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Monday, October 16, 2017

Sarin-Faking in Syria

Token-Dose Storytellers Running the Show?
October 16, 2017
(rough, incomplete)
edits October 17, 21

tokens, wishes... (photo cropped from this source)
I recently got caught in an had to untangle some confusion passed on in Gareth Porter's September analysis at AlterNet: Have We Been Deceived Over Syrian Sarin Attack? I focused on the claims of sarin-faking there, citing clues that it wasn't sarin at all that caused those test results. Phosphine was postulated as a poison that might explain it. I drafted this article initially to explain these valid-seeming claims, and to add a wrinkle about a test they may have side-stepped in their effort to not find out if it was sarin.

But - as the October 7 note atop that article now explains - it turns out that test probably wasn't side-stepped, Porter's sources didn't even know about it, and it essentially proves sarin really was involved (or rather, the list of "sarin-like" substances seems to be too narrow to allow for any proposed alternate poisons). It seems most likely the more recent and specific tests were used, so when they say "sarin or a sarin-like substance," they almost surely do mean sarin.

The standing issue is the quantities involved. Some sarin incidents have this information publicized, but most others - including pivotal Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun (Ghouta II) incidents, no such details are available now and quite likely none will ever will be published. The reason can't be known for sure, but Gareth Porter and I and others have some thoughts and insights.

How it Might Really Work (Speculative, but...)
In the scenario I've proposed for both Ghouta and Ghouta II and for most other alleged CW incidents, based on research into many of those cases, the victims are people already held hostage by the Islamist forces opposing the Syrian government. Religious decrees allow execution for captive enemy men (aged 13 and up - Alawites, government supporters or soldiers, etc.). Women and children can also be taken, but can't openly be killed - that has to be blamed on Assad, and the same clerics pass on that blame with no questions or even with a wink. They probably keep a few, to sell off and help raise funds.

But when the time is right, those selected are gassed with whatever is handy in some basement, or maybe just suffocated, then dragged in front of cameras with their impressive "lack of physical injuries" and blamed on something only "the Assad regime" could have done (usually involving an aircraft). If testing their tissues helps the case being made, that might happen. Otherwise, it certainly won't be done, and the bodies will just be dumped in mass graves as soon as the cameras are gone.

Those alleged CW attack victims who come in alive will give passionate testimony to how the regime dropped the gas, and how all these people they know died from that. They'll tell you there were no militant targets, that Assad is just gassing civilians for no rational reason, and they'll often plead for help in overthrowing the government (usually in veiled terms, for subtlety). Their sarin levels will be there, but no higher than needed.

Sarin faking here means using the real nerve agent, but using voluntary or involuntary token doses to trick the test. It seems that incredibly low levels will register as a positive result, so the trick is easy to pull off - if the system allows it. Coincidentally, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) apparently pursues only yes-no answers, pointedly not looking for or sharing quantitative details. All they care about is if sarin turned up, in any amount. There's an openness to fraud in this, and there are signs of active fraud along that opened avenue. Is that coincidental? Or it this evidence of a running system used to pin blame for made-up sarin attacks on the Syrian government? This important question is not yet answered but seriously raised here.

If this were the system, here's what you'd see: some fatalities who can't tell their own story, and are free to give high, realistically fatal sarin readings. Some alleged neighbors or family of the fatalities will give the back story and test usually quite low, if at all, even if they describe symptoms consistent with extreme sarin exposure. Prior to testing, picture them sipping a weak dilution in water, slowly, to let it metabolize between sips. Religious music plays softly in a place with a Jabhat al-Nusra flag on the wall. That might be what crossing the red line looks like, aside from the hostage-gassing.

What you would probably not see in such a scenario is a seriously affected person who nearly died from a real sarin dose, but survived to talk about it. That should be a prime subject, but the signs are such people aren't sought or perhaps don't exist, and we see only mute corpses and token-dose storytellers speaking for them.

That may sound extreme or fanciful, but do consider how it stacks up against the available evidence. This is partly related below. 

Defining Fatal vs. Not Fatal Levels of Sarin
I credit ACLOS member and fellow researcher Pmr9 for a lot of tips here. 

There are two complementary factes of sarin poisoning measured, some in one case, with the other given in other cases. Some give sarin levels (usually in nanograms per milileter, ng/ml). More sources I've seen report the blood's cholinesterase activity (sub-totals: AchE and BChE levels), as observed compared to normal levels. Some give AchE levels, some the BChE levels, and some give the total activity. I don't think any sources give two of those at once to help compare. It may matter a bit which enzyme they cite, but we'll presume the operative thing here is the percentage the normal, healthy range, which also has to be given. And that range is broad and inexact - natural levels vary from person to person.

