Warning

Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What Happened April 26 in Barzeh?

The First Bodies Tossed Across Obama's Red Line 
Part 7: What Happened April 26 in Barzeh?
December 13, 2017

This little-noted alleged incident was noted at the time at ACLOS (still mainly on the talk page), and nothing was ever added. I can't even find any more information now, and all the original citation links are now dead. But it was cited thoroughly, and with expanding context, it's worth a review at least. I've already included it under possible sarin attacks in my big events list.
 

The reports I found in 2013 were two in number, both citing Syrian (normal, pro-government Syrian) newspaper Al-Watan (the Nation - website). I never did try or find the original report. It would be Arabic, and used to not even try that much. One of my two sources was in Arabic, and after translating that, I guess I called it good enough. The Al-Watan report may still exist on the internet, but I haven't found it yet in a few searches. If any reader can find it, let me know in comments, please.


Cited sources:
The effects of “Free Army” using chemical weapons in Barzeh (translated from Arabic title). Breaking News.sy, April 28, 2013 http://breakingnews.sy/en/article/16423.html (no longer comes up, can't be found)
   

"Symptoms of chemical gas occur in some Syrian soldiers: report." Xinhua News English (China), April 28, 2013 http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2013-04/28/c_132347695.htm (no longer comes up, can't be found)

The Xinhua report is easier to read, but contains less detail. Mainly I'll cite Breakingnews.sy, improving on my first auto-translation preserved at ACLOS.

Incident and Background
"Many victims from the ranks of the Syrian Arab Army" were brought to Hamish hospital on Friday, the 26th, "including martyrs, who have died due to inhalation of chemical gases." The soldiers were reportedly gassed in the course of clashes in Barzeh al-Balad neighborhood "between Syrian Arab Army and the entrenched armed terrorist groups in the neighborhood for many months." "Paramedics at the site reported that a shell landed, fired from inside the Barzeh at the Syrian Arab army forces based in the outskirts of Barzeh," which released the poison.

I'm not familiar with the situtation then, but a Wikipedia article on the area battles notes for this day:
On 26 April, government forces continued with their offensive by pushing into the Damascus districts of Jobar and Barzeh, which have a high rebel presence. Troops were encountering heavy rebel resistance as they advanced with air and artillery support. Rebel positions in the nearby Qaboun district were also bombarded with mortars and multiple rocket launchers.
Barzeh Al-Balad on Wikimapia (and see below): a good-sized northern district, at the edge of Damascus proper and the start of Islamist-dominated East Ghouta. Military and intelligence facilities are just south of it and Tishreen Military Hospital to the north, Bazrah orchards, Douma, Harasta to the east, and Qaboun and Jobar south, and a couple other Barza sub-areas to the west.

The cited hospital is probably Ahmad Hamish Hospital, further into Barzeh proper - in fact in Bazreh Hamish district, per the label. So the government push should be to the east from this area, and the incident should be near the border between districts (rough lines here, per Wikimapia), in or near the orange area. They would probably be fired on from further east or maybe north. That's all we can say for the moment.   

CW Effects  and Type: Sarin?
The chemical weapon caused, among other symptoms, a "white substance from their noses and mouths," with emphasis on its exuding or "trickling" out. This is presumably what they usually call foaming at the mouth, from fluid in the airways, an effect common to many poisons, especially those that damage the airways - including our nasty, impure sarin and/or foul irritant package as used in Syria. We can say they'll also be suffering from difficult breathing, which must have killed a couple. Xinhua's report used the words "suffocation." 

Importantly, the agent cause secondary contamination, as sarin (among other things) will do. Breakingnews.sy:
“Upon arrival of the affected people to the emergency room in the hospital and medical personnel start dealing with the injuries, the medical staff suffered severe nausea followed by cases of fainting, but it was a lighter than the affected people from the frontline. This caused the injured to be sent to another hospital in Damascus."
The report gives no details on the nature of the gas, like its color or smell, just "inhalation of a strange gas” causing these effects. But a decent guess is: yellowish and foul-smelling, and pretty irritating to the eyes and airways. The effects sound a lot like sarin, although it's far from conclusive:
- labored breathing ("suffocation") and foaming from the mouth/nose, consistent but general 
- loss of consciousness, is more indicative, but also general
- nausea is less common, consistent with sarin 
- death (plural "martyrs", not clear if two or more): only so many thing will cause actual death - even sarin attacks in Syria only causes a few or none, usually.
- secondary contamination causing similar effects in people touching the victims: this is a pretty strong indicator of something like sarin.   

Furthermore, the time and area suggest it's quite likely (see below).

Notes on the Lack of Note No Western news stories reported this, and in fact the few sources who did reported two days later, and no longer have the stories up. Three days later (a day after those low-key news reports) another regime sarin attack would be reported loudly in Saraqeb, yielding the clearest sarin traces yet, from a Jabhat Al-Nusra-linked hand grenade, said to be dropped from a regime helicopter. 

But this day, nothing chemical made the news, except for Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird saying, as CTV News summarized: "There is no reason to doubt reports of chemical weapons being used in Syria." "We would like to see a full investigation by the United Nations," Baird is quoted saying. But in the meantime, as he saw it, "there's no reason to discount or doubt what Israel and the U.S. are reporting," Baird said, referring to statements from both nations that the Syrian government, and not rebels, had used sarin on at least two occasions so far.  "We suspect it's the government, we don't know it's the government," he said." One of those two incidents used the same helicopter-grenade scheme that would be repeated in a few days.
 
That UN-OPCW probe Baird called for had recently been stalled and denied entry, due to Syria's refusal to accept the unacceptable demands placed on their request for the probe (see here for that twisted tale). In the meantime, as CTV added, "Syrian officials denied Friday that government forces have used chemical weapons against rebels, marking Damascus's first response to the U.S. assertions."
"In the Syrian capital, a government official said President Bashar Assad's military "did not and will not use chemical weapons even if it had them." He instead accused opposition forces of using them in a March attack on the village of Khan al-Assad outside of the northern city of Aleppo."
That attack, of course, is what sparked their request for the probe that no one could agree on at that time. It still looks like a terrorist attack, probably by Jabhat Al-Nusra, and it's verified to have been done with sarin. They make no mention of a same-day attack right there in the Damascus area. Officials probably hadn't heard about it yet, if it had even happened (time of day is one of the many things that remains unclear, but statements tend to come in the first half of the day, I think...). The cited articles are only from two days later.  

This incident really would help underline their case (probably, depending on details). Yet it doesn't seem they pushed for OPCW verification. This incident is not among those listed in letters from the Syrian government as reproduced in later reports. It could be they just don't bother reporting every incident for some reason - maybe some cases have embarrassing details the OPCW might latch onto (they often seem to focus on possible discrepancies to cast doubt on Syria's claims). And maybe they have reported it, but the OPCW just didn't share that. 

