WASHINGTON, United States – President Barack Obama’s administration released an intelligence report Friday, August 30, stating the government has “high confidence” that Syria’s regime used chemical weapons last week.
Here are the main points of the 4-page document released by the White House:
TOLL: A chemical weapons attack in the early hours of August 21 killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children. The attack struck at least 12 different locations near the capital Damascus.
RESPONSIBILITY: US officials “assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs.”
They discount the possibility that the opposition conducted the attack, saying the rebels do not have the capability to launch such comprehensive rocket salvos, or to fabricate all the videos of the attack or the physical symptoms confirmed by medical personnel.
The report describes President Bashar al-Assad as “the ultimate decision maker” for Syria’s chemical weapons program.
SOURCES: The government studied “multiple streams of intelligence” about the attack, as well as data on the regime’s preparations and post-attack observations, to make its determination.
“Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the US Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation,” it said.
Satellite imagery corroborated other intelligence data that rocket attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred.
The US collected “human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities” consistent with preparatory action for a toxic gas attack, including the “utilization of gas masks” by chemical weapons personnel near Damascus on August 21.
Three hospitals in and near Damascus took in about 3,600 patients displaying symptoms of nerve gas exposure, according to a “highly credible international humanitarian organization.”
Syrian and international medical personnel on the ground also provided reports.
US officials studied “one hundred videos attributed to the attack,” many of which show people exhibiting signs of nerve agent exposure, such as unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, rapid heartbeat and breathing difficulties. And several videos showed numerous fatalities with no visible injuries on the dead.
Additional, classified intelligence is being provided to members of Congress and to international partners.
BACKGROUND AND PREVIOUS ATTACKS: US intelligence believes Syria maintains a stockpile of “numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX,” and has thousands of munitions that can deliver chemical agent payloads.
Authorities are highly confident that Syria’s regime used chemical weapons against the opposition “multiple times in the last year.”
US officials studied “laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin.”
These smaller-scale chemical weapons attacks were conducted by the regime to gain the upper hand against rebels or break stalemates in strategically valuable areas, including Damascus outskirts.
“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.” – Rappler.com