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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Shayrat Airfield Link

Idlib CW Massacre 4-4-17: The Shayrat Airfield Link
Adam Larson
April 19, 2017
incomplete - last edits April 20

Note: this should already have been up, but it's only partly up - mostly readable, but rough, and likely to be added to before it's done.  It'll be worth a re-check in a few days.
...
a jet sheltered at Shayrat destroyed in the strike (Sputnik)
Shayrat Airfield in Homs province (Wikimapia) is where President Trump's hammer fell when he saw "baeutiful babies" die on rebel video. Some jets used in Syria's demonized struggle against terrorists were totaled, the airfield was damaged, a reported six soldiers were killed, nine civilians killed by errant missiles, plus injuries and damage. It could have been far worse. 

This was widely-praised, but people are widely stupid. Trump launched this strike in response to an episode he - hopefully - doesn't understand. Because much evidence suggests this was another terrorist crime, where they massacre their hostages and blame the Syrian government (see here for some of the better clues).

The April 11 White House explanatory report, "The Assad Regime's Use of Chemical Weapons on April 4, 2017" (New York Times copy), lays out the questionable basis for the strike. The jet connection is explained so:
Our information indicates that the chemical agent was delivered by regime Su-22 fixed-wing aircraft that took off from the regime-controlled Shayrat airfield. These aircraft were in the vicinity of Khan Shaykhun approximately 20 minutes before reports of the chemical attack began and vacated the area shortly after the attack.
So two jets were overhead at the alleged attack time. This may well be. Implicitly, they dropped bombs at this time, but that's not proven. This is the central question: did any CW released actually come from those jets? The public confidence of any U.S. presidential administration definitely shouldn't be taken as convincing. It's the original reason to blame Syria. If instead some terrorist crime was carried out beneath a passing jet, unconnected to anything it was carrying, clearly it wouldn't be fair to target Syrian forces over it. There are various legal aspects to that, etc. ... but let's get to the meat of the question.

Strikes, Times, Claims
The Russian claim, as reported so far, is dubious - the chemical victims seen on video (around 7-9 am) were affected a poison (not sarin) accidentally spread when a Syrian Air Force strike damaged a terrorist chemical weapons storage depot. The White House report addressed this so:
"...a Syrian military source told Russian state media on April 4 that regime forces had not carried out any airstrike in Khan Shaykhun, contradicting Russia's claim." 
They may have said this to Russian media somewhere, but that means little when they also said to global media that they did, just at noon. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said there was at least one attack that day; as CNN reported, he "said the government's first strike happened at 11:30 a.m., about five hours after reports of the chemical attack emerged." Syria says it hit a site at 11:30 - video proves hospital was hit around then, and perhaps another target to the southeast of that was hit earlier (plume analysis unclear so far) 

But if this happened early enough to explain that, it's a strike Syria denied. That's a problem, a disagreement between allies, if that's Russia's real story, and not an unfairly promoted theory. It makes the White House correct, if they had said "had not carried out any aistrikes at the relevant time." This, Syria does deny. Everyone agrees on a noon strike, and the US alleges an earlier strike, so we have two distinct times to consider.

There were some additional words from Moscow about these chemicals being transported to Iraq, apparently a politically oriented message that shouldn't have been stated as literal fact (best read as similar...). Combined, it's an unfortunate answer, and gives the White House and others some basis to claim Russia is trying to "confuse" the issue.

(Update: Russia MoD on Facebook - they seem to be shifting to a no-CW-release explanation, and no longer claiming a Syrian-sparked accident at an unspecified time.)

What Happened?
Let's start by considering the crude but perhaps adequate flight path graphic they provided as proof. (not the clearest version, here cropped a bit).

I'm not sure how to read these track and narrate the shown flight, but ... maybe as said, two jets flew north from Shayat (the southern starting point) and later returned. One jet ... disappeared around the Wadi al-Arab district of Homs city? ignoring that and a few stray returns...) Along the way, this says, one jet passed, it seems, just south of Khan Sheykhoun at one point, and perhaps both of them passed further south at least once. The times given are 6:37 and 6:46 am, local time. (Z = UTC, and Syria is +2 time zones, +DST)

This clashing with Syria's claims has 3 main possibilities - the track of the attack is:
* Honest and accurate: this shows Syrian jets dropping sarin on Khan Sheikhoun, and the government lies when they deny it
* Honest but (fooled?): this shows a reconnaissance flight out of Shayrat that rebels launched a false-flag incident to synchronize with (their hyped "obsevatory" system routinely gives them forewarning of such flights, to time the explosions right - the rest would have to be pre-arranged)
* Dishonest - this shows Syria's noon strike, deliberately falsified to say 6:30

I lean to the middle option.

