The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), confirmed in a report released yesterday that chlorine was likely used as a chemical weapon on 4 February 2018 in Saraqib, Idlib Governorate, Syrian Arab Republic.
The FFM determined that chlorine was released from cylinders by mechanical impact in the Al Talil neighbourhood of Saraqib.
The conclusions are based inter alia on the presence of two cylinders, which were determined as previously containing chlorine; witness testimony; environmental samples that demonstrated the unusual presence of chlorine in the local environment; and the number of patients at medical facilities shortly after the incident who showed signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to chlorine and other toxic chemicals.
I'm on record as saying that the Syrian government conducted no chemical-weapon attack. So, what does this report, if accurate, mean regarding that?
We saw an endless barrage of mainstream "news" stating all sorts of things and almost all more than suggesting that Syria and Russia were lying and would conduct a cover-up and were hampering the investigation (even though Russia invited the investigators in the first place) and more.
So, if the cylinders once contained chlorine, why did people get "treated for a chemical-weapons attack" say they weren't attacked? If the Syrian and Russian governments (military) were covering up, why would they show interviews with such people but also invite in inspectors while not removing what could be taken for evidence (though the report didn't say "was used" but only "likely used")?
None of it adds up to anything remotely damning of the Syrian or Russian government, quite the contrary.
So, we don't know who got the cylinders to be where they landed. It certainly didn't have to be the Syrian or Russian military. How did chlorine get spread around in the environment? Well, we don't know about concentrations from the report. That's odd, as it's important. We don't know about age either, as chlorine degrades. Everyone who uses it and lets it sit too long knows about shelf life.
It's still not definite an attack happened, as the report even states. What is definitive is that all those who pointed the finger at especially Russia were wrong about any attempted cover-up by Russia about anything. What chemicals neutralize chlorine, and couldn't Russia have used them had it wanted to cover up anything?
Most importantly, the Syrian government reported finding stockpiles and equipment left my the jihadis, including chlorine. It was obvious that the stuff had been sitting there. The Syrian government showed the finding almost immediately upon entering the area. It would take quite an imagination to see the Syrians setting it all up and making it look well used in place and such.
I have not changed my mind. A chemical attack by the Syrian military did not happen there at that time. The only thing that makes sense is that the whole thing was hastily staged in an area where chlorine bombs were being made by the jihadis in the first place.
Could it be infiltrators/rogues in the Syrian military? I doubt that's what happened, but it's just as good a guess as anything else if credible people say a military plane or helicopter drop the cylinders where they were found. I've not heard or seen anything suggesting such a tie-in.
The Syrian government stood zero to gain and much to lose in bad PR (something it had undergone many times) to conduct any such attack when it had already won the area and was only waiting for the very last remnant of jihadis to agree to leave or be wiped out to a man or captured and held for not surrendering and agreeing to board nice buses to be transported for free to territory not control by Assad's forces.
Why is the report so scant? Why does it mention other toxins but goes into zero detail on those? How can I be sure the organization is truly neutral? The report is not confidence building. Had I been in charge of that organization, I would have required more information be released to the general public in the linked post.