Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 24, 2013

Syria: Shaving Cream As Chemical Weapon

Due to considerable progress by the Syrian government against the foreign sponsored, jihadist insurgency new allegations have to be found to justify additional foreign intervention.

These now come in the form of alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government:

"Shrunken pupils, foaming at the mouth and other signs indicate, in our view, that lethal chemical weapons were used."
The U.S. government does not support these unsubstantiated allegations. While "foaming at the mouth" can be a sign of chemical weapon exposure other possible causes for apparent "foaming at the mouth" do exist.

A man "foaming at the mouth"

One therefore should be cautious about the "proof" under the Telegraph's headline Syria doctor's Facebook video proof that Assad used chemicals in Aleppo:

Syria's regime dropped chemical weapons from a plane on a district of Aleppo earlier this month, killing two infants and a woman, experts said after a doctor in Aleppo posted a video of apparent victims to his Facebook page.
Niazi Habash, a British-trained doctor who treated the Aleppo victims, said they showed symptoms of exposure to chemicals, including breathing difficulties, foaming at the mouth and pinprick pupils.
The short video posted at the Telegraph site shows three persons laying on hospital stretchers. All three persons have some white foam around their mouths. None of them shows any acute breathing problem. All three seem rather relaxed. Here are three screenshots from the doctor's video showing each of the three "victims". You may judge yourself what kind of "chemical weapon" might have produced their "foaming at the mouth" symptom.

A man "foaming at the mouth"

Another man "foaming at the mouth"

Another person chewing on a tube and with heavy "foaming at the mouth"

This "foaming at the mouth" video proof of chemical weapons usage is fake. That is not to say that the above people are not under chemical attack:
[M]any of these shaving creams feature more harmful ingredients than beneficial ones. Here's what to keep an eye out for.

Propolene glycol is a humectant like glycerin, but unlike glycerin, it's more frequently found in antifreeze and brake fluid. Triethanolamine, better known as TEA, is an emulsifying agent, meaning it helps keep the oil and water from separating. It's also a very controversial ingredient in the cosmetic industry because not only is it a skin irritant, but many formulas containing TEA are found to be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are linked to cancer. Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) are two more controversial skincare ingredients. These make a great lather, but they also have a number of health implications. Lauryl mimics estrogen, which is especially problematic for women, and laureth often hosts a known carcinogen called dioxane.

Should we bomb Assad for this massive chemical shaving cream attack? Maybe not.

Faking videos of alleged bombing and allegedly wounded victims has been a standard practice of the Syrian insurgents. This "foaming at the mouth" shaving cream video posted by a doctor who is on the side of the insurgency is just another example of such fakery.

But the Telegraph has an additional "expert" judging about the "chemical weapon" usage:

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former British Army specialist and director of a biological consultancy, said the most likely explanation was the chemical sarin had been used.

"From what we've seen, and the descriptions of containers being dropped from the air, it certainly seems that the regime is using sarin in an unprepared state in these attacks," he said.

That a is somewhat funny "expert opinion" by a former tank regiment commander from a "biological consultancy" about "chemical weapons" as "foaming at the mouth" is NOT a standard symptom of sarin exposure. Yet, looking at fake videos with shaving foam, he claims to see sarin usage.

These fake videos and fake experts are not proof of anything but of warmongering by certain "western" media.

Posted by b on April 24, 2013 at 8:45 UTC | Permalink


Of all the propaganda that we have been subjected to, this takes the biscuit. Could you tweet this guy at the Daily Telegraph? It's truly shocking that he is trying to use this as "fresh evidence" that CWs are being used. I can't believe that it has been published; that people are expected to believe it.
That being said, the EU's anti-terror chief has told the BBC that the UK and Ireland are among the most common countries of origin of European fighters who have flocked to Syria; the anti-Government bias in the British press is driving simpletons to fight.

No surprise either that the alleged "victims" are supposed to be Kurds. Wouldn't have anything to do with trying to win the support of the Kurdish minority in Syria, would it?

Posted by: Pat Bateman | Apr 24 2013 9:27 utc | 1

"Wouldn't have anything to do with trying to win the support of the Kurdish minority in Syria, would it?"

Of course not, and most certainly there's no intention to stimulate the "Saddams krudish chemical massacre" meme either.

Posted by: peter radiator | Apr 24 2013 10:25 utc | 2

The question is, if these reports are true (unlikely as it's presented IMO), why the Syrian army would drop quote:"unprepared"/unquote, non-lethal (two infants and a woman notwithstanding), small dosages of sarin on people? For fun?

