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Anton Utkin

PhD in Chemistry, Chemical Weapons Expert, Former UN inspector in Iraq, Creator of Russian chemical weapons destruction technologies

On November 16, the Security Council failed to renew the mandate of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM). During these discussions on the Syria issue, Russia used its veto power three times in one month. This was due to deep concern with the quality of the investigation in Syria. Here we will analyze the 7th JIM report with regards to the incident at Khan Shaykhun.

JIM first argues that an aircraft dropped munitions over Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017. However, the JIM report omitted multiple contradictory interviews in its analysis. It also failed to address that experts considered satellite imagery inconclusive and that the metadata of videos used as evidence could have been manipulated.

JIM also states that an aircraft of the Syrian Arab Republic was in the immediate vicinity of Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017. Based on the impact location and aerial maps of flight activities around Khan Shaykhun, it is impossible to state with a high confidence that the Syrian Arab Air Force Su-22 in the immediate vicinity of Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017 could perform an aerial bomb attack.

Although JIM states that the crater from which the sarin emanated was created on the morning of 4 April 2017, satellite images of the area were available only from 21 February 2017 and 6 April 2017. So JIM could not be certain that bombing happened during the period from 3 April to 6 April because there were no images of Khan Shaykhun available from this time period.

The claim that the crater was caused by the impact of an aerial bomb travelling at high velocity, not an improvised explosive, is called into question by evidence found at the site. This includes evidence of disturbance at the site after impact, the missing tail portion of the bomb at the impact site, the position of the filler cap, the discrepancies in condition between the filler cap and a found piece of metal at the site.

JIM states that a large number of people were affected by sarin between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017, but the timing of the admitted patients as indicated in the hospital records are not consistent with exposure beginning at 0630 hours in 44 percent of cases. JIM also failed to verify the victims’ home addresses and exposure potential at those addresses.

JIM points out that the continued presence of sarin gas at the site 10 days after the incident is consistent with a chemical aerial bomb. However, this is no less consistent with the use of an improvised explosive device.

The symptoms of the victims and their medical treatment are shown by JIM as being consistent with large-scale sarin poisoning. However, using the same style of logical connection through indications of “consistency” for two arguments of very different levels of confidence (this argument and the argument prior) demonstrates that JIM lacks technical professionalism.

JIM also claims that the sarin identified in the samples taken from Khan Shaykhun was found to have most likely been made with a precursor from the original stockpile of the Syrian Arab Republic. However, the “marker chemicals” present in the sample are not necessarily exclusive to the Syrian Arab Republic’s stockpile, but rather any stockpile which uses similar chemical processes and products to produce sarin.

Right now it seems very important to overcome the differences in the positions of some countries and make sure that a transparent international mechanism is established in the nearest future to avoid the erosion of international trust in politically homogeneous and opaque organizations such as the UN and OPCW.

On November 16, the Security Council failed to renew for another year the mandate of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (hereinafter “JIM”) set to expire on November 17. The US draft was rejected by Russian veto (voting 11 in favour, 2 against, 2 abstained). The Russian draft was also rejected by the Security Council (4 in favour, 7 against, 4 abstained). The next day, another draft resolution, tabled by Japan, was vetoed by Russia (12 in favour, 2 against, 1 abstained) despite the fact that the final draft was a certain compromise. It would have given 30 days extension to JIM and requested the Secretary-General to submit within 20 days proposals reflecting the views of Security Council members on the structure and methodology of JIM and OPCW. Just three weeks before, on October 24, Russia vetoed yet another draft resolution proposed by the US which would have extended JIM’s mandate.

Why did Russia use its veto power three times in one month, totaling 11, on the Syria issue? It is well known that vetoing is used as the last resort, and the permanent members of the Security Council are aware that every veto usually causes a storm of criticism from those who are on the opposite side. This is true in the case of the JIM mandate decision, as demonstrated when the US Ambassador Nikki Haley allowed her emotions to run high enough to state that “Russia accepts the use of chemical weapons in Syria.” This is obviously more than an exaggeration as Russia is extremely consistent with its chemical disarmament background and a participant of all relevant conventions and international agreements. Russia began its chemical demilitarization in the ‘80s by signing the Wyoming Memorandum to become one of the founders of Chemical Weapons Convention. Russia played a key role in getting rid of Syrian chemical weapons. Despite financial obstacles, Russia was able to destroy its own arsenal of chemical weapons, the largest in the world, ahead of the extended deadline.