We can define severe poisoning as marked, roughly, by cholinesterase activity < 10% of normal.  This NIH report states:
"Patients with red-cell acetylcholinesterase activity of at least 30% had normal muscle function and no need for atropine. By contrast, patients with less than 10% of normal red-cell acetylcholinesterase activity had grossly deranged muscle function and needed high doses of atropine".
At such a point, things like breathing will not work right, and there's an increasing danger of brain damage or death if the victim lingers in that state.
From all the reported Syria incidents, there's been little seen of such details, which is our main point here. But one early sarin attack (Saraqeb, April 29, 2013) has details shared about the one fatality, and some details came through from a case of 4 Syrian soldiers attacked with sarin in 2015. Between these two incidents, the 1995 Tokyo subway attack, and one preceding attack by the same terrorists in Japan, I could assemble this abbreviated table. pink = fatality, gray = likely confused details. And note IU is not the same as U. Not sure what it is (International Unit - a special time-unit-based proprietary measure for each enzyme), but either that 100 IU/L norm or that 13.3 IU/ml norm has to be wrong.. 
Unfortunately, there are some confusing discrepancies in the chart of 21 Japanese victims studied (in this 1997 report) very small samples, less than a quarter of a milileter each, to deduce what might be in a full ml, and dated, somewhat degraded - perhaps not so much of it was found. Those entries are shaded gray here - some cases show high impairment of BChE activity suggesting the sarin levels should be higher than given). 

People can die, it seems, at 13% of normal activity, and at lower levels like 6%, while others can pull through from as low as 7.5% and with increasing ease from levels like 10, 12, 17, 19%. Tokyo victim #10, at 12% activity and probably well over 4.1 ng/ml of regenerated sarin, seems the best candidate for death of their 14 subway attack victims. But it seems this is a sampling of people who survived (I am or have been confused about this - but at 14 entries (not 11!), it's not quite the same-size-as-the-death-toll that it first seemed. Confusingly, their sampling for the earlier incident is still almost the same as the death toll there).

That's the body's cholinesterase activity, which is ... a complex biological enzyme thing ... that's lessened under attack by sarin. How this correlates to detected sarin levels - given in nanograms per milileter (ng/ml) - is less clear. 

In general, of course, as sarin goes up, the other number goes down. The Mariam Al-Khatib case (MAK) suggests 9.5 ng is fatal, but her cholinesterase activity seems higher than you'd expect for a fatality. But she was 52, with unspecified prior medical conditions. And maybe one or both of these figures is incorrect, from a different point, etc. 

<Add 10-17> In fact, the cholinesterase activity given is probably wrong, as Pmr9 helps me realize. A report on her biomedical samples testing (John et. al, PDF) points out that her sarin level was high enough that she had past 100% receptor saturation (or so we both read this):
"Binding sites additional to hBChE indicate that the level of sarin exposure had been quite high, inducing saturation of binding sites in cholinesterases and making excess agent available for binding to other proteins."
I'm not certain that really means 100% blockage and thus 0% cholinesterase activity (I mean, to bind to other proteins, does the sarin have to check if every BChE spot, even clear across the body, is taken? I imagine this other binding increases as the 100% saturation point is reached in that area, while a few receptors might be functioing somewhere else. Either way, it seems 9.5 ng/ml should mean close to or exactly 0% ch. activity, not 13%. <end 10-17>

This given number (9.5 for MAK, and that's from Le Monde, 6-4-13) is receptor-bound and fluoride-ion regenerated sarin, and only represents a portion of the actual dose. The majority of agent that enters the body (I hear 70-90% usually, per this source) is attacked in the blood and converted into IMPA (the less toxic breakdown product of sarin) before it ever causes harm. Japanese victims in 1995 had levels of IMPA up to 135 ng/ml (1998 report). I think this means that person (presumably the deadest among the 12 or so fatalities) had at least that much sarin at one point. But that person's fluoride regeneration test, in these terms, would only show the fatal part that bound to receptors and disrupted the nerve signaling balance. If it's 10-30% of the total, then that person's samples might read ~15 to maybe 50 ng/ml upon similar testing, depending on how extreme doses skew the proportions. And some extremely high doses are expected in that case, given the crude dispersal method. (add Oct. 17: that is, if other-protein-bound overflow sarin also turns up ... if it stops at what the ch. receptors can hold, it should show maxed-out at aroun 9-10 ng/ml ... we think. But that would be less metabolized, so the percentages change... close enough. It's a side issue.)