Sarin-gas filled bombs would kill anyone exposed within a few minutes. These victims shouldn't be alive long enough for the good doctor to film the foam coming out of their mouths.

Be sure that if the day ever comes, when chemical bombs are dropped in Syria, the causality numbers will much much higher.

Posted by: never mind | Apr 24 2013 12:37 utc | 3


This sort of post is the main reason I read MOA

Thank you B

Posted by: yah . . . But | Apr 24 2013 12:51 utc | 4

That Isreali General possibly mistook shaving cream for a chemical weapons attack cos the Zionists all have top of the range electronic laser razors developed by Darpa paid for by the US taxpayer. Easy mistake to make.

Posted by: heath | Apr 24 2013 13:41 utc | 5

The first website I go to for news about Syria is the Syrian government's SANA news website. But there's been a problem accessing that site during the last week or so. For the past week or so, what works is: . What currently does NOT work is . Also does NOT work or at least it does not work for me.

Bashar Assad did an hour-long interview with Al-Ikhbariya TV on 17 Apr 2013. The Arabic edition of SANA had the full transcript of that interview last week in Arabic. SANA's English edition had nothing on it. But yesterday, 23 Apr 2013, SANA's English edition belatedly published an English transcript of the full interview. It is at .

Late last week the Syria expert 3arabi Souri did a separate English translation of the interview, not quite as polished as SANA's, which is available at .

Posted by: Parviziyi | Apr 24 2013 17:00 utc | 6

Syria's regime dropped chemical weapons from a plane on a district of Aleppo earlier this month, killing two infants and a woman, experts said after a doctor in Aleppo posted a video of apparent victims to his Facebook page.

Yeah, right. 3 persons dead. That's evidence. Because, as every expert for WMD knows sarin bombs typically kill 3 - 4 persons in a big city. Just to be really, really certain, I quickly asked my resident WMD expert, a speaking Kermit puppet.

OK, when Saddam in the american supported war against Iran used (quite probably usa supplied) chemical weapons, the victims were in the hundreds or even thousands. But then, that was good western chemical weapons, not the lousy stuff Assad has.

So, "2 infants and 1 woman injured" (not even killed) sounds like perfect proof for a sarin bomb over a major city.

Even better, it also shows once more that God is on usa's side, because he lets them muslims terrorists and resisting presidents have lousy bad weapons and incapable pilots while the usa has supreme weapons, supreme pilots and of course supreme intelligence from supreme corner shop owners in supreme london.

Pardon me, I just had a cappucino and I'll have to quickly wipe the foam off my mouth.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Apr 24 2013 18:31 utc | 7

Parviziyi (6)

FYI: is a system in Syria (and not reachable anymore). is a system in the Czech republic (and reachable).

Just in case the western puppets play with the dns system you might want to note the IP address of
(you can use the IP address as well as '' in your browser)

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Apr 24 2013 18:49 utc | 8

They're quite desperate looking for an excuse to invade and impose a "no fly" zone/safe haven inside Syria.

Grumbling is already starting on the ground and the rebels are doing what they're good at: showing the world what utter scum they are.

Qatar backlash

losses for rebels

"In Damascus, Syrian forces loyal to Assad seized a strategic town east of the city, breaking a critical weapons supply route for the rebels, activists and fighters said."

""Now all the villages will start falling one after another, the battle in Eastern Ghouta will be a war of attrition," another fighter in the area said, speaking by Skype.

More than two years into their struggle to end four decades of Assad family rule, the rebels remain divided by struggles over ideology and fighting for power

Rebels fighting in Otaiba said they sent a distress call to brigades in other parts of Ghouta but it went unanswered by other units with whom they compete for influence and weapons."

And of course this piece of work...
Rebels kidnap 2 bishops

They kidnap 2 bishops (who were trying to secure the release of a kidnapped priest) and shoot one of their drivers. If there is one way of getting negative press coverage this is it.