If the Russian position is observed during the last year, it could easily be seen that Russia was deeply concerned with the quality of the investigation in Syria. Before the October voting, Russia wanted to review the 7th JIM report first, stressing that “The Russian Federation expected an honest, impartial, complete investigation, and would accept clear, incontrovertible evidence of guilt.” Russia’s intent was to delay the voting until it was made possible to see JIM’s work results. That did not sound unreasonable, as the report was due to be published on November 6 while JIM’s mandate was expiring on November 17. This would leave enough time to decide on JIM’s future. However, the US was insisting on making the decision while turning a blind eye on the JIM’s work outcome.

Having read JIM’s last report, Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian envoy, expressed his disagreement with its conclusion, saying that “there can be no other way after the JIM’s leadership disgraced itself with its fictitious investigation into the sarin use incident in Khan Shaykhun and signed off on baseless accusations against Syria.” According to Russia the report was filled with “omissions, inconsistencies and contradictions.” It also says the report does not follow standard procedures for an impartial inquiry as it relies on questionable testimonies provided by rebels and NGOs, some of which allegedly have ties with terrorists. In particular, it pointed to experts’ refusal to visit the site of the attack despite security guarantees.

All in all, Russia was so disappointed with the results of the report that it casted three vetoes in a row to put an end to the OPCW-UN mechanism that Russia had initiated together with the United States.

This article is a contribution to the analysis of 7th JIM report in an effort to understand how reasonable or groundless the Russian accusations of JIM’s work are.

Background

There were two international bodies with regard to alleged use of chemical weapons on the territory of Syria:

— Fact-Finding Mission (hereinafter “FFM”), established on the basis of the OPCW authority under the Chemical Weapons Convention (hereinafter “Convention”) on 29 April 2014;

— OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (hereinafter “JIM”), established by the Security Council resolution 2235 (2015) on 7 August 2015.

The FFM does not have the task of attributing responsibility for the alleged use of chemical weapons. That notion is fixed in several documents, such as OPCW Executive Council decisions and SC resolution 2235. This means that the responsibility of the FFM is limited only to collecting all available information about an incident and concluding whether chemical weapons were used or not.

Unlike the FFM, JIM is authorized by the SC resolution 2235 (2015) “…to identify to the greatest extent feasible individuals, entities, groups, or governments who were perpetrators, organisers, sponsors or otherwise involved in the use of chemicals as weapons… .” The same resolution states that the FFM should fully cooperate with JIM “…to provide full access to all information and evidence obtained or prepared by the FFM including, but not limited to, medical records, interview tapes and transcripts, and documentary material… .” The coordination between the missions suggests that the FFM provides JIM with all collected information on the alleged use, and JIM is supposed to analyze that information. However, JIM is not limited to information collected by the FFM; it can conduct its own additional investigation.

At the same time, “the Mechanism is not mandated to act and function as a judicial or quasi-judicial body. Moreover, it does not have any authority or jurisdiction, either directly or indirectly, to make a formal or binding judicial determination of criminal liability.”

Since its establishment, JIM has issued 7 reports. As a result, before completing the latest report, JIM’s work had already resulted in naming parties responsible for the use of chemicals as weapons in 4 cases at the following sites:

— Marea (21 August 2015) – ISIL;

— Qmenas, Idlib governorate (16 March 2015) – Syrian Arab Armed Forces;

— Talmenes (21 April 2014) – Syrian Arab Armed Forces;

— Sarmin (16 March 2015) – Syrian Arab Armed Forces.

These ambiguous conclusions had been repeatedly criticized by the Russian Federation, especially those conclusions in which the Syrian Government had been made responsible for the incidents. According to Russia, there were a lot of flaws in the JIM’s earlier reports:

— JIM fell short of explaining reasons for the Syrian Government to use chemical weapons;

— JIM was giving priority to information from opposition groups, which violates the impartiality principle;

— JIM did not have firsthand evidence as visits to the incident sites never happened;

— Russia questioned the practical possibility of JIM’s statement that the canister dropped from a Syrian helicopter could fall into the house kitchen through a “ventilation shaft”;

— JIM blaming the Syrian Government on the grounds of lacking “evidence that armed opposition groups … had been operating a helicopter at the time and location of the incident” did not sound convincing as absence of evidence is not evidence of absence;

— JIM did not draw any conclusions from the fact that some videos perceived to be taken at the time of the incident in reality were taken one day before or two days after the incident;

— etc.

