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What intelligence / information has been released so far that support the hypothesis that the chemical attack was conducted by the Syrian government?

Isn't it a very complex scenario with many rebel groups and ISIS all in a power struggle? Wouldn't there be other organisations besides Assad's regime that may benefit from a chemical strike, especially if it provokes American intervention?

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    At present it is unlikely that any evidence would be presented publicly if it exists and this question is one of a series in which users are simply posting unsubstantiated and opinionated rants against whichever nation they want to take aim at. – Venture2099 Apr 7 '17 at 9:37
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    @Venture2099 So there's no evidence, got it. – easymoden00b Apr 7 '17 at 13:19
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    There might be. You just don't have the security clearance to see it. So no, you don't "got it". Funny thing about military action and intelligence; it's not something we devolve to layman on stack exchange. – Venture2099 Apr 7 '17 at 14:08
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    @zibadawatimmy No actually Kerry publicly proposed that Assad should give up his stockpile, and quickly added "but he is never going to do that". The Russians took that opportunity and a few weeks later they started destroying it and inspections started. – dan-klasson Apr 7 '17 at 17:17
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    @Venture2099 So the government doesn't have to explain their reasons for going to war to the public any more? And we shouldn't even be asking? How very dictatorial of you. – J Doe Apr 8 '17 at 0:04
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Survivors of the attack claim that bombs delivered the chemicals and the Pentagon released a map tracking the flight of a plane it says dropped those bombs.

enter image description here

The flight path shows the plane taking off from Shayrat, one of Assad's military airfields, and flying over Khan Sheikhoun the same day the attacks occurred.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Philipp Apr 7 '17 at 18:57
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    Nobody is disputing that the bombings were carried out by the Syrian air force. So you adding this map is completely irrelevant to the question. Regarding the eye-witnesses, I find it highly unlikely that people on the ground, even experts, would be able to determine that those particular bombs were chemical weapons. So essentially, this answer provides zero evidence of who did it. – dan-klasson Apr 7 '17 at 19:16
  • @dan-klasson : according to the "it was an accident" viewpoint, this plane might have carried conventional bombs which then blew up the chemical plant / storage facility which contained the actual chemicals. Therefore, even if Assad actually did use chemical weapons, the path of a bomber alone would not be sufficient to prove it. – vsz Apr 9 '17 at 19:00
  • @vsz Regarding your first sentence, that is the Russian side of the story. Regarding the second, you seem to be contradicting yourself. A typo perhaps? – dan-klasson Apr 9 '17 at 19:10
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    Remember that the Idlib region does not admit independent journalists running around reporting; and mainstream US/European media do not have reporters in the area. Their reporters typically sit in Beirut and get fed information by interested parties (mostly the Islamist rebels themselves I think). Anyway, I would be skeptical CNN actually interviewed any survivors of the attack directly, so please consider rephrasing "claim" as "are reported by the Islamit rebels media to be claiming". Also, that the plane's trajectory reference should be qualified as per @dan-klasson's comment. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Jun 2 '17 at 21:21
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The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weaponshad's Fact-Finding Mission established the use of Sarin Gas in a report (PDF) released on 2017, June 29.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — 30 June 2017 — In a report released by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) confirmed that people were exposed to sarin, a chemical weapon, on 4 April 2017 in the Khan Shaykhun area, Idlib Province in the Syrian Arab Republic.

OPCW and the United Nations have formed a Joint Investigation Mechanism to investigate allegations of chemical attacks in Syria, and in particular the case of the attacks on Khan Sheikhoun. It has been mandated to establish the responsibilities for this event.

The report (extracts / PDF), released on 26 october 2017, concluded that a Syrian Arab Air Force aircraft was responsible for dropping the sarin during the attack.

The report documents why (one of) the explanation offered by Russia (a bomb strike on a sarin stocking site) is implausible : the nerve agent would then have been burnt and buried and not released in such huge quantities in the air. It also studies the hypothesis of an artisanal ground bomb releasing sarin gas, and dismisses it.