Posted by: Gehenna | Apr 24 2013 19:15 utc | 9

"If there is one way of getting negative press coverage this is it." And if there's one way of knocking press coverage of the bishops' kidnapping out of the cue in American MSM, hyping new claims of Syrian CW is it. NPR this morning had a whole segment on the Israeli General's diagnosis of CW from the rebel video -- nothing about the kidnapped bishops.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 24 2013 20:07 utc | 10

@ RP #10

well spotted - makes sense of the Israeli General's stupid comments

Posted by: yah . . But | Apr 24 2013 20:42 utc | 11

In continuation from Mr Pragma #8, has IP address which is hosted by a company called SCS-NET located in Damascus. SCS-NET's own website has IP address which is located in Damascus and is functioning ( That doesn't shed light on why isn't functioning. The functioning SANA.SY has IP address which is hosted by a company called INTERNET CZ located in Czechia. I get all that information from and

Posted by: Parviziyi | Apr 24 2013 20:54 utc | 12

From my point of view, in Bashar's TV interview on 17 Apr 2013, Bashar answered a number of questions very well, but he had a shitty answer for the good question: "The crisis has been on-going for more than two years. In your opinion, why has it continued for so long?" His answer to that question indicates to me that he is as foggy as I am about why the security forces haven't been able to impose security.

Posted by: Parviziyi | Apr 24 2013 21:04 utc | 13


From your standing I gather that you desire the Syrian side to win this battle. Then if you are in the know you'd better not answer the question publicly. If not, then you don't even need to ask it publicly.

That's what the Syrian president did.

Posted by: ATH | Apr 24 2013 21:18 utc | 14

@RP #10

So in your view the whole reporting on the bogus CW scare from the Israeli General is to deflect attention from the mishaps on the ground (2 years on and they still can't conquer and keep an area and the kidnappings, etc)? Sounds plausible except that Kerry has been scaring the public using the CW card: Kerry and Nato

I think it's more in line with repeating the lie that the Chemical weapons are being used on the ground AND are a threat to NATO (i.e. Turkey). Of course they have not been used yet (except by the terrorists) and they will only be used against invading armies. Which is what they are being used for namely a deterrent.

ps what does NPR stand for? National Public Radio? (googled it) I'm not American so do not know all media outlets in the US.

Posted by: Gehenna | Apr 24 2013 21:37 utc | 15

I find it hard to believe that those photos were used as evidence for foaming at the mouth. There are symptoms of Sarin intoxication that might have confused the creators of those pics. These include Rhinorrhea (runny nose), excessive salivation, Dyspnea (difficulty in breathing due to bronchoconstriction/secretions) and Sweating. These can combine to produce a bubbly excretion around the mouth. But it would not look anything like a chemically induced foam such as shaving cream.

Keep up the good work b. Based on the reporting in the Guardian it is sorely needed.

Posted by: ToivoS | Apr 24 2013 21:48 utc | 16

I'm not a doctor, but I've seen a few dogs and a few people foam at the mouth, rabid dogs in india and some second cousins having seizures in France. The foam looked much more loose and stringy, or more sculptural, it's hard to describe, but this chemical attack foam certainly looks more like shaving cream than the real foaming I've seen

Posted by: Crest | Apr 24 2013 22:08 utc | 17

Such bad actors, such a bad story and such a huge coverage! One could even think the syrian gov. itself were behind it and promoted it, just to ridicule this whole McDonalds-Revolution even more.Ha!

Posted by: Kal | Apr 24 2013 22:54 utc | 18

@Gehenna: National Propaganda Radio, alternately, Nice Polite Republicans

Posted by: dan | Apr 25 2013 0:11 utc | 19

Let's get down in the dirt-- (from news reports)
Apr 13
MI6 smuggles Syrian soil sample to UK; soil polluted, British military scientists have reportedly found forensic evidence that chemical weapons have been used in the conflict in Syria.

Apr 13
Foreign-backed terrorists fired a chemical weapon shell in Khan al-Assal region on March 19 which led to the death of 25 Syrians and left nearly 100 injured. Syrian Minister of Information Omran al-Zoubi said at the time that Turkey and Qatar are legally and morally responsible for the chemical attack by terrorists, adding “the terrorist act of firing chemicals-containing missile into Aleppo was very dangerous”.

Apr 18
Britain and France have informed the United Nations that there is credible evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons

Apr 22
US: We are aware of these press reports and have no new information to share at this time. I do refer you to the U.K. and France about that specifically.

Apr 23
William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary: The evidence is said to suggest "some use of chemical weapons" but there is no certainty about who used them.

