Recognizing the number of casualties is a moving target, at least 426 children are among the 1,429 people killed in last week’s chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The UN estimates 70,000+ have been killed during the two year conflict as featured in a Syria-focused Flipbook magazine by the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders.
— Doctors w/o Borders (@MSF_USA) August 29, 2013
These casualty numbers attributed to the attacks were disclosed in today’s Unclassified US Intelligence Assessment, which included the above map. The report asserts, “with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack.”
The assessment which was issued by the White House Press Office is a result of all-source analysis across the Intelligence Community and in addition to traditional intel reporting, utilizes testimonials from medical personnel, witnesses and social media. Social media reporting started at 2:30 am local time on the day of the attacks and after four hours, thousands had communicated from no less than 12 Damascus-area locations. Policy makers also received a Classified briefing on the report which will not be released to the public so as to protect sources and methods.
“There is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack,” the assessment concludes. Intercepts of Syrian officials give evidence that the regime initiated the attacks. Similar reports even revealed concerns about UN inspectors obtaining evidence in the aftermath. Intelligence suggests the regime continued shelling in nearby neighborhoods through the early hours of 26 August.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry both issued statements today in response to the assessment. The President is still considering options but he stressed that any action taken would be, “a limited, narrow act,” that would not require, “boots on the ground.”
NBC News conducted a survey shortly before the release of the assessment in which 35 out of 100 respondents approved of Obama’s handling of the Syrian case. Half would support a US military response if it was restricted to air strikes launched from US ships.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 30, 2013
Secretary Kerry urged the American public to read the intelligence assessment in its entirety, stressing the Administration’s desire to share available information, “with the citizens who have entrusted all of us… with the responsibility for their security.”
“And we know it was ordinary Syrian citizens who reported all the horrors.” Kerry commended those who turned to social media, “we know, as does the world, that just 90 minutes later all hell broke loose in the social media.”
Reasoning for the regime’s appalling actions is believed to be frustration with an inability to secure Damascus and its suburbs with conventional weapons against oppositionists. In fact, the Syrian regime may have conducted earlier, small scale chemical weapons attacks in the last year, the assessment goes on to report. The US is joined in confirming Damascus’ culpability in the attacks by Australia, Britain, France and Turkey; Britain alone has come out firmly against a military response.[Images via the White House Press Office.]