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French Report Concludes Syrian Government Used Sarin

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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White House map showing Syrian chemical attacks

White House map showing Syrian chemical attacks

On Monday the French government released a declassified report summarizing the evidence that it has gathered about three separate chemical weapons attacks on civilian populations in Syria. The report concluded that the two earlier attacks were basically practice runs as the Syrian regime’s adjusted its tactics and objectives away from battlefield objectives and towards raining terror on civilian populations.

I still have questions about the actual amount of sarin used—and the precise concentration—issues that the French report was rather vague about. And I am puzzled, given how toxic the August 21 attack apparently was, by videos that seem to show responders carrying the victims without benefit of protective gloves or masks. Given how easily sarin contaminates the clothing and skin, you would have expected these first responders to have shown signs of having been poisoned themselves. (I’m not saying that it wasn’t sarin; this is just a question mark in my mind.) The French report seems to anticipate that point by noting cases in which first responders were poisoned as well.

At any rate, I haven’t yet found an official translation of the document. So here’s my rough translation of some of the details found in the French document (using Google’s translation as a starting point and then correcting mistakes, rewording some phrases). I’ve also embedded the original French document, at the end of this post.

The relevant French authorities have recovered biomedical samples (blood, urine), environmental (soil) and materials (ammunition), taken from victims or on the sites of the attacks that occurred at Saraqeb on April 29, 2013, and at Jobar, in mid-April 2013.

On April 29, we know that the Syrian regime led an attack against the town of Saraqeb, located 30 km south-east of Idleb. A helicopter flew at high altitude over the city and dropped small ammunition that gave off white smoke on the western districts. About twenty people were poisoned and evacuated to hospitals, where medical staff were also contaminated by transfer [of material from the victims]. Further analysis confirmed that the agent used was sarin.

In mid-April, forty people were poisoned and evacuated in several eastern neighborhoods of Damascus, in the town of Jobar. Analysis of biomedical samples taken from victims under conditions that were verified by our services also confirmed the use of sarin.

These attacks show that the forces of the regime of Bashar Assad have adjusted their tactics and their stock of ammunition in order to terrorize the civilian population. These earlier developments and the simultaneous and massive use of chemical agents that occurred on the night of 21 August 2013 on the outskirts of Damascus thus confirm that the Syrian regime has deliberately crossed a threshold. Our services include information from national sources, suggesting that other actions of this nature could still be conducted.

And here are some details about the August 21 attack itself:

Based on a systematic technical analysis of 47 original videos of the events of August 21, a preliminary estimate of the number of victims in each neighborhood has been achieved. Looking solely at the video evidence, at 281 deaths occurred, in East Ghouta (districts Ain Tarma, Douma, Erbin of Jobar, Kfar Batna of Qas Alaa, of Zamalka) and West [Ghouta?] (neighborhood Mudamiyat Sham).

Our own inquiry confirms that half the victims in Duma hospital were women and children and in 50% of cases, death was immediate. Doctors deduced that a high concentration of toxin had been used.

Other independent assessments, for example, made ​​by Doctors Without Borders, showed that at least 355 people died. Several technical estimates made by various other sources, put the toll at about 1500 dead. The work conducted by our experts who modeled the impact of a chemical attack on the populations at the above listed sites are consistent with this number.

Besides the fact that the victims do not appear to have any bodily injury, the agonal symptoms are essentially generalized convulsions, nausea, vomiting, constricted pupils, an excess of saliva, dyspnea, choking, loss of consciousness and clinical signs consistent with chemical poisoning chemicals. Confirmed cases of cross-contamination of personal caregivers have been reported from several sources.

The observation of many young children suffering from severe symptoms (including convulsions), at eight different sites, makes it very unlikely that these scenes were staged or somehow manipulated by the opposition. These findings, as well as multiple video sources and testimonies, exclude any possibility of falsification by the opposition.

The massive influx of patients in a very short time in different hospitals, the number of victims and their location at several different sites, reinforced by the analysis of all the information at our disposal, are characteristic of the effects of an attack using highly lethal chemical weapons. They confirm that a massive and coordinated attack was carried out in the night of 21 August 2013.



