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Sunday, October 13, 2019

M4000 ID: Structural Questions

October 13, 2019
updates 10-14

As I've said a few times, I for one am not that inclined to doubt the Bellingcat identification of the scraps linked to the 2017 sarin attacks in Idlib province. There was almost surely no aerial attack to get the scraps there, so if the planted debris points to the binary sarin bomb M4000, I have no problem with that. I still wasn't ready to start doubting that ID just recently, but there was the issue of the wrong-sized caps that looked compelling. I just now finally took a careful look at that and I'm more prepared now to raise a serious doubt.

M4000 is still a very good overall match, very similar if not the same. And even these serious differences I'll explain could, as far as I know, be chalked up to differences between an inaccurate schematic picture (one of unknown purpose, after all) and the real thing. In fact out of caution if nothing else, I'm banking on that option. But then this might point to a wrong ID worth noting, or even to serious deception afoot. And so it seems worth explaining here.

One good point at least in Philip Watson's "M4000 the sarin Deception" ongoing investigation is in part 1 where he cites a point raised by German researcher Michael Kobs, who stands by the measure of the twin filler caps in the schematic as too small to match the scraps it was said to identify - not off by a debatable hair either - carefully going by the given length and its scale, the green caps as drawn in are only around 70mm - about 2/3 of the 105-107 mm Bellingcat claimed. (tweet) A smaller cropped version of that graphic is at right.105 mm per the given scale is measured out, and the cap that wide superimposed, to compare with the much smaller one shown on the schematic in green. In fact that cap would not quite fit between the shown suspension lug and the mid-tank dividing ring (the items just on and just left of the red lines here)

There's a distortion of some images making the bomb look longer than it should, but Kobs is sure this didn't affect his measure, which is proportional only to the length shown; the caps were simply too big compared to the bomb itself in order to match.

There are other differences besides this same one apparent with the recently unveiled 2013 example - taken by Bellingcat as the first view of the M4000 in real life. I noticed researcher Qoppa999 had also shows how the caps on this are too large to match the schematic, besides the suspension lugs (marked in yellow) being spaced differently. Furthermore, the tailfins stick out a bit further than designed before the ring wraps around them, leaving that stub of a mixing arm (presumably) more visual than it should be. At least according to this drawing, the first-seen example of an M4000 raises some questions whether it even IS that.

Quick note: Qoppa used the stretched view, so the vertical proportions don't match (the video image has a "fatter" bomb than the drawing). But this doesn't effect proportional measures along the length. These caps are designed carefully to a specific gauge, I'm fairly sure. So we have a real discrepancy, and if the schematic is correct about the M4000's caps, then we're seeing something very similar but different.

Noting how Qoppa's size difference is about the same as Kobs', and noting the different lug placement, I wondered about the 2017 scrap with filler cap and attached suspension lug. How far apart were they? It's hard to read clearly, as the lug is on another plane, the metal having cracked and curled back. I tried estimating the distance it runs (thin red line trying to follow the curve) to the lug (dark red outline) or its axis (heavier red line). Then I tried to imagine that red thread pulled out straight and tight, being sure not to overdo its length. This surely underdoes it for a minimum distance to the lug (I'm still working on another method to better gauge that distance).

Putting that alongside Kob's comparison, and then adding Qoppa's, all at approximate scale, and tracing the minimum lug distance with a dark red box is well under the true distance that Qoppa marked - later and on another unit - in yellow. I suspect that lug is the same distance out on the yellow band, for a different design than shown.

Adding, again: I finished the other graphic - sort-of. I tried cutting different panes of the metal in GIMP2 and stretching them flatter so the cracks lined up. I didn't try reconstructing everything else, just the edges and basic proportions, I hope, between the rim of the cap and the base of the suspension lug.

Then I re-did that using a couple of different views.
That's all a bit imprecise but with some value, and makes a smart-looking image, I think. And I think it helps, as I place this literally on top of the prior comparison and trace an orange box up and it nearly lines up with Qoppa's yellow. And then I notice I included Qoppa's image a hair too large or actually shifted a hair to the right, so the lineup will be about perfect, actually.
Here are those proportions compared in a simplified image to clarify the difference. Again, both scales here are relative to the overall bomb, and the extra length Qoppa identified doesn't even play in.

I checked the 2014 example from Tishreen to see if it fits the pattern, but it's too distorted to tell. The caps seem to be same large size we've been seeing, but what looks like the mud-caked forward lug seems to be right next to or almost in the mud-caked cap. It might also be bent, broken, or missing, and the unit seems quite distorted there. It's not a good, clear example.

Back in context: the 105-107 mm Bellingcat had for the filling cap on the 2017 scraps seems to be about the right size, both for itself and for the 2013 example(s). The OPCW's investigators likewise measured 105mm. And the distance from the cap to the nearest suspension lug also seems to be the same between these field examples, and so these were probably made according to the same design. And that, again, is drastically different in spots from the M4000 as shown in the famous diagram.

That leaves us with these possibilities:
- It's the actual M4000 that's just truer than some crude diagram that might - for example - show an early design prototype, rather than the final form (I think an option on these lines is pretty likely)
- It's an unknown different or variant model (it seems possible that the Syrian military would produce two bomb so entirely similar)
- It's a forgery; this could in fact be someone's try at re-creating the M4000

The last option will tempting to many, so I'll urge caution; this may be nothing but a logical possibility worth listing. But some aspects to pursue include the 2013-14 examples with their sheet metal color that appear to have never been painted with the standard green primer, nor given any other markings. While I'm not sure how to assess the materials and welding as seen on the earlier examples, the craftsmanship might be crude. We could wonder with the 2014 example if the support ring on the tailfins popped off due to shoddy welding by Islamist impersonators.

If so, it seems they got the caps wrong, and anything we can't see could be done wrong or be missing. Its ability to actually carry out the M4000's apparent design to mix sarin precursors would pretty doubtful.

But then again I don't mean to make too much of this, and there are many unknowns. There are also differences between the 2013 examples (lack of damage suggesting no airdrop as alleged) and the 2017 case(s) (seeming extreme blast damage and perhaps years worth of weathering, and perhaps green paint that was lacking in the earlier cases), besides the apparent structural similarities. It's still not clear to me who was deploying (dropping or lobbing) these things. Therefore, it's best to just consider the options until there's enough clarity to decide, or at least to narrow it down.

Monday, October 7, 2019

M4000 Binary or Unitary?

October 7, 2019
(not very rough but incomplete, to be updated)
updates Oct. 13

Open-source researcher Philip Watson, in the course of exposing a "M4000 deception" claims the chemical bomb linked to a deadly sarin attack in 2017 "is not designed to carry sarin, it’s a unitary bomb to be filled with the chemical agent and is not suitable for mixing binary precursors." And furthermore, "as Syria’s sarin is binary the M4000 is not suitable for its delivery." (The M4000 Deception part 2) Syria's declared and destroyed sarin stocks had used two precursors, held separately until mixing just prior to use (thus binary - two-part.). But he claims it's a unitary-only weapon by definition, if not by design, and therefore - basically - Syria was innocent for any release of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun.

Watson has just now expanded on the theme greatly in The M4000 Deception part 3 where he states:
"Originally Eliot Higgins and, self-styled chemical weapons expert, Dan Kaszeta claimed the sarin was mixed before it was poured into the M4000. After realising how mad of an idea that was they have changed that to the sarin was mixed in a bomb on the ground before being loaded onto the jet. The problem with this theory is that the bomb in question was a bulk filled unit designed for a single active ingredient, not for mixing. This didn’t stop Higgins from changing the bomb from a unitary, bulk filled unit, to a binary unit just like that. As I have shown, all available evidence points to the M4000 being a unitary filled bomb – therefore sarin can not be mixed in it."
(emphasis mine) This assumed fact has not been established that I've seen, and all the evidence I'm seeing suggests it was designed to and very could be used to mix binary sarin.

Watson raises several related issues with prior claims on filling with pre-mixed sarin, filling facilities, in-flight mixing, obviously dubious claims of mobile mixing labs for chemical Scud missiles (probably on loan from Saddam Hussein). There's also a debatable assumption that any sarin Syria's government could field has to be binary. I'm not going to go into these issues at the moment and will focus just on the basic clues about design and logic. Can I see and agree why the M4000 should be ruled out as a delivery device for binary sarin, as Watson claims? As far as I can see, definitely not. Acknowledging the limits of my knowledge here, Watson's conclusion seems extremely unsound to me, and not a good basis on which to question the opposition's claims.

