Chemical Weapons Were Used At Least Four Other Times in Syria, U.N. Says

Sara Morrison, The Wire
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Sara Morrison, The Wire
Dec. 13, 2013, 4:02 a.m.

The United Na­tions has fi­nally is­sued its re­port on wheth­er or not chem­ic­al weapons were used in Syr­ia.

The ver­dict: they were — at least five times — but we still don’t know which side used them.

This was a more com­pre­hens­ive re­port than the one the U.N. is­sued in Septem­ber, which said that sar­in gas was def­in­itely used in the Aug. 21 at­tack on Dam­as­cus. Now, the U.N. says, it has found evid­ence that “sug­gests” (in the words of the 82-page U.N. re­port) that sar­in gas was used in at least four oth­er at­tacks, all in 2013: Khan al As­sal on March 19, Saraqueb on April 29, Jobar on Aug. 24 and Ashrafi­ah Sahnaya on Aug. 25. Twenty-one people are be­lieved to have been killed in those at­tacks.

The U.N.’s word­ing wasn’t as strong in those four as it was for the site of the Aug. 21 at­tacks, which killed al­most 1,500 people. There, the U.N. said, the evid­ence was “clear and con­vin­cing.” At the oth­er sites, the U.N. col­lec­ted evid­ence that “cor­rob­or­ated” or was “con­sist­ent with” al­leg­a­tions that chem­ic­al weapons were used. Those in­cluded blood tests, samples taken from a vic­tim’s in­tern­al or­gans and the at­tack sur­viv­ors’ symp­toms.

Much like it did in the Septem­ber re­port, the U.N. stayed away from as­sign­ing blame for the at­tacks. The United States has main­tained that Syr­i­an Pres­id­ent Bashar al-As­sad was be­hind the Aug. 21 at­tacks, though Sey­mour Her­sh re­cently wrote that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion hid evid­ence that the rebels were able to make and use sar­in gas. As­sad has al­ways blamed the rebels.

Upon re­ceiv­ing the fi­nal re­port, U.N. Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon said: “The use of chem­ic­al weapons is a grave vi­ol­a­tion of in­ter­na­tion­al law and an af­front to our shared hu­man­ity. We need to re­main vi­gil­ant to en­sure that these aw­ful weapons are elim­in­ated, not only in Syr­ia, but every­where. “

Ban is sched­uled to say more on Fri­day and Monday, once he’s had a chance to read the re­port.

After the Aug. 21 at­tack, As­sad agreed to let the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for the Pro­hib­i­tion of Chem­ic­al Weapons des­troy its chem­ic­al weapons. But the weapons couldn’t be des­troyed in Syr­ia, as it’s in the middle of a civil war, and Al­bania re­fused to host them. In­stead, the weapons will be des­troyed aboard a U.S. ship some­where in the middle of the ocean in a pro­cess an un­named of­fi­cial as­sured re­port­ers was “en­vir­on­ment­ally sound.”

Al­tern­ately, Croa­tia might do it.

Yes­ter­day, amid re­ports of in­creased fight­ing between rebel groups, the United States de­cided to stop provid­ing non-mil­it­ary aid to the rebel-con­trolled re­gion of north­ern Syr­ia.

Re­prin­ted with per­mis­sion from The Wire. The ori­gin­al story can be found here.

This art­icle was pub­lished in Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire, which is pro­duced in­de­pend­ently by Na­tion­al Journ­al Group un­der con­tract with the Nuc­le­ar Threat Ini­ti­at­ive. NTI is a non­profit, non­par­tis­an group work­ing to re­duce glob­al threats from nuc­le­ar, bio­lo­gic­al, and chem­ic­al weapons.

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