This apparent lack of follow-up on the government's part should be seen as a mark against the veracity of these reports. But it shouldn't be seen as much of one.
All through mid-2013 in and around the East Ghouta area, civilians, rebel fighters, soldiers, and animals too were frequently poisoned and killed in attacks said to involve sarin, and it was often verified. It seems they had quite a bit of it to toss around, whoever that was, and this may well be one of those cases. In almost every case involving soldiers, it's like this; they're on the offensive, have some Islamists cornered, then comes the foul-smelling poison gas... April 26 in Barzeh al-Balad is just the kind of time and place for this to happen.  

So the reports seem realistic and credible. There probably was another CW attack by foreign-backed terrorists that day, against young Syrian men drafted into the Syrian army to defend their country. Can you imagine the outrage if this happened in any of our countries just once? But this is just one of dozens we know about. And these are just a sliver of the suffering willfully imposed on the people of Syria in this long and shameful campaign. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Assad Files Paper Recycling Continues

December 3, 2017

Ian Birrell for The Mail on Sunday has dramatic, first-time revealed certain parts of a previously reported pile of papers story: "Body parts stashed in fridges, horrific accounts of torture and mystery disappearances: Full horror of President Assad's regime laid bare as smuggled documents held in secret location are opened for the first time" 2 December 2017 | Updated: 03:09 EST, 3 December 2017.  Headlining shock-point list:
  • Operatives smuggled 800,000 documents out of Syria for evidence of Assad's war crimes
  • One was wounded fleeing with a case full of documents, another was killed in an ambush  
  • At least 400,000 have been killed while thousands are held in detention centres 
  • Papers reveal corpses stacked in hallways, bodies with eyes gouged out and unexplained disappearances 
There's one cited document in the relevant period that might be opened for the first time here, one other that's pre-conflict and irrelevant, and two important highlighted documents ... that are the same two important highlighted documents in a few news reports already on the "Assad Files." These news stories span the last three years and running, well-paced for story longevity, every 7-11 months. In each reminder article, it's presented as new and shocking, and they keep pulling up these two main documents and a couple of rotating others as a sampling that's ... deliberately weak? Or just the best they could find?

Timeline of "Assd Files" stories
  • 8 October, 2014: New York Times 
  • (7 months later) 12 May 2015: Syria's Truth Smugglers, the Guardian
  • (11 months later) April, 2016 Bashar al-Assad's War Crimes Exposed Ben Taub, the New Yorker
  • (11 months later) March 15, 2017: Reuters piece, to prime us for the following?
  • (11 days later)  March (26?), 2017: Documentary: Syria's Disappeared aired on Channel 4, UK 
  • (8 months later) December 2, 2017: this in the Daily Mail.
Looking at that, I'd say the pace has picked up this year. If you do the tired old trick a little faster, it can seem fresher, seem like it's "going somewhere." 

The people responsible for collecting and spinning the "Assad files": Committee for International Justice and Accountability, a private but government-supported group dedicated to getting certain governments in legal or legal-seeming trouble. They try to do this by gathering evidence - especially paperwork - but also often-crucial and unverifiable claims from alleged witnesses. Birrell refers to the CIJA and its contractors inside Syria several times as "brave." Some of their activists/smugglers have reportedly been killed or wounded by a regime desperate to hide the blood-curdling secrets contained in these papers. 

Bill Wiley is the main visible face of this project, cited in the Mail article. Wiley and co. have a bunch of real documents - there are others who've run clearly fake docs, but I doubt these guys do. There are over 800,000, they say, hoping for a day in court. Between all of these, we have now FOUR documents shared in some detail as best examples. These aren't one-in-a-million examples or complete flukes mind you. These represent one out of every 200,000+ files. That strengthens the case. They didn't find just one shady-seeming document in this enormous cache. They found four of them.

But that appearance of oppression could also be in how you read the documents, as we'll see below. And from the rest they keep not showing, it seems they have 799,996 or more documents that don't even look criminal when put in a certain light. That is, they might have a massive documentary absolution of the "Assad regime," that they never plan to let some defense team see. It' all for show, to keep the appearance of repression and the need for this running regime change campaign.

The first three specified papers were already tallied and analyzed at the well-done ACLOS page and written about here at the Monitor. Below, in review: what's shared in Birrell's piece, what's not shared, and what's new here - a fourth entry, finally.

specific claims - not new: 
1- crisis cell meeting August 5 (ACLOS): (not dated here aside from August, presuming same document or day's set of files). This order for a crackdown  may mention non-violent activists as people to round up, and maybe that's why this one was chosen (it could literally be a typo not repeated in following orders). But some activists were coordinating and knew things, and would be good to question at least. And more importantly, said orders should also mention militants involved in this crisis. Yet this is not mentioned, suggesting Wiley and co. have omitted it in their selective presentation.

It's a serious omission to make. Just 5 days earlier in Hama, on July 31, unexpectedly capable militants launched coordinated raids on several security posts, killing some two dozens police and military, dumping 13 slaughtered captives in the river the next morning, at least one with his throat cut. Between militants killed in self-defense, and civilians (killed by the militants?) some 80+ other men were also killed in Hama this day, and the package was sold as over 100 protesters gunned down for no reason. (see here)

The Syrian government already had hundreds of security personnel killed across the country, many civilians killed as well, and daily accusations of regime crimes pushing towards military intervention ala Libya. So they had a crisis, and developed a national plan. The CIJA publicity machine gives us a distorted partial look at it, spun as an unprovoked attack on strictly peaceful protesters.  

2- DeZ bodies in fridges memo (ACLOS):
"In September, the public attorney in Deir Ezzor sent three faxes—later retrieved by the CIJA’s investigators—to the governor, the Syrian minister of justice, and the head of the province’s joint investigation committee, urging them to stop violating Syrian law. In one, he wrote, “Parents and relatives of the arrested persons are asking daily about the fates of sons, fathers, and brothers. You ought to listen to what they have to say. The hospital refrigerator is full of unidentified corpses that have disintegrated, since they have been there for a long period of time.” (Taub)
This Deir Ezzour public attorney could be a rebellion sympathizer, or just being informed by them. It could be they have relatives arrested for armed activities, or on suspicion, and are worried. Or it could be people they think were arrested but were really killed by the regime and stuffed in fridges, or by criminal gangs and dumped somewhere. Presumably found bodies the government has no identity for are being stored in fridges as people worry. "Body parts" seems to be extrapolated from the bodies "deteriorating"

Document dated September 11. No one mentions the date, but I was able to read it myself on the document - 9/11/2011 is ten years since 9/11/2001 and just as ambassador Stevens was getting killed by the same kind of "protesters" over in Benghazi. This is the extra-chilling document they actually show us - the only one, I think (shown panning by in the Channel 4 program). I asked about a translation from these screen-grabs, but got no response. I'm now crowdsourcing this. Comments open, etc. This is the one document we can see in full, mostly, and get translated. What all does it say? Note this will be the one with the least exculpatory context, their best example of a document where the whole page almost looks right. Let's see how close it gets.


