The United Nations have issued a bombshell report that confirms the sarin gas attack in Syria on April 4th was completely ‘staged.’
Upon close inspection of the report by the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, it is clear that the official narrative claiming that the Syrian air force dropped a bomb containing nerve gas sarin on the insurgent-controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun, is completely false.
AlterNet reports: The reports by the two official international bodies appear to be aimed at closing the book on what happened at Khan Sheikhoun, where at least 83 deaths and 293 injuries occurred. But a months-long investigation by AlterNet into the questions around the attack raise serious questions about whether a sarin bomb was the source of the deaths. Relying on analysis from forensic and weapons experts, as well as a senior intelligence official with decades of experience in assessing bomb damage, the investigation suggests that a conventional weapon dropped by a Syrian plane struck barrels of a pesticide that created deadly phosphine gas that caused symptoms paralleling those of sarin and capable of causing mass casualties.
The evidence gathered in this investigation undercuts the credibility of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) laboratory test results that showed exposure to sarin, demonstrating how the organization violated its own protocols and opened the door for tampering. Further, the investigation raises questions about whether Russian and Syrian intelligence knew – or should have known – that the conventional strike on the target in Khan Sheikhoun carried a serious risk of mass casualties.
At the center of the U.N. Commission’s case is a crater in the middle of a road in Khan Sheikhoun in which two metal objects were found. The shoddy narrative of a sarin attack carried out by the Syrian government has flowed from this hole in the ground.
The Sarin Bomb Crater That Wasn’t
The UN commission report refers to the crater as a “hole,” commenting that it was “too small to be a crater,” but pronounces it consistent with a chemical weapon. Without any reference to a source of evidence, it refers to the two pieces of metal as “two parts of the bomb.” Although it admits to being “unable to determine the exact type of chemical bomb used,” it declared the two pieces of metal to be “consistent with sarin bomb produced by the former Soviet Union in the 250kg-class of bombs.”
But for longtime analysts of weapons impacts, the scene provoked serious doubts. In interviews, two highly qualified former U.S. government specialists noted that a chemical weapon could not have made a crater as large and deep as the kind that appeared in a raft of reports about the attack on Khan Sheikhoun, especially in asphalt.
“I have never seen a crater like that from a 122 millimeter CW [chemical weapon) warhead,“ said a former senior intelligence official, with decades of experience in analyzing bomb damage, who did not wish to be identified because of his continuing work with U.S. national security officials.
That observation reflects a fundamental difference between chemical and conventional high explosives munitions. Chemical weapons have only very small amounts of explosives in the “burster mechanism” – enough to open up the bomb to disperse the chemical, but not enough to cause a crater in the pavement. If a chemical munition had contained enough high explosives to create a large hole in the pavement, it would have burned up the chemical to be dispensed and could not have caused the mass casualties seen in Khan Sheikhoun.
The former senior intelligence officer declared the metal detritus inside the crater was staged. “I am certain that it was placed there after the fact,” he said. “The entire set-up looked like a pothole with a pipe over it, not a military explosion or impact.”
Pierre Sprey, an aeronautical engineer who spent many years at the Department of Defense as a weapons analyst, also doubted that the scene at the crater was genuine. “I have viewed the images of many, many weapons impacts of all kinds, and the photos didn’t look like any impact crater I’ve ever seen,” he said. Sprey said the site “looked more like a pothole than anything else – much more that than a weapons impact.”
Further undermining the credibility of the sarin attack narrative is the absence of any weapon. The main pieces of any chemical weapon should have fallen, still intact, just a few meters away from the crater, according to John Gilbert, senior science fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Proliferation and formerly head of the Onsite Inspection Agency in the Defense Department. Gilbert conducted the inspections of the former Soviet chemical arsenal in conjunction with the U.S.-Soviet 1990 chemical weapons agreement.
Sprey agreed that intact pieces of the weapon should have been found. “Without a shadow of a doubt you would have found the tail fins and nose cone,” said Sprey.
