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29 April 2017

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Marko

Have just quickly scanned and noted this typo under Fig 5 :

"This completely wrong assessment of the location of the rocket launch points for the sarin attack on August 21, 2017 was published on the front page of the New York Times on September 17, 2013. "

Should be :"...for the sarin attack on August 21, 201[3] "

Marko

Here's the question I would pose to Dr. Postol : If it can be shown conclusively that Assad's stockpile of unitary sarin contained hexamine and that hexamine was routinely used as an acid scavenger in the Syrian CW program AND ALSO that the relative amounts or absolute quantities of hexamine recovered from sarin attack sampling sites was not consistent with other explanations , like, e.g., explosive residues , do you then concede that Assad must be the culprit ?

As you have argued this case ,I think you almost have to , which means you have fallen into the trap.

I'll predict that this is exactly the determination that will be made. The other side knows what the data from the Cape May showed. They probably have intelligence on the specifics of the Syrian CW program. They already know the answer to the question that further analytics results are likely to provide.

Solubility in isopropanol is immaterial except for usage in binary weapons. For unitary sarin that will be stored long-term or used in unitary-type CWs , adding the acid-scavenger after the DF and isopropanol have been combined is an entirely suitable method. There's minimal practical benefit to having an acid-scavenger that's isopropanol-soluble in this case.

It seems possible , if not likely , based on Hersh's work among others , that Gaddafi's sarin stocks were the source for many-and maybe all-of these attacks. It's also possible , if not likely , that if Assad knew that hexamine was a valuable additive to the sarin process , Gaddafi did as well. And even if Gaddafi didn't use hexamine , anyone perpetrating a false-flag would know to add hexamine to the Gaddafi sarin so as to provide the "smoking gun" that would be used to implicate Assad.

In short, saying that the presence of hexamine in the samples is not a smoking gun because it may be there for reasons unrelated to sarin production is the wrong argument. This argument could , and I predict will , come back to bite you in the ass.

Castellio

Publius Tacitus, a sincere thanks for staying with this and at this level of detail. (Obviously the thanks extends to Professor Postol and his colleagues as well).

This path is essential. It is no time to relent on thoroughness, no time to give in to fatigue or obfuscation. Again with thanks.

optimax

Dr. Postol

I greatly appreciate your analysis and conclusion as to the ambiguity of its source, which our government refuses to publicly acknowledge. I do suggest correcting the following sentence from your post:

This completely wrong assessment of the location of the rocket launch points for the sarin attack on August 21, 2017 was published on the front page of the New York Times on September 17, 2013

ToivoS

I agree with your assessment of the chemical reaction to produce unitary sarin but not the sarin produced in a binary weapon. As one who has conducted a number of organic reactions it is not uncommon to react two compounds that are not soluble (or only partially soluble, as is the case here) with each other or with a common solvent. Time and vigorous stirring can overcome the solubility barrier.

However, I do not agree that this would completely negate Postel's work. An error in one part of his analysis would not logically discredit the rest. Of course, it would be politically damaging.

Marko

My thinking was that if the hexamine is of value only because it functions to stabilize unitary sarin ,then in a binary weapon - where unitary sarin only exists for a couple of seconds before the round detonates - stability , and thus hexamine , is not much of an issue.

It's possible that addition of an acid scavenger increases the yield of sarin via an effect on equilibrium. If this is true , you'd want to use it in the binary as well , certainly.

One consideration I haven't heard discussed is the idea of dissolving the hexamine in the DF precursor rather than in the isopropanol precursor (where limited solubility precludes its effective use).

pmr9

An odd feature of the French "national evaluation" is that it asserts that the KS sarin is matched to Saraqeb sarin on the basis of only two chemicals: DIMP and hexamine, and asserts that the presence of hexamine is alone enough to implicate the regime which (according to unspecified intelligence reports) used it as a "stabilizer".

In a well-equipped lab such as those at Le Bouchet or Porton Down, analysis of environmental samples recovered from a CW attack site would yield a complete chemical profile of the material. Each impurity would be detectable by its "signature". These signatures can be detected as levels as low as one part per billion, so there would be hundreds of such signatures. For example, the appendix to the OPCW report on the Ghouta attack shows that some of the impurities contained ethyl groups, indicating that cheap low-quality precursors were used. From this, experts could reconstruct the synthetic pathway used, and could determine for instance whether intermediates had been purified at each step. A study showing that this type of analysis was feasible was conducted by the TNO lab in the Netherlands and reported to the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board in 2012.

