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“Rocket debris and symptoms of the victims from the August 21 attacks on Ghouta provide telltale evidence about the weapon systems used,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “This evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government troops launched rockets carrying chemical warheads into the Damascus suburbs that terrible morning.”

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, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch

Within the linked article is a link to a 22 page document, re-linked. That document is a PDF and opens with a full-page picture of dead children.
Trigger alert: disturbing pictures in both links

More below the orange squiggle of power.

The missiles used were a 140mm (5.5") Soviet-made missile, the M-14, and a 330mm (13") missile. These are too large to be transported by hand. A typical MANPAD (Stinger or similar shoulder fired missile) is about half that diameter and shorter. These missiles would weigh 5x to 50x as much as a Stinger.

M-14 attacks

Wikipedia on the M-14 here. Syria purchased 200 of the launch systems in 1967.

Only 3 types of warheads are known to have been produced for the M-14: a high explosive fragmentation round, a white phosphorus round, and a 2.2 kg of Sarin round. Since none of the victims appear to have been shredded by shrapnel or burned by white phosphorus, it is not unlikely that the 3rd sort of warhead was used.

These M-14 rockets have a "donut" shaped range; they cannot be used on nearby targets for reasons HRW does not state. Witnesses told HRW what direction the rockets came from; the territory in the proper direction and at the necessary range is controlled by the Syrian government and in fact seems to be Syrian bases - which makes the idea that someone interested in a false flag snuck a rocket launcher onto the base and launched it without being noticed rather implausible.

330mm attacks

The consistency in the design of these rockets suggests that they were locally but industrially produced, and apparently designed to be deployed with the Iranian 333mm launchers or derivatives thereof. While Human Rights Watch cannot establish where the rockets were manufactured, their basic design and unique size matching the Iranian rocket launching system suggest a Syrian industrial origin. The production of a weapon specifically designed to deliver chemical weapons would be a violation of the 1993 Convention on Chemical Weapons, of which only five countries, including Syria, are not parties.
The PDF shows numerous pictures of this rocket. This rocket was designed for the purpose of delivering chemical warheads, and delivers 50 to 60 liters of sarin. That's 13 to 16 gallons for non-metric readers. Imagine the gas tank from a mid-sized car full of poison gas.
Most significantly, the design of the payload of the rockets found at the scene of the Eastern Ghouta August 21 attack strongly indicates that it is compatible, and perhaps specifically designed, for the delivery of chemical agents. The payload of the rocket consists of a large, thin-walled container, capable of holding 50 to 60 liters of chemical agent which is loaded into the payload via a plughole, and a small central tube with a suspected bursting charge at the front, rupturing the thin-walled container and distributing the vaporized chemical agent.
The 330mm rocket has appeared in its high-explosive form in previous attacks around Damascus. The high-explosive version of the 330mm surface-to-surface rocket appears to have been used in the Daraya suburb of Damascus on January 4, 201321 and in Khalidiya, in Homs governorate, on August 2, 2013. Opposition forces blamed both attacks on the Syrian government, although Human Rights Watch could not independently confirm this allegation.22
A 330mm rocket is not the sort of thing you whip up in your garage, and as stated, these appear to be industrially produced, not hand-crafted. Someone with access to a factory made these rockets, and made them to deliver chemical weapons in large quantity. The rebels do not have access to factories, do not have access to large quantities of poison gas, and do not use the Iranian 333mm launch system.

Death Toll

Because the August 21 attacks took place in two separate areas of Ghouta, and owing to the chaos resulting from the large number of casualties, it is difficult to establish a precise death toll. The areas affected do not have any large hospitals, and rely on several small, badly supplied underground clinics to provide medical assistance. According to the doctors interviewed by Human Rights Watch, these small medical clinics were overwhelmed by the number of victims, and many of the dead were never brought to the clinics and thus not registered. According to Médecins Sans Frontières, at least 3,600 persons were treated for symptoms consistent with exposure to neurotoxic agents at three hospitals it supports in the area in the first three hours following the attacks.
To put it another way, inconsistencies between different estimates of the death toll are to be expected, not cited as evidence that someone is lying.