Maybe 10 ng/ml is a fair upper level some could survive 9 ng/ml is a fair point to call certainly fatal. 7 or 8 would probably do it for most people. For a low end, Tokyo #10 suggests 4.1 ng might push one into about the fatal zone (12% enzyme activity), but again this is likely a low finding of a higher amount. Being fair and broad, let's say 5-10 5-9 ng/ml of sarin is a range of very dangerous to solidly fatal doses. Unfortunately, it's this less clear value we'll have to consider below

OPCW's Yes-or-No Approach

As we consider the possibility of voluntary exposure to sarin, just to trip the sensors, it should be noted low levels aren't even necessary. A dedicated jihadi might take a near-fatal or fatal dose, if that were important enough. But probably no more than that guy would... Well-spaced mild doses could leave fairly high cumulative levels, and still be done with fairly little discomfort or danger. But especially for women or children to be tested, lower levels are much more likely, so long as the plotters didn't worry much about this pattern being exposed. 

And luckily they didn't have to do any better than make sarin appear, in no particular amount. What helps is that from the OPCW's point of view, a positive result suffices, as if it's nothing more than a simple yes or no question.

In a February 15, 2015 incident, four Syrian soldiers were exposed to sarin while fighting rebels in the Damascus area. The OPCW analyzed their preserved blood samples (after DNA matching them to in-person interviews), turning up unambiguous signs of sarin. Their report (PDF via Jean Pascal Zanders' blog The Trench) says "The OPCW designated laboratory was tasked as follows: “Scope of Analysis: Please analyze these samples for the presence or absence of nerve agent adducts.”" That sounds like the whole thing. There's nothing about amounts mentioned - presence or absence is all they ask for.

In the end, for this case, information about amounts (AchE activity) was provided in the OPCW report. But that was apparently from the Syrian blood tests, not from the OPCW lab work resulting from this request. 

The 2017 report by John et. al. on Mariam Al-Khatib's test results (PDF link) agrees "According to the requirements given by the OPCW, qualitative analysis was sufficient for verification of exposure." (h/t Orbi) Quantitative measures don't matter much to them, for some reason. (this report doesn't help much, only specifying her exposre uwas "quite high," and suggesting her receptors were nearing total saturation.)

In that case, it doesn't seem there was a quantity issue - her dose was probably genuinely fatal. And in her case, the OPCW leaked her sarin concentrations, and a UN report in December published her corresponding cholinesterase activity. But there were another five people admitted to the Reyhanli hospital in Turkey, as patients in the same case (it's reported as up to 13, but by the UN report, one was Maraim, 5 others were living patients, and 7 were "relatives" or perhaps minders tagging along). Of the five patients, at least four of them ostensibly being Mariam's family members, we hear one tested for sarin, no details on amount, and that one patient had IMPA in their urine. Two others apparently tested negative. Negative here should mean ... very, very low, as we'll see. It really means no exposure. Yet they were admitted for symptoms ... of something, and were all (except perhaps one) supposedly from the same stricken home.

Detection levels vary by test and improve over time. In 1997, the new fluoride reactivation test could only pick up 0.2ng/ml or higher. Some samples came up no sarin detected, when there clearly was some. Small and aged samples left the results inconsistent anyway. If 5-9 ng/ml is dangerous to fatal - and heck, let's be extra fair and just leave it at 5 ... at worst 4% of a reckless dose would have been enough to barely register in those days. Still, not many volunteers would sign up for that.

Pmr9 directs me to this paper (2004) where it's explained how the threshold of detection was whittled down to about half that size -  0.09% saturation of the receptors is sufficient to say "yes, there's sarin here." That 1.8% of the way to maybe fatal. In 2012, scientists in Beijing developed a way to detect sarin at levels as low as 0.01 ng/mL, or 0.2% of the way to 5 ng/ml. At this point, the exposed person would probably feel no symptoms at all, but could still spark a "global outcry" and a disastrous regime-change war, in the wrong circumstances.

Finally, Pmr9 cites Van der Schans et al 2004 as saying they had already developed, back in 2001, a way to detect sarin down to 5 pg/ml. 1 pg/mL = 0.001 ng/ml, one thousandth of the units we've been using (a trillionth of a gram?). So by this, it's down to 0.005 ng/mL. With this method, 0.002% of the way to possibly dead (or about 0.001% of the way to surely dead) would be enough to probably show up. That's 2/1000ths of one percent. That's a ridiculously small amount. But it would show up as Asad crossing a red line, more or less.

