Turkey confirms sarin was used in Syrian chemical attack

The Guardian reports: Traces of sarin gas have been detected in blood and urine samples from victims wounded in the town of Khan Sheikhun in Syria, giving “concrete evidence” of its use in the attack, Turkey’s health minister has said.

Doctors and aid workers who had examined the wounded of last week’s massacre, which provoked the first US military strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, said they exhibited symptoms of exposure to a nerve agent similar to sarin, as well as a second chemical that may have been chlorine.

But the tests in Turkey, where many of the victims were taken for treatment due to the lack of medical facilities inside Syria, offer the first insight into the actual toxins used in the attack that killed over 80 people and drew worldwide condemnation and a renewed focus on the brutal conduct of the war.

The Turkish health minister Recep Akdağ said isopropyl methylphosphonic acid, a chemical that sarin degrades into, was found in the blood and urine samples taken from the patients who arrived in Turkey. Some 30 victims were brought across the border following the attack last Tuesday, and a number of them have died.

Autopsies on victims in Turkey shortly after the attack, monitored by the World Health Organization, had concluded there was evidence of sarin exposure. [Continue reading…]

The Guardian reports: Vladimir Putin has deepened his support of the Syrian regime, claiming its opponents planned false-flag chemical weapon attacks to justify further US missile strikes.

The Russian president’s predictions on Tuesday of an escalation in the Syrian war involving more use of chemical weapons came as US officials provided further details of what they insist was a sarin attack by Bashar al-Assad’s forces against civilians on 4 April, and accused Moscow of a cover-up and possible complicity.

The hardening of the Kremlin’s position, and its denial of Assad’s responsibility, accelerated a tailspin in US-Russian relations, just as the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, arrived in Moscow for direct talks.

Tillerson had hoped to underscore the US position with a unified message from the G7, which condemned the chemical attack at a summit in Italy on Tuesday. However, G7 foreign ministers were divided over possible next steps and refused to back a British call for fresh sanctions. [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post reports on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s first news conference since taking over the Defense Department: A senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity in order to describe sensitive information, said that chlorine has a different status than sarin under international law, but Mattis does not want to say what will happen if Assad continues to use it. The idea, the official said, is to give the regime pause before using any kind of chemical weapon.

During the news conference, Mattis said the United States will need to decide as a matter of policy how it will respond in the future to the use of any kind of chemical weapon, including chlorine, in Syria.

“There is a limit, I think, to what we can do,” Mattis said. “And when you look at what happened with this chemical attack, we knew that we could not stand passive on this.” [Continue reading…]

In a statement on Monday, Mattis claimed the U.S. missile strike resulted in the damage or destruction of “20 percent of Syria’s operational aircraft.”

No doubt Putin’s claims about false flag operations will gain easy traction in the Russia-friendly marginal media, but it’s worth remembering that sarin can’t be made in a kitchen sink (nor can it be easily dispersed on a battlefield), and the Assad regime possessed its chemical weapons production facilities through support from the Soviet Union.

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