To improve JIM’s work, Russia proposed some changes to the functions of JIM including setting up a center where all information from different sources would be collected and made available to the Security Council.

Russia’s concern was ignored by the Western countries, and the publishing of the 7th JIM report, which did not address Russia’s frustrations, became the turning point in JIM’s fate.

Though the report covers two incidents, in Umm Hawsh and in Khan Shaykhun, the 7th JIM report will be analyzed only with regard to the incident at Khan Shaykhun, which is of the utmost concern to the Russian Federation.

In order to make references to information sources more convenient to the reader in the following text, the term ‘JIM report’ refers to the “Seventh Report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism,” and the term ‘FFM report’ refers to the “Report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria regarding an alleged incident in Khan Shaykhun, Syrian Arab Republic. April 2017.”

Arguments provided by JIM to support the conclusion about responsibility of SAR for the Khan Shaykhun sarin incident

According to 7th JIM report, the 9 arguments below convinced the JIM Leading Panel of SAR’s responsibility for the release of sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017 (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 93):

1)    Aircraft dropped munitions over Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017;

2)    An aircraft of the Syrian Arab Republic was in the immediate vicinity of Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017;

3)    The crater from which the sarin emanated was created on the morning of 4 April 2017;

4)    The crater was caused by the impact of an aerial bomb travelling at high velocity;

5)    A large number of people were affected by sarin between 0630 and 0700 hours on the morning of 4 April 2017;

6)    The number of persons affected by the release of sarin on 4 April 2017, and the fact that sarin reportedly continued to be present at the site of the crater 10 days after the incident, indicate that a large amount of sarin was likely released, which is consistent with its being dispersed through a chemical aerial bomb;

7)    The symptoms of the victims and their medical treatment, as well as the scale of the incident, are consistent with large-scale sarin poisoning;

8)    The sarin identified in the samples taken from Khan Shaykhun was found to have most likely been made with a precursor (DF) from the original stockpile of the Syrian Arab Republic;

9)    The irregularities described in the present annex are not of such a nature as to call into question the aforementioned findings.

These arguments are elaborated in Annex II to the report. Let us consider every argument and analyze how credible and reliable they are.

1) Aircraft dropped munitions over Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017

This argument is elaborated in two sections: “Date and time” and “Air deployment.” There are two important points in the argument: delivery method and timing. In both sections, it is stated that JIM collected two original videos (JIM, Annex II, paragraphs 11 and 18) showing several plumes filmed by two witnesses between 0642 and 0652 hours during the morning of 4 April 2017. At a certain point in each video, the sound of aircraft could be heard in the background along with an explosion. According to the results of the forensic analysis, the “footage had not been manipulated and had been taken on the outskirts of Khan Shaykhun” (JIM, Annex II, paragraph 11).

This closes the JIM discussion about the method of deployment in the report. The rest of the section “Air deployment” analyzes if it was Syrian Arab Air Force Su-22 that attacked Khan Shaykhun, but already on the basis of proven fact that the aircraft dropped munitions.

However, there was a witness who reported an explosion at around 0700 hours without any sound of aircraft (JIM, Annex II, paragraph 32). He also mentioned that aircraft had begun to launch attacks only at around 1100 hours.

The JIM report does not mention any more witnesses at the site and time of the alleged attack. However, one witness in the FFM report reported hearing a swooping sound, as made by a jet when it attacks, but without a subsequent loud explosive sound (FFM, paragraph 5.14). Then he was warned via a radio about another jet attack and took cover (FFM, paragraph 5.15).

Two other interviewees mentioned in the FFM report stated that there was an established early warning system that used hand-held radios to pass warning messages in case of aircraft overflights so that townspeople could take cover. However, on the morning of the incident they reported that no such warnings were received until around 11:00 to 11:30, and no aircraft were observed until that time (FFM report, paragraph 5.29).

Certainly testimonies, especially with some contradictions between them, are of low credibility, but it should be noted that no witnesses are mentioned to report seeing an aircraft during the time of the alleged attack.

