Posts Tagged ‘Shayrat air base’

Tests link Assad regime stockpile to largest sarin attack — Syrian regime forces were behind the atrocity — Equivalent of DNA evidence

January 30, 2018

A Syrian boy holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a make-shift hospital following a reported gas attack on the rebel-held besieged town of Douma in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on Jan. 22, 2018. (AFP)
THE HAGUE: The Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpile has been linked for the first time by laboratory tests to the largest sarin nerve agent attack of the civil war, diplomats and scientists told Reuters, supporting Western claims that Syrian regime forces were behind the atrocity.
.
Laboratories working for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) compared samples taken by a UN mission in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta after the Aug. 21, 2013, attack, when hundreds of civilians died of sarin gas poisoning, to chemicals handed over by Damascus for destruction in 2014.
.
The tests found “markers” in samples taken at Ghouta and at the sites of two other nerve agent attacks, in the towns of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib governorate on April 4, 2017, and Khan Al-Assal, Aleppo, in March 2013, two people involved in the process said.
.
“We compared Khan Sheikhoun, Khan Al-Assal, Ghouta,” said one source who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the findings. “There were signatures in all three of them that matched.”
.
The same test results were the basis for a report by the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism in October, which said the Syrian regime was responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun attack, which killed dozens.
.
The findings on Ghouta, whose details were confirmed to Reuters by two separate diplomatic sources, were not released in the October report to the UN Security Council because they were not part of the team’s mandate.
.
They will nonetheless bolster claims by the US, Britain and other Western powers that Assad’s regime still possesses and uses banned munitions in violation of several Security Council resolutions and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
.
The OPCW declined to comment. Syria has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons in the conflict now in its seventh year and has blamed the chemical attacks in the opposition-held territory of Ghouta on the insurgents themselves.
.
Russia has also denied that Syrian regime forces have carried out chemical attacks and has questioned the reliability of the OCPW inquiries. Officials in Moscow have said the Syrian opposition staged the attacks to discredit the regime and whip up international condemnation.
.
Under a US-Russian deal after the Ghouta attack in 2013, Damascus joined the OPCW and agreed to permanently eliminate its chemical weapons program, including destroying a 1,300-ton stockpile of industrial precursors that has now been linked to the Ghouta attack.
.
But inspectors have found proof of an ongoing chemical weapons program in Syria, including the systematic use of chlorine barrel bombs and sarin, which they say was ordered at the highest levels of government.
.
The sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun in April last year prompted US President Donald Trump to order a missile strike against the Shayrat air base, from which the Syrian operation is said to have been launched.
.
Diplomatic and scientific sources said efforts by Syria and Russia to discredit the UN-OPCW tests establishing a connection to Ghouta have so far come up with nothing.
.
Russia’s blocking of resolutions at the Security Council seeking accountability for war crimes in Syria gained new relevance when Russia stationed its aircraft at Shayrat in 2015.
.
Washington fired missiles at Shayrat in April 2017, saying the Syrian air force used it to stage the Khan Sheikhoun sarin attack on April 4 a few days earlier, killing more than 80 people.
.
No Russian military assets are believed to have been hit, but Moscow warned at the time it could have serious consequences.
.
In June, the Pentagon said it had seen what appeared to be preparations for another chemical attack at the same airfield, prompting Russia to say it would respond proportionately if Washington took pre-emptive measures against Syrian forces there.
.
The chemical tests were carried out at the request of the UN-OPCW inquiry, which was searching for potential links between the stockpile and samples from Khan Sheikhoun. The analysis results raised the possibility that they would provide a link to other sarin attacks, the source said.
.
Two compounds in the Ghouta sample matched those also found in Khan Sheikhoun, one formed from sarin and the stabilizer hexamine and another specific fluorophosphate that appears during sarin production, the tests showed.
.
“Like in all science, it should be repeated a couple of times, but it was serious matching and serious laboratory work,” the source said.
.
Independent experts, however, said the findings are the strongest scientific evidence to date that the Syrian government was behind Ghouta, the deadliest chemical weapons attack since the Halabja massacres of 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war.
.
“A match of samples from the 2013 Ghouta attacks to tests of chemicals in the Syrian stockpile is the equivalent of DNA evidence: Definitive proof,” said Amy Smithson, a US non-proliferation expert.
.
The hexamine finding “is a particularly significant match,” Smithson said, because it is a chemical identified as a unique hallmark of the Syrian military’s process to make sarin.
.
“This match adds to the mountain of physical evidence that points conclusively, without a shadow of doubt, to the Syrian government,” she said.
.
Smithson and other sources familiar with the matter said it would have been virtually impossible for the opposition to carry out a coordinated, large-scale strike with poisonous munitions, even if they had been able to steal the chemicals from the government’s stockpile.
.
The UN-OPCW inquiry, which was disbanded in November after being blocked by Russia at the UN Security Council, also found that Daesh had used the less toxic blistering agent sulfur mustard gas on a small scale in Syria.

Advertisements

Iraq’s Sadr warns Assad could share Kadhafi’s fate — Calls for Assad to resign

April 11, 2017

AFP

Image result for Moqtada Sadr, photos

Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr — Al-Sadr is the most revered name in Shia Iraq and a friend if Iran and Russia

NAJAF (IRAQ) (AFP) – Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr on Tuesday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he risked suffering the same fate as slain Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi if he did not step down.

The maverick cleric had last week condemned the suspected deadly use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces against civilians, becoming a rare Shiite leader to openly challenge the Syrian president’s legitimacy.

Sadr issued a new statement on Tuesday that reiterated his position.

“I have urged him to step down to preserve the reputation of the Mumanaa and to escape a Kadhafi fate,” he said, using a word that refers to a so-called anti-Western “resistance front” that includes Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.

The Libyan strongman was captured and brutally killed in 2011 after 42 years in power while trying to flee Sirte, his hometown, as NATO-backed rebels closed in.

A chemical attack which has been widely blamed on Assad’s regime killed 87 civilians, including 31 children, in the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun on April 4.

The United States subsequently fired a barrage of 59 cruise missiles at Shayrat air base in Syria to punish Damascus, despite its denials of responsibility.

Sadr, who led a militia that fought the US occupation of Iraq, also condemned the American missile strike, urging all foreign parties involved in the Syria conflict to withdraw.

He had similar advice for two other leaders: President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi of Yemen and Bahrain’s King Hamad.

“I have not only called for the resignation of Bashar, but I had already called for Abedrabbo and the ruler of Bahrain to step down because they are still oppressing their people.