Syria, chemical weapons, OPWC | Homeland Security Newswire

Chemical weaponsConfirmation: Assad has been using chemical weapons from stocks he pledged to relinquish in 2013

Published 5 February 2018

Labs performing scientific analysis for the UN chemical weapons watchdog have confirmed that the Assad regime has continued to use chemical weapons against Sunni civilians in Syria – chemical munitions from stocks which the regime was supposed to have relinquished in 2013. The analysis also concluded that it would have been virtually impossible for the anti-regime rebels to carry out a coordinated, large-scale chemical strikes with poisonous munitions, even if they had been able to steal the chemicals from the government’s stockpile.

Laboratories performing analysis for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OCPW) have confirmed linkage between the Syrian government’s chemical weapons stockpile and the largest sarin attack of the civil war.

Reuters reports that:

The tests found “markers” in samples taken at Ghouta and at the sites of two other nerve agent attacks, in the towns of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib governorate on 4 April 2017 and Khan al-Assal, Aleppo, in March 2013, two people involved in the process said. “We compared Khan Sheikhoun, Khan al-Assal, Ghouta,” said one source who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the findings. “There were signatures in all three of them that matched.”

Analysts note that the test results further reinforce the widespread belief by Western intelligence agencies that the Assad regime has not destroyed their chemical weapons supply, and that the regime is continuing to use them, which would violate not only the Chemical Weapons Convention, but also several UNSC resolutions. Despite Russian objections and denials, OCPW inspectors continue to find evidence of chemical weapons in Syria. “Independent experts, however, said the findings are the strongest scientific evidence to date that the Syrian government was behind Ghouta, the deadliest chemical weapons attack since the Halabja massacres of 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war,” Reuters reports.

“A match of samples from the 2013 Ghouta attacks to tests of chemicals in the Syrian stockpile is the equivalent of DNA evidence: definitive proof,” said Amy Smithson, a U.S. nonproliferation expert. The hexamine finding “is a particularly significant match,” Smithson said, because it is a chemical identified as a unique hallmark of the Syrian military’s process to make sarin. “This match adds to the mountain of physical evidence that points conclusively, without a shadow of doubt, to the Syrian government,” she told Reuters.”

Smithson and other experts familiar with the matter told Reuters it would have been virtually impossible for the rebels to carry out a coordinated, large-scale strike with poisonous munitions, even if they had been able to steal the chemicals from the government’s stockpile.

“I don’t think there is a cat in hell’s chance that rebels or Islamic State were responsible for the Aug. 21 Ghouta attack,” said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, an independent specialist in biological and chemical weapons.