First, even if his case held up, it's unlikely to convince anyone who needs convincing. I don't think any other binary weapon has been linked to a CW incident in the 7+ years they've been alleged. Most cases don't specify the weapon very well, but the improvised "volcano" rocket used in the 2013 Ghouta attacks had one big space filled with pre-mixed government sarin, as so many people totally believe. I'm not so sure about the Al-Nusra-linked plastic grenades probably manufactured for them in Turkey and blamed for some sarin attacks by helicopter earlier in 2013, but they probably were undivided as well. Many accept it was all Syria's, would accept it was unitary. Expecting otherwise for this delivery device - the most normal, professional one yet alleged - would make one vulnerable to disappointment.

Secondly, Watson has failed to convince me this is a unitary weapon. I don't have a stake either way, as I don't think any aerial bomb was used in this false-flag event. I just want this background information to make sense like it should. The following breaks down my standing issues.

Image disagreement: variant vs. before-and-after
"The fact the schematic depicts the M4000 as unitary" is not a fact as far as I know, but in his part 3 Watson complains it "has now been ignored as Higgins moves away from the fixed and mobile mixing devices idea. Therefore, he needs the M4000 to be a binary munition to replace the loss of his previous theories." Or, regardless of previous theories, he thinks it's a binary weapon. Watson takes issue with Higgins deciding the schematics show two binary weapons in different states, but that might be correct.

I'm not yet certain who's right here, and on what basis they made their call. But as I'll explain, the Higgins-Bellingcat view makes more sense and seems much better founded. To start, here's the disagreement in visual form.

So to summarize, the disagreement is between these two views of what's shown:
* The binary MYM6000 before mixing, then after mixing, and the binary M4000 shown only after mixing, with its pre-mixing view simply never shared. (Bellingcat view)
* A "binary variant" and "unitary variant" for the MYM6000, and a "unitary variant" only for the M4000, with its one unitary kind of fill.

I asked Watson if there's a "unitary variant" was there a binary non-variant or main version of the M4000, and if so how did he decide which was used. He explained to me he meant simply "Variant of aerial chemical munition" where - by his other words, it seems there is no other variant or type. It could have better said "M4000 unitary weapon" by definition, as that's what he claims.

Binary weapon parts are included 
Watson did not get the labels translated before launching into his analysis ( "As I don’t speak Arabic I am unaware of what is being claimed in the text apart from maybe labeling the different parts of the images." M4000 Deception part 1..." ). That was up to Amin25111's later transcription at, I think, Qoppa999's request. That work (compiled below) includes a "mixing arm" at the rear, besides the previously noted dual filling ports. Why a unitary agent would need two holes to get inside remains unclear, and just why a mixing is needed to mix that singular stuff with itself is also unclear.
On the MYM6000 bomb, Amin also sees the central diaphragm (middle of 3 rings along the main body's length) is also labeled for a wall or barrier (as shown), and the M4000 has the same, as highlighted below. In fact this member's profile has an unusual L shape as drawn, suggesting some special use besides structural support. Drawing a barrier in with a red line makes total sense, doesn't it?

This would put the barrier in between the two fill ports, allowing a separation into two fillable compartments one could fill with two precursors. And that might be why a "mixing arm" comes in? Watson saw no reason for one and considered it as useless as the nipples they put on the male bombs for no reason. A little puzzling why they would bother, since this is for a sure a unitary bomb...

The "paddle" or "mixer" is not labeled in the images, but it is apparently some kind of object probably with just that purpose - likely made of radial fins connected with an outer ring, similar to the tail assembly, but with spiked ends. It probably extends with a spiraling motion of the mixing arm it's connected to, reaches  the divider wall, perhaps made of mica, and crushes it apart, while also stirring the ingredients like a blender.

Is it not shown for the M4000 because it never had one, or because it wasn't thought to be relevant to that post-mixing view? It's also not shown on the MYM unitary/after view, which also lacks a fuze (the label there just says "ring" indicating the empty space it looks like). If the lack of this mixer indicates a "variant," does this unitary use of the weapon also, by design, lack a fuse so it can't detonate? No. Maybe it's missing from that post-impact view. So some missing parts in the drawings don't mean that much.

In general, all these parts built into the M4000 are consistent with binary design and are useless otherwise. Why override that to conclude those features have never been and can never be used and their inclusion amounts to nothing but a minor mystery?

Other supports are weak or unexplained
Watson cites known uses as a guide to understanding possible unknown uses: "Bellingcat attempting to create their own truths again. Syria held vast stocks of unitary sulphur mustard and the unitary munitions were for just that. The M4000 was used with sulphur mustard. It's a unitary bomb." (tweet) Well, some were re-purposed for conventional explosives use - reports cited by Bellingcat, and 2013-14 finds were presumed as examples. So do we conclude it's strictly an explosive bomb because it was used that way? No, because we also have the reports of them filled with sulfur mustard. But since we don't have reports of them ever being filled with or meaning to be filled with binary sarin, that means it's never happened or is even impossible? Even when everything we can see about the design suggests that IS the original intent of this weapon?

Watson wasn't able to make much of case of his own here, but was able to cite two  presumably well-versed experts from both sides of the Assad-blame issue assuring us the M4000 is only used for bulk-fill materials.  The skeptical former weapons inspector Scott Ritter said so (tweet) as did  regime-change activist and Bellingcat ally Greg Koblentz (tweet).

That certainly sounds convincing in itself. But given the questions I have, I need more information. I asked both of them (Ritter, Koblentz) a few days ago and haven't gotten a response yet from either. As far as I know, both of them are confused. For example, maybe Koblenz saw the mixed fill and no wall in the schematic and let someone convince him it was never separate. Then maybe Ritter agreed with him, seeing an off-narrative point (it clashes with the view of his allies at Bellingcat) that was therefore presumably true, but he didn't go check and think it through.

But then maybe either or both of these men know something I don't to clarify why the M4000 is or can only be unitary, despite all the design features to the contrary.

Hoping there is some resolution to put here.
As of 10-13, not much to report. I started a discussion thread here that, with Qoppa's help, yielded some minor support to the view the M4000 and air bombs in general were not used much for sulfur mustard and maybe instead for sarin.

My start: "#Syria #M4000 bomb "used for sulfur mustard and NOT sarin" Why? What do we know?
@RealScottRitter says it's "bulk fill only—a Mustard bomb." By design? Exclusive use? Column Lynch cites 2 experiments to SEE IF it would work in M4000. Anything else? Not convinced yet."

@Qoppa999 adds a few tweets Oct 9 including:
"The claim it was "meant for sulfur mustard" seems to go back to Koblentz's tweet, "probably" indicating that this part, unlike the main statement, is just his own conclusion.
Any more evidence @PhilipWatson_?"
Koblents says M4000 is bulk-fill only, and expands that the bulk-fill weapons were probably used for sulfur mustard. That sounds a bit like Scott Ritter's likely source for his exact claim.

@Qoppa999: ""To study the stability" does not sound like regular testing but like experimenting with something not done before ....
That the M4000 was used for mustard is only Koblentz's inference/guess. Not from declaration."

It could well be true, but the problem is it could well be a confused assumption, and thus not a good basis to presume half the features of the M4000 were built with no evident purpose.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Opposition Access to Syrian CW Bomb M4000

October 6, 2019

So for a year now, Eliot Higgins and the Bellingcat research collective have been promoting a likely identification for weapon remnants linked to the sarin attacks at Khan Sheikhoun and Latamnah in 2017. After seeing an initial modeling, I previously conceded it may be (right: Higgins showing a modeling video - Postol-Higgins debate post). I still do, although there remains some room for doubt over the linking of all 2017 parts into one weapon - considering how little is known about an unclear number of models, it couldn't be certain which this is or isn't - And and of course if a model is known to them, a reasonable copy might be fabricated by anyone with the will and the capabilities. 