There may be even more sensitive methods developed since, but 0.005 ng/ml is probably the roughest we can expect at the cutting edge. OPCW-certified labs would be encouraged to use the more sensitive test to maintain their accreditation; it stands to reason they would use the most sensitive test, so the smallest does possible would trigger a positive finding. If there's a reason to cast blame on Syria's government, the OPCW will be digging for it with a fine-toothed comb.

As Pmr9 puts it: "There was no need for the planners to fake positive tests for sarin in Ghouta or (Khan Sheikhoun) volunteers, when tiny doses of sarin can safely be used to get a  true positive - as long as they could rely on OPCW  to withhold the quantitative results." In the end they could rely on that, but it's not clear if the terrorists had assurances to that effect as they set up the evidence.

And perhaps just as luckily for them, some important segments of the evidence were simply left out of the testing loop entirely.

What About the Ghouta Attack? Too Little Sarin?
We've seen quantitative results for the Saraqeb attack that killed one, although it took four years. Far more importance is attached to the sarin findings in the Ghouta attack on August 21 of the same year, which allegedly killed 1,429 people and supposedly came close to triggering U.S. military strikes.  - but still nothing of such detail has been published. Why?

NO Ghouta victims tested for sarin, presence or amount
A number of problems - The Ghouta Massacre's Sarin Myth, Brightly Lit - sarin did turn up, accurately identified with the fluoride reactivation method. But this was only in pre-screened alleged attack survivors. Investigators failed to collect a single sample from any of the x-hundred (probably over 500) who actually died. With no tests, we have only the visual evidence shared for a good portion of them, but this shows no consistent indication of sarin exposure. Some have signs of a rubigenic poison (eg carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide), and others for a caustic agent like chlorine or phosphine. Many others are just unclear, possible sarin victims, or just suffocated, but never proven. They were just put in the dirt.

This dismissal of the dead was a conscious choice, as UN disarmament chief Angela Kane explained in an interview on RT. Kane, who accompanied the “inspectors” to Damascus, said “there were so many victims who are still alive that there was really no need to exhume bodies.” If exhumation was the alternative, that would mean none were kept on ice for study. Islamic custom is to bury people within a day when possible, but this is special case. Implicitly, no exception was made.

And it didn't even seem worth a bit of digging. This suggests that the investigators somehow knew they wouldn't like the answers, or their opposition contacts in the area knew that and ruled it out for them.

Kane gives a bizarre and completely incorrect reason why this doesn't matter, or might even help clarify the picture: “a dead body can’t tell how the person dies … a living person can tell you that.” (video: time-stamp: 12:29) The host rebutted this immediately and to good effect, pointing out that what a dead body says is so valuable autopsies are routinely performed just to understand the message. CRBN expert Dan Kaszeta agreed in e-mail to me: “you can tell a lot from a dead body. Principally the same protein adducts that would be analyzed by fluoride regeneration as from a live body. It would have been great to get some bodies and do some testing.” (or, maybe not...)

My friend Denis O’Brien paraphrased Mickey Spillane: “dead men don't tell lies.” In contrast, the people Angela Kane was happy to rely on might have told lies.

Gareth Porter: Signs of Low-Level Exposure Among the Stand-Ins
Back in 2014, investigative reporter Gareth Porter analyzed the U.N. report and decided the subjects probably had “extremely low” exposure to the agent, which would be important if true.  New Data Raise Further Doubt on Official View of August 21 Gas Attack in Syria By Gareth Porter, Truthout, April 29, 2014. (Cited: The UN team overall report, and their more detailed report for the Ghouta incident.) Porter explains the sample selection:
"...the investigating team had asked an opposition leader to help identify a total of 80 people "who had been badly hurt but had survived." The opposition leader chose the doctors who in turn identified the patients to be interviewed. The 36 individuals ultimately selected for detailed profiles of symptoms described themselves as among the most seriously exposed to sarin. Thirty of those 36 reported rocket strikes either on or near their homes. The remaining six said they had gone to a point of impact to help those suffering from the attack."
Smell and caustic notes: "something like
vinegar and rotten eggs" or "like cooking gas," 
along with "redness and itching of the eyes."
(Guardian) UN report shows two sample eyes:
one with dilated pupils but no irritation,
one with miosis and also severe irritation.