All evidence indicates there were at least three powerful explosions in Khan Sheikhoun at about this time - some minutes after sunrise at 6:16 as the sun was still low and from the east, three large plumes of smoke, consistent with conventional high explosives, rise above the city, as seen from the north. A jet is possibly heard at the video's start, apparently trailing off (departing). But we don't have proof that any passing jet actually caused these plumes.

Note also, a stout white cloud, not a blast plume at all, is also just rising from near an apparent school just northeast of the tel (the big flat hill in the middle of town). Schools are often taken over by Islamist militant to store weapons, synthesize chemical weapons, and store hostages, among other things.

Then, a sort of fog spreads across the town, likely from that red-circled area, from a spot out in the fields well southwest of city center, and perhaps elsewhere. Wind direction: by records, about left-to-right. By visuals, unclear, maybe the opposite, mixed over time, and roughly still at filming time. Suggested: mild alternating winds shifting gasses back and forth a bit - more in one direction that's not clear yet)

It's not clear this fog is sarin, or whatever people described (mostly as seeming yellow, not white... see below).

Then, between 7:30 and 9 am or so, lots of dead people appeared at rebel collection points, never, in hundreds of cases, seen at the homes they mostly are said to die in. That's odd, and leaves open the possibility that they didn't die in their individual homes... Any link between this and the passing jet is at least as unproven as with the attack plumes.

The White House Crater
The White House cites one particular crater, that's hyped as poisonous, shown off in opposition videos as the main site, where people in paper face masks at best mill about the following day. The crater does appear new-ish, though the scene is ambiguous. The White House convincingly showed by satellite views it wasn't there in late February. But proof is lacking that it was hit on 4 April or, at least, during the alleged jet attack between 6:37 and 6:46. 

My graphic above is based on Bellingcat's careful line-of-sight work (from the evidence so far). They have minarets and other features lined up with the apparent filming spot north of town, like I've done before.

The work seems sound and self-evident, so I didn't double-check it. It allows for rough placement of the plumes, as I've done above in pink circles (distance along each line isn't certain). Note: above I label crater in blue and "U.S. pinned site" in yellow. Ignore the yellow: I saw a blob of that color right there in the flight path graphic's little inset. But that was the yellow pin's head, I guess, with its invisible tip pointing to the crater they talk about, or meaning to (might point too far south).

Note in Bellingcat's bottom left view (facing south) there's an added red line to the crater the White House speaks of. I can't prove it yet, but I don't think there's a plume there, at this time. Location: if the above placement isn't exact, this drove view will refine it.

The video never pans far enough to the left to look down that red line of sight. I checked to be sure - see the little panorama inset in the lower left view - that's about as much as they show, its left edge stopping maybe half way to seeing what's above the crater area.

One should think they would pan over to it if it had been stricken, with the most important and also the closest expected blast plume, or sarin cloud, a little further to the left. But after showing the big ones and the white cloud further off, he pans to the other plume worth showing, even further out and to the right. Another video shows that plume in more detail. No one shows a plume above the crater. This suggests there wasn't one yet, but it fails to prove it. Maybe everyone just figured someone else was filming that one, or whatever...

What I'm hoping for now is some rare hidden video Petri Krohn has missed in his huge playlist, that does pan over that area to clarify if there is or isn't a sign of that crater being blown out. Becuase if it happened before or after those two alleged jet passes, we have a big problem with the Trump narrative...
The Sarin
Anyway ... a fatal flaw in the decision to blame Syria for this, is no consideration whatsoever of the possibility of a terrorist false-flag incident,  despite a clear logic of motive, a clear enough (if obscured) capability, and copious (unacknowledged) precedents for murderous and deceptive CW use by various Islamist factions fighting in Syria, and  ... Its vapor is often yellow, irritating, and smells foul, like rotting food, notably eggs and sulfur. That's just what they report in Khan Sheikhoun. (see the Sarin Evidence)

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said the other day, via Hansard, "We know from shell fragments in the crater that sarin had not only been used, but that it was sarin carrying the specific chemical signature of sarin used by the Assad regime." By this, we think he's admitting it does not match Syria's surrendered stocks. If it did, he'd probably prefer to say that. Instead, he calls it a kind they've used. This includes what are in fact several terrorists uses of impure sarin, since March, 2013, falsely blamed on Syrian forces, even though they're the targets half he time. This was accepted as used by Syrian forces in the Ghouta attack of August 21, 2013, but evidence suggests that never did match with Syria's stocks, and the event has massive indicators of being a false-flag massacre carried out on hundreds of hostages, the ultimate in massacre marketing, that failed in part for being too obvious in that regard.

