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Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria (Human Rights Watch)

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posted on Sep, 9 2013 @ 11:50 PM
Human Rights Watch

This report details two alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria on the opposition-controlled Damascus suburbs of Eastern and Western Ghouta, located 16 kilometers apart, on the morning of August 21, 2013. The attacks killed hundreds of civilians, including large numbers of children. Human Rights Watch analyzed witness accounts of the rocket attacks, information on the likely source of the attacks, the physical remnants of the weapon systems used, and the medical symptoms exhibited by the victims of the attack as documented by medical staff. Our investigation finds that the August 21 attacks were likely chemical weapons attacks using a surface-to-surface rocket system of approximately 330mm in diameter—likely Syrian-produced—and a Soviet-era 140mm surface-to-surface rocket system to deliver a nerve agent. Evidence suggests the agent was most likely Sarin or a similar weapons-grade nerve agent. T

Just giving this a read right now, interesting findings regardless of where your stance on the subject is..
edit on 9-9-2013 by canucks555 because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 9 2013 @ 11:55 PM

The evidence examined by Human Rights Watch strongly suggests that the August 21 chemical weapon attacks on Eastern and Western Ghouta were carried out by government forces. Our basis for this finding is:

The large-scale nature of the attacks, involving at least a dozen surface-to-surface rockets affecting two different neighborhoods in Damascus countryside situated 16 kilometers apart, and surrounded by major Syrian government military positions. One of the types of rockets used in the attack, the 330mm rocket system – likely Syrian produced, which appear to be have been used in a number of alleged chemical weapon attacks, has been filmed in at least two instances in the hands of government forces. The second type of rocket, the Soviet-produced 140mm rocket, which can carry Sarin, is listed as a weapon known to be in Syrian government weapon stocks. Both rockets have never been reported to be in the possession of the opposition. Nor is there any footage or other evidence that the armed opposition has the vehicle-mounted launchers needed to fire these rockets. The August 21 attacks were a sophisticated military attack, requiring large amounts of nerve agent (each 330mm warhead is estimated to contain between 50 and 60 liters of agent), specialized procedures to load the warheads with the nerve agent, and specialized launchers to launch the rockets.
reply to post by canucks555

posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 07:48 AM
reply to post by canucks555

I'm looking forward to seeing how close the U.N. inspection report is going to come to this one.

Glad to see that the U.N. inspection team at least took measurements of the rockets and collected the remnants from them to help back up this analysis by HRW.

Thanks for the link. I'll be saving this one.

posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 03:43 PM
Deny Ignorance

Well this HRW report presents the most concise information that I have read yet that actually implicates the Syrian Army in the chemical weapons attacks. I've really questioned the US reports because they seemed to be mostly fact-free and relied on emotional reactions to attempt to prove their point.

Until I read this report last night after the OP provided the link, I was nearly certain that the opposition was responsible for the CW attack. Now I at least have some reasonable doubt about that conclusion.

Now I'm still not convinced that al-Assad actually ordered the attack. In fact the evidence I've seen to date would indicate that was not the case. I'm also not convinced that the rebel forces are not in possession of rockets of the type alleged to have been used in the attack by HRW. In fact, since the rebels have taken control of at least one military base, it's quite possible they could have this class of weapon available to them without HRW and other non-governmental organizations being aware of it. So there is still some doubt in my mind.

The Human Rights Watch report was quite well done. It is well foot-noted and referenced. It has some nice diagrams and explains the facts in evidence quite well. I would postulate that even the US Congress could probably understand the material. (Even though it's not written in Crayon with big letters and a picture of the Cookie Monster.)

The fact that Russia has stepped up to the plate and brokered a deal to control Syria's WMD is actually a godsend for al-Assad. He and his forces are quite capable of routing the opposition without resorting to their use. I think that he has probably not been in full control of his military forces since this conflict began. And removing the CW option would give the rest of the world, once again, the option to ignore what's going on there.

Make no mistake: I'm not a fan of al-Assad, or any other repressive dictator. However, given the propensity of the Middle Eastern countries to promulgate sectarian violence, I believe a non-sectarian dictator is the lesser of two evils. As I always say: Better the zoo keepers run the zoo than the zoo animals.

And finally, why isn't this thread on the front page? I just stumbled across it when I went to look at the new "Firehose" feature. One of the main reasons that I participate in ATS is because of information like this. I'm sure there are many others here who share this desire.


posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 04:15 PM
reply to post by DexterRiley

Agreed. This is the very first information that even remotely makes the case against the Assad forces. For me personally, this changes things. I'm far less sure it was the rebels.

