“CORRECTION TO: The French Intelligence Report of April 26, 2017 Contradicts the Allegations in the White House Intelligence Report of April 11, 2017 by Professor Theodore A. Postol” by Publius Tacitus


NOTE FROM PUBLIUS TACITUS–Dr. Postol expressed his appreciation for those who noted his mis-reading of the French Intelligence Report. He is correcting the record and adding to the critique. I think you will find it worth your time to read and analyze.

French Intelligence Report of April 26, 2017 Is Based on False Citations To Evidence



Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


In my effort to understand the exotic claims of the French Intelligence Report (FIR) I missed that the report was in fact focused on an event that occurred not on April 4, 2017 but instead on April 29, 2013. This completely negates my earlier finding that the FIR described the attack of April 4 as occurring at a different location from Khan Sheikhoun.

The French Intelligence Report can be found at http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/country- files/syria/events/article/chemical-attack-in-syria-national-evaluation-presented-by-jean-marc-ayrault on a webpage titled French Diplomacy (France Diplomatie). The description of the intelligence report and its appendix is under the subject heading Chemical Attack in Syria – National Evaluation presented by Jean- Marc Ayrault following the Defense Council Meeting (26 April 2017)

The FIR attempts to make its case that the Syrian government was the perpetrator of a possible nerve agent attack on April 4, 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun by citing evidence that is not supported by the known facts.

It does not report on the details of the attack on April 4 but instead focuses on past attacks which it alleges leads to a strong conclusion that the Syrian government was the perpetrator of the April 4 attack.

A short summary of the logic used in the FIR is that there is an unexplained attack, and without valid evidence the FIR concludes that a perpetrator who might have committed attacks in the past is with certainty the perpetrator of the unexplained attack.

The FIR starts out by focusing on the April 4, 2017 attack and then switches abruptly to an April 29, 2013 attack alleging false evidence that this and other earlier attacks implicate the Syrian government in the April 4 event. The FIR cites evidence from earlier investigations of the April 29, 2013 nerve agent attack in Saraqib, Syria and the August 21, 2013 nerve agent attack in Damascus, Syria as the foundation for concluding that the April 4 attack must have been done by the Syrian government. It claims that sarin samples taken at the locations of both the earlier attacks were unambiguously identified as having been produced by the Syrian government. The claims in the FIR also partly rest on the bogus identification of the chemical hexamine in residual materials that were also collected at these locations.

In fact, the characteristics of the sarin samples taken from both the Sarabiq and the Damascus attacks described by FIR as proof of Syrian government involvement were not identified by either the UN or US intelligence as unambiguously from the Syrian government

Hexamine is a ubiquitous product of military explosives and can be expected to be found anywhere where military explosives have been used extensively. In addition, a sarin dispersal device might use a small explosive internal charge to burst a vessel containing sarin. If the device is designed in this manner (which is a very common design) there will be hexamine mixed in with the sarin products. The FIR extensively discusses a device containing explosives for dispersing sarin as an example of Syrian government malicious use of sarin in an April 29, 2013 attack in Saraqib, Syria.

The FIR falsely implies that sarin samples collected following the August 21, 2013 nerve agent attack in Damascus were directly identified as products of the Syrian government by the UN and the US intelligence community. In fact, both the UN and the US intelligence community determined that sarin samples from that attack could not be unambiguously connected to sarin produced by the Syrian government. These UN and US intelligence findings are misrepresented by the FIR as having a clear connection between chemicals found in soil samples and Syrian government produced sarin at the attack sites.

In addition, the FIR focuses in detail on a sarin dispensing munition that it claims was connected with the April 29, 2013 attack. The FIR describes this munition as containing roughly 100 milliliters of 60% pure sarin. In the case of this munition, which is roughly the size of a hand grenade, the sarin was dispersed by an explosive charge within the grenade. Such a device guarantees that hexamine, a byproduct of military high explosives, would be found in any sarin samples collected from the site.

The description of how the nerve agent was delivered by helicopters in the Saraqib attack could connect the Syrian government to this event. However, only one person was killed by one of the three separate munitions and each of these munitions carry no more than 100 milliliters of partially decomposed sarin.

If the two out of the three grenades that worked contained this decomposed sarin, the attack would have resulted in the release of 120 milliliters (about 4 ounces or half of a small coffee cup) of sarin.

In contrast, in the Damascus attack of August 21, 2013, the amount of sarin released could have been as large as 500 liters of sarin – which is more than 4000 times more sarin than what was released at Saraqib.

In the case of the Damascus attack in 2013, it appears that the White House initially believed that the attack was perpetrated by the Syrian government but intelligence later provided to the president indicated that the evidence that the Syrian government was the perpetrator of that attack was ambiguous.

Shortly after that attack, my colleague, Dick Lloyd, and I identified the munition that was used in the Damascus attack and two weeks later the Independent UN team reported that our analysis of the munition was exactly correct. We later determined that the munitions used against the local population could not have been fired from Syrian government controlled areas as initially incorrectly asserted by the White House in an August 30, 2013 report. The munition simply did not have enough range.

These rock-solid technical facts do not prove that the attack was not executed by the Syrian government. However, they prove unambiguously that there could have been other perpetrators of the attack.

Hence, the FIR could not possibly claim that the Damascus attack was unambiguously a result of Syrian government actions.

It is also worth noting that French intelligence coordinates with US intelligence and is also fully aware of UN activities. This therefore suggests that the FIR may not have been written by informed professional intelligence analysts in French intelligence.

Evidence Used by FIR from the April 29, 2013 Attack in Saraqib.

Figure 1 shows a photograph of one of three sarin dispensing grenades that failed to explode in the April 29, 2013 attack in Saraqib. The FIR describes the munition as carrying 100 milliliters of sarin.

This information allows for an estimate of its approximate dimensions.

The overall length of this munition is somewhat smaller than the length of the average cell phone. The grenade could fit in the palm of an average sized adult and probably weighs about 6 to 8 ounces.

