The US on Friday released an unclassified assessment by its intelligence community of the August 21chemical weapons attacks by Syria that killed 1,429 people, including 426 children.
The US said it knows the chemical weapons -- a nerve agent -- were delivered by rockets, at what time they were launched and where they landed. And who launched them.
The attacks, launched early August 21 morning, targeted 12 neighbourhoods outside of Damascus, according to the US assessment, which came with a map showing them.Announcing findings of the assessment on Friday, US secretary of state John Kerry called Syrian president Bashar al-Assad a "thug" and a "murderer".
"We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21," said the document, titled "U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013".
The assessment was intended to address growing concerns about the nature of intelligence in the possession of the administration, which has looked ready to launch a military action any day now.
Kerry said this assessment was shared with congressional leaders, who, also know a little more -- most of it classified information, which won’t be released for now.
The administration wants to make sure Iraq is not repeated.
But there was no word on what will be US response. Kerry only said what it won’t be: no boots on the ground, not open-ended as Afghanistan, and won’t own the civil war.
The US will respond though, for sure. “History would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency,” Kerry said.The response will be "limited" and "tailored" to ensure a "despot’s brutal" use of chemical weapons against is held accountable, Kerry said.
The US alleged Syrian regime officials “directed” the attack. “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.”
And after the attacks, the Syrian government tried to destroy the evidence by bombing the areas with four time more intensity that over the previous few days.
Another communications intercept showed Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations in the afternoon of August 21, a few hours after the attacks.
The assessment also detailed activities that showed preparations were under way for the chemical weapons on that day -- presence of personnel from Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center, which manages Syria’s chemical weapons programme.
And the August 21 attacks were not the first. The US intelligence community believes the Syrian government used chemical weapons on a scale scale multiple times in 2012.