About the Author: Christine Gorman is the editor in charge of health and medicine features for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. Follow on Twitter @cgorman.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Scienceisnotagenda 3:06 pm 09/3/2013

    Keep the politics off this site. Plenty of new sources to read propaganda on various issues.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Grannie Cool 11:15 pm 09/3/2013

    Not checking other sources ?! Shame on you ! Here –

    Link to this
  3. 3. Sassan31 11:56 pm 09/3/2013

    Thank you for this article. The truth and the evidence must be presented to the world. Thank you again.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Martin Wirth 11:05 am 09/4/2013

    These appear to be the usual reports used by warmongers to drag us into yet another quagmire. The USA supported Saddam Hussein while he was gassing Kurds and Iranians in the 1980s. After he had spent all his chemical munitions, he was then falsely accused of building facilities to produce his own in addition to being a year from building a nuclear weapon. All of those reports from 2002 and 2003 turned out to be completely false.

    Over 100,000 civilians have been murdered in the Syrian proxy war where the USA is supporting Al Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliate, while Russia and Iran are supporting Assad. Nearly all those civilians were murdered with conventional weapons. So, are we to suddenly get all worked up because a few of them were killed with poison gas? Does murdering civilians with conventional weapons make it OK to do that?

    Unlike your French report, I have an indisputable fact for you: everything touched by the USA turns to shit. The USA invaded Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban. That country is a wreck with no end in sight to the violence. The USA invaded Iraq killing an estimated one million civilians, 160,000 of which have definitely been counted in emergency rooms. This while displacing millions more. That country is also a total wreck and was better off under the control of Saddam Hussein.

    The leadership of the USA is so utterly incompetent that they cannot fix even one single domestic issue be it health, unemployment, poverty, infrastructure, carbon emissions…you name it. This while there is a public eager to cooperate with any potential solution. So, some are suggesting that the USA now go bomb Syria? Bombing and who knows what other murderous tactics to try to make things better for Syrians who would probably be hostile to us? Anyone who thinks that’s a good idea is so delusional that they should be locked up in an asylum for the mentally deranged. The drugs aren’t working for them anymore.

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  5. 5. Sassan31 1:50 pm 09/4/2013

    Martin Wirth is a mental loon that likes to make up his own facts and statistics that are non-factual to spout his anti-American, anti-western civilization and pro-totalitarian propaganda.

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  6. 6. Martin Wirth 4:10 pm 09/4/2013

    That’s rich! You (Sassan31) haven’t the stones to cite one single fact in your little spew. So, let’s talk about chemical weapons shall we?

    Sarin gas has a half life of 9.6-hours in air. It’s bad stuff but it will go away. In 20-hours there will be about a quarter of it. In another 20-hours there will be less than one sixteenth. In a week, you have trace that is barely detectable.

    The USA used depleted uranium (DU) munitions in Iraq. For human purposes, DU never disappears. You only hope it goes underground and quits blowing around so you don’t have to breathe it.

    Cancer and birth defect rates in Fallujah, Iraq now dwarf the rates immediately following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Depleted uranium is one of the most vicious chemical weapons ever used.

    If Obama really took chemical weapons seriously he would try, convict, and hang the entire Bush regime for their war crimes. Then he might consider putting the noose around his own neck.

    I’m not pro-totalitarian. On the contrary, I’m all for defending the US Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. You want to see totalitarian, look up the revelations of Edward Snowden and get back to me when you get an education.

    Go sell your war somewhere else, asshole. We’re all stocked up here.

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  7. 7. Sassan31 9:41 pm 09/4/2013

    Martin Wirth is an Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Bradley Manning lover who is calling for the death of our Presidents. I think this speaks volumes about his (lack of) character.

    Link to this
  8. 8. noviolence 2:31 pm 09/5/2013

    Killing of thousands of innocent civilians must be punished, yeah! I wonder why the US Government has not punished American officials nor offered apologizes because of the thousands innocents killed by the bullets of the American weapons smuggled into Mexico by the ATF Operation “Fast and Furious”. So far the number of death casualties in the US-Mexico border as a consequence of this operation is now higher than those suspected killed in Syria.

    Link to this
  9. 9. Christine Gorman 1:19 pm 09/6/2013

    Hey Grannie Cool. Thanks for the link to Laurie Garrett’s piece.

    Link to this
  10. 10. TheEnglais 5:50 pm 09/10/2013

    haha : Saassin31 , you make me smile with your “Snowden lover” insult. Yes most of us do admire these humanists, who have done more for democracy they you or I are ever likely to – ad now facing years in prison and public humiliation. I guess you also use terms like “nigger lover”, “gay lover” (that sounds ambiguous , is that the term you use ?)…what else ? ….”commie”, “red”, maybe even “copernican” or “darwinist” ?
    Thanks for that moment of humour : keep them coming :-)

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