One disturbing fact, however. On page 4 of the report HRW mentions that the 140mm soviet rocket used in the attack has a chemical weapons payload that contains 2.2kg of sarin. Coincidentally, that is exactly the amount of sarin Turkey discovered in the apartment of known Syrian rebels.

edit on 10-9-2013 by jtma508 because: add'l info

posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 07:35 PM
This is an important document. I'm shocked more people haven't jumped on this thread. I was solidly convinced that the rebels were behind the chemical attacks. After reading the HRW report I have to say there is at least reasonable doubt.

posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 09:17 PM
reply to post by jtma508

Agreed. This one is a sleeper, as most threads that don't fully support murderous dictators generally don't gain steam here... : P

It is what it is though..

edit on 10-9-2013 by canucks555 because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 09:18 PM
reply to post by jtma508

reply to post by DexterRiley

Agreed. This is the very first information that even remotely makes the case against the Assad forces. For me personally, this changes things. I'm far less sure it was the rebels.

It a very well written document. So, it's hard to ignore all of the good points the HRW report makes, as well as the evidence it presents.

It tends to give some credence to the POTUS position on the matter.

But, the conspiracist part of me wants to say that it's just too convenient. A report comes out justifying Obama's decision. And simultaneously Russia authors a peace deal that gives Obama a reason not to fire off the Cruise Missiles. This maintains his credibility and satisfies the American public.

One disturbing fact, however. On page 4 of the report HRW mentions that the 140mm soviet rocket used in the attack has a chemical weapons payload that contains 2.2kg of sarin. Coincidentally, that is exactly the amount of sarin Turkey discovered in the apartment of known Syrian rebels.

edit on 10-9-2013 by jtma508 because: add'l info

That jumped out at me as well. The Turkish report said about 2 kg of Sarin was recovered in the possession of the Al-Qaeda linked rebels. That was the last I heard of that...

What is also disturbing is that these rockets were sold by the USSR to Syria in the 1960's. Apparently that also included the chemical weapon warheads, because some of the identification markings were on the warheads themselves. But, I doubt that the USSR sold them these weapons with the chemical agents intact. On the other hand, it made it a lot easier to deploy domestically produced chemical agents. Apparently weaponization is the most difficult part of the process.


posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 09:28 PM
It's an interesting report with some compelling evidence, but I do question its impartiality. Specifically, the use of Keith. B. Ward as 'expert: as the following link reveals, he used to work for Homeland Security and the F.B.I.

Keith Ward info near the bottom

I also feel it's a little arrogant and hypocritical to claim there is no evidence for the hypothesis of rebel responsibility. There is available evidence, and a significant amount coming from witness statements, which seems one of the main forms of evidence in the report.

posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 09:50 PM
reply to post by canucks555

The report says that the reason to believe Syrian Army did this, is that heavy ground launchers required for distribution were never in Rebel hands, yet there easily available footage and photographs that clearly show they do have access to them and that they came into rebel hands very quickly . This report also does not examine and does not preclude Israeli or US or other Arab/Saudi actors in region acting independently or in collusion either.

Rebels utilizing ground base launchers - chemical weapons canisters attached.

Video Syrian rebels discussing gas attacks LINK

Video LINK of rebels using a capturing rocket launchers - heavy mobile. Something the report above denies they have available.

Video Turkey finds sarin gas in hands of Syrian rebels LINK

Video UN saying rebels used sarin gas LINK

Video, questioning FSA's legitimacy altogether. LINK

It is well documented that rebels took over several weapons caches early in the war due to US aid on the ground, and IDF supportive bombing. They/rebels have and have had have access to ALL the same forms of Syrian weaponry that's available to the Gov forces since about week 2.

Also HRW have some dubious history and a long held US allegiance, they come under a lot of scrutiny themselves for bias reportage.

The international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been criticized by national governments, other NGOs, its founder and former Chairman Robert L. Bernstein, and the media. It has been accused by critics of being influenced by United States government policy.[/] Source

Right now I don't believe anyone. I assume outright that everyone but the dead are lying and everyone is responsible. I also feel that the only message Obama will send in bombing is that he is easily led, easily baited and has no effective control over the Pentagon.

edit on 10-9-2013 by hariahinoz because: (no reason given)

posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 10:08 PM
After Obama's speech I just had to get on the net to find physical proof where Assad or Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem verbally said that they will give up their chemical weapons and cooperate with the International Community and turn them over. I found no such thing. I've only heard it from this " Human Rights Community" that Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said as much on Lebbenon T.V.

I want to hear it out of their mouths. I have seen the dirty under handed media twist and turn this mans word. When interviewed by Charlie Rose he tried to trick Assad and us into thinking he was going to turn these weapons over when Assad clearly said... " You're ASSuming I have chemical weapons. He didnt admit to it.

CBS tried to lie about this as well. The only honest man I heard from tonight was good old Bob Schiecfer ....

Bob Schieffer

Has anyone seen physical proof of either Assad or his FM admitting to having Chemical Weapons? I'm almost positive the Military Ind. Complex has them. Obama thinks we're absolutely stupid. His whole speech made me ill. And I'll tell yea... Assad has warned that if Obama attacks because it won't be "us" the people... He will come after us! And quite frankly I don't blame him. He's having dinner w/ Kerry one minute and the next minute he's having to defend his Country over the almighty dollar and resources!!!