Apr 24
United Nations investigators will examine soil samples

Apr 24, US Sate Dept
QUESTION: I want to know what you’re actually talking to them about, if they’ve actually made this conclusion, and you say we’re working with them about an ongoing process of trying to figure out what happened. They’ve figured it out, so I don’t quite understand what the conversation’s about.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we think that, given the conflict in Syria, that it’s very difficult and challenging to make a final conclusion on this, and we have not made a conclusion. So that’s our position. I refer you to the other parties for their opinion.
What goes up must come down
Spinnin' wheel got to go 'round
Talkin' 'bout your troubles it's a cryin' sin
Ride a painted pony let the spinnin' wheel spin
-- BLOOD, SWEAT & TEARS, "Spinning Wheel"
(D. Clayton-Thomas)

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 25 2013 0:43 utc | 20

Recipe for intervention. Add shaving cream to soil samples. Stir vigorously.

Posted by: dh | Apr 25 2013 1:00 utc | 21

Chuck Hagel, when not bowing and scraping for Israel about Iran, actually manages to sound sensible.

CAIRO — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday cast doubt on an Israeli general's conclusion that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its own citizens.

Any U.S. response to Syria will be based on American intelligence findings, Hagel said in his first public remarks since an Israeli official alleged Monday that the Syria government had used chemical weapons.

"Suspicions are one thing," Hagel told reporters traveling with him. "Evidence is another."

"Suspicions are one thing, evidence is another."
May I quote you on that, Chuck?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 25 2013 1:37 utc | 22

Buy shaving gel, less confusing. People do get high off nitrous oxide from whipped cream in a can, giving both a foaming mouth, and pdr (dilated pupils), laughing gas, aka no2 is apt for this report, as its silly, much like the effects...

Posted by: kev | Apr 25 2013 1:49 utc | 23


The "freedom fighters'" ongoing "fundraising activities" (kidnappings and ransoms, looting and fencing archeological digs, capturing oil rigs) are uniformly ignored by American MSM because they undermine the heroic image of the insurgents that is part of the neocons' drumbeats for American military intervention in Syria. When such high profile individuals as two archbishops are kidnapped (while trying to negotiate the release of a priest), the MSM (which gives constant coverage to Syria) can only have an excuse to not cover it by filling the top Middle East news slot with something else. Fresh allegations of Syrian WMD are always usable in that top spot.

Speaking of the MSM's constant coverage of Syria, the two NPR reporters who have been blanketing its news coverage for the past two years with sympathetic human interest stories about Syrian "activists" who were forced to take up arms (while actual popular nonviolent opposition in Bahrain has gotten nary a mention), Kelly McEvers and Deborah Amos -- those two journalists were named for a Peabody Award a few weeks ago. The CNN-ization of NPR Foreign Reporting -- quantity over quality.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 25 2013 2:40 utc | 24

So much for the "civil war"--
BBC, Apr 24

Britons fighting with extremist groups in Syria, warns Hague

A "substantial number" of British citizens are fighting with extremist groups in Syria, the foreign secretary William Hague has warned.

He said violent Islamist groups were training recruits in the "uncontested space" created by the two-year conflict in the country.

This could pose a future threat to British national security, he stressed.

Opposition forces prepare to launch rocket attacks near the city of Aleppo

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 25 2013 3:00 utc | 25

NYT: U.S. Sees No Conclusive Evidence of Chemical Arms Use by Syria

The Obama administration shares the suspicions of several of its allies that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, a senior official said Wednesday, but it lacks the conclusive evidence that President Obama has said would lead to American intervention.
“It is precisely because this is a red line that we have to establish with airtight certainty that this happened,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity so he could discuss internal deliberations. “The bar on the United States is higher than on anyone else, both because of our capabilities and because of our history in Iraq.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking in Cairo during a Middle East tour that has been dominated by worries about Syria, said, “Suspicions are one thing; evidence is another.”

Posted by: b | Apr 25 2013 3:51 utc | 26

@dan #19

@RP #24
Though I did see the news on the bishops on the MSM, the whole CW scare dominated the headlines. I think your smokescreen explanation is correct and it does not rule out the mantra/excuse for invasion take on the CW card.

It reminds me a lot of the Iraq war were they kept repeating the whole WMD lie which was ultimately the excuse to invade Iraq.

Posted by: Gehenna | Apr 25 2013 5:49 utc | 27

@RustyPipes 24

Good to find you somewhere on the net-scape! I'm commenting on the latest 'Bad in Boston, Good in Syria' absurdities at MyFDL.

