The “U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons,” just released today, makes a convincing case that the Assad regime is responsible for the attack that it estimates killed 1,429 people, including 429 children.
Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media.
… Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.
Still it sticks in the craw that we’re not privy to the source material of those “multiple streams of intelligence” revealed.
To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.
“Just trust us” doesn’t work anymore in the age of Manning and Snowden.
What prompted the alleged attack?
We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.
Frustration? One would think that a chemical-weapons attack is launched out of desperation. One shudders to think what President Assad will do if he’s truly desperate. Anyway, apprently adding insult to injury:
On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.
Still, making the case that Assad is guilty is not the same as making the case for air strikes.