And of course being found there doesn't mean they are from the delivery weapon or fell from a Syrian jet. Those are suggested and possible, and just barely possible in this case). All the opposition's supporters could not get any jets to actually be above the town as two allegedly were. Somehow radar data was brought up this time and found arguably consistent - but the arguments needed prove the jets actually had a pretty good alibi, which is something we usually never learn about one way or the other. So how the M-4000 got there - let's say in a lucky radar gap - the opposition still lied about the sarin spread, going exactly upwind, not downwind or just wrong but exactly opposite of right. That's the most likely error to make, in fact, if one makes the common mistake of reading the direction from as direction to. There was just one sample, I think, taken from the area of alleged deaths, allegedly downwind - but it came back negative for sarin (Kobs). They coated the town in a too-massive fog they had to just ignore, and their supporters follow suit. They couldn't show where anyone actually died, maybe because they all died in a gas chamber up the road, and they were caught killing or at least wounding some child victims - never a good sign.

So some M-4000 scraps being found proves nothing. But depending how you look at it, it could suggest a few different things from a Syrian chemical strike (that really defied the odds besides lacking a rational motive, and lining up with some shady actions by locals), or an opposition effort to paint such a picture by planting scraps from another event here as part of their false-flag operation - if they only had access to such a weapon.

Bellingcat's new old image(s)
I like Charles Wood's summation: @Mare_Indicum, Sep 25:
"In a spectacular own goal, Higgins has 'disclosed' that Syrian terrorists have long held bomb parts that could be used to fake the Khan Sheikhoun sarin bombing.
That's not to say an M4000 was even used, just that the parts in the crater are 'consistent' with Higgin's bomb parts."

Here Bellingcat explains a new twist - they found a real-world example of the weapon (they think) seen on video. Previously there was no photographic images, just a crude low-resolution diagram. It was enough to float a possible ID in some detail, but nothing like seeing the real thing.

First video
Video title (translated) One of the gifts of unexploded MiGs, thank God
Uploaded April 16, 2013 by wesamabd1

This is a useful composite image Bellingcat made from the video that remains too panned-in for a good overall view. Video stamp is from Hejira al-Balad media office (more below on who got this M4000 bomb, by whatever means). But

Higgins concludes with some basis "it is possible to conclude that the bomb featured in the April 2013 video is a near perfect match to what Russia describes as an M4000 bomb." That was, again, in the schematic they showed last year, here for comparison. There are questions about how this all lines up with the schematics and with previous measurements, the spacing of the caps and suspension lugs, etc. (Qoppa999 with a good-seeming question) But we could consider this may not be a final or exact schematic, or the model could have been changed later, etc.

Second video
Excavating one of the unexploded rockets in Tishreen neighborhood of Damascus
noor alhak Mar 13, 2014
Damascus - Tishreen and Hafiriya neighborhood Information offfice (north Damascus, Qaboun-Barzeh area)
One of the unexploded rockets was Assad's planes bombed civilians In al-Hafiriya area in Tishreen neighborhood, Damascus has been recovered from underground Bashar al-Assad's achievements in the Tishreen neighborhood of Damascus.

Covered and filled with mud, leaking reddish-brown water? A square hole was cut into its side near the rear, maybe just to attach a dragging rope? It's more dented than the other but pretty well intact. I wouldn't think it was air-dropped and came down the usual way (nose first), but perhaps. It looks more laterally flattened, as if it were lobbed (by a catapult?) and landed sideways after just a middling fall. Tail fins curl variously, and lack the connecting ring. Maybe it broke off. Note how the two fill ports (green circled) are on different planes, showing distortion there. Also there's no cylindrical fuze sticking out the nosecone as with the design and the other example. It seems unlikely that it broke off. Alternately, it was removed after excavation, or maybe it was never there.

A third example?
During my digging around, I found same people with the 2014 sighting had perhaps another back in 2013, on July 15. (Facebook) "The missile that didn't go off targeting the neighborhood with war aviation today." Just this still image is provided.
The tailfins look the same minus the ring. But then there's a ring-width torqued patch (top) where it would connect, and the accepted example found here in 2014 is also missing a ring. The terminal slope looks correct, and there's a protrusion - something I THINK most bombs don't have. Compared to the Bellingcat find and its spindle (it's apparently part of the "mixing arm" - halfway visible in the composite view above) this seems fatter relative to the gap between fins. (the 2014 example has no view clear enough to compare). That could be a variation, another similar model of chemical bomb, or another kind of bomb with an unusual nub out the back. Or just an illusion caused by the outer part being knocked off axis, as it seems to be? I'm not sure...

Or the second bomb first time around?
Actually, as Amin 2511 helps me see this might even be the same exact unit seen again in 2014, dug up after a long sleep in the dirt (the video doesn't specify that it was dropped recently). His images to show possible matches at the tailfins and the holes both have in the side, and a long bend or dent next to the hole.

The fins are hard to compare but seem to have consistent bends. But the hole in the side that both have - rotated, slightly contrast-enhanced, put side-by-side, it's hard to be sure they match, but far harder to be sure they don't. Consider they're seen at different angles so they would look even more similar seen at the same. Is it 100% similar? Maybe not, but close. And if the bomb had a square hole cut in it at impact time while it was still buried, nearly a year before it was finally excavated, why? We can see it's later used for attaching a dragging rope. Was it dragged the same way into a pre-existing crater to bury? There are also questions about whether such a bomb could cause that size of a crater...

Damage considerations
It's been seen twice at least, neither time exploded, and possibly seen other times exploded and it went unnoticed. Or it was re-purposed for another event and called a non-explosive chemical strike.

The perfect match Bellingcat found is remarkable, like two modeled copies right from the factory or rendering program, prior to any simulated damage or actual use. Bellingcat show off this fact in one their graphics, but it's actually a problem. Only some minor flattening of sections of the tailfin ring was required. Compare the tailfin damage - the worst there is - to that on the separated tail assembly linked to the Latamnah sarin attack - arguably the least damaged part in that case.
Oops. Is that why we never heard about this attempted sarin attack? Because they realized it made too little sense for something of that scale? Higgins and Bellingcat conclude these new-old example images show bombs had high explosives, not sarin inside. And that could be. In fact I think the 2017 example(s) look too blown up to be anything other than one or two of those HE-re-purposed M4000s that DID detonate, besides landing after a long fall. But allegedly they both fell, and the only difference is the one had its small CW dispersal charge go off while the other had nothing triggered.

I asked about this in the Bellingcat comments section, thinking an airdrop was presumed, since that was the opposition claim. My question was eventually answered by someone called "Servus" and seeming to speak for Bellingcat: "for the 2013 video, there is apparently little information about it, the article says: ´The video describes the bomb as an unexploded munition, but provides little information to what the munition actually is. It does not say it has been airdropped. As a layman I would refrain from any speculations."

But it's not speculation. The video people know more about the allegations than anyone, and the title says it’s a “أحد هدايا طائرات الميغ” – “ahd hadaya tayirat almigh” – that didn’t explode: going word-by-word, that translates “One of the gifts of the aircraft (mig or meg, and I pick MIG).” There are not many ways for a MIG jet to deliver such a “gift” except by dropping it as a bomb.

Perhaps it just means a bomb, meant to be delivered by Mig, but instead found in some depot. But they thank god it didn't explode - after their rough handling, dropping in the mud and denting the tail? No, the implication is that this was a bomb that had been dropped and was meant to detonate, and that's how they got it. God stepped in and prevented its going off, because he wanted to save a few lives, and/or because he wanted them to have this thing intact.

So … it's clear they allege an airdrop, but that means this minimal damage is from that, and that seems hard to accept. Usually Bellingcat takes these claims at face value. But when they present such a logical problem, suddenly it's "speculation" to accept what they say. Yet no one wants to specify what the other options are, let alone assign likelihoods. Why couldn’t the Islamist activists tell us the true story of how they got it? The options are, at least:

– they seized it somewhere, then dented it and dropped it in the mud to look sort-of airdropped.
– made in their own workshops to match the known design, then gave it the same treatment
– in an airdrop like they said, but no one now seems to buy that, unless someone made a special case?

As a layman I wouldn't presume to have a complete list of options, but no others pop to mind. As I threatened to do, I have to paraphrase the relative silence of Higgins and Bellingcat as saying "whatever it takes to accept the opposition's evidence, and craft a narrative blaming Assad - even if we can't figure out just what that takes and so … who knows, it must add up somehow."