So Islamist-selected selectors gathered the requested 80 people, from which 36 worst cases were chosen for clinical assessments. 16 of these were from Moadamiyah (West Ghouta, where perhaps 100 were said to be killed), and just 20 from Zamalka (East Ghouta, where many hundreds to 1,500+ were said to be killed). 34 blood samples were drawn (2 subjects refused). "Fifteen of the survivors who had more severe symptoms or signs during the clinical assessment also had urine samples taken, with three of these also having hair samples taken," the UN report notes. "Of the 34 blood samples tested, 91% tested positive for Sarin exposure in Laboratory 4 and 85% tested positive in Laboratory 3." Moadamiya's part was at about 100%, Zamalka's a bit lower than that average.

"The UN report states that the data on symptoms collected on the 36 individuals are "consistent with organophosphate intoxication." But both (CRBN expert Dan) Kaszeta and Dr. Abbas Faroutan, who treated Iranian victims of Iraqi nerve gas attacks, have pointed to serious irregularities in the symptoms reported by these people."
We must note this is based partly on symptoms reported, which may not be complete, as well as what was observed at the time of assessment. But of those 36, "only five reported miosis, or constricted pupils, one of the most basic signs of sarin exposure," Porter notes. The report also states 15% of those studied had miosis at the time of assessment about a week later. That's the same 5. It's hard to say how many might have had it right after the attack. Moving on...
The UN team found that six people [out of 36] who claimed high levels of exposure had no trace of sarin in their blood, but the rest all showed evidence of exposure to sarin. The fact that all but seven of them failed to exhibit the most basic sign of such exposure suggests that the amount of sarin to which they were exposed was extremely low. After comparing the data on the 36 survivors with comparable data on survivors of the Tokyo sarin attack, [Dan] Kaszeta told Truthout that the people interviewed and evaluated by the UN "didn't have serious exposure" to nerve gas.
Recall these were the 36 best cases out of the 80 cases selected to show sarin traces most clearly, out a reported several thousand people affected. If this is the best they could find, the rest will be lower yet, or all at zero. One in six couldn't even muster the micro-dose needed to test positive. The other 5 in 6 probably did take their token dose.

Collectively, the people of East and West Ghouta were apparently exposed to barely any sarin, and that little bit was probably by choice.

And consider these other findings:
"Even stranger, seven of the 36 victims told investigators they had lost a combined total of 39 members of their immediate families killed in buildings they said were either points of impact of the rockets or only 20 meters (64 feet) away from one. Yet only one of the seven exhibited the most common symptom of exposure to sarin - the constriction of pupils - and only one reported nausea and vomiting." 
This is evidence - not proof - that 7 fakers were able to explain  39 deaths between them. These are the pivotal story-tellers that appear with every serious allegation of a regime massacre. But all these low-dose survivors claiming families that died all around them present a strange, unexplained gap running down the middle of each story. That is, they probably were not survivors of these families, and were just falsely claiming them after the fact.

"Twenty-eight of the 36 victims - nearly four-fifths of the sample - said they had experienced loss of consciousness, according to the UN report." That seems higher than one would expect considering the otherwise low exposure suggested. But just passing out does allow for shorter stories with less details to get wrong.

Porter's findings there are not conclusive, but impressive considering the lack of provided specifics. It does strongly suggest exposure was usually below the threshold  to trigger the symptoms. Yet as we know, it's high enough exposure to test as sarin. These apparent low doses make voluntary exposure by Jihadi fakers more plausible than one might think. Some victims would have, or seem to have, low exposure. But what if everyone tested looked ike they were all invited to a party where someone barely spiked the punch with sarin (or chlorosarin, etc.) and hardly anyone even noticed it. The signs are these fakers just met expectations, and weren't even willing to get a good pupil-squeeze in to back their stories

Early on, some analysts noted the roughly 100% sarin-positive human samples in the East Ghouta (Moadamiya) portion, compared to almost completely negative results in the environment (See "Sasa Wawa" analysis). That alone has always suggested manipulation, and people exposed from something other than the widespread sarin release they allege. Perhaps these suspiciously low token traces are another part of the picture that they hide from us.

I also find this noteworthy, perhaps out of ignorance - this might prove the dosing was done later than the attack:
Physical examination demonstrated that 39% of  survivors were confused or disoriented at the time of the assessment and that 14% had miosis (constriction of pupils). In spite of the fact that the clinical assessments in Moadamiyah occurred five days following the alleged incident and the assessments in Zamalka occurred seven days following the alleged incident, these signs were persistent. 
Did they get the wrong amounts at the wrong time too? And is the confusion from the same small doses of sarin they were given, from something else they were given, or just deduced from their narratives falling apart?