Posted by: fairleft | Apr 25 2013 6:15 utc | 28

Syrian army seizes strategic town near capital

Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad seized a strategic town east of Damascus on Wednesday, breaking a critical weapons supply route for the rebels, activists and fighters said.

Rebels have held several suburbs ringing the southern and eastern parts Damascus for months, but they have been struggling to maintain their positions against a ground offensive backed by fierce army shelling and air strikes in recent weeks.

"The disaster has struck, the army entered Otaiba. The regime has managed to turn off the weapons tap," a fighter from the town told Reuters via Skype.

"The price of a bullet will go from 50 Syrian pounds to 1,000 Syrian pounds ($10) now, but we must pay and retake it. It's the main if not the only route."

Posted by: b | Apr 25 2013 9:26 utc | 29

If this isn’t a hoax, tongue-in-cheek or just inept deranged fun, no wonder they (usual suspects) run courses in neutral spots (Jordan..) on using videos, social media, etc., for a-hem, ‘dissidents.’

b has pointed several times to totally ridiculous video fakery. One might argue that the crudeness, lack of sophistication stems from the perception that anything will fly and effort is not needed. That perception comes in part - I guess - from viewing past W image propaganda, judging them as BS, while seeing them touted all over the place, accepted as real, used as justification, etc.

Even TIME had an article on the topic, June 2012:

excerpt: Nevertheless, as U.S. officials have revealed to Time, the Obama Administration has been providing media-technology training and support to Syrian dissidents by way of small nonprofits like the Institute for War & Peace Reporting and Freedom House. Viral videos of alleged atrocities, like the footage Abu Ghassan produced, have made Assad one of the most reviled men on the planet...

I watched the Bashar Al-Assad interview of 17 April 2013 (Eng subtitles and transcript) with no probs at, - works today:

Posted by: Noirette | Apr 25 2013 14:54 utc | 30

Well it seems the US are now rattling the chemical weapons sabre ... and the BBC are running with it, over and over, as they do.

"US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has said American intelligence believes "to some degree of varying confidence" that Syria has used chemical weapons."

US has 'some confidence' of Syria chemical-weapon use

Posted by: Rod Brown | Apr 25 2013 15:53 utc | 31

@Rob Brown - yep and there is this White House letter to McCain about alleged chemical weapon use.

Essentially the White House says something may or may not have happened somewhere and something may or may not be done about it. I think its a ploy to press the Russians in the UNSC.

Posted by: b | Apr 25 2013 16:46 utc | 32

Hey b, well Sky news and the BBC are now running it over and over, with plethora of so called "experts" on the phone ... I have an odd feeling of deja vu!

Posted by: Rod Brown | Apr 25 2013 17:37 utc | 33

Take the Red line--

(CNN) -- The United States has evidence that the chemical weapon sarin has been used in Syria on a small scale, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.

"We need all the facts. We need all the information," he said. "What I've just given you is what our intelligence community has said they know. As I also said, they are still assessing and they are still looking at what happened, who was responsible and the other specifics that we'll need."

In a letter sent to lawmakers before Hagel's announcement, the White House said that intelligence analysts have concluded "with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin."

In the letter, signed by White House legislative affairs office Director Miguel Rodriguez, the White House said the "chain of custody" of the chemicals was not clear and that intelligence analysts could not confirm the circumstances under which the sarin was used, including the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

But, the letter said, "we do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 25 2013 17:48 utc | 34


Actually, I think that it's the White House follow up to the grilling that Hagel and his generals got from the pro-Israel hawks on the Foreign Relations committee recently, telling them that the White House remains on top of the most recent information and is investigating. Apparently, having John Kerry say that Netanyahu didn't take his general's assessment seriously wasn't enough to assuage the congressional hawks. There is also the subtle dig (relate to Iraq concocted intelligence), that intelligence allegations are insufficient.