Figure 3 shows three different munitions alleged to have been used in the three different attacks of April 4, 2017, April 29, 2013 and August 21, 2013. All of these munitions are distinctly different. Although the FIR firmly claims that they all contained sarin made by the same Syrian government production systems, each of these munitions is totally distinct in size, design, and choice of dispersal technique. The munition that is alleged to have been the source of sarin dispersal on April 4, 2017 is shown in figure 4.



Note that it is completely different from the other two munitions used in earlier nerve agent attacks. The munition used in Saraqib has an internal explosive charge to rupture the container and spread the sarin. The device allegedly used (there is no evidence that this was actually a sarin dispersal device) to spread sarin in Khan Sheikhoun would have worked by being crushed from the outside by an explosive device of some kind. This particular device would not be airdropped but would be fabricated on the ground in the form of an improvised sarin dispersal device. The rocket propelled barrel-device used in the attack of August 21, 2013 was designed to hit the ground break open and create a pool of liquid sarin that would then slowly evaporate carrying a plume of lethal gas downwind.

Figures 5 and 6 and their included captions show how misleading information about the attack of August 21, 2013 was promulgated by the New York Times. The figures and their captions speak for themselves.


Figure 5

Figure 6 correction

This completely wrong assessment of the location of the rocket launch points for the sarin attack on August 21, 2013 was published on the front page of the New York Times  on September 17, 2013. By that time we had determined that the large improvised munition that delivered 10 times more sarin had a very short range and could not have been fired from Syrian government controlled areas. The New York Times  leadership and staff were extremely resistant to publishing our results, which would have undermined the narrative that the New York Times  was promoting – that the Syrian government was the perpetrator of the attack. When they finally published our findings, the article was buried on the back page of the paper and was never referred to again in the follow-on rhetoric the Times  kept publishing claiming that it had uncovered evidence that showed the Syrian government was responsible for the attack.

Figure 6

Figure 7 presents the appendix from the FIR that lists the nerve agent attack of August 21, 2013 as proven to have been perpetrated by the Syrian government.

Inaccurate Assertions in the Appendix of the French Intelligence Report about Findings That the Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013 Had Been Connected by Intelligence Analysis to the Syrian Government


Figure 7 CORRECTION TO__The French Intelligence Report of April 26  2017 Contradicts Allegations in White House Intelligence Report of April 11  2017_Optimized_

Figure 7

The appendix starting contains a communication from Ålke Sellström that states that the presence of hexamine at a sarin release site is not be a reliable indicator that sarin at that site is a product of the Syrian government. Professor Sellström was the Head of the United Nations fact-finding mission that investigated allegations of reported chemical use in Syria.

An article published in The Atlantic in April 2016 authored by Jeffrey Goldberg clearly indicates that US intelligence agrees with the UN finding.

Mr. Goldberg reported that President Obama said that he was told by James Clapper, the then Director of National Intelligence, that it was not a “slamdunk” that the Syrian government was the perpetrator of the attack in Damascus on August 21, 2013. This conclusion is certain verification that the US intelligence community concluded that sarin remnants found at the Damascus site could not be connected with the Syrian government’s production of sarin.

It therefore seems that there are extremely serious discrepancies in multiple intelligence reports that, at a minimum, raise fundamental questions about the veracity of the White House Intelligence Report – and the French Intelligence Report as well. This in turn raises serious questions for American citizens and the Congress about how the White House produced an alleged intelligence report that has been shown to have inconsistencies that indicate it could not possibly have been produced and reviewed by the professional US intelligence community.


Email Exchanges between Ålke Sellström, the Head of the UN Team that Inspected the Site of the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013 andTed Postol about False Claims Being Made with Regard to that Attack

‐‐‐‐‐Original Message‐‐‐‐‐

From: Åke Sellström

Sent: Monday, June 16, 2014 9:44 AM

To: postol@tpostol.com

Subject: SV: An Inquiry Into a Small Technical Matter

Dear Professor Postol,

The presence of hexamine may mean that this substance was used as scavanger for protons when producing sarin. It is a product simple to get hold of and in no way conclusively points to the government. In addition hexamin found in samples may be derived from other sources for example, explosives.

All the best

Åke Sellström


Från: postol@tpostol.com [postol@tpostol.com]

Skickat: den 10 juni 2014 02:48

Till: ake.sellstrom@xxxxxxxxxxx

Ämne: An Inquiry Into a Small Technical Matter

From: postol@tpostol.com

Sent: Monday, June 09, 2014 8:48 PM

To: ake.sellstrom@xxxxxxxxxxx

Subject: An Inquiry Into a Small Technical Matter

Dear Professor Sellström:

As you may know, my colleague, Richard Lloyd, and I have been examining aspects of the nerve agent attack in Damascus of August 21, 2013. We have inadvertently found ourselves involved in discussions with a man, Dan Kaszeta, who represents himself as an expert on chemical munitions.

Mr. Kaszeta has widely made a claim that hexamine found in a UN sample taken from the Damascus attack site is, to use his words, a “Smoking Gun” that unambiguously points to the Syrian government as the perpetrator of the attack.

My colleague and I have no primary knowledge that would allow us to determine who might have been responsible for the attack, but we have not been able to establish any credible science that could support the claim that hexamine is unique to sarin manufactured by the Syrian government.

I am attaching below an email I sent recently to Mr. Kaszeta raising technical questions about his assertion that the presence of hexamine uniquely identifies the Syrian government as the culprit.

We have carefully reviewed all of the available technical and scientific literature we could find on the subject, and have determined from statements Mr. Kaszeta has made in his twitter conversations that he is claiming that you are the source of his information that hexamine is used by Syria as an acid scavenger in the production of sarin.

To be clear, the source of his claim is as follows:

Kaszeta states that in an interview with Gwyn Winfield, you told her that hexamine could be used as an acid scavenger in the production of sarin. Mr. Kaszeta claims that Ms. Winfield reported your comment in a draft of her article, but it was removed by her editor from the article because of space constraints. Thus, according to Mr. Kaszeta you are the source of a statement that he uses to claim that hexamine in a UN sample points a smoking gun at the Syrian government.

Mr. Lloyd and I have grown increasingly skeptical about the veracity of statements made by both Mr. Kaszeta and Mr. Higgins, both work together closely. To put it bluntly, we have not been able to verify the accuracy of any technical claims they have made.