What About the Khan Sheikhoun Attack? 

At just six months in, we can't complain as much that lab-based reports haven't been published about the April incident in Khan Sheikhoun. Here, fatalities were said to be sampled and tested, and it sounds like these tested for sarin AND for serious caustic exposure, with most suffering pulmonary edema (lung damage). People describe white or pale yellow-ish fog or "dust", with a disgusting and strange stench, burning eyes and lungs (chest tightness, etc.). (see The Sarin Evidence

This is apparently in the impurities evident to similar effect in every other supposed sarin attack. France claims to have logged impurities at 40% of the agents volume, at least in the 2013 Saraqeb incident. It's not at all colorless and odorless. It's yellowish, nasty-smelling, like some hard-to-define rotten smell. It burns the eyes, besides causing sarin-style vision problems (things go dim, or even black, and vision is said to be lost). Lungs burn, suffer damage, and fill with fluid as in a chlorine attack. But it's also sarin, or at least sarin residues always turn up in conjunction.

Others were based on supplied samples (all from survivors?) with the odd timeline issues, lots of IMPA still present, yet other signs for sarin seeming to lack (this is all pending review...) http://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/what-really-happened-khan-sheikhoun
(I'll be adding more detail here, citing porter at least - I rushed ahead of filling it in yet)

Talkers blaming regime methods might be sampled more professionally, might show sarin, probably token doses. But by now that subject has been raised - primarily by Porter, and echoed by myself and others - there's an increasing chance that event plotters have moved to address the problem. Here I'm leaving open that they even got one case, at least, of several token's worth in one guy.

Which guy? He's seen weak and sweaty, pouring tears, saliva and mucous in the days after the attack, as he visited Turkey and slobbered on Erdogan's head. It seems possibly he was in a days-long, low-to-mid-level sarin crisis, seen repeatedly getting IV drips and sipping water that, for all we know, contained his latest mini-dose.

On the day of the attack, he swears he stashed his wife and kids in a basement as he ran through three different sarin plumes in different parts of town. He says he tried rescue people at several family members' homes, grabbing and carrying the recently dead and dying with no protection, before he passed out from all the sarin rubbing off on him. Sadly, he only helped one person survive in his story, but confirmed the death of dozens before it finally went dark for him. Huh. He says he passed out, later awoke, and learned his own wife and children were also dead in that basement.

When he finally went to retrieve them it was 4 hours since they parted. But solar-timed imagery (with agreeing publish times) seems to show he was down maybe 15 minutes, if at all, and got back up after a light hosing. Yet he inexplicably goes to rescue his own wife and children only some 3-3.5 hours later. Here, maybe 20-30 minutes after all that exposure, a slash of water and now this self-described sarin sponge is okay? He's okay to touch with unprotected hands? The sarin rinse is ok in sandals?  This all makes no sense, until we consider that maybe his story just isn't true.

So let's see Abdelhamid Al-Yousef's higher-than-token sarin results, if they exist.

I predict we'll never see the tests done on his alleged wife and infant twins because no such thing was ever done. With people like that, you bury them and don't ask questions, like with the many hundreds of people whose bodies were dragged across Obama's red line in Ghouta. It's people like Abdelhamid here who speak for them, in words of defiance against "Assad," and sometime in the biomedical sampling area as well.


  1. There was a large pool of independent witnesses to the Moadimiyah Sarin event. They were all downwind of the attack around the Mosque at 5am. Under any possible scenario they would have shown some symptoms - in particular eye issues and Miosis.

    These were the inhabitants of Mezzeh suburb and included a significant fraction of the foreign diplomatic community. To my knowledge there has been zero reports of them being affected.

  2. Yeah? Interesting. And the wind is even somewhat known in that case. Gas was surely released, but apparently ... somewhere where the wind don't blow. We already guessed that.

  3. KS related: did you ever put times to the scenes in this video? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGyS8dxBgec

    Maybe worth looking at if not, uploaded on the 5th but footage seems to be from 4th, ambulance with Anas al-Diab is right next to the crater. Perhaps something in the video can verify that scene is morning of the 4th (like the rest of the footage)?

    1. Maybe can verify as the big brown sign/artwork? has been taken down on a video from the 5th


      Perhaps another will show it wasn't there in the morning either.

