U.N. Report Details Sarin Gas Use in Syria, but Doesn’t Assign Blame

Philip Bump, Atlantic Wire
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Philip Bump, Atlantic Wire
Sept. 16, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

The United Na­tions’ re­port on the al­leged Au­gust 21 chem­ic­al weapons at­tack in a sub­urb of Dam­a­cus sug­gests that it was not just al­leged. Call­ing the at­tack a “war crime,” Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-Moon noted that evid­ence of the use of sar­in gas was “over­whelm­ing and in­dis­put­able.” By whom, however, isn’t spe­cified.

Ban presen­ted the re­port to the United Na­tions Se­cur­ity Coun­cil in a private meet­ing on Monday morn­ing, but made his re­marks avail­able to the pub­lic. The re­port it­self, also avail­able on­line, walks through the evid­ence col­lec­ted and ana­lyzed by the UN team that was already in the coun­try re­search­ing an­oth­er al­leged use of out­lawed weapons when the Au­gust 21 at­tack oc­curred.

Ban:

The Mis­sion has con­cluded that chem­ic­al weapons were used on a re­l­at­ively large scale in the Ghouta area of Dam­as­cus in the con­text of the on­go­ing con­flict in Syr­ia. The at­tack res­ul­ted in nu­mer­ous cas­u­al­ties, par­tic­u­larly among ci­vil­ians. …
Sur­viv­ors re­por­ted that fol­low­ing an at­tack with shelling, they quickly ex­per­i­enced a range of symp­toms, in­clud­ing short­ness of breath, dis­or­i­ent­a­tion, eye ir­rit­a­tion, blurred vis­ion, naus­ea, vomit­ing and gen­er­al weak­ness. Many even­tu­ally lost con­scious­ness. First re­spon­ders de­scribed see­ing a large num­ber of in­di­vidu­als ly­ing on the ground, many of them dead or un­con­scious.

The re­port it­self in­cludes 30 data points, walk­ing through weath­er con­di­tions, med­ic­al evid­ence, and pho­to­graph­ic de­tails of the sur­face-to-sur­face rock­ets that car­ried the weapons. While the team was lim­ited “due to the se­cur­ity situ­ation” (in Ban’s words), its point is dir­ect. The 30th data point simply reads, “This res­ult leaves us with the deep­est con­cern.”

It does not as­sign blame, however. “On the basis of the evid­ence ob­tained dur­ing our in­vest­ig­a­tion of the Ghouta in­cid­ent,” the re­port reads, “the con­clu­sion is that, on 21 Au­gust 2013, chem­ic­al weapons have been used in the on­go­ing con­flict between the parties in the Syr­i­an Ar­ab Re­pub­lic, also against ci­vil­ians, in­clud­ing chil­dren, on a re­l­at­ively large scale.” The name “Bashar al-As­sad” does not ap­pear in the text of the doc­u­ment. “The in­ter­na­tion­al com­munity has a mor­al re­spons­ib­il­ity to hold ac­count­able those re­spons­ible,” Ban’s in­tro­duc­tion to the re­port reads, but the re­port doesn’t identi­fy those parties.

Ban’s point in ad­dress­ing the Se­cur­ity Coun­cil with the re­port was, in part, to call for the group’s unity. In oth­er words, he’d like for Rus­sia and China to not veto any ef­fort to in­tro­duce a solu­tion to the use of chem­ic­al weapons. He praises the tent­at­ive agree­ment reached by the United States and Rus­sia in Geneva, and it’s pos­sible that de­clin­ing to as­sign blame is part of that polit­ic­al ef­fort.

In present­ing the evid­ence to the Se­cur­ity Coun­cil, Ban in­cluded in­form­a­tion meant to re­mind the world that the use of chem­ic­al weapons and the crime that con­sti­tutes is a small por­tion of the vi­ol­ence that has over­whelmed the coun­try. And fur­ther, that the world is im­plic­ated in that vi­ol­ence.

The UN Com­mis­sion of In­quiry has re­por­ted that Gov­ern­ment and pro-gov­ern­ment forces have com­mit­ted murder, en­forced dis­ap­pear­ances, ex­traju­di­cial ex­e­cu­tions, rape and tor­ture against ci­vil­ians. It has also re­por­ted that anti-gov­ern­ment armed groups have com­mit­ted murder, ex­e­cu­tions, tor­ture and host­age-tak­ing. There has been in­dis­crim­in­ate shelling of ci­vil­ian neigh­bour­hoods by all sides. Yet arms con­tin­ue to flow to the coun­try and the re­gion.

The team that col­lec­ted evid­ence in­side Syr­ia notes one de­tail that sug­gests why Rus­sia may still be hes­it­ant to ex­cor­i­ate its Syr­i­an al­lies — and its pos­sible role in the at­tacks. Pho­to­graphs of the rock­ets used to carry the gas in­clude Cyril­lic char­ac­ters, as seen be­low. That the Rus­si­ans sup­ply Syr­ia with weapons is not new in­form­a­tion, but it’s cer­tainly not the sort of thing that the coun­try’s gov­ern­ment is eager to have be dir­ectly im­plic­ated in the at­tack.

The United Na­tions re­port will likely not of­fer any new data for the in­ter­na­tion­al dip­lo­mats that have been ne­go­ti­at­ing the world’s re­sponse — largely out­side of the ae­gis of the body it­self. What the re­port may do, though, is of­fer in­sight in­to why that ne­go­ti­at­ing pro­cess is tricky as it has been.

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

What We're Following See More »
23 MILLION FEWER INSURED IN 2026
Congressional Budget Office Scores House Trumpcare Bill
2 hours ago
BREAKING

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has released its score of the House-passed American Health Care Act, which would replace Obamacare. According to the CBO, the bill would reduce the deficit by $119 billion by 2026, while leaving 14 million more Americans uninsured in 2018 than under current law, a number swelling to 23 million by 2026. Further, insurance premiums would balloon 20 percent in 2018 and five percent in 2019 before the waiver provision in the legislation would kick in. The provision allows states to apply for waivers and permit insurers to offer skimpier plans, which would likely entice younger and healthier individuals to buy health insurance while potentially pricing older and less healthy Americans out of insurance plans. House Republicans approved this bill in late April without waiting for the CBO score.

Source:
GOP DISCORD
Graham Rejects Trump’s Budget In Hearing
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that President Donald Trump's budget is little more than recycling bin material. "The budget proposed by the president doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing," Graham said. Graham had previously opposed the budget over its nearly 30 percent cut to the budget of the State Department. The budget slashes spending on domestic priorities while increasing military spending.

Source:
PREFERS “CLEAN” BILL
Mnuchin Looks To Avoid Debt Ceiling Fight
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS
“THAT’S THE GOAL”
McConnell Not Sure How To Get 50 Votes For Health Care
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he doesn't yet know the formula towards gaining passage of an Obamacare replacement in the Senate. "I don't know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment. But that's the goal," McConnell said. The House passed an Obamacare replacement bill which has been widely seen as dead on arrival in the Senate, and McConnell has put together a working group of Republican Senators working towards creating health care legislation which could gain the support of at least 50 Senators.

Source:
BUT WHITE HOUSE MAY USE AGAINST HIM ANYWAY
Ethics Cops Clear Mueller to Work on Trump Case
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login