3 (not mentioned here) Late May 2011 (ACLOS): Jameh orders torture stopped, no doc where he ordered it begun - apparently he heard reports or even just accusations that it was happening, and also reiterated don't shoot protesters, without specifying whether or not he believed this was actually happening. It all seems like "if you're doing this crap, please stop." 

That's the three documents they bother to highlight as best examples.

New Bits from Birrel
Mazen Hamada Family Updates: not part of the files but related to their permanently-attached star witness Mazen Hamada (it's he, not "papers" that speaks of gouged-out eyes): "His remaining family has disappeared after a recent regime attack on Deir ez-Zor." He was in touch with them under ISIS occupation until then? Hm.
"Four relatives are still missing, although he thinks he saw the body of one nephew among 53,000 images of corpses smuggled out by a military police photographer." Earlier he still held out hope... this nephew was arrested with him way back in 2012, and would have to die prior to August, 2013 in order to be seen in the Caesar Photos. but he only decided on a match, apparently, since his last stories in 2016. This is a bunch of crap digging for fresh drama to keep the story alive. He's studied the photos and cites some abuses seen therein, like gouged-out eyes, blue bodies, and a kid with a melted neck as things he saw with his own eyes, also. He might have a specific photo in mind, a dramatic one, to be his poor 15-year-old nephew.

June Beating Death Coverup? Idlib
One apparently new document is revealed, and it's not bad. I'll list at ACLOS, for best example #4. This one is "chilling," the journalist Birrell helpfully notes.
A chilling series of letters from Idlib in June 2012 exposes how a military judge signed off the death of a man from ‘sudden heart attack’ – a euphemism used often with murdered detainees. But the next day a military police officer pointed out the man died due to being beaten at a checkpoint. Doctors confirmed the real cause of death: ‘nervous system failure due to pain caused by bruises all over the body – more specifically, the testicles and the stomach’.
The claim that heart attack is used as a euphemism is unproven. There's been one document shown saying cause of death heart attack, and for all we know it was. Here, for all we know the checkpoint beating could be another like this, at a likely rebel checkpoint, they have a guy badly lashed a couple of minutes prior to having him say on camera, still weak with shock, that Assad's guys did it at a checkpoint. As a first priority, of course he rush over here in a wobbly daze to get the story documented, right?

I suppose this report sounds more like their own checkpoint (or else they wouldn't know it happened at a checkpoint - like if they found a victim dumped. I mean it's not like he'd stagger to an army post before telling the story and keeling over - that's even dumber than the story related above)

Idlib in June, 2011 had some interesting sub-areas - a number of Islamists in the military defected and killed over 100 of their colleagues in Jisr al-Shughour June 3-5, before fleeing back to their sponsors in Turkey. Some of the victims were brutally beheaded in Islamist fashion. It was sold as defectors killed by Alawite militiamen and Iranians, when they refused to kill protesters. So Just who was beating who over what, where and when in this context isn't necessarily clear or all that compelling. For example, if one of these defectors was caught trying to sneak out, and struggled at all, he might get stomped to death by infuriated soldiers, and maybe a doctor might try to write that off. Who knows?

<add 12/3>In my haste I didn't notice these faxes are from June 2012, not 2011. Ok, so that's part of why they didn't cite this yet. Most cited papers are from 2011, when it's believed there was no armed insurgency and all orders of repression were against protesters. By 2012, mentions of militants are less avoidable, and even the public knows militants including Jabhat al-Nusra were well active by then, especially in Idlib. They were more frequently doing things like taking over government checkpoints for periods of time, and whole towns.

As usual, the full context of the document is not shared to get a clearer reading. But there might be some criminal or extrajudicial activity documented in this spot. On the surface, it sounds like someone was beaten to death at a government checkpoint and a doctor tried to cover it up, but changed his story when a military man pointed out the inaccuracy. Hm. This is supposed to reflect the claimed systematic conspiracy to murder detainees all in secret? Is that really so impressive when it's alleged prisoners are rounded up, tortured and exterminated en masse on centralized orders, nationwide and from the start? The CIJA has so shared no documents reflecting such a policy. They found one possible beating death covered up, seeming to be its own unusual incident they were concocting a response to, at worst. It's the most concrete example yet for such alleged coverups, and it sort of contradicts the theory, doesn't it? <end 12/3>

Conclusion
That was our fourth point of proof chosen, compared to a supposed 799,996 other documents that didn't look quite so "chilling" or incriminating. I bet they even have a #5 with a passable line waiting in reserves, the clever buggers.

Consider: the only realistic way to a just peace is with the Syrian government in control and uncontested, like they were in 2010, the last time things were livable there. People like the CIJA say no way, these leaders need to face trial, not run a country or fight terrorism. They have to be brought down and arrested, face trial or get shot, etc. So they endeavor to block peace and prolong the conflict, in the name of justice. You'd better have a damn good case if you insist on this stance.  

These guys pretty clearly do not have a good case, just a repeated performance of confidence using the same small set of tricks

Any lawyers, journalists, human rights campaigners or government officials allowed to see these documents - request a full translation of these best examples, ask for any second-best examples, have those 5-8 documents FULLY translated yourself, and you will then be able to gauge the strength of the case in these 800,000 papers. Don't just accept the word of these confidence artists who get paid to act that way.

Monday, November 27, 2017

What Happened December 6 and 22, 2012 in Daraya?

The First Bodies Tossed Across Obama's Red Line
Part 3: What Happened December 6 and 22, 2012 in Daraya?
November 27, 2017
(incomplete)


The oldest CW allegation you'll hear about from France or Israel or the United States was in Homs city, back on December 23, 2012. This confused incident is explored in part 2 of this series, but in review:

The opposition lodged clashing claims - a poison that seemed to be either sarin or the non-fatal incapacitating agent BZ (or maybe both?) was reportedly released by government forces, killing 6 civilian men and one rebel fighter (per opposition records). That was mostly reported at the time as 7 fighters. Western experts dismissed it at the time as some murky mystery and- something like tear gas gone awry - not a real CW incident and not over Obama's red line. It stayed like that for three months, but as soon as Syria was demanding a probe of the March 19, 2013 Khan al-Assal attack (see part 1), France, the UK, and the US decided this case and one other (and then some others they scraped up) also needed to be investigated just as urgently, helping to jam up and stall Syria's requested probe. (see Was the Syria Chemical Weapons Probe "Torpedoed" by the West?)