HRW admits that they lack access to the attacked areas and are drawing their conclusions from what they can obtain via interviews. However, they have enough evidence that they conclude the attacks were, as noted in the title, likely carried out by the government, not the rebels.

I believe that we may safely conclude that Human Rights Watch, which has taken both the United States and Israel to task for use of white phosphorus in the past, is not a tool of Barack Obama's nefarious plot to bomb Syria.

The conclusion that these attacks were carried out by Syrian government forces seems solid. The only way for Assad to escape responsibility is if his forces used these weapons without following proper procedure to obtain authorization. If so, it becomes very urgent that the weapons be secured - because if Assad isn't in control than every base commander can use them at his personal whim.


How confident are you that the attacks were carried out by the Syrian government?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (18+ / 0-)

    I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

    by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:26:15 AM PDT

  •  syrian forces (8+ / 0-)

    almost certainly were responsible, but there are huge questions as to assad's being involved. but clearly, the chemical weapons need to be secured. it's even in the best interests of russia and iran, both of whom fear the chemical weapons falling into the hands of their own enemies.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:29:59 AM PDT

    •  Imagine Syria going the way of Iraq or (7+ / 0-)

      Afghanistan. Which is to say, lots of fiefdoms ruled by local warlords. Imagine a base commander deciding to carve out his own piece of Syria.

      Not too hard to imagine that he'd use chemical weapons if he's (1) got them and (2) is a ruthless bastard.

      And I think we can take (2) as likely.

      I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

      by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:38:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  and russia (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blue aardvark, erratic, TomP, sdf

        fears jihadists getting such weapons into the hands of its own enemies. same goes for iran. getting these weapons under the control of international entities will serve a lot of interests.

        The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

        by Laurence Lewis on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:42:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And now we have a win-win solution (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Laurence Lewis, TomP, sdf, eglantine, Onomastic

          Unless the base commanders refuse to turn over their CW precisely because they want to become big fish in the local pond.

          The other nightmare is a base commander defecting to the Islamist wing of the opposition and taking his CW with him. AQ would love to have them some sarin and rockets to deliver it with. So might Hezbollah, although I think they are sane enough to know that the day they launch CW against Israel is the beginning of the end for them.

          I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

          by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:49:54 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The first problem for a rogue commander (0+ / 0-)

            is that the components of the CW system are stored in different locations, not on one base. You have at least the two components of Sarin, which should not ever be stored together; the equipment for mixing Sarin without killing the mixers; the rockets to load the Sarin into; the rocket launchers; and the gas masks and other safety equipment for the mixers, loaders, and launchers.

            To be fair, one of the components for mixing Sarin is isopropyl alcohol, which you can get anywhere, like the local drugstore. Though not in the quantities needed for a major attack.

            Now think about a commander taking an entire chemical weapons unit rogue. There are multiple bases involved, each well known to government forces, and each easy for the government to attack, even at the risk of dispersing the most toxic Sarin precursor. There are tons of chemicals, and lots of equipment. You can't just load everything in trucks and park it under bridges somewhere. There are no warlords in Syria in charge of whole provinces, as there are in Afghanistan.

            Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

            by Mokurai on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 06:25:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  It is especially (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Laurence Lewis, blue aardvark

      in the interests of Russia that these chemical weapons not fall into the hands of some of Assad's opponents. Lavrov did not make this gambit because Putin had a sudden hankering for the Peace Prize (and I would mention again something that AFAIK hasn't gotten too much attention: there is a reason that Lavrov and not Putin is the one publicly pushing this; which is to say while there is much talk about how this makes "Putin look good," that's from our vantage point.  Putin would rather delegate the "soft business" of diplomatic peacemaking (in this case to good soldier Lavrov), which, it should be noted, may not be particularly popular among nationalists at home.)