Details and context 
Said weapon was never reported in a successful CW attack, but the first sighting are right in the span of very active sarin allegations. There were- dozens in the spring of 2013, most of them low-profile non-fatal repeated incidents in nearby Jobar.

The April 16 sighting ame just three days after an attack at Sheikh Maqsoud, Aleppo, using a Nusra-linked grenade just after Nusra overran the area, and a regime helicopter was blamed. Sarin was reported bu unconfirmed, but then confirmed in another incident using the same grenades 2 days later. 4 initial deaths of women and children sounded like the total death toll in Sheikh Maqsoud, but ten men were quietly listed as dying as well.

I noted that came after a pause from March 19 as Syria struggled to have that day's attack in Khan al-Assal investigated - only once the Western powers maneuvered Damascus into declining a probe on 6 April, over the next days UK's Porton Down laboratory announced sarin had probably turned up somewhere, then that Aleppo attack event was called in April 13, and then FWIW this sarin bomb too-perfect example was in rebel hands the 16th, images were seeded, but not for any immediate purpose one can see. (see here)

The later find in 2014 is in the span of chlorine-related allegations. But then again, there were some notably deadly CW attacks reported in the Douma-Harasta area (adjascent) on at least March 2 and March 28 (see red flag over the red line). The latter is said to kill 7 people, which would be record-breaking for a non-Douma chlorine attack (that is, it maybe wasn't chlorine, which kills 0-4 usually, killed 6 people twice, and then 43-187 at Douma in 2018, so this would be a distant second-place). The munition was shown right between those events, on the 13th. And if it was first seen in July, 2013, that's also sarin time - in between some reported attacks between May and July in nearby Adra.

So there's a possible relevance to them coming up with sarin phases, but it's not totally clear or conclusive, and of course they were never linked to those events in any statements. They are in a sarin bomb by design, but these might be re-purposed for explosives use as some M4000s reportedly were.

where the sightings happened and who told us the story:
None of this proves anything about the allegations, but the sources involved are clearly Islamists of a pretty extreme variety. Thus they might play along with the kind of sectarian kidnapping and mass-murder and false-flag deception as groups like their allies Jabhat al-Nusra and Liwa/Jaish al-Islam.

Apr 16, 2013 at Hajjira al-Balad ( حجيرة البلد ) (On Wikimapia). It's right next to large Shi'ite suburb Sayyida Zaynab, the biggest concentration of mainline Shi'ites you'll find in Syria. This seems to be well outside the area under control of Liwa al-Islam, but this media outlet anyway seems allied with them.

Channel for the Information Office in the Hujeirat Al-Damad Al-Samad Resilient
videos stamped by themselves (Hajjera al-Balad LOC) by, Liwa al-Islam, and a "Media Center in and around Sayeda Zeinab (S.Z.M.C.)"

LOC.Hajjira.Al.Balad Facebook page removed but a Twitter account is active (10-16-13 they still hope for "the victory of the Sunnis") and points to a later FB page LO.Hajjira.Al.Balad where one can find at least an October 2013 message saying in part:
"Mujahideen who are able to victory and you are asleep, and God, we will hold you accountable on the day of reckoning before our enemies from the Nasiriyah (Alawites) and hateful Shiites, they understood that they are our enemies in religion and belief, but you are our brothers in religion and faith … Special international and Syrian relief organizations, where are you from what is happening in the besieged south of Damascus, especially now in the country and Buwayda? (an area just south of Hajjira).

And 30 Sept. 2013 "Syrian Islamic Liberation Front: Brigade of Islam (Liwa al-Islam) The finest footage of storming in the battle of submission to the Almighty with the participation of Sheikh Mohammed Zahran (Alloush)."

On Facebook, a 1-27-14 video post relates a "phone call between a member of the free army and the brother of one of the shabiha (meaning NDF or just Alawite, or what?) who was previously killed during battles and getting his phone." Unclear what's said, but it may be cruel and sectarian.

The Other one(s): Tishreen or "Dignity" district: 
The 2014 sighting (and the possible other 2013 sighting) was in - or was covered by people from - a "Teshreen neighborhood" of Damascus. Starting near the other location, a place of just that name appears on the other edge of the same Sayida Zainab (Wikimapia), about 3 km east of Hejira al-Balad. However, frequent mentions of Barzeh and Qaboun and so on suggest it's the larger Tishreen neighborhood in the northeast of Damascus, being a good part of the  Qaboun district, next to Barzeh orchards. (Wikimapia)

From the FB pages below: "To the members of the Commission and the Council to discuss the proposal to amend and integrate the Tishreen neighborhood and the neighborhood of al-Hafiriya and Mashrouh Avenue ( شارع المشروح ) and extends between Barzeh district and Qaboun under the name of the neighborhood of dignity (Hay al-Karama - ي الكرامة )." 3-22-13 Hafiriya ( الحفيرية  ) doesn't appear that I can find, but the mentioned Mashrouq and Hafiz labels appear on locales mainly around the red circle here.
Teshreen media office - page starting early May, 2013.
And a previous page that stops where the other starts, after starting just a few months earlier.
"The local council responsible for managing and organizing the affairs of Al-Hafiriya, Tishreen and Al-Mashrouh Street in Damascus." And this is their chosen imagery at the first site to sum up what this "dignity" thing is about - a Shihada flag as used by Liwa al-Islam and Jabhat al-Nusra:

They posted the oft-misrepresented Ghouta re-enactment video from Douma on Sept. 13. (it's shown as training to fake a CW attack, but doesn't appear like any training to me - just a lame and ill-advised re-enactment).

9-24-13: "God bless you" starts off a joint statement from 13 prominent Islamist groups, excluding only Islamic State (beginning of their rift with the rest). "These forces and factions call upon all military and civilian actors to unite within a clear Islamic framework that is based on the capacity of Islam, based on Sharia Arbitration and making it the only source of legislation," and they agree in rejecting the foreign-backed and non-Islamist Syrian National Council. The document with signatures is shown. Among those agreeing are: Jabhat Al Nusra - Ahrar al-Sham - Liwa al-Islam - ktayb nur aldiyn alzanki (child beheaders).

On the formation of Jaish al-Islam
29\9\2013 Urgent - celebrating the planned announcement of a ((Army of Islam)) or Jaish al-Islam, fusing Liwa (brigade of) Al-Islam and several other Islamic Front members into a new sub-coalition. Tishreen media office expressed hopes that "this army will be the biggest response to the plot of the Arabs and the west in cooperation with their clients from the coalition and the staff... And I ask God that this army is the core of the Islamic State Army on the land of sham." These folks think the West and "the Arabs" are against them, along with Iran, Russia, the Shi'ites, Alawites, and Satan himself. Of course it would be that way to people like this. Only God has their back as they battle the whole world.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Syria CW Infowar Latest Moves in Review

in review moves regarding the high-profile CW allegations of Douma, 2018 and  Khan Sheikhoun, 2017. I'm not that read-up on the news, so these may not be the best sources - more may be offered in comments below.
Here my comments
first Douma

Douma: an Emmy for NYT's Thought-Impaired Analysis -A few months back was the leak of a report by an OPCW engineering sub-team. A complete lack of an answer the challenge it brought - the OPCW's own suppressed science agrees with that of Russian scientists and all credible independent experts who like myself, who consider the actual details and show their work - as if to help erase that victory for truth, someone re-endorsed one of the worst efforts to support the fake narrative of the powerful, granting a News Emmy to the New York Times for last June's program "One Building, One Bomb." It's described as "the most definitive reconstruction" of the event, using amazing visual analysis to "cut through government denials to reveal how the attack took place and assign blame to the Syrian authorities." The NYT team here worked with Forensic Architecture and Bellingcat so all the genius wound up tripping over itself. This was an especially stupid exercise full of invented science that makes no sense. I could find several other examples if I reviewed it now, but here's a quick list of some of those I compiled earlier in a lengthy rebuttal.

- super-deadly dose, death in minutes - No. Everything known about how chlorine (rarely) kills argues against this. Maybe 1-3 people would die, probably in hospital after leaving this site. Chlorine is not a nerve agent, does not cause instant death, paralysis or impairment, just a lot of corrosive irritation and a desire to leave. These people appear to have died suddenly while doing bizarre things, or to have died at unknown speed in some gas chamber before their bodies were dragged into place here. I've always suspected the latter, and deeper research suggests more and more to be the case.