So, Boris seems to be saying ... this is Ghouta 2.0, as it was already seeming to us.As there was no regime missile base link to prove it wasn't rebels behind Ghouta, we lack proof there was any link bgetween the Khan Sheikhoun attack and any jet, or the Shayrat airfield.

Sarin at Shayrat?
Boris Johnson, same speech and link as above:
We know beyond doubt that two Sukhoi-22 aircraft took off from Shayrat airfield, where we know chemical weapons are stored.
I suggest this isn't independently known - Syria has allegedly given up all CWs, and shouldn't store them anywhere. When did the anti-Assad powers find out he was holding out on some sarin at a specific airfield? And why didn't they say anything about it until now? Really, I propose, they had someone deduce there was sarin there, since a jet from there dropped the stuff, then pretended that was its own intelligence to support that deduction. 

CW Personnel?
A CNN wire report (via KTLA.com) passes on confident assessments:
The US military and intelligence community has intercepted communications featuring Syrian military and chemical experts talking about preparations for the sarin attack in Idlib last week, a senior US official tells CNN

They note this doesn't amount to foreknowledge they should have acted on pre-emptively - and I can buy that. But is it even true?

The April 11 White House report said

Additionally, our information indicates personnel historically associated with Syria's chemical weapons program were at Shayrat airfield in late March making preparations for an upcoming attack in Northern Syria, and they were present at the airfield on the day of the attack.
In fact, perhaps just from this, CNN wire report..
The US now assesses that Syria has re-established a unit of personnel associated with chemical weapons that existed before the 2013 agreement in which the Syrian government pledged to give up its weapons inventory. And there is some indication they are getting outside help.
This should be people who know CW science, discussing wind directions with commanders, helping draw up the plan of attack (and a brilliant alleged plan this was!)- might be people who did work with CWs back when that was thing people worked with, now re-assigned - but might just be the pilot whose flown other missions in which CW were allegedly dropped. Consider: 
  • Perpetrator of second largest chemical attack in Syria identified - Orient Net, April 5, 2017, gives specific details where he and his family live, seeming to invoite a terrorist assassination or worse ...
  • Al-Arabiya reports US, UK, and France were asking for the names of any pilots involved. "Syrian Pilot Mohammed al-Hasouri, who took off in his jet from the Shayrat military airport on Tuesday morning, may have not thought that his name may be internationally listed and he will be pursued."
  • Zaman al-Wasl gives details of "Brig. Gen. Mohammad Yousef Hasouri, Chief of Staff and deputy commander of Shayrat airfield" and heard that he's "one of the biggest war criminals in Syria" who "has so far carried out more than 3,500 raids, mostly in Aleppo."{
  • Charles Lister on Twitter: "Reports: The pilot *allegedly* responsible for #KhanSheikhoun CW attack, Gen. Mohammed Yousef Hasouri, has been killed in an IED attack." The reports may be with Orient News, and they seem to be doubted. Some suspect the government killed him to hush up the crime.
Note: These outlets are all sponsored by direct "regime" opponents, be it wealthy Syrian expatriates (Orient News and Zaman al-Wasl), Saudi-Arabia (Al-Arabia) or Qatar (Charles Lister) (copied from ACLOS)


I thought I had seen something about his flying chemical missions before, mainly chlorine. If so, that could be what makes him CW "personnel," and that alone might be their basis for that claim. 

... 

5 comments:

  1. I don't know how to post on ACLOS but a possible for the hospital flare - I think a light fell off the ceiling, on the left in this photo balanced on metal container: https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/khan-sheikhoun-syria-chemical-attack.jpg

    Watching the video of the airstrike https://twitter.com/QalaatAlMudiq/status/849283060306718720 I did notice when everyone runs outside toward the main entrance, the store room with the bodies inside is to their right but everybody, camera included, looks to the left and up to the dust plume. No-one seems interested in anything to the right apart from the journalist a few seconds later so I can't help wondering what they're next to http://imgur.com/a/3UPI8 Whatever is in the fields has tracks leading to it.. or like Aleppo they have a militant HQ right next door?

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    1. Andrew - you have to register. And there may be "warnings" i understand are a scam best ignored (sry if so). I registered 5 years ago, forget just how easy it is, but it's easy.

