Details buried in the UN report on the Syrian chemical weapons attack point directly at elite military formations loyal to president Bashar Assad, some of the strongest findings to date that suggest the government gassed its own people.
The inspectors, instructed to investigate the attack but not to assign blame, nonetheless listed the precise compass directions of flight for two rocket strikes that appeared to lead back toward the government’s elite redoubt in Damascus, Mount Qasioun, which overlooks and protects neighbourhoods and Assad’s presidential palace and where his Republican Guard and the army’s powerful Fourth Division are entrenched.
“It is the centre of gravity of the regime,” said Elias Hanna, a retired general in the Lebanese army and a lecturer on strategy and geopolitics at the American University of Beirut. “It is the core of the regime.”
In presenting the data concerning two rocket strikes — the significance of which was not commented upon by the US itself — the report provides a stronger indication than the public statements to date of intelligence services of the US, France or Britain that the Syrian military not only carried out the attack, but apparently did so brazenly, firing from the same ridges from which it has been firing barrages of high-explosive conventional munitions for much of the war.
Rebel forces have never penetrated the major military installations of Mount Qasioun. The UN’ evidence was gathered through standard measurements and investigative techniques at the places where sarin-filled rockets struck on August 21.
At one impact site, investigators found both the place where the rocket had passed through a “vegetal screen” above a wall just before it hit the ground, and the small impact crater itself.
Proof against rebels
Meanwhile, Moscow will send the UN information it received from Syria implicating rebels in last month’s chemical attack, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.
Lavrov’s deputy said earlier he had met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and received “evidence” from Damascus implicating the rebels in the August 21 gas attack.
Moscow will review the new materials and “of course, present them in the UN Security Council,” Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying. He reaffirmed Russia’s position that the chemical attack on the suburb of Ghouta was likely a “provocation” by the rebels.