It concludes that a Syrian Soukhoï-22 attacked at 6:45 am, dropping first three conventional bombs and then one chemical bomb.

Evidence collected includes satellite images, interviews with witnesses and victims, communications from fighters, photos and videos including some images of bombs remnants, and analysis of samples.

  • Did that team visit the site and have free access to purported victims? – einpoklum - reinstate Monica May 17 '18 at 16:42
  • @einpoklum They could not visit the site because Damas refused them to. They interviewed 43 witnesses that have been proven to have been on site during the attack. Evidence collected also includes satellite images, communications from fighters, photos and videos including some images of bombs remnants, and analysis of samples. – Evargalo May 17 '18 at 18:15
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    The site is not under regime control, it's under Islamist militia control. Where did they interview the witnesses? – einpoklum - reinstate Monica May 17 '18 at 18:28
  • Actually, it is under Assad's control now (since circa 27/02/18), but it was not during the investigation. But because the JIT is a UN body, it cannot operate on (formally) Syrian territory without a Syrian passport. Sure, they would also have had to negotiate access with HTS, but AFAIU HTS was very willing to grant them access to the site. Anyway, Damas denied the passports. The witnesses were interviewed in 'neighbouring countries' (and some still on place by video itw). I suspect Turkey and Lebanon, but you can check in the report (I'm on smartphone right now). – Evargalo May 17 '18 at 19:10
  • No, Khan A-Shaykun is not under regime control, it's been under rebel control for years. Anyway, how fortunate that HTS was so cooperative as to send the witnesses it likes to Turkey and Lebanon. I will have a look at the report though. – einpoklum - reinstate Monica May 17 '18 at 19:21
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There has been no evidence presented whatsoever. Russia, U.K and Germany has called for an investigation but U.S has shown no interest so far.

It is unlikely that Assad is behind the chemical attack for two reasons:

  • Assad has the full backing of the Russian air force.
  • Using chemical weapons can be a justification for U.S to illegally attack Syria. Which incidentally is what happened today.
  • All Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles were allegedly destroyed and U.N inspections were subsequently performed. But only in areas controlled by the Syrian government forces.
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    A possibility is Al-Assad (on his own or because of Russia suggested it) ordering the attack just to check Trump's reaction, as his declarations during the campaign seemed to point to an isolationist stance. Otherwise, I agree that an attack from Al-Assad seems rather dumb because of the risks involved when he already was winning the war, but there is always the possibility that Assad's assesment of the situation is not the same than ours. And, in every human situation (specially one with an autocrat without checks), dumb is definitely a possibility (e.g Stalin & Hitler). – SJuan76 Apr 7 '17 at 10:01
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    The linked press article is from 2013. Note that the 2013 chemical weapons attacks have been investigated by UN. In 2017, Russia actually prevented an investigation demanded by other SC members. They claim to know what happened. – Roland Apr 7 '17 at 10:45
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    @SJuan76 If Assad is so dumb he wouldn't be losing the war. Everyone saw what happened to Khadaffi. Although I agree, that is always a possibility. Or that they mistakenly loaded the plane with chemical weapons is another equally remote possibility. Although normally, the most plausible explanation is the correct one. – dan-klasson Apr 7 '17 at 10:55
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    Not sure how having the backing of the Russian air force makes it unlikely that a Syrian government plane would carry out an attack. One would think that having "backing" gives them a feeling of more security, not less. – PoloHoleSet Apr 7 '17 at 16:58
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    @dan-klasson - It's insane if you don't think the Russians don't have an equal deterrent effect on NATO. If you look at, before they reached agreements on de-escalating, who was aggressively harassing the other, it was all the Russians buzzing and tracking NATO planes, not the other way around. Again, this tends to call your own credibility and motivations into question. – PoloHoleSet Apr 10 '17 at 15:28

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