Special to WorldTribune.com
By Christopher Sparks, November 8, 2017
The Assad regime is responsible for a sarin gas attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun on April 4 of this year, according to the UN’s chemical weapons investigative body.
Meanwhile, Islamic State (ISIS) carried out a sulfur mustard gas attack on the Syrian town of Um Housh on two consecutive days in September 2016, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM).
In Khan Shaykhun, a Russian-made Sukhoi-22 dropped four bombs, three conventional and one filled with “sarin or a sarin-like substance,” on the town in northern Syria. The attack killed 83 people.
“We have full trust in the JIM’s findings, its professionalism and independence,” said a joint statement by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
The OPCW reported that a sarin gas attack “more than likely” took place in Al Lataminah in Syria, a week before and 15 kilometers from the attack on Khan Shaykhun. The attack bears the hallmarks of the Syrian regime, the OPCW said.
“The Syrian regime violated international law, including the Chemical Weapons Convention. We condemn this heinous act and demand that the Syrian regime immediately cease any and all use of chemical weapons and finally declare to the OPCW all chemical weapons that it possesses,” the joint statement said.
“We agree that it is vital for the international community to continue to investigate cases where chemical weapons have been used in Syria. We therefore urge the United Nations Security Council to maintain the JIM’s investigative capacity. We also call on the OPCW Executive Council to take action in response to the JIM report to send an unequivocal signal that those responsible for the use of chemical weapons will be held accountable.”
Russia disputed the findings of the OPCW and JIM. “There is an impression that the United States was able to look through the document in advance and was reasonably alarmed that the JIM work would be subject to more criticism after its publication,” said Mikhail Ulyanov, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control.
“The document is amateurish and was written as a political put-up job,” Ulyanov added.
In a letter to the UN in September, Syria had denied using chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun.
“The Syria government has not made use of toxic gases against its people, because it is not in possession of such munitions and Damascus views their application as a serious offense,” the letter said.
Christopher Sparks is a veteran journalist who has worked for metropolitan and community newspapers in New York City, Washington, D.C., upstate New York and Florida.