Banned nerve agent sarin used in Syria chemical attack

The New York Times reports: The poison used in the deadly chemical bomb attack in a rebel-held part of northern Syria this week was the banned nerve agent sarin, the Turkish Health Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement from Turkey, where many of the stricken Syrians were taken after the assault on Tuesday, was the most specific about the cause.

“According to the results of preliminary tests,” the statement said, “patients were exposed to chemical material (Sarin).”

Western countries have accused the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad of carrying out the chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province, which left scores dead and hundreds sickened in one of the worst atrocities so far in the six-year-old Syria war.

The Syrian government has denied responsibility. Russia, its main ally, has accused Mr. Assad’s enemies of rushing to judgment and has threatened to veto a United Nations Security Council measure condemning the assault.

The Turkish statement said the sarin conclusion had been based on autopsies on three victims performed at Turkey’s Adana Forensic Medicine Institution with the participation of representatives from the World Health Organization and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a group based in The Hague that monitors compliance with the global treaty that bans such munitions. [Continue reading…]

In line with official statements from Moscow, a motley crew of conspiracy theorists and pundits from the alt right and anti-interventionist left are once again going to claim that the sarin released in Khan Shaykhun was produced by al Qaeda, or some other group opposed to Assad — just as was claimed after the Ghouta massacre in 2013. Aside from the absence of any credible evidence to support such claims and aside from the fact that the Assad regime’s ability to manufacture sarin is already well-documented, the technical challenges involved in such production makes sarin a chemical weapon unfeasible to be produced and effectively deployed by any non-state actor, least of all one operating in the conditions faced in Syria. What I wrote in 2013 also applies now.

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