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French Government's Declassified Intelligence Assessment on Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria

Published September 2, 2013



Synthèse nationale de renseignement déclassifié

The French Government released its declassified assessment of the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Al Jazeera translated the assessment to English in its Syria Live Blog:

"Syria has one of the most important operational stocks of chemical weapons as part of an old and diversified programme that has been the subject of surveillance by the French intelligence services, and those of our principle partners, for a long time. This programme is one of the primary threats in terms of the proliferation of arms of mass destruction.

In July 2012 the spokesperson of the foreign minister confirmed that diffenet weapons (chemical or non conventional) were stocked and secured under the supervision of armed forces.

* Syria has hundred of tonnes of the mustard gas in final form, tens of tonnes of VX. VX is the most toxic of chemical warfare agents. Several hundred tonnes of sarin, which constitute the bulk of the stock.

"The sarin and the VX are partly stocked in a binary form, that is to say kept in the form of two chemical products called precursors, that are mixed just before use. This technique and the associated procedures show a great knowledge of the technology of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime."

"Damascus is capable of delivering its chemical weapons with a very large range of several thousand vectors.

*Scud C missiles, whose range is 500km away. they are capable of carrying mustard gas, sarin or VX.

*Scud B missiles, carrying sarin or VX 300km.

*M600 missiles with a range of 250 to 300km. They can be carry each of the three aforementioned toxic substances.

*SS21 missiles adapted to the implementation of the three toxic agents war mentioned, but a smaller range (70 km).

"The chain of command and the responsibilities"

The Syrian Centre for Scientific Research Study (CERS) is responsible for producing toxic agents for use in war, pinpointing "Branch 450" as being responsible for filling munitions with chemicals and also the security of sites where the chemical agents are stocked. This branch, it claims, is "composed only of Alawite military personnel … distinguished by a high level of loyalty to the regime".

"Bashar al-Assad and certain influential members of his clan are the only ones permitted to give the order for the use of chemical weapons. The order is then transmitted to those responsible at the competent branches of the CERS. At the same time, the army chiefs of staff receive the order and decide on targets, the weapons and the toxic agents to put in them."

Chemical attacks already carried out by the Syrian regime

Cases of use of chemical agents by the Syrian regime in attacks against areas held by the opposition for the aim of taking territory or causing terror, have been observed in recent months.

The competent French authorities have recovered biomedical samples (blood, urine), environmental (soil) and materials (ammunition), taken from victims or on the sites of attacks Saraqeb, April 29, 2013, and Jobar to mid-April 2013.

A massive and coordinated use of chemical agents against the civilians on August 21

Based on a systematic technical analysis of 47 original videos events of August 21, a first count, neighborhood by neighborhood, at least 281 deaths have been identified. Our own data confirm that in the hospital Duma half victims were women and children and in 50 percent of cases, death was immediate. Doctors deduced that a high concentration of a toxic had been used.

Besides the fact that the victims do not carry body injuries, symptoms were: convulsions, nausea, vomiting, much saliva, dyspnea, choking, loss of consciousness. The clinical signs consistent with poisoning chemicals. Confirmed cases of cross-contamination of personal caregivers have been reported from several sources.

The massive influx of patients in a very short time in different hospitals, the number of victims and from several different sites are characteristics of the effects of an attack using chemical agents with strong lethality, they all confirm that a massive and coordinated attack was conducted in the night of August 21, 2013.

The combined attack of 21 August meets a classic tactical approach (the preparation of an artillery and ground attack) and the use of chemical agents is integrated into a coherent tactical maneuver, a military plan, with the rules of engagement of Syrian forces. Credible intelligence from several partners reports specific preparations on the days before August 21.

Conventional aerial bombing and artillery were used between three and four o'clock in the morning on East Ghouta. At the same time, communities in Zamalka, Kafr Batna and Ain Tarma were affected by chemical attack. At six in the morning, a ground offensive by the regime was launched on these locations.

Several sources have reported the use of different artillery rockets, those of the best known stocked (missiles and bombs) munitions. Our analysis confirms that the remains of rockets observed on this occasion lend themselves to the use of chemical agents.

The regime then conducted major land and air strikes on the areas of attack. It sought to delay the arrival of inspectors for several days. This confirms a clear commitment to the destruction of evidence. In addition, soldiers triggered fires, which presumably were intended to purify the atmosphere through the air movement generated.

Our information confirms that the regime feared an attack of scale by the opposition in Damascus during this period. Our assessment is that the regime sought by this attack to loosen the grip (of the opposition) and secure strategic sites for control of the capital. For example, the district of Moadamiyé is located near the military airport of Mezzeh, which houses the air force's intelligence services.