- corneal burns - No. The "opacity" cited is from being dead. It's as standard as rigor mortis. They suspiciously LACK the redness of corneal burns you'd expect from chlorine or other caustic agents. Still, it seems they were exposed to a caustic agent...

- grid pattern on the cylinder's side means impact through the metal grill - No. It would mean the thing was laid sideways like a sausage on that grill, while its bars were heated red hot to get the lines "seared in" on the side. NYT fake experts need to go to a barbecue someday and try to think that out. Do the grill marks on those hot dogs prove they flew lengthwise, like little meat missiles, crashing right through the grill?

- frosted cylinder - No. Malachy Browne at least proudly posted the image at right following supposed frost on the top of the cylinder at location 4, lasting for days after the event, including where someone wiped it with their hands and it never re-frosted. That's clearly settled dust, from the impact or - considering the many, many problems with this scene and the precedent set at loc. 2 - just sifted on top for realism. There's clearly a white dust coating the whole bed area, not just the cold metal of the cylinder. And as anyone on that team who actually looked into this auto-refrigeration might know, it happens only on the parts of the metal in contact with the cold-boiling liquid gas inside - the lower half, then a shrinking portion of the underside as it slowly boiled away trough the open valve or whatever breach there is.

The cylinder at location 2 is frosted only on a small part of its underside, as the same NYT report times it abut 10 pm  - some 2-3 hours after the attack it's close to empty. At loc. 4 the valve was intact, might have a hairline crack, and there are signs of major chlorine release, besides additional liquids - but it never seems to be frosted, was noted as half-full and NOT leaking when inspectors went (noted by Sander H), suggesting any release here was after someone opened the functional valve and then closed it again. And anyway, if that were frost it would be on the underside, you morons.

- black rust from chlorine - No. Black rust can happen in low-oxygen environments, underwater, on the steel inside the concrete on bridges, etc. No examples of prior chlorine attacks show a black rust, just the usual orange kind, on bare metal. We see that in Douma as well. Here the "rust" is seen on the intact yellow paint, which doesn't "rust" at all. And it looks like the black soot everything below the cylinder was coated with. That's clearly from a fire deliberately set atop the rubble (so the after the alleged cylinder impact), and might be a clue to the staging of the scene. But NYT, Bellingcat, FA, et al. totally missed it.

- missed: besides all the basic issues about logic, timing, and motive that always argued pretty strongly against government guilt: actual deaths needing another explanation, specific and unusual signs of their death that also need special explanation (in progress) - details large and small proving the cylinders did not cause the damage. Here again is a decent view from above and then below the impact point.

"One building, one bomb," yes, or maybe a mortar shell. It hit that upper left corner and detonated, sprayed shrapnel all around the balcony, impacted the floor of it first with its blast wave, hurling the concrete and rebar inward. Also, someone laid a gas tank at the same spot later on, and shoddy journalism helped them pass of that cheap trick, and THAT is what gets rewarded around here. But news Emmies aren't about truth but about that "news" thing - here it's assured authority, distracting computer graphics, dark, though-simulating mood music, and most importantly a "plausible" or politically acceptable conclusion in line with the accepted findings of controlled agencies so far. Bad news: Someone gassed babies and other civilians in a horrible manner and got away with it. Eh. Go ask Madeline Albright about the kind of hard choices we have to make to do the amazingly righteous stuff we do in the world.

KS liberated, Grim Discoveries
Syrian government force finally re-reconquered the city from HTS militants by August 22, ending a five-year occupation (Al-Masdar). Syrian and Russian officials inspected the site of the cave "hospital" from the 2017 videos - where people were left dying in the mud - and found attached a sprawling underground base, they say, considered adequate "for stationing 3,500 terrorists," with various facilities including propaganda "studios." Some discarded weapons were found, along with "military equipment, helmets and gas masks" and flags and uniforms of the defeated militants. (Fars News) RT showed some video footage of the tunnels, along with apparent jail cells showing squalid conditions, and women's clothing left behind (RT video set to 1:10 to show the same well-known exterior). This is all allegedly from just behind where those women, children and men were seen dead and dying, some later developing head wounds, some sporting them already.

No word on gas chambers being found on this site, but it's not clear they've found everything nor that this part would be done right here. The number of loaded trucks involved does still suggest gathering from somewhere else within short driving distance they've still never shown us.

New Info on Staging of CW Attacks with Murdered Hostages?
The same recent Fars News article cited above adds:
"In a relevant development on Wednesday, Director of the Fund for Research of Problems of Democracy Maxim Grigoryev stated that members of the so-called civil defense group White Helmets have deliberately executed women and children for the purpose of disseminating false information about the situation in Syria."
Grigoryev highlighted that White Helmets, on certain occasions, have used the bodies of hostages executed by terrorists on their territories to take photos and make video records of a staged chemical attack.
“Some of them, including women and children, were deliberately executed for the purpose,” he added."

The basis and veracity of these exact claims is unclear at the moment, but of course I've long suspected the gist of the allegation (managed massacres of captives) is true, and that there is valid evidence around, some of which I find, some more of which Grigoriev's team might have just found.

KS: Postol - Chen Critical Analysis Derailed:
An anticipated mainstream journal publication of a report co-authored by MIT professor Theodore Postol had its publication postponed, maybe cancelled. Science Magazine reported on this story:

"Now, a manuscript questioning that conclusion has caused a heated dispute among U.S. scientists. Until this week, the paper was scheduled for publication by Science & Global Security (SGS), a prestigious journal based at Princeton University. But as Science went to press, SGS’s editors suspended publication amid fierce criticism and warnings that the paper would help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Russian government."

Before, the journal had noted controversy existed, but "the scientific community has well-established practices for dealing with this challenge." But on 24 September, they mentioned "a number of issues with the peer-review and revision process" requiring they put it on hold to review those issues.

This comes after a concerted effort by regime-change activists to pressure SGS to refuse publication, raising concerns if their political pressure caused the journal to cave in.

The Bellingcat critique cited by Science Mag raises a valid point on lack of usual damage - Postol argues rebel rockets just don't fragment well, so they're pretty useless. He didn't seem to consider it was a non-explosive chemical rocket as I've always suspected.

Supposed expert J.P. Zanders' critique that Syrian sarin was used is faulty, based on a faith that past use as all by Syria. But that was always circular, accepted based on prior believed use, never on established fact. Or IF this is the real recipe Syria used, and not just the one that keeps turning up, he ignores that recipes can be replicated by people with a more rational motive than Damascus would have.

Still none of these critics can find anything but alibis in the radar record (right), and they all ignore key facts like that the observed wind was opposite of that needed for the allegations to work. (below, my classic wind graphic for upper-level winds - ground level is more westerly (to the east). Anyone who thinks this must be or can be shown wrong, be sure to check here first, and if you still feel that way, bring it there.)

CW expert and regime-change activist Gregory Koblentz "says Postol has disregarded overwhelming evidence and has a pro-Assad agenda," Science reports, and warned with some telling hyperbole "The paper would be “misused to cover up the [Assad] regime’s crimes" and "permanently stain the reputation of your journal."" To "cover up" "crimes" that were just bogus accusation to begin with, by demonstrating that they were bogus, is not an ethical lapse not something that should harm anyone's reputation. Mr. Koblentz probably has no special reason to be so sure his own obvious anti-Assad agenda is based in fact rather than just a politically convenient narrative that's been steered to emerge. He's a hypocrite.

But all these critics may have varying points. I'm not sure how to "properly" judge a scholarly paper, but I've looked at the Postol, Chen, et al. report and it seems to have some logic issues (at least the debatable answer to lack of fragmentation, as noted above, the insistence the metal fragments must be from the weapon used, and must be some kind of pipe or tube). Working alone these last years Postol's output is rather poor and error-prone, to the extent I've looked at it. Working with Richard Lloyd in 2013-14 the team output was excellent. With others, Goong Chen and his team, it seemed on quick review they came out somewhere in the middle.