An event those powers didn't include in their growing list, and still won't tell you about, happened one day earlier than this first widely-known CW attack, with the same death toll of seven. In fact, it seems kind of like the Homs incident was cooked up to distract from or shift the implications of this preceding event. These 7 bodies tossed across Obama's red line without note were Syrian Arab Army soldiers. Back then I created the ACLOS page Alleged Chemical Attack, December 22, 2012. There's not much details to share, so it's all included below and then some.

Two Reported CW Attacks in Jobar
On December 6th there was the first claim of CW use that I ever noticed (ACLOS page), coming just after Obama's December 3 re-iteration of his "red line" threat/offer (the first instance I had noticed - I didn't know he'd said it already in August). It was just three days later that the threat was snubbed or the offer taken, at least tentatively. And it was in Daraya, southwest Damascus suburbs, where reports came in of poisonous gasses "thrown" by government forces engaged there. This was from the well-connected Local Coordinating Committees, with no details and no word on casualties (presumably no deaths).

Times of Israel reported on these claims December 7, citing the LCC report with no more detail, but supporting it claims from a supposed CW defector. Captain Abdul Salam Abdul Razaq is cited telling a Saudi paper that Syria was already using mustard gas and sarin (both described as nerve agents) routinely, using sarin to clear any area before entering (since it was odorless, not foul-smelling, and evaporates in 30 minutes...). This logic-impaired Wahhabi activist "also pleaded for international assistance in taking control of chemical weapon sites, which he claimed defectors have accurate intelligence about." 

Anyway, no deaths or details, like who if anyone was even affected, were ever reported. So the December 6 incident is a fairly weak claim itself, and we're done covering it. But that's not to say it was based on nothing. It does have chemicals used, apparently in some response to Obama's renewed offer, and the people with possible plans to dross the red line were in Daraya, which rings likely considering the following.

16 days later, pro-government sources reported, a group of Syrian soldiers was in Daraya and had toxic gasses somehow thrown at them. Iranian news first reported this, saying only that the gas was yellow in color, and the seven who died did so within an hour or less. (via ACLOS page)
Militants fighting against the Syrian government have used chemical weapons against the army in Daraya near the capital, Damascus, military sources say.
According to a commander of the Syrian Presidential Guard, at least seven Syrian soldiers were killed on Saturday after they were attacked by a chemical weapon which produced a toxic yellow gas.
The soldiers were reportedly killed within an hour after inhaling the gas.
A later OPCW report (a revised version only, available via Zanders blog and now ACLOS) mentioned this incident being reported by the Syrians, sort of a side note from the past. The details they share in their report are exactly the same.
 2.4 In addition, Note Verbale 150 made reference to an attack where it is alleged that toxic gases were employed against Syrian Arab Army soldiers on 22 December 2012. According to the note verbale, seven fatalities occurred as a result of exposure to a yellow gas. These fatalities happened within one hour of exposure.
This strangely adds almost exactly nothing to what we already knew. Is that all the Syrians handed the OPCW, or is it just all they shared with us? But coming later, from the government, that death toll should be updated to reflect the final count, if the first reports didn't. But it's still 7, with no delayed deaths added later. That's noteworthy.

Sarin Attack? 
There's no further mention of the December 22 incident in the OPCW report; it seems they didn't investigate it. But after noting it, they did bother to explain in the other cases, "those affected in the alleged incidents may have, in some instances, been exposed to some type of non-persistent, irritating substance" (like chlorine) and in one case (Daraya, Feb. 15, 2015) exposed to a "sarin-like substance." [2] It's not spelled out, but between possible inclusion and implied exclusion, they suggest the December 22 attack was likely by chlorine or some similar in action, and not by sarin. This makes it seem a bit less interesting than it perhaps deserves to be. 

In fact, those 10 irritant cases tend to NOT be chlorine attacks as presented (see big events list here). Whatever it is (apparently 2 or 3 different things), it sometimes smells like chlorine, but other times rotten or burnt smelling. And it tends to incapacitate people and make them pass out in a way chlorine usually doesn't, but that sarin, for example, does. The agent(s) used are not identified, and worth more study. 

In that OPCW list, a yellow color does not come through in most cases, but in the bigger list of all similar claims, it tends to be the most common, which is a potential match for this December 22 attack. No one says anything else we've heard. The delivery weapon is not described. No smell is reported. Types of symptoms that proved fatal are unexplained. It's not clear if "they suffocated with damaged lungs (chlorine)" or "they had their nervous system disrupted and stopped breathing" (sarin) is the better description.

But 7 dead, so quickly, would be quite unusual for chlorine, whereas it's to be expected with sarin. Extreme exposure will paralyze instantly and kill within seconds. Most fatalities will occur after some minutes of struggle, and occasionally they'll live longer, perhaps in a coma, before dying. If this had been sarin, for example: One might die instantly, four more within ten minutes, four others might struggle for up to 30 minutes, and one guy's nearly-survival was cancelled after 50 minutes. Statistically, maybe 12 others would stabilize and recover for some days, 22 others would be unaffected or recover within minutes to hours and be discharged that day or the next. That's a lot not to mention, but no one has asked, that I've noticed.

If it were chlorine, maybe a group was pinned down under fire, and hit with a strong dispersion, waited too long too run, suffered massive damage, suffocated fairly quick with shredded and blood-filled lungs.  But there should be others who got near as much and at least died after a longer struggle. But it sounds like the dying stopped after an hour at seven and everyone else pulled through. Large-scale chlorine deaths will hardly ever stop after an hour. They'll usually go on for days before there's a final toll. So unlikely this was chlorine or anything as simple. More likely, it was a nerve agent, or at least something more acutely fatal. 

Why would Syria not report this? It's possible they didn't even know or do the right tests, and it's possible they did know and concealed it for some reason, or told the OPCW and they neglected to mention that even as they argued against it.  

And consider this:

Sarin in Daraya, 2013-2015
Daraya is next to Moadamiya, where the West Ghouta portion of the Aug. 21 chemical massacre was said to happen. The area including both towns was effectively a pocket at the time, cut off from other rebel areas in East Ghouta. If there were any false-flag shenanigans with sarin here, it would be from sarin held locally in Moadamiya and/or Daraya.

Soldiers would be hit with sarin in Daraya later, confirmed, twice...
8-25-2013: Ahrafiya Sahnaya is a town just south of Daraya, given as the local of an incident on August 25, 2013. Actually it was at the sewage treatment plant between the two towns, so basically Daraya. For the third time since the Ghouta massacre on the 21st, rebels had hit Syrian soldiers in Ghouta with serious toxins - two were confirmed by the OPCW as sarin, including this one.
A cylindrical canister was thrown with a catapult, around 7 or 8pm, released a "foul-smelling smoke" that caused decreased consciousness, nausea, AND it was an irritant, causing lung damage, eye  irritation, besides miosis, fatigue, and hospital stays of almost a week.