    2. The ambulance alone suggests it should be the 4th. Not nearly as many emergencies expected the next day. OK, so the area is by the crater. There is a cut, so copuld be two days, but... sun seems right across the road, barely scraping the south face of the elctrical box, that's about parallel. Will crunch that... it's morning...

    3. by that, azimuth is about 114 degrees, so time is 9:40-9:45 am if on the 4th (or 5th or close).

    4. Thank you - I made it a little earlier but find it hard to tell.

      Maybe I've moved it forward too much to try and fit nicely. Taller building is still in shadow, would just before 9am be too much of a stretch?

      I had scenes in this order: Kantar has already come back from KS and walks out after treatment when Kutini carries the child

    5. Also another video of Molham al-Yousef in a truck (same blanket as morgue scene, not sure where this is), putting here just in case it is 'new' as facebook only


    6. That 114 degrees is rough, but just past across the road. I doubt it could be much earlier than that. 110 or so? Maybe 9:20. But... there's an edit anyway. Actual ambulance scene not timed yet.

    7. I was thinking the WH crater photo at ~9am could have been Diab.. or maybe this was his video

      I hadn't seen "Humanity Men" before so everyone else has probably already seen, a pity they didn't finish translating it as Bashar Dado is of course the guy Dr Hazem said came to help but died like Molhem

      and was interviewed in a van

      Not sure if this is the guy lying face down (playing dead?) in the Smart washing videos.. this scene left out of the Smart videos for effect I guess

    8. Good correlation work, I presume. Just so you know, I'm not following most of these details. Readers well might, so feel free.

    9. Having read the tweet thread by Qoppa https://twitter.com/Qoppa999/status/942801686921441281 and having determined the brown rug (not sign) was the 4th elsewhere, the journalists story makes a bit more sense if Diab carrying child and Kutini carrying child are the other way round to Qoppa's timing.

      They seem to have gone into KS, filmed, all come back together and Diab carries a child while Kantar sits in a chair next to Kutini. The white suits make a bit more sense with al-Daghim's story:


      "they took off our clothes and washed us"

      After Diab carries the child, just for the treatment (perhaps the only other clothes available and because of some washing unseen), everyone but Kantar changes into white suits - Kantar was the one who was actually dizzy and having to sit outside.

      When Kutini carries the other child and the journalists are seen wearing white suits, Kantar is still wearing his dark suit so possible at this point they are between getting changed and going to find someone to give them all treatment. Kantar then changes into a white suit too and they then are seen being treated.

      With the new order of events, the white suits make more sense than I originally thought.

  4. Admittedly, I'm not very good at explaining details concisely and am playing catch up.

    e.g. I've only just realised that Adham al-Hussein was the witness on the CNN "Gasping for Life" video https://imgur.com/BFFWJPT

    If anyone does happen to be looking at this still, Abdelhamid's parents' house and exactly who lived there is an interesting one (a mess of a story like Abdelhamid's)

  5. Another strange story - looks like this man, Samir Shaib/Shayeb is the father of the children found in the cave



    I'm not sure how his story on AP (as "Sami Mohammed") or the one on TRT matches with Samir ending up in Turkey and the rest of his family ending up dead in a cave on the 5th


    1. For reference, al-Shayeb victims that are listed together:

      Yamen al-Shayeb
      Sara Mansour
      Sham Yamen al-Shayeb
      Jude Yamen al-Shayeb

      These are listed with Samir's son:
      Mohamed al-Shayeb

      Mohamed's mother Fatema al-Shayeb not listed, Samir says he also has another son - Ibraheem al-Shayeb? (boy shown on the RFS cave story)

    2. Weird. By this he's the grandpa to the younger kids. Samir Mohamed, would name a son Mohamed after his own dad. Other son Yamen grew up, married Sara Mansour, had 2 kids w/Yamen as middle name (no son yet to maybe name Samir).

      All displaced, you'd think together, but then settled maybe with Samir and Fatima here and the rest (Yamen and family, and his tag-along brother)... looking around for a cave? No, they'd say settled somewhere, but running from there to find deeper shelter when they hear jets at 6:37 am. The older folks stay put, Samir winds up in Turkey.

      Really, of course, he probably just claims them. He appears maybe 40 or so. Could have an adult son with young children, but it's dubious. Old enough for that 9-ish Ibrahim to be a grandson? Probably not, so he's claimed as a much younger son. Records unclear - ages not given, other kids not shown to compare.

      If Fatima's name is/was Al-Shayeb, she's probably no Salafist Muslim anyway. If she was, she'd keep her dad's name. Sara did that, so ... however that adds up.