So if, for instance, hexamine had been used instead of isopropylamine, to neutralize hydrogen fluoride, the lab would be able to report this confidently. Similarly, if the process used to produce the KS sarin matched the Saraqeb sarin, the lab would be able to report a detailed match based on the signatures of dozens of impurities.

If such results had been obtained by the labs at Porton Down or Le Bouchet, we could reasonably expect that they would have been trumpeted to the skies, and the head of the lab would have been brought forward to brief the international media. It's clear that the scientists involved aren't prepared to besmirch their scientific integrity by taking an active part in this information operation. However to blow this story open will need a whistleblower.

David Habakkuk

Marko,

1. Syrian government stocks were not kept as ‘unitary sarin’. What the OPCW in August 2014 reported as having been destroyed on board the ‘Cape Ray’ – not ‘Cape May’ – was 581 tonnes of the ‘precursor’ methylphosphonyl difluoride (DF). This would have been mixed with the isopropanol to make the actual sarin.

(See https://www.opcw.org/news/article/us-completes-destruction-of-sarin-precursors-from-syria-on-the-cape-ray/ .)

If in fact an ‘acid scavenger’ had been necessary, it would have been because sufficient delay between the mixing of these and the firing of the shells for corrosion to be a problem was anticipated. The case that Professor Postol made, and to which Dan Kaszeta singularly failed to provide an answer, was that hexamine was not a plausible choice to purge the hydrogen flouride.

But, irrespective of whether that case holds good, one would not expect to find hexamine traces in the DF unless it featured an earlier stage in the ‘synthetic pathway’.

Actually, there is a puzzle about what Sellström wrote to Postol, in that he suggested that hexamine could be used as a ‘scavenger’ for ‘protons’. It is not clear to me at what stage of the production process these are supposed to be removed.

2. At no point has Hersh ever suggested that the sarin used in any of these operations came from Libya. That was a ‘canard’, creating by putting together his argument that armaments were supplied over a ‘rat line’ from Syria, with his – quite separate – argument that the sarin used at Ghouta was not ‘military grade’ at all, but ‘kitchen sarin’.

Confusion has arisen, because ‘military grade’ is an ambiguous term. One could anticipate radical differences between sarin produced for a ‘poor man’s deterrent’, which was the purpose of the Syrian arsenal, and the substance produced for battlefield use, which that of the Iraqi arsenal.

Stability of the DF is a prime requirement for the former, much less so for the latter.

Both, however, could be expected to be very different from the extremely crude product which seems to have been used at Ghouta.

On the evidence about the quality of the sarin used in that ‘false flag’, besides actually reading Hersh, you could usefully look at the material on the ‘Who Attacked Ghouta?’ site to which I linked an earlier post.

A post of particular interest in relation to the origins of the sarin used at Ghouta is the concluding one by ‘sasa wawa’, entitled ‘Review of Turkish MPs Allegations’, which was posted in November 2015.

(See http://whoghouta.blogspot.co.uk/ .)

Among other things, this is – yet another – rebuttal of Dan Kaszeta’s bogus claims, and ‘sasa wawa’ specifically links to Professor Postol’s piece, and in particular the new evidence from ‘Syrian Sister’ (aka Maram Susli) on the solubility of hexamine in isopropanol and related matters, which should have finally buried the ‘hexamine hypothesis’.

3. A question which Professor Postol’s – otherwise admirable – analysis does not confront is whether the supposed ‘grenade’ was actually dropped in a canister from a Syrian government helicopter at all.

On the very substantial body of evidence suggesting that Saraqeb was a ‘false flag’ operation, I would strongly recommend the relevant pages on the ‘A Closer Look on Syria’ site.

(See http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Talk:Alleged_Chemical_Attack,_April_29,_2013 .)

Unfortunately, although the ACLOS group have – here as elsewhere – done an excellent job of collecting and critically analysing evidence, what we lack is the putting together of the material into an ‘assessment’.

4. What is required for these kind of ‘false flags’ are two things. One is to stop them being blown out of the water by tests on ‘environmental’ samples. The other is to produce a bogus link between the actual poisoning, and Syrian government forces.

In the case of Saraqeb, this appears to have been done with the weird story of government helicopters dropping canisters containing grenades. In the case of Ghouta, it was done by using rockets – but Professor Postol and ‘sasa wawa’ both quickly worked at out the range and trajectory data didn’t fit.

In the case of Khan Sheikhun, the ‘false flag’ seems to have become much cleverer. It looks as though an explosion, and the killing of captives necessary to produce plausible victims, took place some time before an air raid of which those implementing the plan had advance warning.

This managed to muddy the waters very successfully, because not surprisingly both the Russians and others concluded that the victims who had been poisoned must have been victims of an accidental discharge from the initial explosion.