2-15-2015: 18 months after that 8-25-2013 incident, just 1.8 km northwest of that spot, and still on the frontline, another group of soldiers was hit with a smoke weapon that had a strange smell "like burning nylon" and caused burning in the eyes and lungs. This incident is also confirmed by the OPCW as sarin (from the same report, and this case has some detail, also explored in this post here). No one died, but four soldiers suffered notable exposure ("blurred  vision, teary   eyes,   runny   nose,   dizziness, headache, breathing difficulties, mild fatigue, and nausea."), and one had severe impairment, lost consciousness, and may have come near dying. 

just where the 12-22-2012 attack happened is one of many things that's unclear about it. Was it the same then as in these later cases? Was that yellow gas foul-smelling and caustic?

But whatever it was, in the end what matters more is who used it and what that says about their capabilities - technical and moral. There's been no suggestion the government gassed their own, but that would probably come up if pushed - but it seems probably rebels did this, and the very next day, someone decided to create the impression Syria was tossing poison gas, and not in Daraya but up in Homs. As I'll be adding there too, "Assad" may as well have left this note attached to that Homs attack.

---






Sunday, November 26, 2017

What Happened the Night of April 13/14 in Sheikh Maqsoud?

The First Bodies Tossed Across Obama's Red Line
Part 5: What Happened the Night of April 13/14 in Sheikh Maqsoud?
November 26, 2017
(rough, incomplete)

Background: A Midnight Attack Amidst Islamist Occupation
Most people refer to this, as the page at A Closer Look on Syria does, as April 13, 2013. However, by the story it was actually about 3 am on April 14, in the sprawling Kurdish-majority Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo. This is the first of two known incidents to employ the magical hand grenades apparently belonging to or used by Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, and that was otherwise unknown and never-before-seen. In the other attack two weeks later in Saraqeb, they showed this grenade as responsible, but there were later suggestions that was shown as a similar example, not the exact weapon. But in this case, it's the one used, seen laying on the stairs (comparison below). So that story cannot be unwritten, in case anyone was tempted.






Here, as in Saraqeb, they say it was dropped from a helicopter. Well, some said there was one:
M.Sergie tweeted "Some survivors said the canisters were dropped from a helicopter, but others didn't hear rotors." You would hear them. Whatever. The hand grenade fell from the regime helicopter (did you know rebels have no helicopters?) into the open stairwell of an apartment building, tearing though plastic sheeting over the top of it. Upon impact with the upper stairs, it coated them with some white powder that appears sprayed, almost like a small fire extinguisher went off here. Unless this is actually shattered cinderblock, there was apparently no cinderblock involved in this drop, as they would allege in Saraqeb. (there are crumbles, but also what looks like rebar from some serious concrete damage - still needs more review)

Tracy Shelton would report on April 30 about this attack for PRI (then Global Post): The horrific chemical weapons attack that probably wasn’t a chemical weapons attack
“When we arrived on the scene I saw the bomb canister. It was not a heavy explosive,” said Toul Haldun Zagroz, a Kurdish police officer in Sheikh Maqsoud. He said he was part of the second team to arrive at the scene, adding that many of the police and rescuers on the first team ended up in the hospital with similar symptoms as the victims.

“There was a white powder covering the stairs but there was no smell or smoke. It did not even occur to me that it might be a chemical, but when we went inside we saw the children dead and the Kurdish police who had arrived before us were on the ground foaming something white from their mouth. Their eyes were so red.”

We must note this Kurdish-majority district had just been overrun by Turkish-backed Islamists. An AP report from Saturday, March 30 has an "FSA" guy boasting how they and and their "Kurdish brothers liberated Sheikh Maqsoud of Assad's criminal gangs and shabiha," referring to pro-government militias now called National Defense Forces. The attack, dubbed "Kurdish Fraternity," was launched the 28th and largely culminated with partial control on the 30th. On that day,
"The Observatory (SOHR) said rebels captured a pro-government Sunni Muslim cleric in the fighting, killed him and then paraded his body through the neighborhood.

State-run Al-Ikhbariya TV identified the cleric as Hassan Seifeddine. It said he was beheaded and his head was placed on the minaret of Al-Hassan Mosque where he used to lead the prayers.

The SANA state news said Seifeddine's body was "mutilated" after the "assassination."
There was a report that "FSA" denied the murder, and suggested Assad's undercover "Shabiha" had killed Seifeddine to make the liberators looks bad. (ACLOS)

That's March 30. After a month of FSA/Islamist-Kurdish joint management, Tracy Shelton noted on April 30: "The brief alliance was quickly shattered last week after the rebels accused the Kurds of double-crossing them and clashes erupted." That should be around April 25. Sounds like things broke down shortly after this chemical attack, or was maybe building up to that. April 13/14 might already be a time that Jabhat al-Nusra could use their weapons against Kurds, including some police and certain civilians ... 

But the "FSA" and allies say the government is behind it, as Shelton heard. A Dr. Hassan, who treated the victims in Afrin, "said he thought the government was attempting to scare the Kurds in Sheikh Maqsoud — using a small attack with some kind of chemical — to prevent them from working again with the rebels." But not everyone agreed: "Others accuse the Free Syrian Army of trying to rope foreign powers into the conflict by feigning a chemical attack." It's not noted, but their Jabhat Al-Nusra allies might be doing the same. And, as Shelton noted, "The Syrian government has little to gain from speculation that chemical weapons are being used in Syria." 

Growing Death Toll, Victim ID Problems, 
Tracy Shelton's article published the story via a survivor's tale - apparently taken second-hand from the medics she spoke with
Yasser Younes went to bed around midnight on April 13. When he woke up two days later, he was in a hospital, and his wife and two young children were dead.

Younes, who lives in the Kurdish-controlled neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud, said he doesn't remember much from that night. He recalled waking up to a loud noise at 3 a.m. Opening the door, he said he saw smoke. And that was it.

A bit more of the story as told by Shelton on Democracy Now
...I spoke with the neighbors who had come in to help, and they’d found the two young boys were dead. The mother later died in hospital. So that was the whole family that was inside the house. The neighbors that came in to help them, they also fell ill. Most of them were in a coma also for a day or two.

And then the next party to arrive were the Kurdish police and members of the YPG forces, the Kurdish militia forces that control the area, and many of them also fell ill, up ’til the next people arriving on the scene like three hours later. 
Most initial sources have 3 killed - two young boys and their mother, who would be Yasser's wife and kids. Some reports mentioned another woman had died, for 4 total. The December, 2013 UN final report heard "the alleged incident affected 21 persons and caused one death." That's clearly incomplete and apparently means one death in hospital (the mother: the boys were allegedly dead from the start).

Most sources agree 20, 21, or 22 total patients were brought to the hospital in Afrin, including the 3-4 dead and thus 16-19 who survived the poison. 

