Chemical weapons Syria

Final Sellström Report to be delivered to UN on December 13th

According to the Swedish Government web site, the long delayed final report of the UN team investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria is due to be presented to the UN on 13th December.

The news came following a 25th November meeting between Swedish Defense Minister Karin Enstrom and Ake Sellström at the Defense Ministry in Stockholm.

According to the Swedish government, “The final report is planned to be presented to the UN on 13 December.”

Ake Sellström, who was previously director of Defence Research Institute’s department for protection against nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in Umeå, (now the Division of CBRN protection and security), presented an initial report to the UN in September which was sadly deficient in numerous respects, whilst being interpreted by many as pointing the finger of blame for the chemical weapons attack on Ghouta at the Syrian government.

Whilst the initial “rocket intersection theory,” which was widely posited as implicating the Syrian regime, has been discredited (due to the range of the rockets involved, textual analysis of the initial report and an apparent error in the report’s conflicting estimates of one of the key trajectories), regime-did-it theorists point to the documented evidence of Syrian government forces using similar munitions to those used on 21st August, the difficulties rebels would have had in developing an effective chemical weapons programme and absence of evidence of a secret chemical weapons lab.

On the other hand, proponents of the rebels-did-it theory argue the actual ranges of the rockets employed mean they were fired from inside rebel territory and the nature of the sarin indicates it was not the product of an advanced military programme, such as Syria is believed to have possessed.

Another body of opinion is undecided and includes those who argue the fact the alleged rocket impact sites were in rebel possession for days before the UN arrived at the sites means the evidence is tainted.

Although the public debate has been largely concerned with the immorality of the use of chemical weapons, the facts of the matter may have important geo-political implications, as the possible use of chemical weapons by jihadists in Syria, either in Khan Al-Assal or on 21st August, would accelerate the current rethink of Western strategy in Syria, and demand much closer cooperation with both Syria and Iran in tackling Al Qaeda’s effective control of much of that country.

The final UN report should clearly address the discrepancies and manifest failures of the initial report, indicate which rockets were found where, which evidence was gathered from which scene and how this relates to the victims and the report’s conclusions. The report should also be informed by the knowledge the UN now has of the Syrian chemical weapons programme, the evidence presented by Russia, the Syrian government and Western intelligence agencies. In short, the report should stand up to scientific scrutiny, as well as being the kind of document which could be credibly presented in a court of law, which the initial document patently wasn’t.

Above all, the final report should inform the public of the facts fully, as required by the OPCW CW inspection regime, explained most ably by Gleb Bazov here.

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