A series of revelations about the rocket believed to have delivered poison sarin gas to a Damascus suburb last summer are challenging American intelligence assumptions about that attack and suggest that the case U.S. officials initially made for retaliatory military action was flawed.
A team of security and arms experts, meeting this week in Washington to discuss the matter, has concluded that the range of the rocket that delivered sarin in the largest attack that night was too short for the device to have been fired from the Syrian government positions where the Obama administration insists they originated.
Separately, international weapons experts are puzzling over why the rocket in question – an improvised 330mm to 350mm rocket equipped with a large receptacle on its nose to hold chemicals – reportedly did not appear in the Syrian government’s declaration of its arsenal to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and apparently was not uncovered by OPCW inspectors who believe they’ve destroyed Syria’s ability to deliver a chemical attack.
Neither development proves decisively that Syrian government forces did not fire the chemicals that killed hundreds of Syrians in the early morning hours of Aug. 21. U.S. officials continue to insist that the case for Syrian government responsibility for the attack in East Ghouta is stronger than any suggestion of rebel involvement, while experts say it is possible Syria left the rockets out of its chemical weapons declaration simply to make certain it could not be tied to the attack.