5 Comments

Claims of a chemical attack in #Syria cannot be trusted.

cegrab-20130821-100409-139-1-522x293Mainstream media are carrying stories about an alleged chemical weapon attack just outside of Damascus in the towns of Zamalka and Ein Tarma, in which it is claimed at least200 people lost their lives.

A 43 second video has been posted on the internet which claims to show very young children who are alleged victims of the ‘attack’ being treated in a small room. Another 3 minute video claims to show the immediate aftermath of the ‘attack’, in which people are seen searching the rubble for survivors, and in which they are moving around in a dusty cloud. Neither of the videos have been authenticated.

The immediate effects of exposure to sarin gas (according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) are likely to appear within a few seconds of exposure. Often death occurs within a few minutes. None of the people moving around in the cloudy dust shown in the aftermath video show any signs of physical distress.

If a sarin attack took place involving multiple projectiles (as claimed in the reports about this attack), the nerve agent is likely to be present for hours, and possibly days – depending on atmospheric conditions.

The claims have been made by opposition groups, with Syrian Revolution General Commission heading the release of the videos and main reports.

The Syrian Revolution General Commission is a coalition of around 40 opposition groups which broke away from the Syrian National Coalition claiming that the SNC were more interested in their own affairs than the revolution. The majority of the group’s leaders remain anonymous – citing security concerns as reasons for keeping their identity secret. Major figures within the group are known.

Suhair al-Atassi is a female activist who has a history of opposition to the Assad regime through various organisations, including the Democratic Socialist Union – an organisation her father was very active in. She currently lives in France.

Nidal Darwish often represents the group in public.  Little is known about him other than he lives in Switzerland.

It appears that the Syrian Revolution General Commission has little interest in a diplomatic solution to the Syrian situation. In a statement made in 2012, the organisation said “The priority now is to continue to strengthen unity among the Syrian revolutionary forces, mainly the Free Syrian Army inside the country, and to secure support for this (military) option by all means,” as it pulled out of an Arab league conference.

In a report compiled by Institute for the Study of War, many Syrians remain suspicious of the Syrian Revolution General Commission. One Syrian said that he was wary of any group that claimed to “represent the people,” adding that “only the people can represent the people.” Another Syrian said “there are too many groups trying to take over the revolution.”

When asked his opinion on the Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC), one Syrian activist who had volunteered with his local coordinating committee framed his resentment well. In answering, he shrugged his shoulders and resignedly asked, “Who’s that?”  After a large sigh, he continued, “I don’t even know, who is the SRGC? Who is its leader? Who are its members? I know nothing about this group except that they claim to ‘represent the people’— but everyone claims to ‘represent the people’.”

Further doubts over the validity of the SRGC were raised when their former official website was discovered to be registered in Bellevue, Washington, USA.

The claims of the latest alleged chemical attack become more bizarre when considering that a 20 strong team of UN chemical weapons inspectors arrived in Damascus three days ago with the approval and cooperation of the Assad government.

Ake Sellstrom head of the inspection mission, said he had seen TV footage of the latest attack but nothing more. “It sounds like something that should be looked into,” Mr Sellstrom told the Swedish TT news agency. Sellstrom said that whether his team went to the scene would depend on whether any UN member state went to the UN Secretary General and asked them to.

As yet, the claims of the SRGC and the YouTube videos have not been verified by any of the mainstream media reporting on the event. There is suspicion that the release of the claims has been stage-managed to coincide with the visit of the UN inspectors.

SRGC is an organisation of dubious pedigree who are intent on maintaining military conflict in Syria, and are organised under a tight veil of secrecy with dubious connections to the US and al-Qaeda networks.

Regardless of whether the Assad regime has used chemical weapons in the past, it makes no sense to use them while UN chemical weapons inspectors are in the country, and remains an illogical move which would severely damage Assad’s objectives. It doesn’t make sense at all.

What does make sense is that the release of this information by opposition organisations while the UN inspectors are in Syria would cause an international storm, especially if they are able to deploy traces of their own sarin stocks in the area and blame Assad.