Interestingly, the opposition VDC has 14 people listed as killed, for almost everyone reported as affected (VDC query: all chemical deaths April 13, and ACLOS). Beyond the first 2 women and 2 children, this adds another woman and 9 men, for 14 martyrs total. This division of death reports would be strange, if it weren't so common. Included in this list is our star witness: Yaser Younes Adult - Male, from Sheikh Maksoud, died 2013-04-13. Cause of Death: Chemical and toxic gases.

Syrian opposition site Aksalser.com reported on the attack, giving the names of 3 killed and just 10 others of those affected (should be 17-19). The VDC lists all but 2 of these as killed, and also lists 3 others the original list didn't name as affected, but who wound up dead. The remaining 7-9 patients aren't named anywhere, and by this anyway, virtually everyone who named died. But their names changed in many cases...






One possible argument is the VDC just goofed up and listed all the effected and dead as dead - and missed a couple, and got some names different, added a couple, etc. ... That sounds reasonable, and who would report these strangely-delayed deaths anyway? Best if they just vanish.

I'll come back to the victims names and related patterns... there are some definite oddities here, which is not unusual. <space for that>

Fake Star Witness?
Yasser: Shelton heard, second-hand it seems, that he saw smoke outside the apartment and then passed out. Democracy Now interview: "Yes, well, he—it was actually dropped into their home. It fell onto their courtyard stairs just outside. So, when he woke up, he had opened the door. His only recollection was just seeing some smoke. And then he was in a coma for the next few days." To akselser.com, the man himself said "a small explosion occurred in our house ... I rushed to the children's room to find them unconscious and there was smoke in the room," said Yasser Yunis" who then called up his brother Abdullah to come help (hence brother in the table above). I guess we prefer the version from the horse's mouth and can't call much of a contradiction here. There's less reason for his brother to show up and be effected if Yasser just passed out instead of placing a call. But then did he? He winds up not listed as dead...

consider: article on Tracy Shelton's work here "The most notable survivor was Yasser Younes, who remembered nothing but an explosion at 3 a.m. It was his wife and two children who had died. But Shelton could not interview him; Younes had returned to his home village. “He’d left to another village… and I was trying to get there, but I couldn’t get anyone to take me out there. I didn’t know the exact location” she recalls. Shelton had learned to be careful about accepting rides." That's smart, of course. Is "he went back to his home home town" here code for "he died, and the guy playing him retired the role to live his own life?" 

As far as I've seen, there are no images of Yasser specified. He might be one of the people in the video (none of whom seems to be in a coma, however), but no one says so. So far, I don't even know what he was supposed to look like. That could matter if there were ever some other image said to be of him to compare it to.

And what about the seen victims? 
Ronahi TV exclusive video: Akselser.com posting - Human Rights Investigation posting

They have a couple types of victims in the small group shown, in some dim basement clinic (and seen later in a better-lit hospital) ... obvious staging of "foaming at the mouth and nose" scenes - not just us but several experts saw this and explained in detail why it's probably just as fake as it seems. "I'm wholly unconvinced," as one put it softly. This plus very bland and fake-seeming "convulsions," are seen with the adult male victims (2 of them?), who look like clean-shaven camera-friendly Islamists (ACLOS)

The two baby boys are here, getting a bed each but no treatment - they're already dead. That's another group that's pretty clearly not faking. (at right and above, from some images provided to the SOHR at the time)





Two women are also shown, seeming at least to not be faking for the fun of it. One has apparent mucous bubbles from her nose, and seems paralyzed or dead at first, but later speaks to the camera.

The other woman seems to have suffered a bad foot beating, and shows no obvious chemical signs other than laying still and not looking at the camera ... Did the new Islamist authorities have a go at her for some Sharia law crime like dressing wrong, or being married to a Kurd who crossed them?



Sarin Confirmation 
In retrospect, it shouldn;t be surorising if sarin somehow turned up in this incident, using the same weapon used later in an attack later confirmed to involve sarin. But at the time, it wasn't clear at all, and still, just how it was involved (if it was - likely) remains an open question.

The Times of London report about a sarin attack in Aleppo (see Narwani): apparently people with the Syrian American Medical Society ("a team from “an American medical agency”) came to the Afrin hospital and took hair samples to have tested in US labs. (it seems SAMS also helped take stolen samples from the Khan al-Assal attack, after Islamists again overran the town, and sent hem to the US to confirm sarin in that case - ACLOS). The US was suddenly confident by late April to declare sarin was probably used (doubts aired by April 25 - McClatchy) A 14  June  2013 letter from the US government to the UN investigation alleged Syria's government used sarin "against  the  opposition  in  an  attack  on  the  Aleppo neighborhood of Sheik Maqsood on 13 April 2013," the UN report says. They were unable to verify.

"The United Nations Mission sought to conduct fact-finding activities pertaining to this incident from the territory of a bordering country (in Turkey), having determined that such an investigation held the prospect of producing additional information. The United Nations Mission was ultimately unable to obtain any such information." (Turkey refused?) "In the absence of any further information, the United Nations Mission was unable to draw any conclusions pertaining to this alleged incident." (UN final report). No interviews, blood samples verified, nothing further.

If they had looked, maybe they'd find sarin, plus all the witnesses dead, other strange things even they couldn't ignore ...  

Symptoms and treatment:
As noted, the seen victims have strange or fake symptoms, but it's not totally clear who's who, and some victims were described differently:  
Textbook sarin: "they displayed symptoms of chemical exposure including foaming at the mouth, constricted pupils and difficulty breathing. They were treated using chemical weapons antidote Atropine, Dr Habash claims." (Daily Mail) It's almost like he read that right from a textbook, instead of actual events... except the foaming part. That can happen, but is not as standard or textbook as these guys think, and the shaving creak tricks really push it too far.

Not textbook: "those injured suffered hallucinations, severe vomiting, nose bleeding and eye burning, one of which lost eye sight." (SOHR Facebook) Policeman Zargos: "when we went inside we saw the children dead and the Kurdish police who had arrived before us were on the ground foaming something white from their mouth. Their eyes were so red.”

None of the people seen as victims on video seem to have red eyes or bleeding noses, and they aren't vomiting. Are they stand-ins?

