Mainstream 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.