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U.S.GovernmentAssessmentoftheSyrianGovernments UseofChemicalWeaponsonAugust21,2013 TheUnitedStatesGovernmentassesseswithhighconfidencethattheSyriangovernmentcarriedouta chemicalweaponsattackintheDamascussuburbsonAugust21,2013.Wefurtherassessthatthe regimeusedanerveagentintheattack.Theseallsourceassessmentsarebasedonhuman,signals,and geospatialintelligenceaswellasasignificantbodyofopensourcereporting.Ourclassifiedassessments havebeensharedwiththeU.S.Congressandkeyinternationalpartners.Toprotectsourcesand methods,wecannotpubliclyreleaseallavailableintelligencebutwhatfollowsisanunclassified summaryoftheU.S.IntelligenceCommunitysanalysisofwhattookplace. SyrianGovernmentUseofChemicalWeaponsonAugust21 Alargebodyofindependentsourcesindicatesthatachemicalweaponsattacktookplaceinthe DamascussuburbsonAugust21.InadditiontoU.S.intelligenceinformation,thereareaccountsfrom internationalandSyrianmedicalpersonnelvideoswitnessaccountsthousandsofsocialmediareports fromatleast12differentlocationsintheDamascusareajournalistaccountsandreportsfromhighly crediblenongovernmentalorganizations.

ApreliminaryU.S.governmentassessmentdeterminedthat1,429peoplewerekilledinthechemical weaponsattack,includingatleast426children,thoughthisassessmentwillcertainlyevolveasweobtain moreinformation. WeassesswithhighconfidencethattheSyriangovernmentcarriedoutthechemicalweaponsattack againstoppositionelementsintheDamascussuburbsonAugust21.Weassessthatthescenarioin whichtheoppositionexecutedtheattackonAugust21ishighlyunlikely.Thebodyofinformationused tomakethisassessmentincludesintelligencepertainingtotheregimespreparationsforthisattackand itsmeansofdelivery,multiplestreamsofintelligenceabouttheattackitselfanditseffect,ourpostattack observations,andthedifferencesbetweenthecapabilitiesoftheregimeandtheopposition.Ourhigh confidenceassessmentisthestrongestpositionthattheU.S.IntelligenceCommunitycantakeshortof confirmation.Wewillcontinuetoseekadditionalinformationtoclosegapsinourunderstandingofwhat tookplace.
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Background: TheSyrianregimemaintainsastockpileofnumerouschemicalagents,includingmustard,sarin,andVX andhasthousandsofmunitionsthatcanbeusedtodeliverchemicalwarfareagents. SyrianPresidentBasharalAsadistheultimatedecisionmakerforthechemicalweaponsprogramand membersoftheprogramarecarefullyvettedtoensuresecurityandloyalty.TheSyrianScientificStudies andResearchCenter(SSRC)whichissubordinatetotheSyrianMinistryofDefensemanages Syriaschemicalweaponsprogram. WeassesswithhighconfidencethattheSyrianregimehasusedchemicalweaponsonasmallscale againsttheoppositionmultipletimesinthelastyear,includingintheDamascussuburbs.Thisassessment isbasedonmultiplestreamsofinformationincludingreportingofSyrianofficialsplanningandexecuting chemicalweaponsattacksandlaboratoryanalysisofphysiologicalsamplesobtainedfromanumberof individuals,whichrevealedexposuretosarin.Weassessthattheoppositionhasnotusedchemical weapons. TheSyrianregimehasthetypesofmunitionsthatweassesswereusedtocarryouttheattackon August21,andhastheabilitytostrikesimultaneouslyinmultiplelocations.Wehaveseennoindication thattheoppositionhascarriedoutalargescale,coordinatedrocketandartilleryattackliketheonethat occurredonAugust21. WeassessthattheSyrianregimehasusedchemicalweaponsoverthelastyearprimarilytogainthe upperhandorbreakastalemateinareaswhereithasstruggledtoseizeandholdstrategicallyvaluable territory.Inthisregard,wecontinuetojudgethattheSyrianregimeviewschemicalweaponsasoneof manytoolsinitsarsenal,includingairpowerandballisticmissiles,whichtheyindiscriminatelyuseagainst theopposition. TheSyrianregimehasinitiatedanefforttoridtheDamascussuburbsofoppositionforcesusingthearea asabasetostageattacksagainstregimetargetsinthecapital.Theregimehasfailedtocleardozensof Damascusneighborhoodsofoppositionelements,includingneighborhoodstargetedonAugust21, despiteemployingnearlyallofitsconventionalweaponssystems.Weassessthattheregimes frustrationwithitsinabilitytosecurelargeportionsofDamascusmayhavecontributedtoitsdecisionto usechemicalweaponsonAugust21.