Secondary contamination:
Policeman Zagroz "himself would later suffer similar symptoms. About 30 minutes after entering Younes' home, he was taken to the hospital to be treated for dizziness, severe headache, blurred vision and stomach pain." Dr. Hassan: “My effects were mild, but one doctor had to be admitted to be ICU.” (Shelton, PRI)

Phosphorous?
The VDC heard: "at the beginning news were reporting that shelling was using white phosphoric material and then other sources said it is (Sarin Gas), news to be validated."  This confusion is also seen with Adra, 3-24-13 (a few weeks earlier). There it seems bad translation was to blame - organophosphate (including sarin) comes out as (organic) phosphorous, taken as perhaps WP incendiary weapons. That's probably two early sarin reports.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Sarin and the "Foul Irritant(s)" in Syrian CW Attacks

November 24, 2017
(rough, incomplete)
edits 11/29, 12/6

I've covered this many places sporadically, and it's past time for a unified effort at understanding the relation between sarin incidents in Syria and the release of some rotten-smelling yellow smoke or vapor that they say is the sarin. It may or may not be. To get a clearer picture, I think, I'll need only:
- this post with a starter overview (see below),
- a data-dump post for case details by subject,
- some more analysis, and 
- later, an overview post and/or an article or report

Pure vs. Impure Sarin
Still some critics of opposition claims stumble over reported smells involved with alleged sarin attacks, against the supposed fact that the nerve agent sarin is an odorless and colorless chemical. I'm still not an expert, but from what I've learned so far:
High-quality military-grade sarin appears and behaves just like water, including by being colorless and odorless. You'd see this produced by the USA, USSR during the Cold War, in Israeli labs, etc. But some military forces (Iraq, perhaps) and non-state groups (like Aum Shinrikyo) make their sarin in sloppier manner with varying impurities.

The kind made in the former Syrian chemical weapons program... where does that fit? This seems to be an open question, but the implication from Western governments is they make it quite impure ...

<add 11/29>To explain: They seem to have clarified this only in 2017, as explained in pat at The Sarin Evidence. I'll explain below the details of and clues for impure sarin use in Syria. first...

Following the April KS attack, British and French officials stated the sarin used was a match to the sarin used by "Assad" in attacks in 2013, mainly meaning the 4-29-2013 incident in Saraqeb, detailed in a French intelligence report. But they would say it's the same in Ghouta and maybe all cases. Could be.

No one has ever explicitly stated that any of the sarin found in the field after attacks is a match for the materials and processes surrendered by Syria. It was suggested. Some "consistent" chemical signatures or impurities have been cited, but not an exact overall recipe match. And even that could, possibly, be copied exactly by the right mad scientists, with or without inside knowledge of the Syrian program. Intel agencies will have samples of what Syria had, so any of their scientists could just "make some of that."

But instead, they point to supposedly definitive matches between the sarin attacks. So if it turns out terrorists were behind all of those, the findings would be the same - each attack would carry the same signs it does, and that's the fingerprint of the Islamist scum behind it, not of the Syrian government. All the French spooks and their like really add is a repeated act of confidence in declaring each of those attacks as true-flag attacks by the government, instead of false-flag ones by the other side.

Or, when Syrian soldiers are the targets (often), they'd say "fine, that's another stupid accident or maybe a false-flag by Assad to make the rebels look bad... it's not a straight-forward attack by "rebels," who "lack the capability" to whatever whatever..."

As it happens, I suspect a general match between attacks as the French spooks and their shadowy ilk do. They also make the reasonable presumption that whoever has been behind most or all sarin attacks is the first suspect next time around. With a grain of salt, I take the same approach. <end 11/29>

Back to pure vs. impure
As I gather, impure sarin usually has a shorter shelf life, often an unpleasant smell, and may have varying colors. Wikipedia says “impure sarin can smell like mustard or burned rubber.” That's not a definitive source, but perhaps gives some idea... The main smell that emerges here, in the Syrian conflict, is a hard-to-place organic decay smell, perhaps like sulfur (arguably like mustard?) or "like burning nylon" as reported by gassed soldiers in February, 2015, confirmed by the OPCW to have been exposed to sarin. (Monitor post)  It also might be the agent described in one attack as smelling like "dead animals or corpses."

Now (side-note)... back in December, 2012, a supposed defector from the Syrian CW program told the Saudi media, as the Israeli media eagerly repeated (middle part):
(end side-note)

Also note impure sarin is or should be less deadly than the pure kind. Just by statistics, most materials are far less deadly than sarin, and this stuff is made of a reported 40% other stuff (French intelligence report, re: 4-29-2013 incident). Some cases of possible sarin use are dismissed by OPCW investigators as unclear based on low death toll/quick recovery, on the presence of a foul smell, or apparent lack of secondary contamination, all of which might fit just fine with the actual sarin in use - smellier and weaker in all regards than one might expect, especially if one is intent on blaming a state actor expected to field pure sarin...

Consider how the December 2015 OPCW report (PDF, ACLOS posting) dismisses one case of possible impure sarin use, against Syrian soldiers on August 29, 2014 in Jobar, Damascus. It seems there were actually two attacks the same day, with the earlier one smelling like chlorine (per the 2 survivors from the group of 15) and the later one with more survivors/witnesses described as having a foul odor, like "dead animals or corpses" Both caused similar symptoms, including loss of consciousness: in the first case, some were incapacitated (unconscious?), captured and executed, and most of the rest were killed or captured in the following clash. In the foul-smelling case, about 1/3 of the 33 affected soldiers passed out, though everyone escaped this time, assisting each other. The investigators decided the second incident was probably not sarin because...  "the smell of sarin is most frequently described as a sweet smell of apple or pear."

Is it? I have pure = no smell, impure = mustard, burned rubber, etc. That is vague, and probably quite incomplete. There's a person on a forum who says "Sarin gas smells like apple blossom or is odorless also have heard burnt plastic." The apple smell sounds like, perhaps, it's from almost pure sarin (apple blossom OR no odor seems the main smell range closer to purity), with burnt plastic being "also," maybe in a different context, from less pure material.
<add 12/6>A recent comment by Abe at Rick Sterling's  Consortium News article: "When pure, Sarin is odorless. When impure or contaminated, Sarin may have a slightly fruity odor, similar to a weak ethyl acetate solution." That agrees with what I'm picking up. <end 12/6>

Well, none of the attacks in Syria with confirmed sarin involvement has an apple/pear smell reported. Wherever there's sarin confirmed by the OPCW themselves (SEVEN of 8 cases, dated 3-19-13, 4-29-13, 8-21-13, 8-24-13, 8-25-13, 2-15-15, 4-4-17), it - or its release partner taken for it (see below) - smells foul, like organic rot, but strange, hard to place, maybe like sulfur, burning nylon (that's plastic), rotten eggs, etc. One exception is 3-30-17, with reports of no smell (add 11/29: these reports are not very trustworthy, seem very limited and close to militants, and report many unusual differences from the usual patterns).

Likely sarin attacks on 3-19-13, 12-11/12-16 and many against Syrian soldiers (see events list for all I've catalogued) have the same kind of strange, foul, rotten odor described. It never smells fresh and fruity as they claim. So their dismissal is ill-founded, and that attack that smelled like decaying flesh might have used the same thing that usually comes with sarin - when it's checked for (they don't check in most cases, like this 8-29 case).

