, 24 tweets, 13 min read Read on Twitter
.@OPCW just released its final report on the April 7, 2018 chemical attack on Douma: opcw.org/sites/default/… Thread to follow
FFM concluded that info collected “provide reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place. This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine. The toxic chemical was likely molecular chlorine.”
Bottom line: the @OPCW report confirms the open source reporting by @VDC_Research @snhr @UOSSM @bellingcat @ForensicArchi on the chlorine attacks on Douma on April 7
The @OPCW FFM findings are also consistent with assessments issued by France (diplomatie.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/180414…) and the United States (whitehouse.gov/briefings-stat…)
The FFM report contradicts Syrian and Russian disinformation that either there was no chlorine attack (ria.ru/20180409/15182…) or the chemical attack was launched by rebels (tass.com/world/1000366).
The @OPCW visited the two sites identified by Syria and Russia as being CW labs involved in the false-flag attack on Douma and found that these sites had neither the proper chemicals or equipment to produce chemical weapons.
This finding supports #OSINT work by @arawnsley debunking the Syrian/Russian claim: bellingcat.com/news/mena/2018…
An important limitation in investigating alleged uses of chlorine as a weapon is that the chemical is highly reactive so it is difficult to detect in the environment and there are limited biomakers for exposure. But @OPCW was very clever and took advantage of
the fact that when chlorine reacts with certain other chemicals and materials it can produce new compounds that are stable and not found naturally in the environment. These compounds then provide a strong signature of chlorine exposure. In particular, @OPCW looked for
the presence of borynl chloride which is produced when alpha-pinene, a chemical found in coniferous wood (i,e., pine), is exposed to hydrogen chloride, a common decomposition product of chlorine. Not only was borynl chloride present in wood samples taken from the attack sites but
so was trichlorophenol which is another chemical not naturally found in wood but can be generated when wood is exposed to chlorine gas. The presence of these chemicals, as well as the high concentration of chlorides in/on the cylinders themselves, is strong forensic evidence
When assessing the results of the FFM, important to keep in mind the constraints they were operating under:
1. The @OPCW was not able to access the sites until April 21, 2 weeks after the attack.
2. At this point Douma was firmly under the control of the Syrian govt which
explains why some of the interviewees claimed there had bee no chemical attack or no deaths--they were either planted by the regime or were locals afraid of retaliation if they told the truth
3. By this time, the Syrian govt had buried the victims of the attack and
dragged their feet on exhuming them, which exhausted any evidentiary value of an autopsy.
This report is also notable for what it does not discuss:
1. what else was occurring in Douma at the time of the attack
2. the similarity between the cylinders found in Douma and those used in previous chemical attacks
3. how the cylinders arrived at the scenes of the attack
This is likely due to C-SS-4/DEC.3 which authorized @OPCW to "identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic by identifying and reporting on all information potentially relevant to the origin of those chemical weapons." Now that the FFM
has issued its report, the Attribution Team can now conduct their own investigation which will no doubt touch on the issues I highlighted above. But just in case you don't want to wait for that report here is a sneak peek at answers to those outstanding questions:
1. What else was occurring in Douma at the time of the attack? A full-scale regime offensive as documented by
@AtlanticCouncil: publications.atlanticcouncil.org/breakingghouta/
@STJ_SYRIA_ENG: stj-sy.com/uploads/pdf_fi…
@GPPi: gppi.net/media/GPPi_Sch…
2. The similarity between the cylinders found in Douma and those used in previous chemical attacks has been documented by
@bellingcat: bellingcat.com/news/mena/2018…
@Arms_Research: academia.edu/37650988/Impro…
3. How did the chlorine cylinders arrive at the scene of the attack? Dropped by SyAAF Mi-8/17 helicopters as in literally hundreds of previous chlorine attacks as documented by @GPPi in gppi.net/media/GPPi_Sch… and by @hrw in hrw.org/news/2018/04/0… and by the @OPCW
itself in previous FFM reports:
Latamenah, March 25, 2017: opcw.org/sites/default/…
Idlib, March-May 2015: opcw.org/sites/default/…
Talmenes, Al Tamanah, and Kafr Zita, April-May 2014: opcw.org/sites/default/…
If you want a preview of the @OPCW Attribution Team's report on the perpetrators of the Douma attack start with my backgrounder in @ForeignPolicy foreignpolicy.com/2017/04/07/syr… and then read @GPPi @tobiaschneider excellent Nowhere to Hide: gppi.net/media/GPPi_Sch… followed by
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