The Obama Administration says that today’s United Nations report leaves “no doubt” that Syrian President Bashar Assad was behind the August 21 chemical attack in Ghouta, something they’d been claiming for weeks.
The claim isn’t backed up by anything inside the report itself, however, and indeed the UN report explicitly avoids trying to assign blame to either Assad or the rebels, who have each accused one another of the attack.
The report concluded that the strikes were fired from northwest of Ghouta, meaning the strike originated in the direction of the contested, but mostly rebel-held suburb of Arbin, and not Damascus itself. They speculated that the rockets were launched by some variant of the old BM-14 Soviet-made rocket launcher, which Syria’s military acquired in large numbers in the 1960′s.
The conclusion that the weapon was sarin-based doesn’t help either, since the Assad government of course has such weapons, but rebel factions have also bragged of their ability to produce sarin in videos of their own.
The use of chemical weapons is a war crime per the 1925 Geneva Protocol, though realistically they are just one of a myriad of war crimes committed by both sides in this ongoing war.
The report’s release was followed up by a separate news conference by the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights violations in the ongoing civil war, saying there were 14 “potential” chemical weapons attacks since the conflict began.
The chairman of the commission, Paulo Pinheiro, declined to offer any details on those putative attacks, however, saying “we don’t have to share where, or when, or what moment.”