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Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin. This assessment is based in part on physiological samples. Our standard of evidence must build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts. For example, the chain of custody is not clear, so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions. We do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime.
From the letter sent by Miguel E. Rodriguez, Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs to Senator John McCain and Senator Carl Levin on April 25, 2013.

And what we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria, but we don't know how they were used, when they were used, who used them.  We don't have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened.
From President Obama's April 30, 2013 press conference.

"Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated," Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.

"This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities," she added, speaking in Italian.

From a Reuters article about statements made this weekend by Carla del Ponte who is a member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

Originally posted to InAntalya on Mon May 06, 2013 at 09:06 AM PDT.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.


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Comment Preferences

  •  Iraq WMD's all over again! (10+ / 0-)

    Will the American people be fooled again?

    The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

    by lysias on Mon May 06, 2013 at 09:16:01 AM PDT

  •  the "walkback" begins . . . (10+ / 0-)

    from NBC News . . .

    On Sunday, the New York Times reported that administration officials realize the president’s previous “red line” comment on Syria -- which he made to one of your authors during an Aug. 2012 press conference -- was a mistake. That’s something we’ve reported on, but the Times goes into more detail: “‘The idea was to put a chill into the Assad regime without actually trapping the president into any predetermined action,’ said one senior official, who, like others, discussed the internal debate on the condition of anonymity. But ‘what the president said in August was unscripted,’ another official said. Mr. Obama was thinking of a chemical attack that would cause mass fatalities, not relatively small-scale episodes like those now being investigated, except the ‘nuance got completely dropped.’”
    So "small-scale" use of nerve gas is OK now (although I bet it wouldn't be if it was the Syrian Government using it).

    Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

    by Deward Hastings on Mon May 06, 2013 at 09:19:20 AM PDT

    •  that's no walk. That's a hobble. (6+ / 0-)

      just like the myopic tellyscope that them durn scientifics wasted all our hardly earned tax money on. Jest to prove the earth is around?  Heck, I knows the world is around. At least around here.

      Heh, next thing they'll be sayin is there werent any weapons of mist destraction in IraqNam! When I personally heard Mr. Rumpfeld say that they were north and south, and a little west and east of Bad-gag. SO where did them summa bitches go? Huh? Answer me that one, smartass.

      I betcha them iranistan folks stoled them before we could find 'em.  And I betcha that them commie soviets are giving them secret invisible drone thingies that will carry them WDMs and attackle our great country! Prolly have some cemichal in them that makes people librul.

      But whats all this nutty talk about Siriha? Why the heckfire are we talking about som south merican country, anyways?

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Mon May 06, 2013 at 09:29:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for posting this. Carla del Ponte's (9+ / 0-)

    statement about the strong possibility of the Syrian rebels actually using sarin to kill people should come as a pause to folks who are clamoring for us to get more involved in the Syrian civil war including sending arms to the rebels. That the rebels themselves are a bunch of dubious lots and may not be any better than the current tyrannical despot shouldn't come as a surprise.

  •  There is nothing funny about what is (12+ / 0-)

    happening in Syria and the politcal shitstorm in the US about Sarin, and chemical weapons, and red lines and ....

    But today I saw something that showed that someone who works at a Turkish newspaper has a very sharp but strange sense of humor.

    There was a headline that went something like 'PM Issuses Order' on a picture of a chicken.

    When I read the article it was about an order that the Turkish PM had issued for a report to be written about chemical weapons use (by Syrian government forces) in Syria and any evidence of this that there might be in Turkey.

    I was puzzled by the picture of the chicken. I couldn't figure out what the connection was.

    Then I remembered that there had been coverage of charges a while back that Syrian rebels were making chemical weapons and testing them on chickens.

    Lamb chop, we can quibble what to call it, but I think we can both agree it's creepy.

    by InAntalya on Mon May 06, 2013 at 09:30:47 AM PDT

  •  Ugh (4+ / 0-)

    If only a Carla del Ponte had stepped up and told the loud truth about Houla and the other "government" massacres of, curiously, Alawites and government supporters who had or tried to oppose the 'rebels'.

  •  Curveball and Ahmad Chalabi are (6+ / 0-)

    All I can think of when I hear members of the Syrian opposition talk about chemical weapons or John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and their fellow travelers talk about the need to intervene in Syria.

    I am so glad that the United Nations has actually said something which, reading between the lines, it appeared the President has suspected all along. If there were chemical weapons used, and that is a big if, it is much more likely that they were used  by regime opponents to try to fool the United States into getting involved in the conflict then that the Syrian regime would have used them.

    The regime would not use them for so many reasons. They are totally ineffectual as battlefield weapons. They are more likely to kill your own troops as any others. To use them effectively they have to be used in large amounts from artillery bombardments. Very simply, there is no way to conceal their usage. And they give you no military advantage.

