Analysis of video at the centre of the original allegations of “chemical weapons attacks” by the Syrian government indicates that the public is being misled about the facts in Syria and the so-called evidence of chemical weapons attacks comes about though a combination of riot control grenades, rebel fakery and Western intelligence duplicity.
British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed June 14th at a press conference, following President Obama’s determination that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons that: “There is credible evidence of multiple attacks using chemical weapons in Syria, including the use of the abhorrent agent sarin.”
“We have tested physiological samples at Porton Down. These include samples from Utaybah on the 19th of March and from Sheikh Maqsood on the 13 April.”
“We believe the scale of use is sanctioned and ordered by the Assad regime. We haven’t seen any credible reporting of chemical weapons use by the Syrian opposition. However, we assess that elements affiliated to Al Qaeda in the region have attempted to acquire chemical weapons for probable use in Syria.”
“That is the picture as described to me by the Joint Intelligence Committee and I always choose my words on this subject very carefully because of the issues there have been in the past.”
This speech has led to mainstream press such as The Guardian reporting Cameron’s speech in these terms: “Tests undertaken at Britain’s weapons research centre, Porton Down, showed sarin was used by regime forces at Utaybah on 19 March and at Sheikh Maqsood on 13 April, he said.”
If we look at the evidence for the use of chemical weapons in Sheikh Maqsood (aka Sheikh Maghsoud) we find it is based on video evidence produced by the Syrian opposition. Analysis of the video footage reveals the only kernel of truth in the “chemical attack” is a probable CS or smoke grenade, and the physiological symptoms of the supposed victims are fake.
Below is the video produced by elements of the Syrian rebels and uploaded to YouTube on 13 April. This video is linked to by the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria, one of the pro-rebel organisations which the UN use to create their body count, [Which. as an aside, takes no account of false reporting and refuses to submit its data to independent scrutiny]. The link documents the incident in Sheikh Maqsood in which it is claimed:
“Many victims were martyred due to regime forces shelling using chemical weapons, at the beginning news were reporting that shelling was using white phosphoric material and then other sources said it is (Sarin Gas), news to be validated.”
Here is the video:
Interestingly enough, a version of this video was also linked to from Eliot Higgins aka Brown Moses’ blog, although it has subsequently been pulled from YouTube.
Higgins gathered invaluable information about the symptoms of the supposed victims in this video, as well as the probable nature of the white plastic grenade which we can see in a still from the video at 01.25 and which is of a type which has been photographed in the possession of Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat Al-Nusra:
Paul from Allen Vanguard, an expert on Threat Intelligence tells Higgins:
”It would appear that this device is designed to be thrown and discharge a smoke which would explain the discoloring around the hole. The single hole suggests that the cylinder is designed to emit smoke for a longer period of time rather than quickly and in multiple directions which would be the likely effect if there were more holes.
If these canisters were dropped by helicopters, the purpose could have been to indicate/mark the area. The design of the canister would also support this as the smoke would visible for longer and emerge for a longer duration.
The fact that these canisters have only been seen on opposition fighters and in areas held by the opposition, it is likely that they have been sourced or produced by people/organisations sympathetic to the opposition.
The design, the areas in which they have been found and the condition of the ‘spent’ containers suggests that these cylinders are smoke canisters designed to emit a screening agent for use in tactical situations or as ‘markers’. The colour of the canister and the way it has been manufactured suggests that it is improvised or locally made. It is possible that it has been commercially made for public disorder scenarios. “
Asked if chemical agents such as sarin, VX, etc, would be delivered in such a device, Paul said:
“Sarin is a ‘non-persistent’ nerve agent. One of its characteristics is that it is an odourless liquid and the spent canisters would not be handled in the way that they are shown in the images. Like Vx, Sarin is not suited to being deployed in hand thrown canisters and would not leave marks next to the hole in the canister as shown in the image. “
Asked about the video showing victims from the Sheikh Maqsood attack Paul said: “None of the people in the hospital are wearing IPE (individual protective equipment); they are not being affected by the same condition as the patient on the stretcher. The first ‘victim’ is not in pain and does not have any visible symptoms beyond a non-moving fresh thin, white trail of foam leading down his face from each nostril. This is not a recognised symptom of nerve agent attack and the early signs (pinpointing of pupils, running nose, tight chest & difficulty of breathing) are absent.
The second ‘victim’ is a woman. She has no visible symptoms of nerve agent attack.
The third ‘victim’ is a man. He has thin bright white foam at the left hand side of his mouth. The foam is not moving and no more is emerging. There are no symptoms of a nerve agent having been ingested by this man.
The third ‘victim’ is a woman. She appears to have red blotches on her face and has breathing apparatus in her mouth. She is not moving. I don’t think that this is a nerve agent. However, red blotches and shortness of breath (patient requiring artificial respiration) is a symptom of a blood agent, such as hydrogen cyanide.
The presence of a camera person, lack of IPE worn by the staff, lack of general panic and lack of recognised symptoms amongst the ‘victims’ makes me think that the event has been staged. The symptoms that have been presented have probably been elaborated with single applications of foam; the foam has stopped emerging by the time the camera is shown at them. Only the third ‘victim’ has recognisable symptoms of a chemical attack but even so, it is unlikely that a blood agent would be dispersed using a hand thrown canister because of the unreliability of the container and risk to the thrower of being contaminated by the blood agent.”
Steve Johnson, Deputy Editor of CBRNe World, a bi-monthly magazine for professionals charged with planning for or responding to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosives (CBRNe) threat or incident, when asked about the grenade said:
“The device does not have a fragmentation jacket and so is most likely a carrier grenade or some type. These include CS, CN, Smoke, WP. Its an unusual design with the fixing screw and small port in the side. It bears resemblance to devices used earlier in the conflict by security forces, which emitted CS. Notably the man with it on his vest had no apparent protective equipment. Which suggests it’s more likely to be smoke or a riot control agent.”
Asked about the “victims” he told Higgins:
“I can see ER room chaos and an extremely unusual foaming at the mouth. Doubly unusual as the person, despite being able to move makes no attempt to remove it. No solid conclusions one way or the other could be made from this video. Although it does raise a suspicion of faking symptoms with the highly uniform, highly white foam.”
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a Former Commander of UK CBRN Forces and COO SecureBio said:
“The plastic device shown in your blog and as carried by the JAN fighter appears to be a riot control grenade, usually filled with a tear gas (eg. CS).”
“These grenades will usually flash and then smoke shortly after being initiated but are unlikely to burn for prolonged periods; unless filled with phosphorus however, the body of the grenade would not be made from plastic if it had a WP fill.”
Bretton-Gordon confirmed sarin is a liquid so wouldn’t have been used in the grenade, although he pointed out CS gas can be lethal in high concentrations.
On the Sheikh Maqsood attack victims he said:
“There are some inconsistent symptoms with nerve Agent poisoning in this attack. There is however some evidence to suggest that this attack is where the samples that the UK and US Govts and others, analysis comes from, which reported microscope traces of Sarin.”
So there we have it, the so-called chemical attacks by the Syrian regime, which would be completely counter-productive from the Syrian government’s point of view in any case, are almost certainly caused by a combination of riot control grenades and rebel fakery, combined with US and UK intelligence being adapted to fit the political circumstances.
Where we once had Bush and Blair and the sexed up dossier on Iraqi WMD, presented to the world by the hapless Colin Powell, we now have Obama and Cameron’s dodgey chemical weapons reports, presented to a somewhat less credulous public by fiction writer and deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.