another angle that the pothole in the road has nothing at all to do with the CW-related deaths.

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  • Marko

    I posted this at Truthdig , but I’ll put it here too in the hope that some industrious journalist will try to find us some answers. A couple phone calls to the right people should do it :

    The writer from the Guardian ( Kareem Shaheen ) visited the home of the family that lost ~20 members. By now , shouldn’t someone have asked him where that house was , even if only for a ballpark estimate ?

    We also know that some victims lived on Corniche Street. I’m stunned we don’t know where that is yet either.

    Whether it’s the MSM or the weaponized autists , it seems to me we miss (ignore?) a lot of the important stuff for a very long time.

    BTW , it would be nice to get a blood and tissue sample from that goat , if it hasn’t already been hauled off to the glue factory.

  • Marko

    Another repost , from Consortium News. This gives just one example of the kind of battlefield chaos that may make any talk of “Assad’s sarin” meaningless at this point :

    Sam : “….. Kaszeta is now backing evidence free “Israeli intelligence” claims that Syria still possesses up to three tons of chemical weapons.”

    I’m backing evidence-lite “U.S. intelligence” claims that al Nusra has pilfered considerable amounts , and maybe all , of that stash :

    Al Nusrah Front, foreign jihadists seize key Syrian base in Aleppo
    By Bill Roggio December 10, 2012

    ” The Al Nusrah Front…… and allied jihadist groups took control of the last major Syrian Army base in western Aleppo after a two-month-long siege. The ( Sheikh Suleiman base, or Base 111 ) is believed to be involved in Syria’s chemical weapons program……. The base “contained a clandestine scientific research whose purpose was unknown even to the rank and file,” AFP reported in late November, based on a claim from a soldier who defected.”

    How the Islamic State Seized a Chemical Weapons Stockpile
    By Harald Doornbos, Jenan Moussa 8-17-2016

    ” Roughly four months before the split between the Nusra Front and ISIS, in December 2012, dozens of Syrian jihadi fighters climbed a hill toward Regiment 111 — a large army base near the town of Darat Izza, in northern Syria……….The base was a goldmine: home to guns, artillery, ammunition, and vehicles. And deep inside Regiment 111’s bunkers lay something even more valuable — a cache of chemical weapons……

    …….Within a day, the combined jihadi forces had broken through the lines of the Syrian Army. Shortly after, Regiment 111 was fully under jihadi control. They found large stocks of weapons, ammunition and, to their surprise, chemical agents. They were, according to Abu Ahmad, mainly barrels filled with chlorine, sarin, and mustard gas.

    What followed was the distribution of the war spoils. Everybody took some ammunition and weapons. But only the Nusra Front seized the chemical weapons. Abu Ahmad watched as the al Qaeda affiliate called in 10 large cargo trucks, loaded 15 containers with chlorine and sarin gas, and drove them away to an unknown destination. He did not see what happened to the mustard gas.

    Three months later, both the Syrian government and rebel groups reported an attack in Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo. The international media said that 26 people had been killed, among them 16 regime soldiers and 10 civilians. Both the Syrian regime and opposition claimed that chemical weapons had been used — and both accused the other of having carried out one of the first chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian war.

    Abu Ahmad kept his mouth shut in public, but privately he and some of his Syrian jihadi comrades discussed the matter. Although they did not have any evidence, they wondered whether the material used in the Khan al-Assal attack had been taken from Regiment 111. He knew he couldn’t ask Abu al-Atheer for clarification. By now he had learned one of the golden rules of the secretive jihadi movement: When it’s none of your business, keep quiet.”


    And remember ,

    Khan al-Assal was a documented sarin attack , with sarin that was chemically similar to that used in Ghouta some months later.

    If all of the above is true , then no matter which side deployed the sarin , they were likely using remnants of Assad’s stockpile. The same situation could well apply in Khan Sheikhoun. That’s why I think the fingerprinting business is a sales job , not part of a quest for truth.

    The other possibility is that the Syrian army Regiment 111 sarin stockpile was not from Assad’s production line , but from Gaddafi’s.

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      • Marko

        We’re catching flak , men , we must be over the target.

  • Bert Tweetering

    The wind direction is important, but keep in mind there is also diffusion (the effects of which should be seen near the epicenter or areas of high concentration).