      -- Stu

      "Oh me oh my oh me oh my What a lot of funny things go by!" - T. Geisel

      by sdf on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:47:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  We need to be specific (0+ / 0-)

      There is intelligence from Germany and possibly other sources, that points to Assad's nastier little brother, Maher, the General in charge of the chemical weapons unit of the Syrian military, launching without authorization, followed by several hours of intercepted panic as the government tried to find out whodunnit, and then order the attacks stopped. For example,

      Did Assad's ruthless brother mastermind alleged Syria gas attack?

      Also, Syrian commanders had been trying to get permission to launch chemical attacks for more than four months.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 06:18:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  and btw (4+ / 0-)

    the report does not say syrian government, it says syrian government troops- HUGE difference.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:30:56 AM PDT

    •  That's a good point and I'll edit (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Laurence Lewis, erratic, TomP

      I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

      by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:35:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No difference at all (5+ / 0-)

      The Syrian government is responsible for the actions of its troops until and unless it brings them to justice for unauthorized crimes which it has not done heretofore.

      •  wrong (3+ / 0-)

        government orders or rogue troops is a massive difference. and by your own standard, the obama administration is responsible for american war criminals who have not been brought to justice.

        The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

        by Laurence Lewis on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:40:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Give The Regime the Opportunity (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blue aardvark, eglantine

        Well, what better time to insist that the Assad regime bring the guilty to justice before an international court of law recognized by the international community.  Yes, it might enable to Assad regime to limp along for a while longer.  That was the likely outcome even with the proposed cruise missile strike.  

        Having Assad offer up a subordinate as a sacrifice so he can stay in power a little longer?  That's priceless.  It destroys any trust the inner circle might have with anyone outside.  Nobody is going to commit potential war crimes when the boss is ready to throw your overboard.  Before, some just talked about the possibility.  This would be solid proof.

        Alas, for Assad and his cronies, the imperative forces them to commit this act. Not doing it exposes the Assad high command's complicity in the chemical weapons attack, something the Russians have until now been able to argue against.  I'm willing to believe Assad did not order the attack.  I just want him to sacrifice the guilty and let the chips fall where they will.  

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:45:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Perfect! Now if only the US was a member (0+ / 0-)

          of the International Criminal Court.

          But then we would have an obligation to hand over our own war criminals when presented with a warrant.

          Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

          by Mokurai on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 06:27:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Big difference in practical terms (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        eglantine, Onomastic

        In one case Assad is a ruthless bastard who has crossed the line and has to pay.

        In the other, he's still a ruthless bastard, but he's a ruthless bastard who has good reason to work with us to get those chemical weapons out of Syria - because he might be next.

        If Syria is fragmenting like Afghanistan or Iraq, some base commander might want to carve out his own fragment, and use CW to help with the carving. Now: if you're an ambitious base commander, what better way to carve out a BIG fief than to take out Assad?

        And what better way to get to a dictator in a fortified palace than chemical weapons?

        I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

        by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:54:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  B-B-B-But (4+ / 0-)

    Obama Neocon Liar and
    Replay of Iraq and
    US Just Likes to Explode Stuff and
    Barack Bush and

  •  Yes. Thank you. This is but another confirmation (7+ / 0-)

    of something even the President's detractors on the Hill knew after seeing the intelligence.

    But now some are saying that there's no proof Assad ordered it as if that mattered. Putting aside that control of these weapons is in the hands of three people, Assad, his brother and a General, the question they raise is irrelevant. After all, there was no direct evidence that Hirohito ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor. I guess we should have waited to see the written order just to be sure it wasn't some rogue general.

    Further, affiant sayeth not. 53959

    by Gary Norton on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:45:41 AM PDT

    •  See above (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gary Norton

      In practical terms, it matters a great deal if Assad ordered this or not. If he didn't, he has a great motive to get those weapons out of Syria before they are used on ...

