State Dep’t investigation: Assad used chemical weapons against Syrian rebels last month

posted at 7:36 pm on January 15, 2013 by Allahpundit

I blogged about this last month, remember? At the time, the only evidence was a few YouTube videos of people on gurneys, wheezing. Seemed hard to believe that Assad would shatter the taboo against using WMD for an attack so small-scale as to leave some doubt that WMDs were actually used. And yet here we are.

The slow news cycle is over:

The consul general’s report followed a series of interviews with activists, doctors, and defectors, in what the administration official said was one of the most comprehensive efforts the U.S. government has made to investigate claims by internal Syrian sources. The investigation included a meeting between the consulate staff and Mustafa al-Sheikh, a high-level defector who once was a major general in Assad’s army and key official in the Syrian military’s WMD program.

An Obama administration official who reviewed the document, which was classified at the “secret” level, detailed its contents to The Cable. “We can’t definitely say 100 percent, but Syrian contacts made a compelling case that Agent 15 was used in Homs on Dec. 23,” the official said…

Many believe that Assad is testing U.S. red lines…

“The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable,” Obama said Dec. 3, directing his comments at Assad. “If you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.” That same day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added: “we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur.”

Follow the link up top for a description of the victims’ symptoms. More than 100 people were allegedly stricken with respiratory problems; five of them died from choking on their own bronchial secretions. The day after it happened, the Syrian American Medical Society spoke to some of the victims and released a report identifying the likely culprit as, indeed, Agent 15:

The Gas effects started [a] few seconds after the area was shelled. Right after the shelling, patients described seeing white gas with odor, then they had severe shortness of breath, loss of vision, inability to speak, flushed face, dizziness, paralysis, nausea and vomiting, and increased respiratory secretions. Doctors who treated patients said that patients had pinpoint pupils and bronchospasm. Patients were treated in a field hospital. Gas masks were not available.

Agent 15 is designed to be incapacitating, not lethal a la sarin, but obviously if the respiratory reaction is dire enough it can be fatal. One question, then: Why? What does Assad gain by “testing U.S. red lines”? Under normal circumstances, defying the United States is wonderful for a fascist’s Middle Eastern street cred, but we’re two years and many thousands of Syrian dead past that. The Sunnis want him gone; the Islamist Sunnis really want him gone. Maybe he’s trying to bait the U.S. into attacking him in order to further solidify his support among Syria’s Alawites? But the Alawites are already entirely committed him, not least because they fear being ethnically cleansed by Sunni rebels if/when they’re overrun. (There are already anecdotal reports of open sectarian warfare at the village level.) The only way using chemical weapons “makes sense” to me is if Assad thought the end was near and wanted to go out in a blaze of insane nihilism by unleashing WMD all over the country. A limited, strategic attack to “test” the U.S. makes no sense, especially since it’s likely to cost him whatever support he still retains from his Russian patrons. Makes me wonder whether this was really a decision by Assad himself or if command and control in the Syrian army has deteriorated to the point that a local commander decided to use Agent 15 on his own initiative. Which, potentially, makes containing the country’s WMDs much more difficult.

The other big question is who in the administration leaked the results of the investigation to The Cable. This has huge consequences for U.S. foreign policy, needless to say; Obama will now be under intense pressure to enforce his “red lines.” Either some pro-interventionist official really screwed him here or this is some sort of deliberate leak to put international pressure on Russia to finally abandon Assad completely. Stay tuned. Exit question: Coming soon — dirty bombs?

Update: Danger Room doesn’t understand why Assad would use Agent 15 either:

Agent 15 is another name for 3-quinuclidinyl benzillate or BZ, a powerful hallucinogen that the American military tested out on its own soldiers during the Cold War. Its emergence on the Syrian battlefield would be nothing short of bizarre. While Syria is well-known to have a massive supply of chemical weapons, international observers haven’t ordinarily included BZ on that list. And while there have been rumors of BZ being used on a battlefield — including one that Iraqi insurgents were dosing themselves with the drug to pump up their aggressiveness — this would be the first confirmed case of BZ employed as a weapon.

Either he really is very gingerly testing U.S. “red lines,” which I don’t understand; or he’s running low on more lethal nerve agents, which no one has suggested; or maybe I’m right that this was a freelance decision by a military commander and Agent 15 was easier for him to get hold of than sarin or VX would be.


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Obama to give stern speech beginning with ‘Look Squirrel!!!”

BigWyo on January 15, 2013 at 7:38 PM

I love the smell of Agent 15 in the Arab Spring air.

Isn’t hegemony beautiful?