<add 12/6>Abe's comment at Consortium News article: continued "Neither pure nor impure Sarin produce a “horrible, suffocating smell”. Sarin is not capable of “producing strong smells”. Impure Sarin does not smell “like rotten eggs”, “overpowering”, “like cooking gas”, or “like rotten food” as claimed by purported “eyewitnesses”." Well, not that he knows of so far, anyway. But it turns up reported as smelling strange and hard to place, maybe like like sulfur, like "burning nylon," "foul," maybe like dead bodies, all as described by soldiers and civilians in government-held areas. <end 12/6> 

The Sarin Attack Package: How Many Chemicals Involved?
So, there are these incidents where sarin turns up. And it does. The phrase "Sarin-like substance" as used in reports seems unnecessarily confusing; "sarin-like" is so narrow they mean sarin or maybe 2 or 3 obscure compounds (I've seen clorosarin and some vx derivative given as examples), not any other likely poison.

In these same incidents there tends to be some bomb or rocket or grenade/cinderblock impact, and there is some kind of chemical that reportedly or verifiably comes out of some device. And there are reported symptoms linked to that (which don't always reflect the textbook description of sarin poisoning, and which may not be from that vapor, and which may even be fictitious, depending). There are often people shown suffering breathing problems and other difficulties. In most cases, some dead people are shown, sometimes many of them, often appearing to be killed by something else. (see here for example)

So, the connection between each of these things may not be as clear as it seems. It's possible the open-release smoke could be the visual effect for their fake sarin attack (maybe toxic as well to some degree, to help it blend in), while victims to be shown might be gassed with, say, carbon monoxide in some basement, while the actual sarin is saved for spiking samples and token doses for the people they send for testing.

But in one case, at least as it seems, it must be all on one release of chemicals from a fired rocket. In Khan al-Assal, Aleppo, on March 19, 2013, one small chemical rocket was fired into a government-held area, believed to be by Jabhat Al-Nusra. A strange-smelling yellow-ish mist was released, causing irritation (skin itching), some sudden deaths, 20 killed all told, and tests and science showing it was impure "cottage industry" sarin, as everyone now agrees. Happening in a government-held area, none of that sort of trickery (by the opposition anyway) is possible. So as we wonder, let's note: this can all be done with one rocket and it can be just sarin with its own impurities, as it was in Khan al-Assal. It may or may not be that way across the board.

So to the extent it may be different, let's give a name to the foul irritant(s) linked to these incidents. How about the foul irritant(s)? (considering there may be more than one used). This may also be the sarin, as it apparently was in Khan al-Assal.

Key features:
- Color: Gas or vapor tends to appear yellow in color, usually pale and sometimes described as white almost that - but other colors including black, blue, and no color appear along with these other features (suggesting there's more than one - yellow seems most common)
- Sometimes associated: reported black fluid, or sometimes black splash seen - best with Khan Sheikhoun - densest patches seem to have a cyan blue hue. (see the post black sarin?)
- Smell: It smells foul, like organic rot, but strange, hard to place, maybe like sulfur, burning rubber or nylon, rotten eggs and garlic, or perhaps like decaying flesh
- Caustic: causes irritation, itching, eye and lung damage
- Sarin: people and the environment are said to get their  positive sarin findings directly from it. Maybe. There seems to be some connection...

Chlorine Confusion
Some incidents considered in this study I had first dismissed as chlorine attacks. At one point, I even did the same with Khan al-Assal, but that turned out to be sarin. These others are now under review, because some things that suggest chlorine also suggest this impure sarin and/or foul irritant(s). In fact, the similarities are strong enough it strikes me they could have been intentionally designed by some twisted genius as twin weapons to be easily confused, so some reports could be hyped up as sarin and others hyped down to chlorine (for example). In fact, this might have happened several times...

- Color: chlorine gas is basically yellow, slightly green tinted, and can appear quite pale or basically white when it's thin. A yellow gas (vapor, actually) is consistent with the sarin used in this war. If we ever got video of it, we might see a different hue, but verbally, they're hard to separate. Yellow gas" can go either way, depending.

- Caustic: both chlorine and this serrin cause irritation, eye and lung damage - chlorine does this by turning into corrosive acid on contact with water. I'm not sure how the impure sarin/irritant(s) work.

How to tell:
- Smell (but not foolproof): this is the key difference: chlorine smells like chlorine bleach, cleaning products, while the sarin stuff smells like awful, strange rot. Nonetheless, first reports from the Khan al-Assal attack specified a chlorine aroma, and that turned out to be sarin, with others recalling a sulfur-like stench. Those first reports could be confused from the sarin's similar color and strange smell, colored by prevalent worries at the time about all that chlorine Jabhat Al-Nusra had just seized nearby in December, 2012 (partly considered here). 

There was a December 22, 2012 chemical attack on Syrian soldiers in Jobar (ACLOS), using some yellow gas, initially seeming to be chlorine. Details (like smell and symptoms) are scarce, but the fact that 7 died, and all within an hour or less, would make it unusually deadly for chlorine. Instead, it could be the first appearance of the material(s) under study.  

As noted, two same-day attacks on soldiers 8-29-2014 - also in Jobar - had the same basic symptoms that are different from chlorine, possibly sarin, and involving widespread loss of consciousness. But they had different smells reported, and one was chlorine-like. Well, the same was reported in Khan al-Assal. Maybe those two soldiers formed a mistaken memory, like the more confident one thinking it was chlorine-like, and the other not remembering and following suit.

However, there are other attacks in 2014 where more soldiers report a chlorine type smell, but also report diminished consciousness or passing out, which doesn't happen from chlorine, usually. (see events list, 7-11-2014, 9-10-2014, 1-8-2015) So even if it really did smell like chlorine, it almost surely isn't, even if it's also not sarin. Yet more clues there could be three or more chemicals involved in the entire attack-and-samples package.

- Sarin-like effects: consistent symptoms (miosis, salivation/tears/nausea/vomiting - SLUDGE, paralysis, loss of consciousness, vision blurring/dimming, headache, fatigue,  high and/or quick death toll (as with 12-22-2012), secondary contamination, etc. These will help illustrate chlorine is unlikely and/or that sarin is likely.

With That,
Proceed to the events list, if you care to go over the stuff I'm going over (still in assembly - may be a near-complete list now). Some 29 incidents or clusters of incidents are assessed so far by the features under consideration (11 with verified or likely sarin involvement, 18 possible cases under consideration).

And FWIW other sarin-related posts here of possible interest (where I've covered this sporadically in the past):
- Black Sarin? (possible color impurities)
- What Happened on March 19, 2013? (Khan al-Assal)
- Sarin Faking in Syria: token dose storytellers running the show?
- The Sarin Evidence (Khan Sheikhoun - pure vs. impure, Syira's stocks vs. what's found)
The Ghouta Massacre's Sarin Myth, Brightly Lit (Ghouta - focus on possible lack of sarin release, or its link to the mass deaths)
- List of CW incidents (sarin, chlorine, others, except by ISIS) up to early 2017 (somewhat incomplete and with some errors): Red Flags Across the Red Line (PDF)