    3. Perhaps they meant Abu Mohammed? Or he is Samir Mohammed al-Shayeb? The 7 year old he talks about seems to be the 3 year old "Mohamed Samer al-
      Shayeb" https://www.stj-sy.com/uploads/pdf_files/A%20Special%20Report%20on%20the%20Chemical%20Attack%20in%20Khan%20Sheikhoun%20-%20Idlib.pdf#page=40

      If they "felt the bomb hit" as on AP I'd say that was an explosion, so must be woken at 6:46

      Fatima doesn't seem to be on the victim lists, bit of a mystery.

      I found TRT showed a part I'd missed of the edited al-Hussein interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpLqkxsjcas&feature=youtu.be&t=44

      so while at the site and while 'too injured to film' he personally takes 3 members of the White Helmets to the hospital. Would love to see that entire unedited interview.

    4. nothing's 100% but the tendency is ... your middle name is dad's first name, and you tend to pass it on to your first-born son. Maybe 2nd son as here (child-male, easiest fit if same guy is "Sami(r) Mhamed (family x)"). Sometimes it gets almost silly: Ibrahim Mohamed begat Mohamed Ibrahim and vice versa, with some brothers and sisters too...

      6:37, 6:46 - touche. Anyway, they'd probably say this is when they ran for a cave (somewhere in town with a rolling-garage-door building also - and how are recently-relocated displaced people so handy with finding tucked-in local caves?

      I didn't find a matching Fatima either. If she's supposed to have died (?) that might matter.

    5. Samir seems to be wearing the same clothes in hospital as on the bus too - maybe they decided to skip the removing affected clothing part of treatment like the boy apparently still in his 'spiderman suit'? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYoxnX2jKWM

      Not sure how much is me not understanding arabic names, press getting it wrong or deliberate changing names for whatever reason (increased victims?). Another varying name:


      AP have Jalal "Abdul" al-Yousef, HRW "Mohammad"



      Another strange story, throwing up but he was the one driving and the hospital was closed?
      "We have two weapons (firearms) in our village and nothing else" (I wonder how he knows that? There are what look like checkpoints on the Feb satellite photos just a little way up the road https://imgur.com/1tFo8K8 )

      Jalal can't decide if he got the headache before or after going to the roof -


    6. Abdul as a name makes no sense: means "servant of the." Maybe it's Abdul-Jalil, mixed-up. (means servant of the ... whatever Jalil means). Could be a first or middle name, depending, with Mohamed in the other slot.

      So tidbit: Paula Abdul has an incorrect name. Abdullah is the closest real used name: servant of God.

    7. Jalal continued:

      Has brothers in Turkey

      ...and is cousin of Abdehamid al-Yousef. Interesting thing here too is Rawda al-Yousef (Abdelhamid's aunt) is listed as the mother of Molham and appears here with Jalal (so is Jalal's aunt - looks like this is the aunt's family from next door he drove to hospital).

      Riwan obviously lives with them but earlier (when she was 2 years older..! and in Turkey) she told a story of seeing her relatives suffocating to death

      Jalal and Rawda don't seem to mention these suffocating relatives.

      One last strange part of a story, maybe meaningful, maybe not: Jamal Maarouf lived "far" from the crater.

      "[We heard] a missile and loudspeakers saying that the bomb was carrying toxic gas, and they were telling us the symptoms."

      Warnings over loudspeakers they say did not happen until around 9am so I wonder what the post-bombing "missile" sound was that they say they heard?


  6. Right so could be "servant of greatness" or similar

    If Jalal is the authority on the local weapon stash and they open up the hospital especially for him maybe he is someone important?

    Everything seems really inconsistent.. a bunch of people go outside at around the same time (but don't seem to see each other), some people drop dead, others like Abdelhamid's parents are inexplicably fine.

    And the (sometimes witnessed) smoke/fog of course. This reminded me of your theory:


    I haven't found anyone else saying they were woken by a plane and then bombed 10 minutes later. Witnesses who were awake like Qutaiba al-Zuhouri and Mariam Abu Khalil don't notice any plane before the explosions, earliest Syria Sentry message is 6:47

    The testimony to the OPCW must have been different to the stories in the press as I can't see how they corroborated any of this. But then, if they are happy to use Raslan's testimony I suspect they will just blame Syrian gov.

    Also wonder what happened to the new evidence Bellingcat had about the Latamneh attack? It might have shed some light.


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