The Crux of the Weakness of Claims that Rebels Were Responsible for the Sarin Nerve Agent Attack in Damascus.
The United Nations report, released yesterday, does not explicitly assign blame. But once you pull out its data from the annexes and run it through even a rudimentary tactical or technical analysis, the picture of what happened in the worst chemical warfare attack in decades becomes ever more clear, and reinforces the prominent open-source investigations already in play.
And that argument that the rebels did it?
It essentially evaporates when, in the face of the data, you try to imagine how such an attack might have even been possible.
From our clipped analysis in the NYT, re the identification of the weapons as M14 artillery rockets and a 330-millimeter ground-to-ground rocket of thus far unknown provenance, this:
…those weapons are fired by large, conspicuous launchers. For rebels to have carried out the attack, they would have had to organize an operation with weapons they are not known to have and of considerable scale, sophistication and secrecy — moving the launchers undetected into position in areas under strong government influence or control, keeping them in place unmolested for a sustained attack that would have generated extensive light and noise, and then successfully withdrawing them — all without being detected in any way.
Put simply, viewed through a common-sense understanding of the limits and conditions of the battlefield, the rebels could not have done this. Claims of rebel culpability are now specious; technically and tactically implausible, they are too outlandish for even a sci-fi script.
(That’s not to say without equivocation that rebels do not possess chemical munitions, or that some rebels have not experimented with small-scale manufacture of locally brewed toxins here and there. Those are now separate matters for serious inquiry. It’s to say that in spite of these shadowy possibilities, and absent surprising new evidence, there is no fact-based way for reasonable minds to draw a line from such allegations to what happened in Ghouta in late August.)