    Further, affiant sayeth not.

    by Gary Norton on Mon May 06, 2013 at 09:41:10 AM PDT

    •  Google Frank Gadry (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      InAntalya, Gary Norton, Wreck Smurfy

      And "Reform Party of Syria"

      Chalabi, without the smarts

      More Bush Era nostalgia.  

      Farid N. Ghadry (also Farid al-Ghadry and Frank Ghadry; the latter commonly used in the US) is co-founder and current president of the Reform Party of Syria (RPS), a "'US-based opposition party' of pro-democracy Syrians" [1], and the president of the Syrian Democratic Coalition. [2] Ghadry is heavily involved with US-based neoconservatives, and is close to Liz Cheney and Wurmser.[3] Ghadry heads organizations, that despite their lofty sounding names, exist mostly in the United States and were created with an helping hand of several pro-Israeli organizations. Ghadry is openly “pro-Israel”[2] and positions his organizations with a similar allegiance; Ghadry is even a member of AIPAC.[4] [5]
      Ghadry was born in Syria[6] and, in 1964, at the age of 8, emigrated to Lebanon with his family. Ghadry came to the United States in 1975.[7] Ghadry "graduated from the American University in Washington DC in 1979 with a degree in Finance and Marketing.
    •  If you escalate to Chem Weapons (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      InAntalya, Gary Norton, S F Hippie

      you invite external intervention, against you.

      Assad don't want that.

      Who did?  

  •  All the More Reason ... (5+ / 0-)

    to stay the hell out of Syria.

    "This was use [of Sarin] on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities," she [Del Ponte] added, speaking in Italian.

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Mon May 06, 2013 at 10:00:42 AM PDT

  •  My, my, my - who'd a thunk it? (7+ / 0-)

    Except I remember hearing early on there was some strong suspicion that if chemical weapons were, in fact, used it might well have been rebels who used them.

    Now, where are all the pundits who've been harping about Obama's failure to take steps regarding his "red line"?  Surely there will now be column after column lauding the President for being prudent and circumspect while the investigation was going on.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Mon May 06, 2013 at 10:27:19 AM PDT

  •  Funny how everyone pretends the U.S. is not (6+ / 0-)

    involved and has not been involved since the beginning.

    "I'm an antiwar propagandist as accused by democrats. Not even republicans have called me that."

    by BigAlinWashSt on Mon May 06, 2013 at 11:16:53 AM PDT

    •  Mission Accomplished (4+ / 0-)

      The US wasn't 'involved' in the Libyan coup either.

      Who else on earth is still buying this? The slop is for domestic consumption only. Like whenever our rep stomps out of a UN hearing like a tired toddler whenever they don't get their way or are criticized in some sense. This is the level of thinking our policy demands from its participants.

      And of course you're all aware that the toddlers plan to soon ship their nukes across the oceans and back for 'upgrades'. Gives such a warm safe defensey feeling, doesn't it?

  •  I prefer to current approach to Yosemite Sam (0+ / 0-)

    Here's the deal. Physiological samples mean blood. How did the samples get from Syria to labs in GBr or the US? Do we have a record of the chain of custody? Are there any soil samples?

    There are two tests for blood samples, AchE and LC/MS looking for isopropyl methyl phosphonic acid. Depressed AchE levels could indicate exposure to nerve agent...or pesticides...or stress...the list goes on. The real problem is that the normal AchE level for one person can be much different than someone else. A very small percentage of the global population has had 3 day AchE baseline performed and thus the AchE test is pointless unless the levels have completely crashed.

    LC/MS looking for the GB hydrolysis product is pretty indisputable, or a "standard of evidence". There's really no reason to have that compound in your blood. It is possible that if the chain of custody was broken someone could inject GB or the breakdown product into the sample and then submit it back into the process. I wouldn't put it past the Israeli's to submit bogus samples.

    Obama is handling this very well. Remember about six weeks ago when the last Israeli uproar about CW in Syria happened? Right before Obama visited Israel. Look at the picture. His clothes are dry. You are not going to get into a hospital with a potential chemical exposure until you've been decontaminated. You certainly would not have that many people near the victim in order to prevent secondary contact exposure. This last one happened just prior to Chuck Hagel's visit.

    As far as the red line is concerned, I keep thinking of Bugs Bunny drawing a line in the sand and Yosemite Sam stepping over it until the last line was on the edge of a cliff. Just another way of saying please proceed.

    If the Syrians mixed some of their binary GB and loaded rounds last fall then they are soon going to be having a problem with leakers. The GB binary process produces GB and HF. HF is not going to play well with aluminum or steel. This is the reason why you don't mix until you are ready to fire the rounds.

  •  I've republished to Adalah (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brecht, Aunt Martha, InAntalya, ZenTrainer

    Thanks for the diary InAntalya.

    I can't help but be reminded of the second Gulf War. Back then UN inspectors were saying there was not WMDs but the White House pushed back and said there was. Now it seems that the White house is doing the same thing again. In my diary I referred to 'magical geopolitical fantasies' - this is part of that. It reveals the incompetence of our foreign-policy makers and the victory of ideology over fact.

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