Not a single recognizable fragment of a weapon that could have delivered sarin gas was ever displayed in videos or photographs taken by the White Helmets or Syrian rebel media activists in Khan Sheikhoun. Solvang, the main author of the Human Rights Watch report on Khan Sheikhoun published May 1, acknowledged in an interview that he had asked all the personnel of the White Helmets civil defense organization and other witnesses interviewed by his organization whether they had seen any other parts of a weapon. All responded in the negative. (The White Helmets is a Western and Gulf-funded arm of the Syrian insurgency that is primarily responsible for influencing foreign news media and opinion for al local al Nusra Front officials).
Chunks of asphalt would also have been strewn around the crater by an airstrike. “Debris would be blown several meters away from the crater,” Gilbert noted in an interview. But independent Berlin-based forensic researcher Michael Kobs discovered footage suggesting no debris was on the road near the crater after that morning.
Kobs noticed a brief scene in a video published by Orient News Service on April 4, less than two hours after the alleged explosion at the site, showing (at 1.12) the road near the crater completely clear of pieces of asphalt and other debris. Using standard forensic techniques for estimating the time an image was taken based on the length of a shadow in relation to a fixed object, Kobs calculated that the video was shot between 8:30 and 8:50am, on April 4. The airstrike took place around 6:40-6:45 am, according to most witnesses.
Kobs found another video published April 6 that shows all the chunks of asphalt had been moved by hand to an area roughly five meters wide and two meters deep by the side of the road. The White Helmets or other health authorities authorities had placed the same red sign with skull and crossbones over the asphalt pieces that had been put inside the crater itself.
If a chemical weapon had exploded at that spot, the chunks of asphalt dislodged from the crater would have been covered with sarin liquid, which would have taken far more than a couple of hours to dry in the cool morning air. So any contact or inhalation near them would have been highly lethal.
Furthermore those two hours were the period during which the White Helmets and the Idib Health Directorate were engaged in taking dead and wounded to the White Helmet facility east of the Khan Sheikhoun. Given the extreme dangers associated with the handling of objects contaminated with sarin, the idea that the local government ordered civil defense teams to cart chunks of asphalt drenched in sarin away from the road during that first hour and a half seems absurd.
The video evidence indicates that the road near the crater was already clear before April 4 and the crater was therefore not the result of an air attack that morning. It now appears that the hole was either the remains of a previous military event or simply a pothole that had been filled in with dirt but not repaved. A video shot several hours after the chemical incident shows (at 3:04-3:08) what appears to be two large potholes within a few yards of the crater, both of which had been filled in with dirt but left unpaved.
Further evidence that the toxic gas that killed and injured residents could not have come from that crater can be found in the June 29 report of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Though the report concluded that sarin gas was used, and that it “likely” emanated from the crater, Figure 7 of the report contradicts these findings.
Figure 7 (seen above) provides an aerial view of Khan Sheikhoun, with the area where victims were stricken shaded in yellow. The image highlights the crater in red and labels it as “point 1,” and shows that the point lies only a few meters east of a residential neighborhood. Yet no part of that neighborhood is shaded yellow, meaning that no one in the immediate vicinity of the supposed blast site was exposed to a toxic gas. The OPCW did not explain how residents living just meters away from the scene of a chemical attack could have suffered no ill effects.
The U.N. Commission’s claim that the two pieces of metal found in the hole in the road were parts of the bomb dropped on the site relied on a report on Khan Sheikhoun issued by Human Rights Watch. HRW asserted that the large piece of metal and the small cap that had been shown in various positions in the crater could have been parts of a Soviet-era chemical weapon designated as KhAB-250. HRW argued that the KhAB-250 “has two green bands” supposedly used to indicate a chemical weapon, and that the piece of metal found in the crater had what appeared to be a green stripe on it. It also said the filler cap ”appears similar” to the cap covering the filling hole of that bomb.
That HRW claim was in turn apparently based on a tweet that itself relied on a Russian researcher who acknowledged that his assertion was just a hypothesis.