I would appreciate it if you could treat this query as if it were from a reporter and answer the following question. Is there any evidence that hexamine is used as an acid scavenger in the production of sarin by the Syrian government?

I am attaching the email I sent to Mr. Kaszeta raising questions about his claim. As a matter of professional standard, I do not believe it is appropriate to cite a claim without technical evidence. I have an old friend from college who is a highly accomplished organic chemist and I am seeking additional information from him. My training is as a physicist, and I make no exalted claims to a background in organic chemistry. That is to say, my only interest is to know whether or not you have information that would indicate that hexamine has been used by the Syrian government to mass produce sarin.

As American citizens, Mr. Lloyd and I have been quite concerned about White House claims that could have led to US military involvement in Syria. This is mostly because we can now say for sure that the White House claims are not based on accurate intelligence. I understand that as a UN staff member you have significant constraints on what you can say. But I hope you will be able to answer my very simple technical question about whether or not you made such a statement to Ms. Winfield and if you have information that indicates hexamine has been used in the mass production of sarin by the Syrian government.

I would appreciate it if you would keep the email attached below confidential for the moment. My reason is simple, I want to give Mr. Kaszeta a chance to answer the questions I have raised in that email. If you are interested, I will be happy to share the entire exchange with you once it is completed.

With best regards, Ted Postol Professor of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy Massachusetts Institute of Technology

From: postol@tpostol.com

Sent: Sunday, June 08, 2014 12:24 AM

To: Dan Kaszeta

Cc: Richard Lloyd

Subject: Questions About a Physics-based Analysis That Shows That Hexamine Could Not Possibly Be Used in the Production of Sarin

Dear Mr. Kaszeta

As you know, Dick and I have been looking at issues associated with the mixing, manufacture, and production of the nerve agent sarin. We have done quite a bit of work on this and have not been able to confirm the technical accuracy of your conclusion that a sample of hexamine that was found by the UN in the aftermath of the August 21, 2013 nerve agent attack in Damascus indicates a “smoking gun” that shows the sarin was manufactured by the Syrian government.

We have reviewed numerous documents and scientific papers that contain information about the fabrication of sarin and have found absolutely no references to the use of hexamine in the manufacture or maintenance of sarin: A short, and hardly complete, list of these documents is as follows:

  1. Handbook of Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents, D. Hank Ellison
  2. Compendium of the Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programs in the Chemical, Biological and Missile Areas, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), June 2007
  3. Stability of Iraq’s CW stockpile, CIA, 071596_CIA_72569_72569_01.
  4. Chemical Warfare Agents: Chemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutics, edited by James A. Romano, Brian J. Lukey and Harry Salem, CRC Press, (2008).

  5. Monitoring Chemicals with Possible Chemical Weapons Applications, Fact Sheet 7, (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons)

  6. Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD, 30 September 2004, Charles Duelfer.

  7. Chemical Weapons Technology, US Department Of Defense, Office of the under Secretary Of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, February 1998.

  8. A Laboratory History of Chemical Warfare Agents, Jared Ledgard

  9. Technical Aspects of Chemical Weapon Proliferation, from Technologies Underlying Weapons of Mass Destruction, OTA, 934408.

Because we were unable to find any references to use of hexamine in the production and storage of sarin we decided to do our own review of the plausibility that hexamine could be used as an acid scavenger in the manufacture of sarin.

Our conclusions is that it is physically impossible to dissolve enough hexamine, even if it were desirable, or chemically possible, to substitute hexamine for isopropylamine to scavenge the acid product of the reactants Methylphosphonyl difluoride and isopropyl alcohol. The only possible way this conclusion could be wrong is if it were possible to dissolve at least 37 percent by weight hexamine in isopropanol. The information we have suggests that the solubility of hexamine in isopropyl alcohol is likely between five and 50 times smaller than the required 37 percent by weight. If you can provide a technical reference that shows otherwise we would greatly appreciate the reference.

The analysis that leads to this very strong conclusion is outlined in the six slides below. We will briefly describe the contents of each of the slides and invite you to review them so you understand the basis for this strong conclusion. 

Slide number one shows the two chemical reactions that are critical for the production of stable sarin. The chemical reaction shown at the top of the slide simply shows the products of the reaction between Methylphosphonyl difluoride and isopropyl alcohol. The products are sarin and hydrogen fluoride. As you well know, the hydrogen fluoride has a powerful effect on sarin causing it to be transformed into other far less lethal byproducts. As such, one of the very important additional reactions needed to produce military grade sarin is the use of a chemical that removes the hydrogen fluoride molecules.

This is achieved by adding 28 percent by weight isopropylamine in isopropanol. The chemistry reactions that occur with this substitution are shown in the second chemical equation in slide one.

Figure 1 Reactants

Slide 1

Slide two shows the source that describes the amount of isopropylamine needed to adequately scavenge the resulting hydrogen fluoride from the sarin. The source is solid, as it is a US government document that is produced for individuals who handle and work with chemical agents.

Figure 2 Isopropryl Amine

Slide 2

Slide three shows how very elementary chemical reasoning leads to the conclusion that roughly 0.4 moles of isopropyl amine are required per mole of isopropanol in order to remove the HF that is produced along with the sarin. This indicates that each isopropylamine molecule is in reactions that lead to roughly 2.5 fluorine’s being removed from the bath of chemical products. This is an important result.

Figure 3 Estimation of Molecular

Slide 3

We have not been unable to find any papers that describe hexamine reacting with hydrogen fluoride or being dissolved in isopropanol in order to function as an acid scavenger. However, we have found one reference to a paper that was published in the Journal Of Canadian Research in 1950. The reference is described as reporting that between one and four fluorine’s can be picked up by a hexamine molecule. There is no information about under what conditions this occurs, but as you will see, this particular detail plays no role in determining that hexamine cannot possibly be an acid scavenger in the production of sarin.

Slide four shows a simple ansatz that shows the minimum amount of hexamine that would have to be dissolved in isopropanol for the hexamine to work as an adequate acid scavenger.