5. On all this, see the ACLOS material, and also related posts on the ‘Monitor on Massacre Marketing’ site.

(See http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/the-sarin-evidence.html .)

6. A critical point remains that the Western collaborators with the ‘massacre marketing’ operations, like the French and British Foreign Ministers, have got their stories muddled. Tests at Porton Down from ‘environmental’ samples from Khan Sheikhun are supposed to match those on materials from the ‘Cape Ray’ (I repeat again, not ‘Cape May’), and also from Ghouta and now Saraqeb.

They can’t match all three. But the critical point remains, what we need from all these tests are the results of the GC/MS analysis. And the notion that ‘sources and methods’ considerations provide grounds for keeping these secret is hogwash.

pmr9

This is to clarify a few points on the chemistry. My knowledge of chemistry is somewhat rusty - corrections from anyone with real expertise in this area would be welcome.

1. I think what Sellström meant by suggesting that hexamine could be used as a ‘scavenger’ for ‘protons’ was the same thing that Kaszeta suggested: that it could have been used to remove the hydrogen fluoride formed in the final step. Hydrogen fluoride is a proton donor (i.e. an acid).

2. In the final step where DF is mixed with isopropanol to make sarin, it's essential to have a base (proton acceptor) like isopropylamine to remove the hydrogen fluoride as fast as it is formed. Otherwise the build-up of hydrogen fluoride will prevent the reaction from going to completion, and the gas may rupture the container.

3. When an acid combines with a base, a salt is formed. So if for instance isopropylamine had been used as the acid scavenger, it would form the acid salt isopropylammonium bifluoride. Such a salt would probably have very low solubility in the mixture formed by the DF-isopropanol reaction, and would precipitate as a solid.

4. The French report contains the following statement
"The chemical analyses carried out showed that it contained a solid and liquid mix of approximately 100ml of sarin at an estimated purity of 60%. Hexamine, DF and a secondary product, DIMP, were also identified. "
So what was the solid? Was it the salt formed by neutralizing the hydrogen fluoride? If so, what was the base? If hexamine had somehow been used to neutralize the hydrogen fluoride, why was it not detected as the fluoride salt?

With hindsight, the hexamine story looks like a late attempt to construct a story implicating the regime, in which Kaszeta was (perhaps unwittingly) used as a conduit. In September 2013, Kaszeta made the following statement commenting on the OPCW report on the Ghouta samples

"This compound [hexamine] is used for manufacture of several different conventional high explosives . It has wide uses in industry, but of particular military interest, it is a base component for a wide variety of conventional explosives, including RDX, C-4, Hexogen, Dinitrohexamine, and HMTD. This is a general indicator of the presence of such conventional explosives. It may be due to an explosive bursting charge. "

On 14 December 2013, he wrote the first of several articles asserting, in contradiction to what he had written in September, that the presence of hexamine in the samples from Ghouta was "very damning evidence of government culpability in the Ghouta attacks.". His citation of comments allegedly made (but later retracted) by Sellstrom in an interview with Gwyn Winfield raises questions about how and why he was given a copy of the unpublished transcript of this interview.

Babak Makkinejad

YT:

The skeleton of both structure formulas is "ren"; "human".

Ghostship

In the last couple of days I came across an infographic showing the locations of the bomb strikes from the early morning attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I've tried looking for it again but can't find it. Has anyone else seen it?

Marko

David ,

Thanks for the links. I'll definitely check them out.

I see now how Hersh's writing got twisted. I think this article at Strategic-Culture may have got that ball rolling :

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2016/04/28/seymour-hersh-hillary-approved-sending-libya-sarin-syrian-rebels.html

I think the point stands , however , that when considering potential rebel sources for sarin and/or DF , we have to assume that a black market in Libyan gov't material is about as likely as one in Syrian gov't material. Add to that the possibility of a black market for brand-spanking-new DF from some desperate-for-cash, or simply routinely criminal, chemical manufacturer. If enough money is involved , you could find someone to make your sarin starting only with a supply of atoms.

I just assumed that there must have been at least some bulk unitary sarin that was destroyed on the Cape Ray ( I think I've got it straight now : Cape Ray = CW destruction , Cape May = fishing ). Since none was , that means any data that may exist on the presumptively routine use of hexamine in the Syria sarin program had to come from either unitary weapons that were sampled and analysed and/or from program documentation. The latter would seem to be almost required if we are to believe that Sellstrom really did say that hexamine was "in their formula, it is their acid scavenger".

I hope the whole hexamine story goes away but I'm afraid it won't , and if it doesn't go away , we have to have explained - in advance - why the use of hexamine in Assad's sarin program and the excessive quantities of hexamine that might be present in environmental samples after attacks still does not definitively point the finger at Assad.

