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Report: U.S. Officials Downplay New Syrian Chemical Strike Allegations

A man receives treatment following an alleged Jan. 13 poison gas attack by Syrian government forces in the rebel-held city of Daraya. U.S. State Department officials reportedly offered a muted response to claims about the incident. A man receives treatment following an alleged Jan. 13 poison gas attack by Syrian government forces in the rebel-held city of Daraya. U.S. State Department officials reportedly offered a muted response to claims about the incident. (Fadi al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images)

Allegations of a new chemical attack in Syria's civil war appear to have gained little attention in Washington, the Daily Beast reports.

Representatives from the rebel-held city of Daraya are demanding a U.N. inquiry into the purported Jan. 13 strike, the publication said on Thursday. However, local leader Oussama al-Chourbaji said U.S. State Department officials "didn't seem to care that much" when they heard last week from a delegation of witnesses visiting Washington.

The pro-opposition Syrian Support Group accused forces loyal to President Bashar Assad of killing four rebel combatants with a grenade-like device loaded with an unidentified gas. The substance is said to have caused a range of ailments partially alleviated by a sarin nerve agent antidote.

Dan Layman, a spokesman for the U.S.-based group, said "all of those who were affected or killed had the exact same symptoms" as victims of an Aug. 21 sarin strike in a rebel-occupied area close to Damascus. Assad's regime never claimed responsibility for the 2013 attack, but later confirmed holding chemical weapons and agreed to surrender them amid warnings of a potential U.S. military response.

Al-Chourbaji, a spokesman for the Daraya local council's medical branch, said an individual claiming to be from the U.S. State Department had asked his municipal body to transfer samples from the incident to neighboring Jordan for analysis. The council member said that request came shortly after the Jan. 13 event, but the Daily Beast reported that materials collected from the possible attack had yet to leave the city as of Thursday.

Al-Chourbaji added that State Department officials directed the witnesses visiting Washington last week to take photographs as they collect chemical traces from any future incidents.

"They said, 'If they strike you again with chemical weapons, take pictures and tell us,'" he said. "They just advised us to take pictures [to document the taking of the samples] as if we were in a CSI episode. People are dying [and] we are making a movie."

NTI Analysis

  • Disarming Syria of Its Chemical Weapons: Lessons Learned from Iraq and Libya

    Oct. 31, 2013

    This CNS issue brief examines the lessons learned from dismantling Libya and Iraq's chemical weapons programs and what these two cases presage for disarmament in Syria. In particular, this article explores the challenges relating to ensuring material and physical security for both inspectors and the chemical weapons stockpile itself; verifying the accuracy and completeness of disclosed inventories; and developing effective monitoring and verification regimes for the long-term. The conclusion examines recommendations stemming from this analysis.

  • UNSCR 1540 Resource Collection

    Oct. 21, 2013

    The UNSCR 1540 Resource Collection examines implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to implement measures aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring NBC weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. It details implementation efforts in all of the regions and countries of the world to-date.