The White House this afternoon released a document concluding with “high confidence” that the Syrian government ordered chemical weapons attacks that resulted in massive casualties in the Damascus area August 21, but the document acknowledges that that absolute confirmation of the Syrian government’s guilt remains elusive.
Nevertheless, the evidence, as presented by the White House, would seem overwhelming and is derived from multiple sources.
The White House also estimates that the nerve agent used killed 1,429 people, including 426 children, a stunning total. What’s more, the White House believes the Syrian government used chemical weapons “on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs.”
Among the conclusions:
- The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery attack like the one that occurred on August 21.
- We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.
- We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack.
- Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred.
- We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations.
Some other evidence was withheld to protect source and methods. Certain classified information not released to the public has been shared with Congress and U.S. allies.