      No more opinion on that so far.

      Delete
  2. One point is important I think : According to Syria the SAA did strikes around 11 - 11 u30, denied strikes earlier. If it is sure that the video of the (then first) strikes are in the early morning (sure?) I can only guess Russian pilots did these strikes, what can explain the early reaction of Russia that probably a CW store (of the rebels) was bombed and could also explain the US have pretend that Russia was accomplice of a CM attack.

    Second, I went through the Bellingcat report and video's shown there. I can only deduce that it is all fake (evenso just to-day I heard on the Belgian newd that the samples taken showed that the victims were victim of a sarin-attack). For my opinion I did not see something real, I even think one of the patients brought at the clinic of Dr. S. Islam is the same "fat" man seen on several WH video and is also seen in the scene where they trough water on people which is so fake.
    Third in the Bellingcat report the pictures of the dead children, that you saw were murdered, are showed many times again. They are the only dead persons so far I could see, but may-be I still did not see all the video 's.
    Forth : there was this tweet of Firas Karam saying "to-morrow we will start a campaign on the airstriks on Hama and usage of chlorine". Did he indeed said this before the said attack or is the translation not correct or did he spoke in general and ment to report on a airstrikes that had happened before (I suppose it was not the first time on 4th april that strikes were done). He also speaks about chlorine, were Dr. S.Islam says it was sarin. So may-be there is nothing to find in this tweet.
    All together if some people were touched by some gas, - in that case one that would have a strong smell as said by "innocent" testimonies -, I could only think that indeed with the early strikes done by Russian airplanes some kind of gas, fertilizer, and dont know what, was bombed and provoked something. As far as I an see this would be the only possibility if indeed there was really some sort of dispersion of a toxic gas, but I still doubt there was any at all.
    Excuse the mistakes in my English writing.
    Antoinette Dhooghe

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    1. time: sun is visibly low and from the east, so it's definitely morning, around 7 am. If the Russians launched a strike then and denied it, trying to blame Syria ... that would look bad. I don't suppose it's true. It would also mean the US made up that Shayrat track, or certainty it was Syrian jets (maybe Russia uses that field too, though I doubt that).

      2: the heavyset guy is a good match, but not certain, I thought (with only a quick review).

      3: There are dead (seeming) men, and a few women, shown. Others are reported, and not shown. I suspect those also did die (though provided identities are likely untrue). An unusual number of children either way. Seems 103 dead, 43 children, is likely. This can be set by whoever picks the hostages to kill.

      4: Indeed - probably in reference to recent alleged chlorine attacks - 3-25, 3-30 at least, and more in early April. This is a different thing. That's not a good clue of foresight. Dr. Islam earlier said in a chlorine attack (3-25 I think) they think it's sarin. Then sarin appeared. That might be a slip showing foreknowledge, but not provable and wouldn't convince a skeptic.

      I'll propose Syria's jets passed over, and at that time terrorists launched some rockets, released something to smell, maybe even with those rockets, but likely not - and gassed people with something else in basements or executed them however (for all we know, every unseen victim was just shot, though likely most were gassed, just for good measure).

      Some mistakes are bad, but better than my ... anything but English. No worries. Cheers.

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    2. Hypothesis that Russian aircrafts may have attacked Khan Sheikhoun at 6:30 am on Apr 4.

      Source (https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/what-is-al-shayrat-military-airfield/522249/): al-Shayrat military airfield, a base used by both Syrian and Russian military forces in Syria’s ongoing civil war

      Source (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shayrat_Airbase): The Russian Air Force also uses the (al-Shayrat) facility. In 2015, Russia expanded the runways in order to accommodate Russian aircraft.[4] In February of 2016, the Russian military doubled the amount of attack helicopters stationed at Shayrat. Jane's reports that there were "four Russian Mi-35 helicopters, four Mi-24s, and one Mi-8/17."[5] This deployment was in addition to a previous deployment of four Mi-24s in November of 2015. In addition to Air Force assets, "Russia's 120th Artillery Brigade with six 152 mm 2A65 Msta-B towed howitzers had taken up position at a Syrian Arab Army (SAA) base just to the south of the airbase."[5]
      According to Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, the Russian Air Force "use[d] the al-Shayrat Air Base as a transit hub and an entry point for military supplies for the Syrian military, thus reducing the congestion in Khmeimim," as well as operating forward refueling and rearming services for Russian aircraft supporting the Syrian Army. The journal also reported that Russians had allowed Iranian Air Force squadrons to utilize the facilities.[6]

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