Wino on January 15, 2013 at 7:41 PM

Both sides of the Syrian conflict are evil. Let ‘em kill each other off. It’ll be no great loss.

annoyinglittletwerp on January 15, 2013 at 7:41 PM

Obama does not want to check into it too closely, because all the Syrian chemical weapons have a “Made in Iraq” stamp on them….

albill on January 15, 2013 at 7:41 PM

…use more!

KOOLAID2 on January 15, 2013 at 7:43 PM

Ah yes, the Western Media machine will tell us…..after Benghazi

Diversions such as gun control will certainly avert our gaze.

RAGIN CAJUN on January 15, 2013 at 7:45 PM

“Red lines! Red lines! Red lines!”

Obama to Lucy: “Would you mind moving those red lines for me like you do the football when I’m dealing with Republicans? Thanks, Sweetie. Enjoying your free birth control? No need to thank me. I’ve got your back, but just don’t bother leaving any resumes with my office. I only hire white men for the most part.

Make sure that you continue to have my back and don’t forget that the Obama-For-America-in-lieu-of-gift-registries is still open. You don’t need those birthday presents, do you, Sweetie? That’s right. You’re a good girl.

Now, I’m going to pat you on the head and bum and you run along, Sweetie.”

Resist We Much on January 15, 2013 at 7:46 PM

Assad wants to know if the US is bluffing regarding their threats about WMDs, or not.

sharrukin on January 15, 2013 at 7:49 PM

I wonder where they got the chemical weapons…

*cough* Iraq *cough*

That said, I feel filthy knowing what O’Hitler is doing in this regard in a way that no shower could possibly cleanse.

turfmann on January 15, 2013 at 7:50 PM

Both sides of the Syrian conflict are evil. Let ‘em kill each other off. It’ll be no great loss.

annoyinglittletwerp on January 15, 2013 at 7:41 PM

^^^This.

Rule #7 of The Mo Doctrine.

Resist We Much on January 15, 2013 at 7:52 PM

State Dep’t investigation: Assad used chemical weapons against Syrian rebels last month

How’s that Benghazi investigation going?

JPeterman on January 15, 2013 at 7:54 PM

State Dep’t investigation: Assad used chemical weapons against Syrian rebels last month

By the Iraq standard, I believe this counts as proof that Assad has never had any WMDs, ever, and only warmongers would say otherwise.

Oh, wait! This is a Democratic administration! What was I thinking?

tom on January 15, 2013 at 7:54 PM

So when is Hussein sending our troops to Syria to be killed by Iran/Russia ??

burrata on January 15, 2013 at 7:56 PM

Both sides of the Syrian conflict are evil. Let ‘em kill each other off. It’ll be no great loss.

annoyinglittletwerp on January 15, 2013 at 7:41 PM

Sounds like the old Iran-Iraq war, where we were all thinking, “If only both sides could lose….”

tom on January 15, 2013 at 7:56 PM

Rogue General or Command.

portlandon on January 15, 2013 at 8:00 PM

One question, then: Why? What does Assad gain by “testing U.S. red lines”?

Russia has his back. 0 is flexible.

Bmore on January 15, 2013 at 8:01 PM

Eh, I blame the Agent 15 which obviously forced Asshead to attack his own people. I mean if a simple 30-round shoulder thing that goes up can turn people into murderers then surely a chemical weapon will do far worse.

Bishop on January 15, 2013 at 8:04 PM

Well Doggies! Reckon where those come from?

MikeA on January 15, 2013 at 8:05 PM

Breaking: $51B Sandy relief and pork bill passes Congress. 48 Pubs vote for the pork.

We.Are.Screwed.

Mr. Arrogant on January 15, 2013 at 8:05 PM

Caliphatepalooza!!!

24/7 with our God/King and his regime.

I don’t believe anything the Federal government says at this point.

PappyD61 on January 15, 2013 at 8:06 PM

The power of the sun..
Or something similar..

Can make Agent 15 ineffective..

Electrongod on January 15, 2013 at 8:09 PM

I blogged about this last month, remember?
==========================================

Why yes,and this is becoming tire-some!

May I suggest dropping 10 Megatons on each Weapons cache’
er,stockpile,er bunker,and VAPOURIZE this mother!

There,Done!

Next CRISIS!!
(snark)

canopfor on January 15, 2013 at 8:10 PM

test

SWalker on January 15, 2013 at 8:10 PM

The videos I saw didn’t prove anything. Film of guys on gurneys breathing hard just doesn’t cut it in the evidence department. Maybe there’s other footage that I haven’t seen that would change my mind.

Now, the video coupled with interviews of people who are more than likely vehemently opposed to Assad still doesn’t make the grade. The people giving testimony need to come up with physical evidence.