I agree with both you and pmr9 regarding the need to see more detailed analytical data - like GC/MS chromatograms , for example - that would provide a reasonable basis for "fingerprinting" the sarin used in any given event. It looks like they have no intention of sharing such data however , and it is indeed frustrating.

Marko

Bingo,pmr9. I didn't know the details as provided in your last three paragraphs , but I smelled the same rat those details suggest is currently afoot.

David Habakkuk

pmr9,

Among the many problems with Dan Kaszeta is that with any reference he gives, one has to check it, because what he claims people say is liable to be quite different to what they actually turn out to say.

It is worth looking at the complete exchanges in Professor Postol’s July 2014 paper, because they bring out that this supposed ‘expert’ is as slippery as an eel.

(See https://cryptome.org/2014/08/postol-debunks-kaszeta.pdf .)

In his initial reply to Postol’s request to elaborate on his sources on 13 June 2014, Kaszeta referred to the remarks which he alleges that Sellström made to Gwyn Winfield. And he then claims that ‘An OPCW staffer in a hearing to the US congress, suggested hexamine as an acid reducer.’

Pressed by Postol, Kaszeta elaborated in an e-mail on 16 June. Here, he referred to the video of the Capitol Hill hearings on 13 December 2013, explaining: ‘Please see the parts from approximately 4:53 in this recording. This is a matter of public record and CSPAN is a credible source.’

Well, I checked the tape out and made a transcript of the relevant remarks.

(The video is at http://archive.org/details/CSPAN_20131213_210000_Key_Capitol_Hill_Hearings .)

The question about hexamine was dealt with an ‘OPCW staffer’ – Scott Cairns, who apparently led the field inspection team in Syria. What he said was that:

'Some have alleged that the hexamine is used as an acid scavenger or stabiliser for a completed sarin produced through the binary method. Others have alleged it is a remnant or artifact of production of RDX, which is a high explosive. It is also used as a heating element for homemade stoves, it has a number of uses.'

As it happens, it was Kaszeta had himself, who, three days earlier, had alleged that hexamine is used as an acid scavenger. This was in a piece on the Lebanese ‘NOW’ site, entitled ‘Why Seymour Hersh has it wrong this time: The chemical strike on East Ghouta is not as mysterious as Seymour Hersh suggests.’

(See https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/commentary/524969-524969-why-seymour-hersh-has-it-wrong-this-time )

So, it is rather as though I had said Kaszeta is a dirty disinformation peddler, probably working for MI6, someone in a position of authority had said, ‘Habakkuk has alleged that Kaszeta is a dirty disinformation peddler, probably working for MI6’, and I quoted that someone as having himself suggested that that Kaszeta is a dirty disinformation peddler working for MI6.

The shifty dishonesty – which is indeed the mark of a dirty disinformation peddler – may have been in part a product of desperation. Prior to Hersh’s coming into the argument, ‘sasa wawa’ had already rather conclusively demonstrated that the GC/MS results in the initial UN/OPCW report pointed to ‘kitchen sarin.’ In a 9 November post, he had dealt with Kaszeta’s attempt to wriggle out from this.

(See http://whoghouta.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/response-to-dan-kaszetas-chemical.html .)

As ‘sasa wawa’ – accurately – summarised Kaszeta’s counter-argument.

‘Dan generally agrees that the sarin used in Zamalka was of low quality and lacked stabilizers. However, he believes this is not the result of underground manufacturing, but rather a result of Syria having a chemical program similar to the one Iraq had during the Iraq-Iran war.’

And ‘sasa wawa’ went on to ‘make matzakleiss’ out of Kaszeta, to use a good old East End phrase, as he did several times in the course of ‘Who Attacked Ghouta?’ investigation.

Besides pointing out the fundamental difference in the purposes for which the Syrian and Iraqi arsenals were created, and many of problems with Kaszeta’s claims, he pointed to a central fact about the OPCW’s GC/MS analysis. Among the ‘by-Products’ identified was hexafluorophosphate – very strongly pointing to a ‘synthetic pathway’ starting from basic chemicals. This is far more significant evidence than the presence of hexamine.

(See https://www.google.co.uk/?gfe_rd=cr&ei=SgAGWajUGtGGgAbE1Yz4Aw#q=matzakleiss .)

The ‘hexamine hypothesis’ looks to have been the attempt by Kaszeta, Eliot Higgins, and those behind them to ‘wriggle out’ from under the combined attack of Hersh and ‘sasa wawa’. What had to obscured above all was the fundamental point made by the last-named – that although the mandate of the UN/OPCW team specifically excluded attribution of responsibility, the GC/MS analysis results it produced made this possible, and pointed to a ‘false flag’.

