Scientific journal pulls paper about Syria chemical attack
Science & Global Security has decided not to publish a paper that questions whether the Khan Shaykhun gas attacks were actually carried out by the Syrian government.
KHAN SHAYKHUN, SYRIA — In 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase, in retaliation for a heinous chemical attack it claimed Syria carried out on its own people.
But was it really the Syrian government who was responsible, or have we been fed a narrative that may not actually be true?
According to the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, on the morning of April 4, 2017, a chemical bomb suspected to contain sarin gas was dropped from an aircraft over the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun.
The bomb allegedly struck the middle of a road, creating a crater 1.5 to 1.65 meters in diameter and half a meter deep, and releasing sarin gas upon impact.
According to an April 7 report by the Idlib Health Directorate, the gas dispersed through the town, resulting in the deaths of 89 people, 33 of them children. 541 others were injured.
UN investigators later released a report confirming evidence of sarin being dropped from a plane, and stating the Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, was responsible for the April 4 attack.
Now, a controversial paper authored by MIT professor emeritus Theodore Postol and other experts is challenging the mainstream narrative.
Using computational forensic analysis on the crater, Postol et. al found that its size and shape, as well as damage to a pipe thought to be the sarin vessel, is inconsistent with an aerial bomb.
Instead, detonation and impact simulations indicate that it may have been generated by a 122-millimeter artillery rocket armed with a high-explosive warhead — a weapon the Syrian government does not have a monopoly on.
This type of munition could not have been used as a delivery device for sarin, since based on the analysis, the rocket's volume would be used up by the propellant and the warhead.
The split pipe identified as a sarin container by the Joint Investigative Mechanism is likely just the casing of the rocket motor that propelled the warhead to the explosion site.
Postol et al. also analyzed photographic evidence of the crater, in particular two sets of images — one showing it with a red skeletal marker, and one without.
Advanced deterioration on the crater and the disappearance of loose debris in one set of images indicate they were taken at a later time and possibly modified. The position of the damaged pipe also changes — bending outward in one set, and inward in another.
According to Science, Postol's controversial report was initially set to be published in Science & Global Security, a prestigious scientific journal. But the publication has gone back on its decision, citing several unspecified issues.
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