Observations on the UN final report into chemical weapons use in Syria

December 14, 2013 — 5 Comments

A few comments on the final UN report on alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria are in order.

The report provides evidence which suggests use of chemical weapons against the Syrian army, including on a fairly large-scale in Khan al-Assal and including with the use of Sarin. This has major implications which should give impetus to the peace negotiations in Geneva and ensure that the countries supporting the insurgency think very carefully about the dangers in what they are doing.

To understand the methodology of the UN inspectors and their report it is well worth watching the press briefing linked to below.

A few points on aspects which have previously been addressed on this site:

Moadamiya

At the press conference following the publication of the report (link below) Professor Sellstrom was unaware that the rocket examined in Moadamiyah was apparently filmed in a separate location, prior to the team’s investigation:

Professor Sellstrom and Scott Cairns have been sent the link to this video and their comments would be most welcome.

The UN has adopted the initial report on Ghouta in its final report and stood by their text as regards the trajectory given in Moadamiyah. It is clear from a reasonable reading of the report that the trajectory provided was of the rocket motor as it allegedly impacted, and the rocket was believed by the OPCW inspectors to have hit a neighbouring building first, before travelling through a trellis. The use of this trajectory by HRW and the media was therefore not justified. The HRI complaint to the BBC about their reporting of this issue should therefore be upheld by the BBC trustees.

Zamalka

From geo-location of the scene in Zamalka (thanks to YouTube footage of the OPCW inspectors at work) it appears the trajectory given in the initial report is incorrect. Comment from Professor Sellstrom and Scott Cairns on this would be very welcome.

In the final report, additional laboratory results have been published and some changes made to previous results regarding the alleged Ghouta attacks. One sample which may be particularly significant is sample 27. That Sarin would survive on the surface of a window for eight days is a very strange finding. The finding needs to be followed up and video of the examination of the window, if released may shed further light on this matter.

Human Rights Watch

At the press briefing following the release of the final report, Professor Sellstrom confirmed that it would be a fair guess to assess the range of the rockets presented to the UN inspectors in Zamalka at around 2km. (on around 16.00 in the video).

The role of HRW in energetically propagandizing a now discredited theory regarding the evidence in the UN report in order to push for a “humanitarian intervention” in the form of bombing Syria, should come under close scrutiny and HRW director Ken Roth should resign.

UN Report Conclusion

Professor Sellstrom has made it crystal clear that he does not have information which would stand up in a court of law with respect to those responsible for the proven use of chemical weapons in Syria.

To determine the full facts and establish culpability a more thorough and intrusive investigation is required.

5 responses to Observations on the UN final report into chemical weapons use in Syria

  1. 

    Did they ever make a definitive statement on the quality of Sarin? It appears that was commented on to the UN.

  2. 

    One thing that bothers me is that the chemical missiles have distinct physical differences to the HE versions. This has not been seriously commented on.

    One significant difference is the rocket motor. The HE types burn for 3.0 seconds. The Liwa Al-Islam missile burned for 1.6-1.8 seconds (and incidentally the Amer Mosa missile burned for 2.3 seconds)

    While payload weight will make a smallish difference – especially at maximum range, a completely different motor will have a large effect on characteristics.

    1.6-1.8 seconds is characteristic of a standard 122mm rocket – which coincidentally is a perfect match for the physical dimensions of the chemical variant motor.

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