This required, in the first instance, intense pressure on the UN/OPCW team to get them to ‘fall in’ with a ‘narrative’ according to which the results pointed to the government, and they really thought this, but could not say so. It seems possible that this resulted in Sellström being pushed into saying things he did not really mean.

What he actually said to Gwyn Winfield we do not know, because neither the full transcript of the interview, nor the e-mail exchange with Sellström to which Kaszeta refers, have been published.

At the same time, it required distortion of what figures involved in the UN/OPCW investigation, like Scott Cairns, had actually said – together with an exploitation of the gullibility and incuriosity of the MSM. Without a consistent failure on the part of journalists on papers like the ‘New York Times’ and ‘Guardian’ to ask awkward questions, the revival of Kaszeta’s nonsense by the French government would have been impossible.

Its revival is simply more evidence that this diversion attempt was all along part of a co-ordinated ‘information operation’ by corrupt elements in the ‘intelligence communities’ of Western countries, designed to obscure the basic fact that all the available evidence suggests that the toxin used at Ghouta was, as Hersh, ‘sasa wawa’ and Lavrov all claimed, very crude indeed.

It is almost incredible that we have ended up with a situation where figures like Professor Postol, Seymour Hersh, and also ‘sasa wawa’, are almost universally ignored or denigrated by the MSM, while shifty liars like Kaszeta – also Christopher Steele – are taken seriously.

People some day journalists on papers like the ‘New York Times’ and ‘Guardian’ will recover some sense of professional pride. How they can live with themselves I cannot quite understand.

Gen Dau

Just a question. If helicopters did indeed drop CW on Saraqib on 4/29/2013, couldn't they have flown down from Turkey, which is not that far from Saraqib? When the factories in the occupied parts of Aleppo were stripped of all their machinery, the looted machinery was carried off to Turkey on heavy-duty Turkish trucks. Turkey is also rumored to be the source of many CW used by Al Nusra and ISIS in Syria.

Babak Makkinejad

Even if the responsibility for Katyn Maasacare could be correctly assessed and attributed, it would make no difference to the necessity of the keeping the alliance with USSR intact and flourishing.

This is no different now either, Truth matters not, the Western Diocletian states & allies aim to continue their proxy wars and confrontations with the Party of Ali. Except now the Orthodox and the Part of Ali are on the same side.

It is a fine example of Hegelian Dialectics; the Enlightenment Tradition with its anti-clericalism has breathed a new life into an ancient and mostly dormant religious identity among foreigners.

God mocks the works of man.

Publius Tacitus

Thanks. Fixed

Publius Tacitus

You miss the fundamental point. The Syrian Government's military stock of Sarin was binary.

Marko

If the fundamental point , as you say , is that the entire Syrian sarin program is binary , from bulk storage to locked and loaded binary chemical weapons , then why all the debate about hexamine ? Why the lengthy back-and-forth between Postol and Kaszeta about solubility minutiae and the like? Why does the supposed statement by Sellstrom get even a moment of consideration ?

If DF and IPA are never combined , there's never an acid molecule generated for a hexamine molecule to scavenge. In a binary munition that's been deployed , you don't care about 10 seconds worth of corrosion. The whole debate breaks down to speculating about whether at some time in the future Assad might have decided he needed some unitary sarin , and at that time he might possibly have chosen to add hexamine to the unitary mix (or, more sensibly, he might have chosen to add isopropylamine to the IPA precursor component instead).

If the Syria program is all binary all the time , and always has been , then this entire hexamine discussion has been much ado about precisely nothing.

I hope that is in fact the case , but somehow I doubt that it is.

Marko

Ghostship ,

This maybe ? :

http://images.shoutwiki.com/acloserlookonsyria/thumb/1/11/CW_Khan_Sheikhoun_2017_plumes_view.png/920px-CW_Khan_Sheikhoun_2017_plumes_view.png

ex-PFC Chuck

Babak, What you describe is the unfolding of history at its most ironic.

Castellio

God may mock the works of man, but he certainly mocks those who do no work.

optimax

Syria's guilt is predetermined in these gas attacks and all future atrocities. Our purpose is to fracture Syria into warring states, weakening it enough to keep Hezbahla from harassing Israel and progressing it towards the biblical narrative of reforming Ersatz Israel.

YT

Mr. Babak,

Was this meant for another post?

I don't recall commenting here...

Jonathan

ps. The slides have at least 4 "flour" instead of "fluor" typos.

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