      Bashir Assad.

      I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

      by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:56:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If true, Assad knew that on August 21. He didn't (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        blue aardvark, 6412093, elmo

        need a German intelligence report. Hell, he was still publicly denying he had CW after the 8/21 attack.

        If he was upset about the attack he could have done several things weeks ago, such as publicly announce it was not authorized, discipline whoever did it, announce he was going to disarm, or other things. I can't see how a report three weeks later changed his calculus.

        Further, affiant sayeth not. 53959

        by Gary Norton on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 11:09:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Rock and hard place (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Gary Norton

          He can't admit they were used without admitting to having them and deploying them out to bases.

          And that he's losing control of his own military, which is a very very dangerous thing for a dictator who rules because he's in control of the military to say.

          I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

          by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 11:17:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  HRW is not to be trusted on humanitarian... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilK, VincaMajor

    war issues, which may overlap some, but are not the same as human rights.

    If they have no access, and just use interviews, their analysis may be useful, but their conclusion is speculation. We have seen that they will interview with a bias.

    They are playing off their name. HRW's budget is projected to be $80 million by mid-decade and it needs to produce fund raising fodder. It's not like they are the only source on the story.

    Anyway, this does not mean that it has no function. It's original purpose was to help open closed societies to human rights.

    But when it strays into judging what is legitimate in war, often using improper standards, it's analysis and conclusions should be looked at very closely before acceptance.

    •  That's true (0+ / 0-)

      They raise funds. I noticed that.
      The big pictures of dead children are not there to help you perform rational analysis.

      However, in this matter I find the evidence they produce for their conclusion to be very supportive of the conclusion.

      I'm on a mission! Testing the new site rules.

      by blue aardvark on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:58:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps. I was commenting on their proclivities... (0+ / 0-)

        in general more than the particular, and their methodology for reaching conclusions before looking at all the evidence when it comes to the rules of war.

        The question remains why they wasted the resources. The UN and other states and intergovernmental organizations are giving scrutiny to this. HRW has the right to do this, but was is a smart use of its resources? How much value added is there from this?

        •  The value-added is that this report uses (0+ / 0-)

          what the spy people call "open source" data, not classified material. It means that we can now discuss the regime's culpability based on public facts, not on CT.

          Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

          by Mokurai on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 06:30:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  20 minutes. That's how long it took to discredit (0+ / 0-)

      HRW because they aren't following the script.

      I'd like to start a new meme: "No means no" is a misnomer. It should be "Only 'Yes' means yes." Just because someone doesn't say "No" doesn't mean they've given consent. If she didn't say "Yes", there is no consent.

      by second gen on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 11:22:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What are you talking about? (0+ / 0-)

        Why is projection so often the main criteria for discussion at Daily Kos?

        What script? I said nothing about a script!

        To the extent HRW is discredited, it did that by itself.

        If you think it is a bad thing to point out when an organization exceeds its historical mission and the scope of its expertise, then we differ.

    •  My reading (0+ / 0-)

      was that HRW did more than interview, they examined rocket parts.

      “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

      by 6412093 on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 11:59:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No, HRW is not using this report to make policy (0+ / 0-)

      recommendations. It is reporting what has been reported to it, and applying the same kinds of analysis that it does to second-hand reports of torture and other human rights violations.

      Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

      by Mokurai on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 06:29:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Any links for Keith B. Ward PhD? (0+ / 0-)

    I come up empty.

    "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you succeed." - Nancy Pelosi // Question: "succeed" at what?

    by nailbender on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:14:10 AM PDT

  •  Tipped, recced, and hotlisted (0+ / 0-)

    I expect to link to it frequently during the coming discussions.

    I just saw Kenneth Roth @kenroth of HRW on Chris Hayes today (Thursday, 9/12) talking about the report and about Putin's Op-Ed in the NYT.

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 06:34:30 PM PDT

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