I humbly suggest from my corner we take advantage of this pause. That exact paper should be cancelled, but considering the complexities, a slot should be left open. Perhaps Mr. Chen could lead a revision of the findings for a better product with no logical or factual errors, just political ones. That could be the test; as it stands, it's hard to separate political agendas from genuine technical issues. It seems from my end the truth tends to help Syria and Russia in the way Mr. Koblentz suggested Postol's paper would, and could be blocked for that reason alone. Is that the case here? I wish I could be more clear on that question.

KS: Bellingcat's Dying M4000 Narrative
Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins was excited recently to solidify some fragment IDs they made last year, comparing scraps from the Latamnah and Khan Sheikhoun sarin attacks in March and April 2017 to a Syrian-made M4000 chemical bomb. This is taken as proving Syrian forces dropped that bomb from a jet that must have been over the town somehow, and ignores the possibility the pieces are planted. But the new twist is an old example of an M4000 seen in 2013, and then another from 2014, being noticed and brought to compare - the first visual comparisons possible so far. Neither of these, he thinks, was used for CW, both of them likely being re-purposed for conventional explosives (which he says Syria has claimed and which I don't doubt).

But in the 2017 cases, sarin turned up, so that would be the M4000 doing its original job. If that's what these scraps are from, and if they relate to the attack.

An earlier March 24 attack … did the M4000 turn up there too? I'm not so read up on that one, but it's thought to have caused a doctor to die the next day after a simple chlorine attack on the 25th. It went totally unreported at the time, but later had reports lodged, and samples gathered 10 months later that tested positive for intact, non-degraded sarin - meaning it was introduced to the source material probably just weeks earlier, not 10 months earlier.

The 2013 M4000 is said to fall from a jet ("gift of Mig") and landed near fighters in the southern Damascus suburbs, with no visible damage besides some mild denting of the tail assembly. This suggests it landed on its side, likely tail-end first, after a short and unstable fall, from maybe 50 meters up? Maybe at an angle, arcing in after it was hurled with some crude catapult? Or maybe I'm under-estimating the damage and someone dropped it off the bed of the delivery pickup truck? To me it looks more in that range than any range of plausible aircraft altitudes. Here it is (bottom) compared to the broken and distorted parts found at Latamnah.

Allegations: Both of these fell from jets and landed. Neither detonated with powerful high explosives. Aside from perhaps the drop altitude, no difference is proposed besides one having a small CW dispersal charge triggered upon impact. The 2017 story is debatable, likely involving high-explosives and thus ruling out sarin. But the 2013 story is out. If it makes no sense, it's not true. And if it's not true, wonder why they don't tell us the true story of how militant got at least one copy of a M4000 to play around with.

I've never been one to doubt that identification (see Postol-Higgins debate post), and I'm not about to start now. Others insist on challenging it as if it were central, as if it has to be from the weapon used and can't just be planted to sow a bogus story. But these things have a way of being in bogus stories. I was working on this subject is a little more detail for a post of middling importance I may not complete on "The M4000 distraction." If this seems to be needed, I'll finish it. In the meantime and in case, my advice is quit doubting the ID unless you can find a VALID reason, neither fully accept nor reject it, and just focus on the follow-up question: "if it were M4000 scraps, so what?" As Charles Wood proposes:
"In a spectacular own goal, Higgins has 'disclosed' that Syrian terrorists have long held bomb parts that could be used to fake the Khan Sheikhoun sarin bombing.
That's not to say an M4000 was even used, just that the parts in the crater are 'consistent' with Higgin's bomb parts."

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

"Mr. Pesticide" Part 3: On CW Crimes of Ba'athist Leaders

Mr. Pesticide, Gen. Asaad Al-Zoubi
Part three of four:
2018-19 Comments on CW Crimes of Ba'athist Leaders
September 24, 2019

< Back to Part 2
< part 1

3a) Blessing Saddam's Soul for Halabjah?
As part 2 explained, FSA General Asaad al-Zoubi's made a lot of fairly loony public claims in 2016 comments, during his term heading the negotiating team for the whole Syria opposition in Geneva. Perhaps the most controversial among his comments were those about the Kurdish people, their military forces and statehood aspirations, as covered in part 2. Some of these spurred the Kurdish contingent within the HNC to quit the project just two weeks into talks.

But those weren't his first or last words on the subject. A recent re-iteration of the theme in a twitter message of 16 August, 2019, caused a new stir. As one twitter response put it: “Asaad Alzoubi, one of the Syrian opposition's leader praising Saddam Hussein, because he was killing Kurds by using a chemical gases. Today, Zoubi wants to play the same role by commiting chemical attacks against Syrian Kurds... # example of Syrian negotiator_”

Another criticism doesn't mention anything chemical, but includes a re-tweet of Al-Zoubi's exact words. But that original tweet was "unavailable" before I saw it. Well before. On 17 August (the day after the tweet) someone asked "Has he deleted the tweet or shut down his account?" Presumably, he deleted it in embarrassment by then, with or without a friend's advice. At the time I checked (around 27 August), most of the other tweets at his account were still visible, but that one was gone.

It caused him trouble anyway - his account had already been suspended, as someone noticed on 22 August. I didn't know about that when I first looked a few days later. It must have been down just briefly before he had the decision repealed. But just checking now, it seems he's suspended again (as of Sept. 11, and still on Sept. 24). That's presumably for the same thing, which is probably the Kurd-bashing comments possibly praising CW-genocide. He was banned more firmly, maybe permanently, we might note after more time to review the complaints and his reasons for the brief repeal.

He used to be charged with helping shape the future of a nation - what could stop the fighting, who needs released from jail, who cannot be president, etc. That might have played into the initial repeal ("I was at Geneva, you oafs!"). Now he's not even allowed to air his thoughts on Twitter, a platform often criticized as too lax on hate speech and the like.

Wow. That must have been some misstep I should have a look at it if possible. I asked the resourceful Michael Kobs, who found an archived copy of the tweet (at a link that almost instantly expired on my end). The screen grabs he sent are below with details, original text, and an auto-translation to English. (Kobs tweet)

LBD = PYD, etc. an Arabic-speaking friend helped check the nuances and gave the same gist but no word-for-word, so this is a guessed refinement of the auto-translation. Anything it misses that's significant, someone let me know (comments).
Whenever we uncover the truth about the character of the Kurdish terrorist organization the PYD, it reveals many animals (donkeys who are tired, howling dogs, cockroaches, tints [sounds like some tiny insect?], cockroaches, and many worms). There is no need to use pesticides for these insects.
God bless his soul.

(It's pesticide enough?) for these insects to say the name Saddam, and they quickly disappear. So their appearance always makes us have mercy on Saddam.
God bless his soul.

Halabjah 1988. Al-Zoubi: "God bless (Saddam's) soul"
He might have seen this as lighthearted, proposing as it does NOT gassing people; even if it might seem warranted, to deal with the subhuman pests of the PYD "there is no need to use pesticides for these insects." Simply remind them how Saddam (Hussein?) did that once (Halabja 1988?), and ...the pests will go away? He seems onto something ugly, if not logical.

Following an "attack on social media" Al-Zoubi explained himself in an interview for Arabic-language Zaitun Agency. He says it was a misunderstanding. As he clarifies, Kurdish people in general are brother Syrians, but the PYD militant group - at least - "coordinates with the Syrian regime to thwart the people's revolution. They exploited the revolution of the Syrian people and called for an independent entity ...and committed the crimes of genocide and forced components of the core of our people [meaning some (Arab) Sunni Muslims?]" apparently, to lose their homes (translation is unclear).

Forced relocation in areas PYD and other Kurdish forces take over is credibly reported by Human Rights Watch in Iraq (Nov. 2016), and also in Syria, as reported by The Nation, Feb. 2017. It's considered an act of genocide, which is a continuum, obviously.

The claims were variously denied by Kurdish officials, or explained as a counter-terror measure, and they might point – in Iraq anyway - to forced Arabization of historically Kurdish areas, acts of genocide they were just just “correcting” (so corrective genocide?). The Kurds are no angels, and I'm no expert, but I noted in 2013 some clues their leaders in Iraq at least took advantage of the ISIS situation, perhaps even helping to create it, to enable their Iraqi Kurdistan; they would let some land be shaken from Baghdad's control, blame them for being too sectarian and causing ISIS, then as possible take the land back and keep it. Consider from the HRW report a commander of Kurdish forces in Iraq, reportedly declaring upon conquests in Nineveh governorate “These territories are Kurdistan's now. We will not give them back to the Iraqi army or anybody else.”