I can't say that Obama is reluctant to send arms and troops to Syria, but he clearly does not want to be pushed into it on John McCain's and Lindsay Graham's time schedule.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 25 2013 18:46 utc | 35


Yo, fairleft, long time no see. I'm mostly at Mondoweiss these days. But MoA is the best blog and comment section for keeping up on the latest on Syria.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Apr 25 2013 19:10 utc | 36

Immediate signs and symptoms of sarin exposure

People may not know that they were exposed because sarin has no odor.
People exposed to a low or moderate dose of sarin by breathing contaminated air, eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, or touching contaminated surfaces may experience some or all of the following symptoms within seconds to hours of exposure:
Runny nose
Watery eyes
Small, pinpoint pupils
Eye pain
Blurred vision
Drooling and excessive sweating
Chest tightness
Rapid breathing
Increased urination
Nausea, vomiting, and/or abdominal pain
Slow or fast heart rate
Low or high blood pressure
Even a small drop of sarin on the skin can cause sweating and muscle twitching where sarin touched the skin.
Exposure to large doses of sarin by any route may result in the following harmful health effects:
Loss of consciousness
Respiratory failure possibly leading to death
Showing these signs and symptoms does not necessarily mean that a person has been exposed to sarin,

~~~~Article with descriptions of how Sarin can be tested for.

Begins with Forensic Investigation --

Forensic Investigation

The special nature of nerve gases slowed down police efforts in connection with the Sarin incidents. First, nerve gases are subject to the law on the Ban of Chemical Weapons and the Regulation of Specific Substances (in force since 1995). Second, nerve gases are highly toxic, and are lethal in trace amounts, making them difficult to detect; they are also difficult to detect because they evaporate very rapidly. Third, they are volatile, and the handling of samples requires special caution. Fourth, nerve gases decompose easily in a body and in the environment. It is necessary to identify the degradation products. Sarin, soman, tabun and VX are representatives of organophosphorus types of chemical warfare agents. They invade the body through the skin, and are extremely toxic, given that they strongly inhibit cholinesterases. The physicochemical properties of nerve gases vary. Sarin is volatile and easily hydrolysed in water, whereas VX is not volatile and is rather resistant to hydrolysis. Because of their extremely lethal nature, it is sometimes impossible to detect nerve gases or their hydrolysis products in a victim's samples.Therefore, a decrease in blood cholinesterase activity is a good index of exposure to nerve gases.

Continues at article.

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 25 2013 21:22 utc | 37

We have to be certain that any sarin exposure resulted from an attack. Having set a red line for US involvement to deter Assad, we’ve also created an incentive for certain groups to tell stories that might result in more US assistance. As I have noted before, these groups don’t appear particularly scrupulous when it comes to the truth. So, I’d be very, very careful about leaping to conclusions.

The evidence itself. There are two useful sources describing the evidence. First, the Obama Administration sent Congress a letter that lays out the details. Second, Geoff Dyer and James Blitz have some excellent reporting in the Financial Times that helps explain the letter. Hagel has now also released a statement, but it doesn’t add much.

Here are the two key sentences from the letter:

This assessment is based in part on physiological samples…. [However] the chain of custody is not clear, so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions.

In other words, we have samples showing someone was exposed, but we can’t prove when, where or how.

Dyer and Blitz add some very important details from “a senior western diplomat.” The physiological samples are two samples taken from different victims at separate locations and on separate dates. The US analyzed one sample (possible at Edgewood), the UK Defence Science Technology Laboratory at Porton Down analyzed the other.

One can immediately see the problem: The samples show sarin exposure, but they are not linked to specific, credible events.

Emphasizing the chain of custody. Suddenly the constant references to the “small scale” use becomes more clear — we don’t have multiple victims in a single use, as might be expected if the Syrians gassed a military unit or a local community. At most, we have two events in which only one person was exposed.

For all we know, these two poor souls stumbled into sarin canisters while ransacking a liberated Syrian military sites. I don’t say that to be callous, but rather because strange things happen on the battlefield. Remember, in 1991, US troops detonated a pit of munitions at Khamisiyah in Iraq only to discover that the munitions contained Sarin. The image atop the post is one of a series showing US forces detonating the munitions at Khamisiyah, exposing thousands of US service personnel to low-levels of sarin. This was the worst event, but not the only potential exposure of US forces in 1991 to nerve agents.

There are many ways that FSA fighters might find themselves exposed to Sarin. I still think caution is important.

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 25 2013 21:27 utc | 38

It's going to be a tough sell,even if they can game the result as positive regarding CW,as the American people at this moment don't give a crap about Syrians pro or con Assad.
