The alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun led rapidly and directly to the attack by the US on a Syrian airbase, shared with the Russians, so it is important to look at the evidence in order to discover the truth of what happened.
The accusation is that a Syrian air force plane dropped chemical weapons on the town and the US have reportedly backed this up with evidence showing the flight track of a plane which put it over Khan Sheikhoun at 0333
7Z and 0346Z, corresponding to 06.37 and 06.46 local Syrian time, that morning:
The photo above is not featured on the Department of Defense web site but was featured on ABC who say:
“Officials decided to declassify the photo to prove that Syria’s Shayrat air base was linked to the chemical attack, Capt. Jeff Davis, a Defense Department spokesperson said Thursday night.”
Now, a video uploaded to YouTube at 4:59am UTC (7.59 Syrian time) by an anti-Syrian government source claims to show the airstrike during which the alleged chemical attack occurred:
The video shows no aircraft but four plumes – three of which appear to be conventional explosions.
It is worth noting that the third plume in the series panning left to right appears different to the others and hugs the ground more closely whilst it does not seem to be creating a mushroom type cloud.
A Sarin bomb would include high explosive only as a detonator in order not to destroy the substance and in order to distribute the Sarin droplets over the area.
The Syrian Arab News Agency reports Syria’s foreign minister Walid al-Moallem denying Syrian involvement saying:
The Foreign Minister explained that the campaign of accusing the Syrian army of using chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun started at 06:00 am, while the first air raid carried out by the Syrian army was at 11:30 am of the same day targeting an ammunition store of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists that included chemical weapons.
The question of what type of chemical was released in Khan Sheikhoun, by whom and under what circumstances remains open and should be the subject of an impartial international investigation.
So, can the account of the Syrian Foreign Minister and the US flight map and the video evidence be reconciled? Perhaps only if we posit a theory in which a Syrian jet does indeed fly over Khan Sheikhoun but does not release any weapons, whilst jihadists time their explosions (including one which at least mimics a chemical release) to dovetail with the overflight, making sure to release a video which makes the process look like an airstrike.
(Article substantially revised 10/04/2017)
Update on developments of 12 April 2017
The White House published an “intelligence report” aiming to justify their belief Syria was responsible for the chemical weapons attack.
The report was quickly answered by Professor Theodor Postol of MIT who in a quick assessment described the report as amateurish and argued the crater and rocket used in evidence point “to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft.”
On 13 April Postol wrote an Addendum to his earlier assessment, including the photographic evidence which proved that the alleged site of the chemical attack had been tampered with.