Figure 4 Estimation of Required Solubility

Figure 4.5 Estimation of Require Solubility

Slide 4

If one makes the heroic assumption that each hexamine can in fact remove four fluorine atoms from the product chain, then it would require 0.25 moles of hexamine for each mole of fluorine to be removed. The molecular weight of hexamine is quite high, roughly 140 grams per mole, which leads to the conclusion that any mixture of isopropanol and hexamine that can function as a scavenger must contain at least 35 grams of hexamine per mole of isopropanol. This leads to the conclusion that the hexamine would have to be 37 percent by weight soluble in isopropanol.

Slide five shows the only solubility data we have been able to obtain for hexamine in ethanol, methanol, and acetone. One of the industrial processes for manufacturing isopropanol is simply to hydrogenate acetone, which is chemically very close to isopropanol (see slide 6). The solubility of hexamine and acetone is roughly 6/10 of one percent by weight. Even if the hydrogenation of acetone drastically changed its solubility characteristics, the best case where there is information is methanol, which at best could dissolve seven percent by weight hexamine. I suspect that the solubility of hexamine in isopropanol has not been reported because the solubility is so low, but I would be surprised if there is not a source of solubility data somewhere.

Slide 5

Slide 5.5

Slide 5

Slide 6

Slide 6

If you think you can point me to a scientific paper that lists the solubility of hexamine in isopropanol, the matter would be completely settled that hexamine cannot possibly be used in the manufacture of sarin unless hexamine has a drastically higher solubility in isopropanol.

This is extremely unlikely to be the case.

As a result, our review of the technical literature, indicates that hexamine could not possibly be used in the manufacture of sarin, and as such, it could not possibly be a “smoking gun” indicating that the particular sarin at issue was produced by the Syrian government (or anyone else, for that matter).

If you have any technical information at all that raises questions about our conclusions, we would be very pleased to get it and to incorporate it into our ongoing analyses.

Best regards, Ted Postol and Richard Lloyd

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36 Responses to “CORRECTION TO: The French Intelligence Report of April 26, 2017 Contradicts the Allegations in the White House Intelligence Report of April 11, 2017 by Professor Theodore A. Postol” by Publius Tacitus

  1. Marko says:

    Have just quickly scanned and noted this typo under Fig 5 :
    “This completely wrong assessment of the location of the rocket launch points for the sarin attack on August 21, 2017 was published on the front page of the New York Times on September 17, 2013. ”
    Should be :”…for the sarin attack on August 21, 201[3] ”

  2. Marko says:

    Here’s the question I would pose to Dr. Postol : If it can be shown conclusively that Assad’s stockpile of unitary sarin contained hexamine and that hexamine was routinely used as an acid scavenger in the Syrian CW program AND ALSO that the relative amounts or absolute quantities of hexamine recovered from sarin attack sampling sites was not consistent with other explanations , like, e.g., explosive residues , do you then concede that Assad must be the culprit ?
    As you have argued this case ,I think you almost have to , which means you have fallen into the trap.
    I’ll predict that this is exactly the determination that will be made. The other side knows what the data from the Cape May showed. They probably have intelligence on the specifics of the Syrian CW program. They already know the answer to the question that further analytics results are likely to provide.
    Solubility in isopropanol is immaterial except for usage in binary weapons. For unitary sarin that will be stored long-term or used in unitary-type CWs , adding the acid-scavenger after the DF and isopropanol have been combined is an entirely suitable method. There’s minimal practical benefit to having an acid-scavenger that’s isopropanol-soluble in this case.
    It seems possible , if not likely , based on Hersh’s work among others , that Gaddafi’s sarin stocks were the source for many-and maybe all-of these attacks. It’s also possible , if not likely , that if Assad knew that hexamine was a valuable additive to the sarin process , Gaddafi did as well. And even if Gaddafi didn’t use hexamine , anyone perpetrating a false-flag would know to add hexamine to the Gaddafi sarin so as to provide the “smoking gun” that would be used to implicate Assad.
    In short, saying that the presence of hexamine in the samples is not a smoking gun because it may be there for reasons unrelated to sarin production is the wrong argument. This argument could , and I predict will , come back to bite you in the ass.

  3. Castellio says:

    Publius Tacitus, a sincere thanks for staying with this and at this level of detail. (Obviously the thanks extends to Professor Postol and his colleagues as well).
    This path is essential. It is no time to relent on thoroughness, no time to give in to fatigue or obfuscation. Again with thanks.

  4. optimax says:

    Dr. Postol
    I greatly appreciate your analysis and conclusion as to the ambiguity of its source, which our government refuses to publicly acknowledge. I do suggest correcting the following sentence from your post:
    This completely wrong assessment of the location of the rocket launch points for the sarin attack on August 21, 2017 was published on the front page of the New York Times on September 17, 2013

  5. ToivoS says:

    I agree with your assessment of the chemical reaction to produce unitary sarin but not the sarin produced in a binary weapon. As one who has conducted a number of organic reactions it is not uncommon to react two compounds that are not soluble (or only partially soluble, as is the case here) with each other or with a common solvent. Time and vigorous stirring can overcome the solubility barrier.
    However, I do not agree that this would completely negate Postel’s work. An error in one part of his analysis would not logically discredit the rest. Of course, it would be politically damaging.

  6. Marko says:

    My thinking was that if the hexamine is of value only because it functions to stabilize unitary sarin ,then in a binary weapon – where unitary sarin only exists for a couple of seconds before the round detonates – stability , and thus hexamine , is not much of an issue.
    It’s possible that addition of an acid scavenger increases the yield of sarin via an effect on equilibrium. If this is true , you’d want to use it in the binary as well , certainly.
    One consideration I haven’t heard discussed is the idea of dissolving the hexamine in the DF precursor rather than in the isopropanol precursor (where limited solubility precludes its effective use).