And of course,why would he invite utter destruction by Nato in using CW?
With the two idiots(as if this act helps Muslims,just as 9-11 certainly didn't hmmm...) acts(alleged)last week,the real smokescreen is how they've managed to suppress the info that we let these Chechens into America to tweak the Russian bear,and that same bear even warned US about them recently.Amazing the machinations of these neolibcon screwups who have run our world into chaos without any blame sent their way by our intrepid watchdog media .

Posted by: dahoit | Apr 25 2013 22:24 utc | 39

More on how long Sarin remains detectable - in soils, snow or under snow cover, in water, etc.

Posted by: jawbone | Apr 25 2013 22:55 utc | 40

What about the depleted uranium left by NATO and US, mainly on targets near high density populations like communications, HQ's etc. The effects are for generations, it would kill more than most direct conflict deaths. Are they accountable for WMD, uranium poisoning, contamination, cost and burden for many generations?

This stuff kills combatants, non combatants, animal, vegetable contaminates water tables and lasts. The effects for the person generally is the heart, kidney, liver and brain. high birth defects 13% + in Iraq is a direct result, also leukemia; this is both sides of the fence, including 3rd party peace keepers, post events. Iraq, Bosnia, Serbia (Including Kosovo), Afghanistan, all suffer from the effects. 2003 Iraq, over 1000 tons of depleted uranium munitions were used.

In terms of law, since most laws were before the use of DU, it still evades classification, how apt. I recall 2008, it was UK, France Israel and the US voted against the ban, rumor was the legal ramifications and potential cost, secondly the stock and potential need. Fast forward, Dec 2012, UNGA, again UK, France, and Israel opposed it.

Posted by: kev | Apr 25 2013 23:57 utc | 41

Just a reminder that, legally, Obama doesn't have a red line to stand on. Eliminating this sordid business (now being proposed) of international elective war was the main intention of the people who worked hard to establish the United Nations. --from the UN Charter:

To maintain international peace and security,
# All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.
# All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

There isn't even an international dispute here -- there is a national conflict involving interference and participation from external sources, countries that have the audacity to claim that the government they are trying to destroy is at fault for not surrendering!

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 26 2013 0:06 utc | 42

Two (2) cases--

news reports:

--Kerry specifically stated to reporters today that there have been two instances in which chemical weapons have been used.
--Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers Thursday that the assessment referenced two instances of chemical weapons use in Syria.
--US secretary of state, John Kerry, said that chemical weapons were believed to have been used in two separate attacks.

and at State today:
QUESTION: Could you explain the meaning of two cases? Is it two incidents of using chemical weapons attacking, or two cases, two people that were – suffered the consequences of a chemical weapons attack?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Said, I actually don’t have the transcript, as this was the Secretary walking out of a briefing, and so I don’t have the transcript of that, so I’m not sure if he said “cases.” But again, we’ll see if we can clarify for you one way or another, but I believe the word was “two cases.” I’ll have to check on it. .

QUESTION: So on the physiological evidence --
MR. VENTRELL: Said, go ahead.
QUESTION: -- is it blood or is it soil?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I can’t get into that from here.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 26 2013 1:16 utc | 43

This is brilliant; thank you. Basically, the foaming at the mouth that would occur as a symptom of chemical weapon toxicity would be equivalent to not brushing your teeth or gargling for two days, and then rinsing your mouth with 3% hydrogen peroxide.

Here is a footnote:

Posted by: miri | Apr 26 2013 1:21 utc | 44

I didn't look at the video, but the guy in the opening frame displayed has a beautiful shave. Not a nick, not a hot-spot on his face.

Posted by: Mooser | Apr 26 2013 16:39 utc | 45

So they find a landing gear from 911 and plaster it on the news, amazingly it is lodged between a Mosque and a high rise apartment block. One cant get more corny, or desperate...

Posted by: kev | Apr 26 2013 22:46 utc | 46

Syrian Blood Tests Positive for Sarin Gas, U.S. Spies Say

White House issued a letter (.pdf) to Senators Carl Levin and John McCain confirming the sarin discovery.

From the letter:

"...the chain of custody is not clear, so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what circumstances."

Posted by: erichwwk | Apr 26 2013 23:43 utc | 47

From Denver's No definite answers on Syria's use of chemical weapons

The problems start with weak proof of origin and chain of custody. In other words, there is no way for American analysts to confirm the source of the blood or when the exposure happened.

Even if the Syrian opposition offers more evidence from multiple sites, there is no way to confirm that the samples are legitimate, let alone that the Assad regime is responsible.

Posted by: erichwwk | Apr 26 2013 23:51 utc | 48

Alex Thomson of Channel 4: Syria and chemical weapons: 12 key questions

He also doubts the "foaming at the mouth" claims ...

Posted by: b | Apr 27 2013 10:51 utc | 49

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