My spidey sense tells me this is an “infowar” campaign.

Has anyone seen any hard evidence?

NavyMustang on January 15, 2013 at 8:11 PM

Either he really is very gingerly testing U.S. “red lines,” which I don’t understand; or he’s running low on more lethal nerve agents, which no one has suggested; or maybe I’m right that this was a freelance decision by a military commander and Agent 15 was easier for him to get hold of than sarin or VX would be.

Door number 4 – false-flag psy-op from the rebels. Remember, while Assad is evil, the rebels are no less evil.

Steve Eggleston on January 15, 2013 at 8:12 PM

Up next from Dear Liar, a strongly worded letter.

rbj on January 15, 2013 at 8:14 PM

*Typical *,…The Libs are more concerned with Extra-Ammo Capacity
Containers,than Chemical Releasing Containers…………..

Reuters Top News ‏@Reuters

U.S. plays down media report that Syria used chemical weapons http://reut.rs/X42hox
======================

WASHINGTON | Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:47pm EST

(Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday poured cold water on a media report that chemical weapons had been used in the Syrian conflict, but reiterated that if Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s government did resort to these weapons, it would be held to account.
==========

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/16/us-syria-usa-chemical-idUSBRE90F00P20130116

canopfor on January 15, 2013 at 8:15 PM

**Cough-Cough*,contract this job to the IDF AirForce,and Commado`s!

canopfor on January 15, 2013 at 8:16 PM

Has anyone seen any hard evidence?

NavyMustang on January 15, 2013 at 8:11 PM

What is evidence ?

burrata on January 15, 2013 at 8:18 PM

My spidey sense tells me this is an “infowar” campaign.

Has anyone seen any hard evidence?

NavyMustang on January 15, 2013 at 8:11 PM

.
You mean like some guy still having an erection after four hours?

listens2glenn on January 15, 2013 at 8:28 PM

I thought this was a red line for Obama.

Where has it moved this time?

Washington Nearsider on January 15, 2013 at 8:28 PM

What does Assad gain by “testing U.S. red lines”?

No consideration that it might just be the freedom fighters gassing the locals to bring up the red line thing?

And as a general rule, you should take Muslim sourced information for the kuffar with several pounds of salt in solution applied in a high colonic enema, intravenous and force feeding by nose tube.

Also don’t apply a western mindset to the Islamic one. Different source codes than can only conflict unless one overwrites the other.

And hey! The French are having a surge in Mali and they aren’t talking about hearts and minds yet.

BL@KBIRD on January 15, 2013 at 8:47 PM

Maybe it was a accident. What started the buzz was intel the chem weapons were mixed and the units assigned the weapons deployed. Arab armies are not exactly known for skill level and even so accidents can/do happen. Could have been one fool accidentally opening the wrong crate t pull rounds from or, crates loaded with a few errand shells or any such. We are not talking a city wide area barrage like a chem strike would be used we are talking regular artillery shelling that had a few errand hot rounds causing some people to get sick.

C-Low on January 15, 2013 at 9:09 PM

Striking resemblance.

(‘stache needs some work though)

Tim_CA on January 15, 2013 at 9:19 PM

Both sides of the Syrian conflict are evil. Let ‘em kill each other off. It’ll be no great loss.

annoyinglittletwerp on January 15, 2013 at 7:41 PM

You have it figured out, Twerp. It’s Assad or another piece in the caliphate.

bw222 on January 15, 2013 at 9:20 PM

Both sides of the Syrian conflict are evil. Let ‘em kill each other off. It’ll be no great loss.

annoyinglittletwerp on January 15, 2013 at 7:41 PM

.
You have it figured out, Twerp. It’s Assad or another piece in the caliphate.

bw222 on January 15, 2013 at 9:20 PM

.
If they succeed in descimating each other almost into oblivion, then it will be the Russians. Conceivably, that’s worse.

listens2glenn on January 15, 2013 at 9:53 PM

Memory Lane:

Obama’s “Historic” speech in Egypt…..and all the fawning from liberals about how it was going to “bring change” and peace in the Middle East…..
…ahhh yes……………those were the days.

Commentary: Amen, Mr. President
CNN

From beginning to end, President Obama’s speech was a concert of enlightenment compared to President George W. Bush’s famous farewell news conference in the Muslim world (which resulted in two Iraqi size-10 shoes being boomeranged toward his head).

…..yea….just a “concert of enlightenment” that amounted to absolutely nothing but total failure in the Mid-East…

By successfully addressing the major foreign policy issues affecting much of the Islamic world today, President Obama has succeeded in positioning the United States closer to a rapprochement or political détente with the Muslim world.