  7. pmr9 says:

    An odd feature of the French “national evaluation” is that it asserts that the KS sarin is matched to Saraqeb sarin on the basis of only two chemicals: DIMP and hexamine, and asserts that the presence of hexamine is alone enough to implicate the regime which (according to unspecified intelligence reports) used it as a “stabilizer”.
    In a well-equipped lab such as those at Le Bouchet or Porton Down, analysis of environmental samples recovered from a CW attack site would yield a complete chemical profile of the material. Each impurity would be detectable by its “signature”. These signatures can be detected as levels as low as one part per billion, so there would be hundreds of such signatures. For example, the appendix to the OPCW report on the Ghouta attack shows that some of the impurities contained ethyl groups, indicating that cheap low-quality precursors were used. From this, experts could reconstruct the synthetic pathway used, and could determine for instance whether intermediates had been purified at each step. A study showing that this type of analysis was feasible was conducted by the TNO lab in the Netherlands and reported to the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board in 2012.
    So if, for instance, hexamine had been used instead of isopropylamine, to neutralize hydrogen fluoride, the lab would be able to report this confidently. Similarly, if the process used to produce the KS sarin matched the Saraqeb sarin, the lab would be able to report a detailed match based on the signatures of dozens of impurities.
    If such results had been obtained by the labs at Porton Down or Le Bouchet, we could reasonably expect that they would have been trumpeted to the skies, and the head of the lab would have been brought forward to brief the international media. It’s clear that the scientists involved aren’t prepared to besmirch their scientific integrity by taking an active part in this information operation. However to blow this story open will need a whistleblower.

  8. Marko,
    1. Syrian government stocks were not kept as ‘unitary sarin’. What the OPCW in August 2014 reported as having been destroyed on board the ‘Cape Ray’ – not ‘Cape May’ – was 581 tonnes of the ‘precursor’ methylphosphonyl difluoride (DF). This would have been mixed with the isopropanol to make the actual sarin.
    (See https://www.opcw.org/news/article/us-completes-destruction-of-sarin-precursors-from-syria-on-the-cape-ray/ .)
    If in fact an ‘acid scavenger’ had been necessary, it would have been because sufficient delay between the mixing of these and the firing of the shells for corrosion to be a problem was anticipated. The case that Professor Postol made, and to which Dan Kaszeta singularly failed to provide an answer, was that hexamine was not a plausible choice to purge the hydrogen flouride.
    But, irrespective of whether that case holds good, one would not expect to find hexamine traces in the DF unless it featured an earlier stage in the ‘synthetic pathway’.
    Actually, there is a puzzle about what Sellström wrote to Postol, in that he suggested that hexamine could be used as a ‘scavenger’ for ‘protons’. It is not clear to me at what stage of the production process these are supposed to be removed.
    2. At no point has Hersh ever suggested that the sarin used in any of these operations came from Libya. That was a ‘canard’, creating by putting together his argument that armaments were supplied over a ‘rat line’ from Syria, with his – quite separate – argument that the sarin used at Ghouta was not ‘military grade’ at all, but ‘kitchen sarin’.
    Confusion has arisen, because ‘military grade’ is an ambiguous term. One could anticipate radical differences between sarin produced for a ‘poor man’s deterrent’, which was the purpose of the Syrian arsenal, and the substance produced for battlefield use, which that of the Iraqi arsenal.
    Stability of the DF is a prime requirement for the former, much less so for the latter.
    Both, however, could be expected to be very different from the extremely crude product which seems to have been used at Ghouta.
    On the evidence about the quality of the sarin used in that ‘false flag’, besides actually reading Hersh, you could usefully look at the material on the ‘Who Attacked Ghouta?’ site to which I linked an earlier post.
    A post of particular interest in relation to the origins of the sarin used at Ghouta is the concluding one by ‘sasa wawa’, entitled ‘Review of Turkish MPs Allegations’, which was posted in November 2015.
    (See http://whoghouta.blogspot.co.uk/ .)
    Among other things, this is – yet another – rebuttal of Dan Kaszeta’s bogus claims, and ‘sasa wawa’ specifically links to Professor Postol’s piece, and in particular the new evidence from ‘Syrian Sister’ (aka Maram Susli) on the solubility of hexamine in isopropanol and related matters, which should have finally buried the ‘hexamine hypothesis’.
    3. A question which Professor Postol’s – otherwise admirable – analysis does not confront is whether the supposed ‘grenade’ was actually dropped in a canister from a Syrian government helicopter at all.
    On the very substantial body of evidence suggesting that Saraqeb was a ‘false flag’ operation, I would strongly recommend the relevant pages on the ‘A Closer Look on Syria’ site.
    (See http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Alleged_Chemical_Attack,_April_29,_2013 .)
    Unfortunately, although the ACLOS group have – here as elsewhere – done an excellent job of collecting and critically analysing evidence, what we lack is the putting together of the material into an ‘assessment’.
    4. What is required for these kind of ‘false flags’ are two things. One is to stop them being blown out of the water by tests on ‘environmental’ samples. The other is to produce a bogus link between the actual poisoning, and Syrian government forces.
    In the case of Saraqeb, this appears to have been done with the weird story of government helicopters dropping canisters containing grenades. In the case of Ghouta, it was done by using rockets – but Professor Postol and ‘sasa wawa’ both quickly worked at out the range and trajectory data didn’t fit.
    In the case of Khan Sheikhun, the ‘false flag’ seems to have become much cleverer. It looks as though an explosion, and the killing of captives necessary to produce plausible victims, took place some time before an air raid of which those implementing the plan had advance warning.
    This managed to muddy the waters very successfully, because not surprisingly both the Russians and others concluded that the victims who had been poisoned must have been victims of an accidental discharge from the initial explosion.
    5. On all this, see the ACLOS material, and also related posts on the ‘Monitor on Massacre Marketing’ site.
    (See http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/the-sarin-evidence.html .)
    6. A critical point remains that the Western collaborators with the ‘massacre marketing’ operations, like the French and British Foreign Ministers, have got their stories muddled. Tests at Porton Down from ‘environmental’ samples from Khan Sheikhun are supposed to match those on materials from the ‘Cape Ray’ (I repeat again, not ‘Cape May’), and also from Ghouta and now Saraqeb.
    They can’t match all three. But the critical point remains, what we need from all these tests are the results of the GC/MS analysis. And the notion that ‘sources and methods’ considerations provide grounds for keeping these secret is hogwash.