Their cause is not that crucial, but they're selectively boosted in the West because, I guess, they can cause grief for to the Syrian and Iraqi governments, because they want their own country, not a caliphate or an emirate. Little wonder there's a long attraction, but this Islamist takeover is quite a sinister thing for the Kurds and their external sponsors to be taking advantage of. They should stand with the nations they're in, and talk degrees of autonomy later. First both ISIS and all those others the HNC had under its umbrella would need to be defeated.

So Al-Zoubi may have a point, or just a pointless, hate-inspired gripe with a near-explanation available. But he never did explain the references to “Saddam” and "pesticide" use, and why that event can be glibly invoked against just the PYD when the attack itself was against primarily civilians. He offered no explanation and also deleted that tweet as if it simply could not be explained – at least within civil bounds. Now, this is/was a professional political operative, heading negotiations on issues of war and peace, justice and morality, etc. - by record of tweets anyway, he says little, and it will be relatively guarded and careful. This kind of comment could mark the edges - things he wouldn't normally say, has to un-say if he slips. I mean, he's not talking about Alawi or Shia people here, but the widely-championed Kurds. we can wonder how wide and deep is the pool of uglier thoughts he's even more careful with?

I can partly endorse the efforts of some French Kurds' effort to sue Gen. Al-Zoubi over this comment. They hope to have him tried in French courts for "apology for war crimes and genocide," punishable by up to five years in prison." (Le-Point) For anyone in the world? As someone who's been accused of apologizing for war crimes, this raises questions for me. But I'd be denying the crime, not smiling about it and waving it in peoples' faces. Their lawyer, Antonin Péchard, found the deleted tweet counted as "provocation to violence." That's debatable, but he cites "a direct and unambiguous allusion to the crimes committed in Iraq in 1988, recognized as genocide before the court in The Hague.” As he decodes it, “the menagerie” - or what I have as “many animals” - “is the Kurdish people.” He actually specifies PYD, not the Kurds at large. But then “Saddam, of course, is Saddam Hussein and "the insecticide is the poison of his chemical weapons," most famously used at Halabjah against a lot of Kurdish people at large, so the meaning of “menagerie” IS pretty dubious.

On a side-note, Saddam Hussein also gassed a lot of Shi'ites in Iran in 1988 and earlier, some background information for Al-Zoubi and other hardcore Sunni fanboys of that Ba'ath party leader. Considering all this and how it plays into the following, I've given al-Zoubi the nickname “Mr. Pesticide.”

3b) Damning Assad's Soul over Douma
So there's some worry about Al-Zoubi's rehtoric inspiring future acts of violence, perhaps even chemical violence. Just from what's seen, that's a stretch. But either way, some of his allies need no encouragement.

The Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) of his fellow HNC bargainer Mohammed Alloush is epic in its criminality. They're behind killing off all sort of opponents and critics and the sectarian-based kidnapping of hundreds of civilians at once in December, 2013 at Adra (teamed with Jabhat al-Nusra). They've arrested thousands more from Adra and elsewhere across East Ghouta, military and civilian alike, including women and children. They subjected prisoners to harsh conditions and torture, starvation and slave labor, besides other crimes known and still-unknown.

Some possible JaI crimes involve chemical weapons allegations, two of which we now consider, starting with the Douma incident of 7 April, 2018. This was easily blamed on the Syrian government, triggering the second of two yearly April missile strikes led by US president Trump. Al-Zoubi firmly credits Assad with the attack and considers the attack criminal, not laudable. So he's for all CW attacks, and not even for all those blamed on Ba'ath party leaders. He's more selective than that. The Douma attack was said to kill random Sunni Arabs, not Kurdish or PYD "terrorists." And Assad, for what it's worth, is not a Sunni Muslim like Saddam Hussein was, and gets aid from Iranians instead of gassing them. For whatever mix of reasons, Al-Zoubi does not ask for Assad's soul to be blessed, but labors instead to expand the case for its damnation.

In the 18 months since the Douma incident, serious study has shown the opposition's claims to be fraudulent on every level. The physical evidence is clear to OPCW's suppressed experts, Russia's experts, and independent researchers who show their work: someone manually planted two barely dented chlorine gas cylinders at or beneath unrelated damage from explosive weapons. There are troubling signs the 35 seen victims – mostly women and children - were captives of Jaish Al-Islam, mass-murdered so they could plant some bodies underneath one of those forged scenes and blame Assad. It seem s they were intentionally killed in a gas chamber using an unusual method that left ugly clues still being unraveled. Al-Zoubi's Islamist buddies piled the bodies near water faucets so the residues could be washed off their faces and hair just minutes before the first video – leaving behind dingy rags and one of the respirator masks they probably wore to protect against the fumes still coming off these people during transport (likely in Jaish Al-Islam's fabled tunnel system – a confined space). Visuals below, from my own tweet.

Yes, this was almost surely a false-flag managed massacre by JaI as they finally lost their home base in Douma, and saw their last chance to gas any hostages they'd rather not free, and last chance to have a lot of bodies at once to blame on Assad. They had promised to release some 3,000 detainees as part of the surrender deal, but a lamentable 200 or so ever emerged (AFP). Quite likely some of the missing thousands wound up piled in those photos.

It took a while to see all that, but just one day after, on 8 April, 2018, as most of us were rather hazy, Gen. Asaad al-Zoubi gave an interview to Turkey-based SMART News where he's described only as “a political and military analyst,” revealing a stunning inside view; as the headline sums it up, "Opposition general reveals that Russia and Syrian government prepared toxic gas month before Douma massacre." Considering my interest in the details of the Douma incident, his full explanation is worth some detailed analysis in another post (part 4, forthcoming). But it's worth relating in brief here, for comparison.

Like many, he seemed sure it was Assad's deadly sarin nerve agent that killed people in Douma; "Al-Zoubi assured that the forces used a nerve gas that causes immediate asphyxia, and has a stronger effect than chlorine gas." He or SMART News thought the death toll was at least 85 (which is also noted as the death toll for the Khan Sheikhoun sarin attack a year earlier). But that was “at an early count” that actually grew to ~180 and was later claimed to be 187. Mysteriously, only 42 were ever "verified,” and only chlorine turned up at the location where most of the bodies were found. Simple chlorine should have killed close to zero people, not 42, or 85, or 187. Did Al-Zoubi know about that problem in advance? On day 2, he claimed the chlorine dropped along with the nerve agent instantly erased all signs. But as I'll explain in part 4, this is nonsense.

He claimed to know all about the super-deadly agent that's “similar to sarin” (which seems to mean it was sarin – allegedly – but he'd rather leave some wiggle room?). He says it was specifically brewed for the purpose a month earlier, in full violation of Syria's OPCW obligations, and with the help of three particular Russian officers Al-Zoubi could probably name (but didn't), in a pretty audacious and satanic conspiracy. He claimed to know where the poison was made, when it was moved and where to, including to Dumayr airbase, where people said the CWs were loaded onto helicopters for use on 7 April. He probably failed to mention any of that knowledge over the weeks of alleged preparation because it only appeared in his "information" network - fully formed – just a few hours before this interview.

But despite being total nonsense, the Zoubi narrative might be too well-informed to be an innocent guess. His info was likely provided by the true experts who knew inside details like how no sarin would turn up, as they originally planned. Again, the likely perpetrators are Douma-based Jaish Al-Islam, whose state of defeat might cause logistical failures like their sarin supply getting unexpectedly blown up, for example. Because, again, their political leader was one of Zoubi's contacts from the HNC days. And the victims ... not Kurds or probably any other minority, but the largest portion of a named 35 are seemingly related to a military opponent of JaI: An “FSA” faction called Douma Martyr's Brigade led a tragically failed rebellion against the “Army of Islam” in late 2014. That in turn started a few months after its founder – Mohammed Diab Bakriyeh – was killed “in clashes” with government forces, on the same day an apparent civilian brother of his was killed by random government “shelling.” (see here.) Does that reflect the same growing tensions that led to open rebellion soon after? And does it show Commander Bakriyeh's family was fair game to kill and falsely report the cause of death? The answers could both be yes, and if so, it's quite possible that 11 people named Bakriyeh (plus unclear others related by blood and marriage) would get kidnapped over time, held until the end in 2018, and finished off then rather than set free. If so ...the elaborate story Gen. Al-Zoubi passes on would be fake, and he'd be helping conceal a gross war crime by his allies, bt passing it off as yet another Assad crime. To the intelligent, that would be cause to wonder how often that kind of thing happens.