We suggest that because of the contradictions, JIM omitted these interviews in its analysis. Instead, JIM is making ground for the argument #1 by a sort of physical evidence: photographs and two videos with plumes. The point that the videos “had not been manipulated” adds to the reliability of those videos. These videos show four plumes from explosions in Khan Shaykhun, and the sound of a jet can be heard at the time of the alleged attack. If proven to be taken on the morning of April 4, and if the plumes can be related to the craters or building damages caused during that time, these videos would strongly support the idea that an aircraft could have dropped munition over Khan Shaykhun. Otherwise the argument would be useless.

Though JIM does not discuss this apparent problem in the sections establishing this first argument, we can find elaboration of the plume issue in the section “Impact location.” In this section, JIM makes an effort “to identify other points of impact possibly associated with the release of sarin” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraphs 40-44). This analysis was required in order for JIM to state that the only source of sarin was the crater “located at approximately 35°26′59.75"N, 36°38′55.91″E” and well known from the photographs and videos in mass media. Those plumes were identified to emanate from two points: “approximately 320 m south-west of the crater and ... approximately 1.3 km south-south-west of the crater.” Experts analyzed satellite imagery available to the Mechanism that had been taken of Khan Shaykhun on 21 February 2017 and 6 April 2017, and here is the result: “the Mechanism could not conclusively determine that the building had been bombed on 4 April 2017.” This means that there is no physical evidence in the form of damage or craters proving that plumes were associated with aerial bombing on 4 April 2017.

At the same time, we know that the videos “had not been manipulated,” which gives the videos the power of documentary evidence. This is the only remaining support for the assertion that air deployment occurred on the morning of 4 April 2017. Unfortunately, JIM does not elaborate the issue of “absence of manipulation” in this report. However, we know that JIM follows certain methodology from investigation to investigation, and if we look into the “Third report of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism,” we can see that forensic analysis of videos includes checking metadata or, more specifically, timestamps. JIM notes “that metadata depend on the settings of the recording device used and can be altered.” In other words, it says that a timestamp would display the time and date that the user of a telephone or a tablet or a camera can set manually. Although content of the videos is not manipulated, their recorded date of origin can be.

The “unmanipulated” videos do not seem to be very credible evidence anymore.

To close the analysis of the argument #1, it is worth quoting the FFM report: “...after analysing photographs and video supplied by witnesses, the FFM could not establish with a great degree of confidence the means of deployment and dispersal of the chemical” (FFM report, paragraph 6.19).

2) An aircraft of the Syrian Arab Republic was in the immediate vicinity of Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017

In the “Air deployment” section, “the Mechanism investigated whether a Syrian Arab Air Force Su-22 had taken off from Sha‘irat airbase, located 110 km south of Khan Shaykhun, and launched an air attack on the town that morning” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 19). This means that the argument #2 can appear in the logical flow of evidences of the SAR responsibility only if the answer for this investigation is ‘yes,’ SAAF Su-22 launched the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun.

From this section we learn the following facts concerning the SAAF activities on the morning of 4 April:

— The Syrian Government provided detailed information on two Su-22 that took flight on the morning of 4 April targeting non-State armed groups in the vicinity of Kafr Zayta and Tall Hawash situated approximately 8 km south-west and 18 km west of Khan Shaykhun, respectively;

— JIM visited Sha‘irat airbase to confirm the information received from the Syrian government and found it to be in good correlation with the facts discovered at the airbase;

— One of the pilots mentioned that “the closest distance to Khan Shaykhun flown on that date had been approximately 7 to 9 km”;

— JIM was able to confirm damages caused by the aerial attacks of those two flights through analysis of satellite imagery, though “could not precisely determine when the damage had occurred.”

As a result of this analysis, JIM declares that “to date, the Mechanism has found no specific information confirming whether or not a Syrian Arab Air Force Su-22 operating from Sha‘irat airbase launched an aerial attack on Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 31).

So, the answer is – no? Well, it is not that simple. Though JIM does not have “specific information,” it has available indirect evidence.