  9. pmr9 says:

    This is to clarify a few points on the chemistry. My knowledge of chemistry is somewhat rusty – corrections from anyone with real expertise in this area would be welcome.
    1. I think what Sellström meant by suggesting that hexamine could be used as a ‘scavenger’ for ‘protons’ was the same thing that Kaszeta suggested: that it could have been used to remove the hydrogen fluoride formed in the final step. Hydrogen fluoride is a proton donor (i.e. an acid).
    2. In the final step where DF is mixed with isopropanol to make sarin, it’s essential to have a base (proton acceptor) like isopropylamine to remove the hydrogen fluoride as fast as it is formed. Otherwise the build-up of hydrogen fluoride will prevent the reaction from going to completion, and the gas may rupture the container.
    3. When an acid combines with a base, a salt is formed. So if for instance isopropylamine had been used as the acid scavenger, it would form the acid salt isopropylammonium bifluoride. Such a salt would probably have very low solubility in the mixture formed by the DF-isopropanol reaction, and would precipitate as a solid.
    4. The French report contains the following statement
    “The chemical analyses carried out showed that it contained a solid and liquid mix of approximately 100ml of sarin at an estimated purity of 60%. Hexamine, DF and a secondary product, DIMP, were also identified. ”
    So what was the solid? Was it the salt formed by neutralizing the hydrogen fluoride? If so, what was the base? If hexamine had somehow been used to neutralize the hydrogen fluoride, why was it not detected as the fluoride salt?
    With hindsight, the hexamine story looks like a late attempt to construct a story implicating the regime, in which Kaszeta was (perhaps unwittingly) used as a conduit. In September 2013, Kaszeta made the following statement commenting on the OPCW report on the Ghouta samples
    “This compound [hexamine] is used for manufacture of several different conventional high explosives . It has wide uses in industry, but of particular military interest, it is a base component for a wide variety of conventional explosives, including RDX, C-4, Hexogen, Dinitrohexamine, and HMTD. This is a general indicator of the presence of such conventional explosives. It may be due to an explosive bursting charge. ”
    On 14 December 2013, he wrote the first of several articles asserting, in contradiction to what he had written in September, that the presence of hexamine in the samples from Ghouta was “very damning evidence of government culpability in the Ghouta attacks.”. His citation of comments allegedly made (but later retracted) by Sellstrom in an interview with Gwyn Winfield raises questions about how and why he was given a copy of the unpublished transcript of this interview.

  10. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The skeleton of both structure formulas is “ren”; “human”.

  11. Ghostship says:

    In the last couple of days I came across an infographic showing the locations of the bomb strikes from the early morning attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I’ve tried looking for it again but can’t find it. Has anyone else seen it?

  12. Marko says:

    David ,
    Thanks for the links. I’ll definitely check them out.
    I see now how Hersh’s writing got twisted. I think this article at Strategic-Culture may have got that ball rolling :
    I think the point stands , however , that when considering potential rebel sources for sarin and/or DF , we have to assume that a black market in Libyan gov’t material is about as likely as one in Syrian gov’t material. Add to that the possibility of a black market for brand-spanking-new DF from some desperate-for-cash, or simply routinely criminal, chemical manufacturer. If enough money is involved , you could find someone to make your sarin starting only with a supply of atoms.
    I just assumed that there must have been at least some bulk unitary sarin that was destroyed on the Cape Ray ( I think I’ve got it straight now : Cape Ray = CW destruction , Cape May = fishing ). Since none was , that means any data that may exist on the presumptively routine use of hexamine in the Syria sarin program had to come from either unitary weapons that were sampled and analysed and/or from program documentation. The latter would seem to be almost required if we are to believe that Sellstrom really did say that hexamine was “in their formula, it is their acid scavenger”.
    I hope the whole hexamine story goes away but I’m afraid it won’t , and if it doesn’t go away , we have to have explained – in advance – why the use of hexamine in Assad’s sarin program and the excessive quantities of hexamine that might be present in environmental samples after attacks still does not definitively point the finger at Assad.
    I agree with both you and pmr9 regarding the need to see more detailed analytical data – like GC/MS chromatograms , for example – that would provide a reasonable basis for “fingerprinting” the sarin used in any given event. It looks like they have no intention of sharing such data however , and it is indeed frustrating.

  13. Marko says:

    Bingo,pmr9. I didn’t know the details as provided in your last three paragraphs , but I smelled the same rat those details suggest is currently afoot.