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Preparation: WehaveintelligencethatleadsustoassessthatSyrianchemicalweaponspersonnelincluding personnelassessedtobeassociatedwiththeSSRCwerepreparingchemicalmunitionspriortothe attack.Inthethreedayspriortotheattack,wecollectedstreamsofhuman,signalsandgeospatial intelligencethatrevealregimeactivitiesthatweassesswereassociatedwithpreparationsforachemical weaponsattack. SyrianchemicalweaponspersonnelwereoperatingintheDamascussuburbofAdrafromSunday, August18untilearlyinthemorningonWednesday,August21nearanareathattheregimeusestomix chemicalweapons,includingsarin.OnAugust21,aSyrianregimeelementpreparedforachemical weaponsattackintheDamascusarea,includingthroughtheutilizationofgasmasks.Ourintelligence sourcesintheDamascusareadidnotdetectanyindicationsinthedayspriortotheattackthat oppositionaffiliateswereplanningtousechemicalweapons. TheAttack: Multiplestreamsofintelligenceindicatethattheregimeexecutedarocketandartilleryattackagainstthe DamascussuburbsintheearlyhoursofAugust21.Satellitedetectionscorroboratethatattacksfroma regimecontrolledareastruckneighborhoodswherethechemicalattacksreportedlyoccurred includingKafrBatna,Jawbar,AynTarma,Darayya,andMuaddamiyah.Thisincludesthedetectionof rocketlaunchesfromregimecontrolledterritoryearlyinthemorning,approximately90minutesbefore thefirstreportofachemicalattackappearedinsocialmedia.Thelackofflightactivityormissile launchesalsoleadsustoconcludethattheregimeusedrocketsintheattack. LocalsocialmediareportsofachemicalattackintheDamascussuburbsbeganat2:30a.m.localtime onAugust21.Withinthenextfourhourstherewerethousandsofsocialmediareportsonthisattack fromatleast12differentlocationsintheDamascusarea.Multipleaccountsdescribedchemicalfilled rocketsimpactingoppositioncontrolledareas. ThreehospitalsintheDamascusareareceivedapproximately3,600patientsdisplayingsymptoms consistentwithnerveagentexposureinlessthanthreehoursonthemorningofAugust21,accordingto ahighlycredibleinternationalhumanitarianorganization.Thereportedsymptoms,andthe epidemiologicalpatternofeventscharacterizedbythemassiveinfluxofpatientsinashortperiodof time,theoriginofthepatients,andthecontaminationofmedicalandfirstaidworkerswereconsistent withmassexposuretoanerveagent.WealsoreceivedreportsfrominternationalandSyrianmedical personnelontheground.
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Wehaveidentifiedonehundredvideosattributedtotheattack,manyofwhichshowlargenumbersof bodiesexhibitingphysicalsignsconsistentwith,butnotuniqueto,nerveagentexposure.Thereported symptomsofvictimsincludedunconsciousness,foamingfromthenoseandmouth,constrictedpupils, rapidheartbeat,anddifficultybreathing.Severalofthevideosshowwhatappeartobenumerous fatalitieswithnovisibleinjuries,whichisconsistentwithdeathfromchemicalweapons,andinconsistent withdeathfromsmallarms,highexplosivemunitionsorblisteragents.Atleast12locationsare portrayedinthepubliclyavailablevideos,andasamplingofthosevideosconfirmedthatsomewere shotatthegeneraltimesandlocationsdescribedinthefootage. WeassesstheSyrianoppositiondoesnothavethecapabilitytofabricateallofthevideos,physical symptomsverifiedbymedicalpersonnelandNGOs,andotherinformationassociatedwiththischemical attack. Wehaveabodyofinformation,includingpastSyrianpractice,thatleadsustoconcludethatregime officialswerewittingofanddirectedtheattackonAugust21.Weinterceptedcommunicationsinvolving aseniorofficialintimatelyfamiliarwiththeoffensivewhoconfirmedthatchemicalweaponswereusedby theregimeonAugust21andwasconcernedwiththeU.N.inspectorsobtainingevidence.Onthe afternoonofAugust21,wehaveintelligencethatSyrianchemicalweaponspersonnelweredirectedto ceaseoperations.Atthesametime,theregimeintensifiedtheartillerybarragetargetingmanyofthe neighborhoodswherechemicalattacksoccurred.Inthe24hourperiodaftertheattack,wedetected indicationsofartilleryandrocketfireatarateapproximatelyfourtimeshigherthanthetenpreceding days.Wecontinuedtoseeindicationsofsustainedshellingintheneighborhoodsupuntilthemorningof August26. Toconclude,thereisasubstantialbodyofinformationthatimplicatestheSyriangovernments responsibilityinthechemicalweaponsattackthattookplaceonAugust21.Asindicated,thereis additionalintelligencethatremainsclassifiedbecauseofsourcesandmethodsconcernsthatisbeing providedtoCongressandinternationalpartners.
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