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From: Under Secretary General Ortiz

The Syrian Regime’s Objectives for Its Continued Use of Chemical Weapons

Reliable intelligence indicates that a chemical attack on Douma in April was carried out by Syrian Government forces.  Several lethal chemical attacks took place in Douma.  Following the Assad regime’s resumption of its 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 employment were reported by civil society and international media.  Non-governmental medical organization in Ghouta publically stated that strikes had targeted in particular local medical infrastructure.  A massive influx of patients in health centers in Eastern Ghouta presenting symptoms consistent with exposure to chemical agent was observed and documented.  The information forms a body of evidence that is sufficient to attribute responsibility for the chemical attacks to the Syrian regime.

All symptoms, e.g., suffocation, asphyxia, skin and corneal burns, hypersecretions, etc. are characteristic of a chemical attack, particularly choking agents and hydrocyanic acid.  Reliable intelligence indicates that Syrian military officials have coordinated what appears to be the use of chemical weapons containing chlorine.  Attacks are taking place as part of a wider military offensive carried out by the Syrian regime.  As a reminder, the Russian military forces active in Syria enable the regime to enjoy unquestionable air superiority, giving it the total military freedom of action it needs for its indiscriminate offensives on urban areas.  The Syrian regime’s political and military strategy has consisted in alternating indiscriminate military offensives against local populations, which sometimes included the use of chlorine.

Strategically speaking, chemical weapons documented in Eastern Ghouta since early 2018 are especially used to punish civilian populations present in zones held by fighters opposed to the Syrian regime and to create a climate of terror and panic that encourages surrender.  Tactically speaking, this type of ammunition is used to flush out enemy fighter sheltering in residences.  The Syrian regime accelerates victory and has a multiplier effect that helps speed up capitulation of the last bastion of armed groups.  The Syrian forces repeatedly use the same patter of military tactics:  toxic chemicals are mainly used during wider offensives, as was the case during the recapture of Aleppo, where chlorine weapons were regularly used.  The zones targeted, such as Eastern Ghouta, are all major military objectives for Damascus..

Bottom line:  They Syrian regime uses chemical weapons and toxic agents in its military operations increasingly often.  The Syrian regime did not declare all of its stockpiles and capacities to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) during its late, half-hearted accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).  Syria omitted to declare many of the activities of its Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC).  Only recently has it accepted to declare certain SSRC activities under the CWC, but not all of them.  Initially, it failed to declare the sites at Barzeh and Jemraya.

Series of chemical weapons continue to take place.  Russia continues to provide constant political cover to the Syrian regime over the employment of chemical weapons, both at the UN Security Council and at the OPCW, despite conclusions to the contrary.


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