I got to thank Putin on this one... I should also say that I'm not saying Assad doesn't have chemical weapons..I've just heard him deny it and... Who else has them?? I feel a person and a Country has the right to protect themselves at all cost. When your up against Nukes and you don't have quite the stock pile other Countries have then your going to use whatever is at your disposal to protect your home or people. I wouldn't want to get bullied and have my family killed either on a lie which is pretty much proven that Assad did NOT gas his own people.

Ok... Sorry about the rant.. lol

posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 10:09 PM
reply to post by twfau


I also feel it's a little arrogant and hypocritical to claim there is no evidence for the hypothesis of rebel responsibility. There is available evidence, and a significant amount coming from witness statements, which seems one of the main forms of evidence in the report.

Excellent point. It's easy for Human Rights Watch to publish a report detailing their evidence and conclusions, and dismiss contrary evidence. It's much more difficult to dispute the other information that weakens their case.

Is there a good link where we can find a report that corrals all of that contrary information into a single source? I think that the HRW report should be debated. Is there enough information available to contradict the conclusions that they reached?


posted on Sep, 10 2013 @ 11:07 PM
Here's the first paragraph on the HRW About Us Page:

Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For more than 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.

Note: Bold-Italics are mine. HRW: About Us

Actually this report is kind-of their "thing." In reviewing their list of published reports, they say very little about the atrocities committed by the rebels. A quick read of one report gave me the impression that the report was providing cover to the rebels that, like the government, took over some schools. The section left me with the distinct impression that when those schools were obliterated by government forces, it was because the government was after the opposition forces. HRW: Safe No More

Well, now that some of the weaknesses of the messenger have been exposed. What parts of the evidence can be debated?


posted on Sep, 11 2013 @ 05:32 AM
reply to post by tracehd1

I should also say that I'm not saying Assad doesn't have chemical weapons..I've just heard him deny it

In a September 2nd interview, Assad said that he would neither confirm or deny whether or not the government had chemical weapons. So, what do you think?

posted on Sep, 11 2013 @ 08:15 AM
I don't doubt that the rebels have and may very well have used chemical weapons. And it's clear that they have committed atrocities. Atrocities, regrettably, are a side effect of just about every armed conflict. But as far as the August 21st attack goes these are some of the issues that, for me, stand out:

1. At least 8 rockets hit in each of two neighborhoods 16km apart. In each neighborhood the rockets fell in relatively quick succession. This was documented by multiple witnesses on-scene. This suggests multiple launchers due to the time it takes to reload the launcher.

2. The first attack was by Soviet-made 140mm rockets. The second, later attack was by what is believed to be Syrian-made 330mm rockets designed to be launched from Iranian-made launchers. Both the Soviet and Iranian armament has long been known to be part of the Syrian armory.

3. These are both truck-mounted launchers and have never been seen in the possession of the rebels.

4. The 140mm rockets hold ~20L and the 330mm rockets hold 50-60L of sarin. This means the rebels would have had to have been in possession of at least 560L of sarin. That's a lot.

5. The mixing and filling of the rockets requires specialized expertise and equipment not known to be in the hands of the rebels.

6. Given where the rockets hit and the known min/max range of the rockets, it is relatively straightforward to determine from where they could have been launched. That fixes their launches from government military installations and controlled areas.

That sarin gas was used is not at-issue. The physical evidence (rocket components, engines, markings, etc.) was well documented soon after the attack (see the HRW report for links) and points to documented Syrian military munitions. Multiple eyewitness accounts confirm the number and cadence of the attacks. It seems pretty clear that the attacks required a level of sophistication in handling nerve agents, a substantial quantity of sarin, and the ability to quickly launch both 140mm and 330mm rockets in relatively rapid succession.

Although I was quickly onboard blaming the rebels for the attack (cause it seemed to make the most sense) I'm having trouble believing they have the ability/materiel to pull of the attack as documented. Given the fact that the Russians certainly must know these facts as well it makes their motives seriously suspect. Just as most people have blamed the rebels for the attacks since it would seem that had the most to gain, perhaps Assad et al used that to mask their own attack? I just have a lot of doubt suddenly.

posted on Sep, 11 2013 @ 01:24 PM
S&F to the OP for bringing some outside light to this matter. It erks me to read some of the threads here in regards to this matter that are filled with continuous hate and non-constructive bias, criticism, and pointing blame without any real leverage to back-up, because in all honesty, we as spectators have no clue what ours and others governments know, see, and share behind closed doors. I see a lot of blind speculation for the most part that turns into more and more hearsay without any real facts. It's these things that are just spreading more and more hate throughout the world.

One thing I can agree with from an above post is that no matter which way you look at it, the crisis (which I strongly believe it is) in Syria is a lose, lose. The killing needs to stop and no one can really be trusted (at least from my viewpoint) from being on the outside looking in. Outside intervention needs to happen no doubt, and I'm glad our world is starting to come together collectively to try to do something about it. One can only hope and pray that whatever comes about from the US, Russia, and the UN collectively coming together begins some actual progress.

edit on 11-9-2013 by Diligence because: Typos...

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