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From: Under Secretary General Ortiz

Tactical and Strategic Reasons for Syrian Regime’s Recent Use of Chemical Attacks

Following the Syrian regime’s resumption of its recent military offensive, as well as high levels of air force activity over the town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta, two new cases of toxic agents were reported in April 2018.  Images and videos from hospitals show contaminated patients showing symptoms of suffocation and asphyxia, the presence of greenish smoke in affected areas, skin burns and corneal burns, nasal and oral hyper-secretions, and mentions of strong chlorine odor.   Reliable intelligence indicates that Syrian military officials coordinated the use of chemical attacks on Douma.  The attack took place as part of a military offensive carried out by the Assad regime on the Eastern Ghouta region.  The offensive has enabled Damascus to regain control of the enclave.  The Russian military forces active in Syria enable the regime to enjoy air superiority, giving it the total freedom of action it needs for an indiscriminate offensive in urban areas.

The Syrian regime’s political and military strategy consists in alternating indiscriminate military offensive against local populations, which includes use of chlorine and sarin.  These attacks result in various rebel groups negotiating surrenders with the Assad regime and the Russians.  Tactically speaking chemical weapons are used to flush out enemy fighters sheltering in residences.  Strategically speaking, chemical weapons are used to punish civilian populations present in zones held by fighters opposed to the Syrian regime and  create a climate of terror and panic that compels capitulation.  The Assad regime uses indiscriminate strikes to show that resistance is futile and thereby paves the way for capturing the last pockets of resistance.

Since 2017, the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons and toxic agents in its military operations increasingly often.  The Syrian regime has conserved a clandestine chemical weapons program since 2013.  Syria did not declare all of its stockpiles and capacities to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons during its half-hearted accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

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