  14. pmr9,
    Among the many problems with Dan Kaszeta is that with any reference he gives, one has to check it, because what he claims people say is liable to be quite different to what they actually turn out to say.
    It is worth looking at the complete exchanges in Professor Postol’s July 2014 paper, because they bring out that this supposed ‘expert’ is as slippery as an eel.
    (See https://cryptome.org/2014/08/postol-debunks-kaszeta.pdf .)
    In his initial reply to Postol’s request to elaborate on his sources on 13 June 2014, Kaszeta referred to the remarks which he alleges that Sellström made to Gwyn Winfield. And he then claims that ‘An OPCW staffer in a hearing to the US congress, suggested hexamine as an acid reducer.’
    Pressed by Postol, Kaszeta elaborated in an e-mail on 16 June. Here, he referred to the video of the Capitol Hill hearings on 13 December 2013, explaining: ‘Please see the parts from approximately 4:53 in this recording. This is a matter of public record and CSPAN is a credible source.’
    Well, I checked the tape out and made a transcript of the relevant remarks.
    (The video is at http://archive.org/details/CSPAN_20131213_210000_Key_Capitol_Hill_Hearings .)
    The question about hexamine was dealt with an ‘OPCW staffer’ – Scott Cairns, who apparently led the field inspection team in Syria. What he said was that:
    ‘Some have alleged that the hexamine is used as an acid scavenger or stabiliser for a completed sarin produced through the binary method. Others have alleged it is a remnant or artifact of production of RDX, which is a high explosive. It is also used as a heating element for homemade stoves, it has a number of uses.’
    As it happens, it was Kaszeta had himself, who, three days earlier, had alleged that hexamine is used as an acid scavenger. This was in a piece on the Lebanese ‘NOW’ site, entitled ‘Why Seymour Hersh has it wrong this time: The chemical strike on East Ghouta is not as mysterious as Seymour Hersh suggests.’
    (See https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/commentary/524969-524969-why-seymour-hersh-has-it-wrong-this-time )
    So, it is rather as though I had said Kaszeta is a dirty disinformation peddler, probably working for MI6, someone in a position of authority had said, ‘Habakkuk has alleged that Kaszeta is a dirty disinformation peddler, probably working for MI6’, and I quoted that someone as having himself suggested that that Kaszeta is a dirty disinformation peddler working for MI6.
    The shifty dishonesty – which is indeed the mark of a dirty disinformation peddler – may have been in part a product of desperation. Prior to Hersh’s coming into the argument, ‘sasa wawa’ had already rather conclusively demonstrated that the GC/MS results in the initial UN/OPCW report pointed to ‘kitchen sarin.’ In a 9 November post, he had dealt with Kaszeta’s attempt to wriggle out from this.
    (See http://whoghouta.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/response-to-dan-kaszetas-chemical.html .)
    As ‘sasa wawa’ – accurately – summarised Kaszeta’s counter-argument.
    ‘Dan generally agrees that the sarin used in Zamalka was of low quality and lacked stabilizers. However, he believes this is not the result of underground manufacturing, but rather a result of Syria having a chemical program similar to the one Iraq had during the Iraq-Iran war.’
    And ‘sasa wawa’ went on to ‘make matzakleiss’ out of Kaszeta, to use a good old East End phrase, as he did several times in the course of ‘Who Attacked Ghouta?’ investigation.
    Besides pointing out the fundamental difference in the purposes for which the Syrian and Iraqi arsenals were created, and many of problems with Kaszeta’s claims, he pointed to a central fact about the OPCW’s GC/MS analysis. Among the ‘by-Products’ identified was hexafluorophosphate – very strongly pointing to a ‘synthetic pathway’ starting from basic chemicals. This is far more significant evidence than the presence of hexamine.
    (See https://www.google.co.uk/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=SgAGWajUGtGGgAbE1Yz4Aw#q=matzakleiss .)
    The ‘hexamine hypothesis’ looks to have been the attempt by Kaszeta, Eliot Higgins, and those behind them to ‘wriggle out’ from under the combined attack of Hersh and ‘sasa wawa’. What had to obscured above all was the fundamental point made by the last-named – that although the mandate of the UN/OPCW team specifically excluded attribution of responsibility, the GC/MS analysis results it produced made this possible, and pointed to a ‘false flag’.
    This required, in the first instance, intense pressure on the UN/OPCW team to get them to ‘fall in’ with a ‘narrative’ according to which the results pointed to the government, and they really thought this, but could not say so. It seems possible that this resulted in Sellström being pushed into saying things he did not really mean.
    What he actually said to Gwyn Winfield we do not know, because neither the full transcript of the interview, nor the e-mail exchange with Sellström to which Kaszeta refers, have been published.
    At the same time, it required distortion of what figures involved in the UN/OPCW investigation, like Scott Cairns, had actually said – together with an exploitation of the gullibility and incuriosity of the MSM. Without a consistent failure on the part of journalists on papers like the ‘New York Times’ and ‘Guardian’ to ask awkward questions, the revival of Kaszeta’s nonsense by the French government would have been impossible.
    Its revival is simply more evidence that this diversion attempt was all along part of a co-ordinated ‘information operation’ by corrupt elements in the ‘intelligence communities’ of Western countries, designed to obscure the basic fact that all the available evidence suggests that the toxin used at Ghouta was, as Hersh, ‘sasa wawa’ and Lavrov all claimed, very crude indeed.
    It is almost incredible that we have ended up with a situation where figures like Professor Postol, Seymour Hersh, and also ‘sasa wawa’, are almost universally ignored or denigrated by the MSM, while shifty liars like Kaszeta – also Christopher Steele – are taken seriously.
    People some day journalists on papers like the ‘New York Times’ and ‘Guardian’ will recover some sense of professional pride. How they can live with themselves I cannot quite understand.

  15. Gen Dau says:

    Just a question. If helicopters did indeed drop CW on Saraqib on 4/29/2013, couldn’t they have flown down from Turkey, which is not that far from Saraqib? When the factories in the occupied parts of Aleppo were stripped of all their machinery, the looted machinery was carried off to Turkey on heavy-duty Turkish trucks. Turkey is also rumored to be the source of many CW used by Al Nusra and ISIS in Syria.

  16. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Even if the responsibility for Katyn Maasacare could be correctly assessed and attributed, it would make no difference to the necessity of the keeping the alliance with USSR intact and flourishing.
    This is no different now either, Truth matters not, the Western Diocletian states & allies aim to continue their proxy wars and confrontations with the Party of Ali. Except now the Orthodox and the Part of Ali are on the same side.
    It is a fine example of Hegelian Dialectics; the Enlightenment Tradition with its anti-clericalism has breathed a new life into an ancient and mostly dormant religious identity among foreigners.
    God mocks the works of man.

  17. You miss the fundamental point. The Syrian Government’s military stock of Sarin was binary.

  18. Marko says:

    If the fundamental point , as you say , is that the entire Syrian sarin program is binary , from bulk storage to locked and loaded binary chemical weapons , then why all the debate about hexamine ? Why the lengthy back-and-forth between Postol and Kaszeta about solubility minutiae and the like? Why does the supposed statement by Sellstrom get even a moment of consideration ?
    If DF and IPA are never combined , there’s never an acid molecule generated for a hexamine molecule to scavenge. In a binary munition that’s been deployed , you don’t care about 10 seconds worth of corrosion. The whole debate breaks down to speculating about whether at some time in the future Assad might have decided he needed some unitary sarin , and at that time he might possibly have chosen to add hexamine to the unitary mix (or, more sensibly, he might have chosen to add isopropylamine to the IPA precursor component instead).
    If the Syria program is all binary all the time , and always has been , then this entire hexamine discussion has been much ado about precisely nothing.
    I hope that is in fact the case , but somehow I doubt that it is.