3c) When Jaish Al-Islam Gasses Kurds
Considering his take on Douma, if Gen. Al-Zoubi's Islamist cohorts ever did gas some Kurds, don't be surprised if he weighs in with dubious but specific "information" blaming Syria and implicating Russia, or Iran, or perhaps ISIS or China.

In fact, I had to check with an attack on the Kurdish-majority Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo, on 7 April, 2016. In this little-understood event, I propose the agent used was not the reported chlorine gas. The agent color is wrong (seen on video, too orange-yellow, and also too lightweight), and the smell might be (described as "strange," not bleach-like). It might have been a nerve agent, going by the reported symptoms (including "convulsions, spasms and vomiting"), and its killing a reported 23 people to an expected zero for chlorine. (gathered sources at ACLOS)
7 April, 2016: Al-Zoubi ally's militia launches "pesticide" against Kurds? 23 died?
(color: increased saturation but same hue = not chlorine (yellow-green))
Note: "Yellow phosphorous material" was also cited as the agent, but that should probably be a sort of burning irritant, not likely fatal (based on some research). Also I've seen before where someone mistranslates “organophosphate” this way to describe a likely sarin attack. Three such cases are listed here: Interestingly, twice before in the same district – shortly before in 2016, 9 March (with the same "yellow" description) and in 2013, 13 April, where 3-4 civilians were listed as killed, later revised to 14. the VDC heard early reports of “white phosphoric material and then other sources said it is (Sarin Gas)" which won the contest. (The same odd weapon involved in Sheikh Maqsoud was used in another event 2 weeks later at Saraqeb, that was verified as having sarin inside.) And 2013, 3-24 Adra, Damascus Suburbs, next to Douma and partly occupied by Jaish Al-Islam, where 2 fighters were reportedly killed and several sickened: "Doctors are describing the chemical weapon used as phosphorus" that otherwise fits the bill of a nerve agent. Spasms are seen, and atropine was an effective treatment. ACLOS None of these reports mentions pinpoint pupils, a key indicator, but otherwise ...

In 2016 anyway, this is not chlorine, nor is it mustard gas, nor that mysterious BZ/Agents 15 phoned in a few times. Is it sarin, or something else not yet identified as a CW used in Syria? Either seems plausible to me. More clarity would be nice. Whatever it is, apparently Jaish Al-Islam has it. Further clues a few paragraphs down suggest they share this access with Al-Qaeda franchise Jabhat Al-Nusra.

In what can only be a coincidental twist, that fatal Aleppo attack was exactly two years before the Douma incident we just considered. So both of these 7 April incidents across the country from each other were probably the work of Douma-based Jaish Al-Islam which, as a coalition, also had external branches, including one in Aleppo. It was they who were fingered for the Sheikh Maqsoud chemical attack, and a statement followed that one of their fighters was in trouble for using "prohibited weapons" there. I found no comments by Gen. Al-Zoubi, but he would surely agree with his chief negotiator Mohammed Alloush, who denied the claims - not as part of the HNC but as the political leader of the likely perpetrators. “This is really a big lie, which is laughable.” He swore JaI had no chemical weapons and if they did, would never use them on "our civilians." Rather, To Sputnik news, Alloush "once again accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of using chemical weapons in the country," if not in this particular case. He explained they only fired regular grad rockets at "our civilians" in Sheikh Maqsoud that day, and someone else must have fired in that toxic gas on the Kurds at the same time. He gives no indication who that would be, and implicitly suggests there was no chemical incident at all. I mean, how else could the situation be “laughable” to kind of guy once charged with heading big talks in Geneva? (Global Security.org)

JaI at large has also claimed the public statements about "forbidden weapons" were misread – they never referred to the CW claims they seemed to refer to, but coincidentally made a public show of reprimanding a fighter for unauthorized modification of GRAD rockets. (The Daily Beast) Maybe he modified them to deliver CW, and it actually was authorized, but just caused to much bad PR. Alloush found the ensuing confusion “laughable,” so maybe that big non-admission is the practical joke it kind of seems like. (ACLOS)

Some context: 5 April the deadliest day yet of indiscriminate terrorist shelling of the Sheikh Maqsoud district. "Saad, a pharmacist, described 5 April as “the bloodiest day the neighbourhood had witnessed”. He said that shelling from armed groups continued for nine hours straight. He added: “We counted at least 15 Hamim rockets and more than 100 mortars. The shells were falling everywhere, it was indiscriminate.” (Amnesty International) Two days later came the deadly "pesticide" - as some might put it - launched on the Kurds there by the group led by Zoubi's chief negotiator.

And following on that were reports of an earlier chemical attack: "Lebanese Hezbollah fighters said that they were also attacked by chemical weapons during the night from Sunday to Monday (April 3/4), when terrorists attacked the settlement of al-Yis in the south of Aleppo." Kurdish YPG sources "confirmed" the claims; "According to the militias, dozens of civilians suffered as a result of the attack," which they blame Turkey for. There's no mention of deaths directly caused by the chemicals. (RIA, Russia) The place is not phonetically obvious, but probably Al-Eis on Wikimapia, the only place south of Aleppo I found with a name that could also be transliterated al-Yis. Arabic: العيس Gtrans pronunciation: aleyisu) It's described as Sunni-majority (and not Kurdish?), well southwest of Aleppo city, about halfway to Saraqeb, but still inside Aleppo province. Other Names: Ash Shaykh Isa. Next-door areas labeled Tell Al-Eis and Jabal Al-Eis.

A Reuters report of 6 April said "the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front … last week attacked and captured a town" south of Aleppo, killing 11 Hezbollah fighters and 43 Syrian soldiers, then "shot down a Syrian warplane on Tuesday (the 5th) and captured its pilot" The town is given as Telat al-Eis - probably meaning the Tel Al-Eis (al-Yis) above with the chemical attack during the Aug. 3-4 conquest. On the 6th, the Reuters story related "intense air strikes in the southern Aleppo area," described as "the fiercest government assault in the area since an agreement to ease the fighting came into effect in February."

The HNC's al-Zoubi "told Reuters the truce was “in danger of ending” due to government violations." He referred to the February deal he apparently had nothing to do with, and seems to mean these new strikes – not the 5 April shelling of Aleppo by his allies, or the 3/4 April gassing and takeover of a town near Aleppo. His only and urgent issue was government retaliation against the designated terrorists of al-Nusra Front. The article notes Nusra (then calling itself Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) was never party to the ceasefire, but "its fighters are deployed near rebel groups that are.”

In fact they often share the exact space with and cooperate with such "good-guy" Islamists. The same article cites a fighter of the Sham Revolutionary Brigades who "said his group had taken part in repelling the attack (on al-Eis), and Shi’ite militias fighting with the government had suffered heavy losses." The Sham Revolutionary Brigades probably was party to the cease-fire and off-limits, despite being embedded with al-Nusra. The ceasefire was said to cover basically everyone but Nusra and ISIS, and these guys in particular were one of the "moderate" Islamist groups in Aleppo province who were vetted and given US TOW anti-tank missiles in 2015 (child-beheaders Nouredin al-Zenki were another such sponsored group - news story)

So in context, the HNC head of delegation implied that even Al-Nusra should be allowed to overrun anywhere and do anything from there, so long as they have some exempted “rebels” tagging along as human shields. A failure by Damascus to recognize that protection would destroy the fragile and ever-so-useful dialog in Geneva. Can we see what a scumbag this guy is? Al-Zoubi denounced only the government's responsive portion of this as harmful to peace. On that basis, he threatened yet again to end talks, and encouraged more terrorist attacks (explicitly on the 17th - see part 1). Any further chemical attacks on Kurdish fighters and civilians, like the one that happened the day after his statement about government violations ... “Mr. Pesticide” would see nothing to complain about, anyway, and in private, he might praise some souls over it.