….and how is that “rapprochement” looking now genius.


Handicapping Obama’s Egypt speech.

Howard Fineman

Now comes the ultimate test of autobiographical speechmaking. Obama this week speaks at Cairo University, in the hub of Muslim-Arab culture. Perhaps the results will be Philly II: a skillful blend of grandeur and grit. On one level, he isn’t risking much. After all, George W. Bush set the bar so low. All Obama has to do to be a success is elicit applause—rather than a fusillade of hurled shoes.

…..and yet we see Obama has found a way to set the bar A LOT lower now haven’t we Fineman.


But he (Obama) has privately told friends that his goal is far higher: nothing less than to help “reconcile Islam and modernity.”

…..Oh God if only Obama’s Foreign policy results matched his massive ego.

..and the NY Times:

Editorial
The Cairo Speech

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/05/opinion/05fri1.html


When President Bush spoke in the months and years after Sept. 11, 2001, we often — chillingly — felt as if we didn’t recognize the United States.
His vision was of a country racked with fear and bent on vengeance, one that imposed invidious choices on the world and on itself. When we listened to President Obama speak in Cairo on Thursday, we recognized the United States.

….yes…we now recognize that launching wars “of Choice” against oil rich countries(at least Bush got Congressional approval) that didn’t attack us and posed no imminent threat are A-0kay as long as a democrat is doing it…..
….throw in warrentless wiretapping,rendition,black op prisons,Gitmo,Patriot Act and blowing the crap out of other countries on a regular basis in there to.
What we recognize is how full of sh!t hypocritical liberals are.

Before Thursday’s speech, and after, Mr. Obama’s critics complained that he has spent too much time apologizing and accused him of weakening the country. That is a gross misreading of what he has been saying — and of what needs to be said. After eight years of arrogance and bullying that has turned even close friends against the United States, it takes a strong president to acknowledge the mistakes of the past. And it takes a strong president to press himself and the world to do better.

…..and yet here we are with the Middle East up in Flames….WMD’s being used without any reprisals from the UN crowd…..and jihadist gaining more power than at any time since the Ottoman Empire……
….all under the watch of the liberal “strong President” whose every step is somehow historic but the results of them have led to absolute failure.

It’s amazing to watch the narcissistic glorification that liberals indulge in when they are so amazing wrong about so much.

Baxter Greene on January 15, 2013 at 10:11 PM

I’m torn over this whole thing. On the one hand, the Assad family has a history of violent rule over the people. On the other hand, the people of Syria are… Well… The people of Syria.

My wife is a Syrian Catholic from just outside of Damascus. Almost all of the Catholics LOVE Assad. To them, anyone that would kill the “Muslim dogs” who make their lives hellish is a god. And they treat Bashaar as such.

Grain of salt, I know, because of the disinformation and the lies and manipulation of the Assad clan. But honestly, Assad is the BEST possible option in the region. Do we really want another al-Qaeda backed government? Or better yet, the ‘Hood, which is going so well in Egypt?

My father in law is convinced this is all “the terrorists” (aka the FSA aka jabhat al nasra aka al-Qaeda) faking stuff like this to get the media to cry foul and have the Americans take out Assad for them. Trust me, these swine do not value life the same way we do, and I absolutely would not put it past the rebels to gas their own people.

Think about it… Gaza, using hospitals and schools to store weapons. Pakistan, keeping women and children around the tribal leaders at all times just so they can report the casualties. To them, all is fair in war. They are supremely detestable, and honestly, the Alawite Bashaar al Assad is better than them in every way.

onefortyseven on January 16, 2013 at 9:18 AM

onefortyseven: You should be paying attention to your father-in-law. The “old geezer” is on to something. The article and most of the comments have totally missed the mark. Pops just asked himself “Who stands to gain?” The answer is obvious to us dinosaurs. The Syrian “Rebels” (Al Qaeda)would be the only benefactors of intervention on their side. If I’m missing something in the article please enlighten me. I am always learning.

Faugh a Ballagh

ExCT1 on January 16, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Both sides of the Syrian conflict are evil. Let ‘em kill each other off. It’ll be no great loss.

annoyinglittletwerp on January 15, 2013 at 7:41 PM

I wish there was a way that both sides could lose.

If they succeed in descimating each other almost into oblivion, then it will be the Russians. Conceivably, that’s worse.

listens2glenn on January 15, 2013 at 9:53 PM

I am going to have to disagree with you on this one, Glenn. Putin may be a scumbag fascist dictator, but at least he is a rational one. The others….not so much.

SubmarineDoc on January 16, 2013 at 12:51 PM