  19. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Babak, What you describe is the unfolding of history at its most ironic.

  20. Castellio says:

    God may mock the works of man, but he certainly mocks those who do no work.

  21. optimax says:

    Syria’s guilt is predetermined in these gas attacks and all future atrocities. Our purpose is to fracture Syria into warring states, weakening it enough to keep Hezbahla from harassing Israel and progressing it towards the biblical narrative of reforming Ersatz Israel.

  22. YT says:

    Mr. Babak,
    Was this meant for another post?
    I don’t recall commenting here…

  23. Jonathan says:

    ps. The slides have at least 4 “flour” instead of “fluor” typos.

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    No, look at slide 3.

  25. Ghostship says:

    Very interesting but no. The infographic I saw started out with something similar but then used pre and post-event satellite imagery to establish which buildings along those lines had been damaged so identifying where the bombs hit.
    The reason I say very interesting is that the image you linked to shows that four bombs hit Khan Shaykhun. The three seen in the video from the northern most location and two from the western most location, with one common to both videos and from this image it looks very much like they were dropped as two pairs. If you add in the alleged chemical missile that means five weapons were dropped but according to Wikipedia, the SU-22 has ten hardpoints (three under the fixed portion of each wing, four on the fuselage sides).
    How difficult would it be to fly such an unbalanced aircraft? Any pilots out there care to comment? Could it be that the aircraft wasn’t responsible for the alleged chemical missile or am I missing something?

  26. Marko says:

    The only thing I’ve seen resembling the images you describe were in the NYT video. I did a search after I saw the video and couldn’t find any corresponding photos , but you might be able to get some screenshots off the video itself.

  27. Marko says:

    Here’s the NYT video , see if the shots ~ 3:15 look like what you saw:
    I did find what appears to be one screenshot from this video :

  28. Marko says:

    Ken Roth of HRW has a new video up today on the sarin attack. I haven’t watched it yet but I can guess it will show incontrovertible evidence of Assad’s guilt in the attack , and that he also cheats on his wife :

  29. Ghostship says:

    Thanks Marko, I’m fairly certain that is what I saw – how that became an infographic I don’t know.

  30. DavidKNZ says:

    Not entirely off topic:
    The ever factual Dr Postol has also co-authored a post titled
    “How US nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability:
    The burst-height compensating super-fuze” at
    In it he details how installing an “intelligent” fusing system on Americas
    thermonuclear weapons has lead to a threefold increase in the lethality of
    these weapons. The article points out that this capacity is just what is needed for a successful surprise first strike – a decapitation option
    I imagine this option will have been explored in depth by war planners and strategists in the Pentagon.
    The notion of Victory is not without its attractions to the military mind.
    There is precedent: June 1967 the Israeli Cabinet was told:
    “The Egyptian Army needed 2 years to be ready for war;
    the Israeli Army is ready now”.
    The “Generals Coup” argument prevailed and a first strike was launched.
    One notable casualty, the USS Liberty.
    Postol then looks at what is required for this first strike option
    and concludes it is Work in Progress.
    ( People with a more detailed understanding of US military matters
    may disagree. )
    So developing smart fusing technology enhances a First Strike option,
    under the control of a Commander in Chief who has a proven short fuse 🙁

  31. Chris Chuba says:

    It’s interesting to view the WH govt assessment next to the FIR
    While I consider the FIR inadequate, it is like the Magna Carta vs Bazooka Joe when you look at both documents side by side. At least the FIR refers to actual lab tests that they performed. They didn’t pull the old, ‘we could tell you but we’d have to kill you’ method of hand waving as was done in the WH report. They also properly identify the rebels while the WH just calls them ‘the opposition’ as in …

    “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) was born from the merger of several radical factions with the Al-Qaeda movement Jabhat Fatah al-Sham after the fall of Aleppo. Pragmatic coordination between HTS and other armed groups present in the Hama sector was observed in late March. To the knowledge of the French services, none of these groups has the capability to employ a neurotoxic agent, or the air capacities required.”

    They also properly describe the war situation while the WH invents pure fiction by claiming that Assad’s forces were threatened.
    I didn’t see any reference to the Ghouta/Damascus attack in the FIR, only Saraqib. I found the references to the Aug 2013 attack confusing because I couldn’t find the description in the FIR.

  32. Chris Chuba says:

    I’ve tried to keep up but maybe someone has already mentioned this, someone on Russia-Insider claimed that the picture that Nikki Haley waved around at the U.N. shows a mark on the victim’s neck below the chin caused by strangulation.
    These photos are from NBC and businessinsider, so the picture of the picture shouldn’t be photoshopped. I’m not a Coroner, but it does look like there is a discoloration in that area but it is not pronounced. If we are going to bomb people, we should actually do an autopsy, not squint at photos. Just curious if anyone can tell if these pictures reveal anything.

  33. Chris Chuba says:

    “In a binary munition that’s been deployed , you don’t care about 10 seconds worth of corrosion. The whole debate breaks down to speculating about whether at some time in the future Assad might have decided he needed some unitary sarin , and at that time he might possibly have chosen to add hexamine to the unitary mix”-Marko

    Excellent point Marko. Why would Assad try to develop a unitary weapon instead of his regular arsenal since the west is now claiming that he simply under declared his standard inventory. Why would he mess around with a Rube Goldberg device like a hand grenade (tear gas cannister) at Saraqeb instead of using a missile with a binary payload.
    Does anyone know about Assad’s known delivery systems for his binary chemical weapons that he inherited from his father? Since they were designed around countering Israel, I would think that they would be long range weapons like Scud missiles. Would they even bother to make short range weapons like artillery shells or air to ground bombs that have less of a chance of actually making it to Israel?

  34. Terence Reeves-Smyth says:

    One aspect of the Khan Shaykhun incident that no one seems to have asked is who were the people who died? Were they genuine ‘residents’ of the town (bearing in mind that so many of these settlements close to the front lines were understandably thinly populated) or were they captives from nearby villages being held by AL jihadists following their recent and initially successful campaign towards Hama? Since pictures of some of the dead were posted on line I would have thought it possible that this question could be answered.

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