Looking at the overall picture of these latest claims leads significant suspicion about their validity.Follow @martynjsymons

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5 comments on “Claims of a chemical attack in #Syria cannot be trusted.

  1. What a sad situation. Pray that wise voices will be heard in Syria.

  2. I would disagree with the reasoning of the blog post, while exposure to high levels of sarin will have an effect within a minute an exposure to a lower level of the substance is likely to cause symptoms to appear later. You might want to check Haber’s rule which can be expressed as k = C * t.

    Also how do you know that all the rockets or shells had poison gas in them, I think it would be better to pay attention to eye witnesses (including medical workers) and consider the results of any examination of physical evidence before making your mind up

    • Thank you Mark for your informative comment.

      Haber’s Rule is interesting and useful for a range of inhaled poisons under certain conditions, however there is research published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information that questions the validity and consistency of results obtained using Haber’s rule for sarin exposure.

      Reference to the effects of sarin was made in relation to the video which (according to The Syrian Revolution General Commission et al) shows people moving around in the impact zone in the immediate aftermath (dust) of the attack. It was also the statements of The Syrian Revolution General Commission and their allies that claimed the attack involved multiple projectiles containing sarin.

      In the aftermath of the attack, international organisations were not permitted by the Syrian Free Army to visit the area. In one article (which we can not find at the moment), the International Red Cross had said that it was prevented from entering the area by rebel factions after the attack. Other NGOs operating in the area have reported similar experiences.

      Unfortunately, there is no independently verifiable information available near to the time of the attack.

      No doubt sarin will be found, but the big question is how and when did it get there?

      The Free Syrian Army and its allies have committed horrendous atrocities against Syrian citizens – the people they are supposed to represent and be fighting for. Mass murder, torture, and other war crimes have been verified by independent organisations, yet these seem to be conveniently ignored by our western governments, as is the FSA possession and use of sarin.

      We don’t give a damn about who is in power in Syria – that is something for the Syrians to decide through due democratic process. What we are concerned about is the effect this unnecessary conflict is having on ordinary citizens who just want to go about their daily lives in peace.

      What is also of concern to us, is that our governments are determined to cause as much conflict as possible in the Middle-East whatever the cost for their own agendas. It has been proven time and time again that (in particular the US, UK, and France) western governments are ‘cherry picking’ the information they choose to pay heed to, even when the information they present is considered wholly unreliable by international organisations such as the UN.

      So we shall see what the outcome of this latest travesty is. We are heading to another Iraq – only this time our governments are trying to be more devious to gain public approval – which is fast disappearing.

      Again Mark, thank you for your comment.

      • Haber’s rule is a crude model but it is better than no model at all, I hold the view it will work well for sarin at higher concentrations but at low it will fail.

        The problem with Haber’s rule is that it ignores self repair and excretion of a substance by an animal. I suspect that it will be impossible to create a good pharmokinetic model for sarin in humans as it is not possible (for ethical reasons) to experiment on humans with diffierent doses of sarin and at different concentrations in air.

        I suspect that sarin in air will behave in a roughly similar way to gamma rays on yeast or a manmal cell line. Here for most cell types a clear dose rate effect exists. But at high dose rates a radiation version of Haber’s rules does apply.

        To make the decent model from rate constants I think you would need to know the rate at which a human forms acetylcholinesterase, also what the normal biological half life of acetylcholinesterase in a human is and what the rate at which the sarin-acetylcholinesterase complex breaks down to acetylcholinesterase. You would also need to know the rate at which sarin reacts with acetylcholinesterase and also what fraction of sarin is excreted or metabolised without reacting with acetylcholinesterase.

        If you look at http://markforeman.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/a-tale-of-two-cows/ you will be able to see an example of a model based on rate constants which works well for cows (and humans) for radioactive cesium.

  3. OOT / Mark,
    This chemical gas event is one that has tremendous implications which I’m sure you are aware of. As you seem to have knowledge about chemical weapons please push as hard as possible to arrive at the truth of who was responsible. Your actions could prevent World War III.
    Thank you,
    Jerry

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