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Experts Don’t Buy Claim Syria Used Chemical Weapons
Posted on Jun 18, 2013
Late last week, some leading chemical weapons experts voiced skepticism about U.S. claims that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used sarin gas against rebels on at least four occasions this spring. Months of investigation have failed to uncover the telltale signs of an attack, they say.
“It’s not unlike Sherlock Holmes and the dog that didn’t bark,” Jean Pascal Zanders, a former senior research fellow at the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies and a leading expert on chemical weapons, told the McClatchy news service. “It’s not just that we can’t prove a sarin attack, it’s that we’re not seeing what we would expect to see from a sarin attack.”
Those missing items include cellphone photos and videos taken in the alleged attacks’ immediate aftermaths.
“In a world where even the secret execution of Saddam Hussein was taped by someone, it doesn’t make sense that we don’t see videos, that we don’t see photos, showing bodies of the dead, and the reddened faces and the bluish extremities of the affected,” he said.
Other experts pointed out that the Obama administration has yet to give details of what evidence it uncovered and how it obtained it.
Philip Coyle, a senior scientist at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, confirmed that it is difficult for experts to evaluate the validity of the administration’s claim without hard, public evidence. He said that what is known does not point to the use of sarin gas.
“Without blood samples, it’s hard to know,” he said. “But I admit I hope there isn’t a blood sample, because I’m still hopeful that sarin has not been used.”
McClatchy reported: “Even a proponent of the United States providing military assistance to the rebels raised doubts about the possible motive for announcing the chemical weapons conclusion.”
Only one detailed independent report of a chemical attack has surfaced since August 2012, when President Barack Obama announced that the use of such weapons would cross a “red line” that would make U.S. military involvement probable. A lengthy report published in Le Monde in May prompted French and British letters to the United Nations.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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