In the same section JIM puts together the following information:

— The Governments of France and the United States of America publicly provided information indicating that a SAAF Su-22 had taken off from Sha‘irat airbase on 4 April 2017, flown over Khan Shaykhun at 0637 and 0646 hours, and launched up to six attacks around Khan Shaykhun;

— The aerial maps provided by the US and other sources show that the closest SAAF Su-22 had been approximately 5 km away from Khan Shaykhun;

— A weapons expert who consulted JIM concluded that depending on altitude, speed and the flight path taken, it would be possible for such an aerial bomb to be dropped on the town from the aforementioned distances.

Now, here are the indirect evidences of SAR responsibility. Let us look closer at this evidence.

Though there is obvious contradiction between “flown over Khan Sheykhun” and “5 km away from Khan Shaykhun,” the most important fact is that the closest distance from a Su-22 and Khan Shaykhun was not less than 5 km. This rules out the possibility of a dive attack as in that case the aircraft would have to fly over the target. This leaves only a scenario in which a bomb deployed from high altitude travelled 5 km to the town center. This requires that at the moment of deployment, the aircraft flight direction would be bearing towards the target.

According to Russian Air Force specialists, a Su-22 can aim a bomb attack from an altitude of 4 000 m and below. Theoretically, it is possible that from this altitude, from a distance of 5 km, at a speed of 800-1000 km/h, a bomb deployed from an aircraft could reach the crater location in Khan Shaykhun. This could happen only if the aircraft flight direction was bearing towards the crater location.

The aerial map provided by the Pentagon (Picture 1) shows the flight activities of two Syrian Su-22s indicated by dots representing radar return signals. Picture 2 magnifies the area of the Pentagon’s map around Khan Shaykhun. Connecting the dots provides all possible aircraft paths in the vicinity of the town.


Picture 1. Aerial map provided by Pentagon.

All possible paths at a distance of 5 km from the center of the town would make it impossible for an aircraft to deploy a bomb to effectively reach the town center. At this distance, the Su-22 was moving tangentially to the town border. A bomb deployed at that moment would continue to fly along the Su-22’s path and land about 10 km East-South from the town center. Put simply, it means that to get to the crater location, the bomb had to be thrown with the speed of several hundred km/h from the side of the aircraft at 90 degrees from the aircraft bearing.


Picture 2. Possible Su-22 flight paths.

It should be noted that two out of the 4 possible paths, #3 and #4, have certain parts where Su-22 was flying directly to the town center. However, at those points the aircraft was at a distance significantly exceeding 10 km from the town center which makes the likelihood of aiming a bomb attack impossible. A bomb would not have enough momentum to travel such a long distance even from a higher altitude.

As a result of the analysis, it is possible to state with a high confidence that the Syrian Arab Air Force Su-22 in the immediate vicinity of Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017 could not perform an aerial bomb attack.

3) The crater from which the sarin emanated was created on the morning of 4 April 2017

Evidence used by JIM to prove that the crater was created on the morning of 4 April 2017 include (JIM report, Annex II, paragraphs 10-12):

— Multiple reports released by media;

— Witnesses testimonies;

— Videos and images of the plumes;

— Analysis of satellite images.

Media reports are not the best source of facts for an international investigation as they are often politicized, overemotional, and even misleading. The testimonies are contradicting, videos and images can be altered. However, a number of sources on 4 April indicate that a crater existed on a road in Khan Shaykhun on that day. So it is very likely that the crater had already existed by the morning of 4 April. But how do we know that crater was not created on the evening of 3 April or earlier or during the night from 3 to 4 April? Here is the JIM answer: “…on the basis of satellite images from 3 April 2017, which do not show the presence of the crater at that time, the Mechanism has confidence that the crater was caused by an impact on 4 April 2017” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 12). However, after discussing the first argument we already know that JIM could not associate damages with the plumes because satellite imagery was only available from 21 February 2017 and 6 April 2017. So JIM could not be certain that bombing happened during the period from 3 April to 6 April because there were no images of Khan Shaykhun from 3 April available. This reveals a contradiction – images from 3 April were not available to determine plumes’ locations but they were at hand to determine the time when the crater was created. As the distance between the crater and plumes was from 320 m to 1.3 km, it is hard to believe that images of Khan Shaykhun from 3 April included the spot where a day later a crater would appear and did not include the area 320 m away.

But no matter why JIM was so selective in using evidence, the satellite images can only confirm that there was no crater on the road during daylight on 3 April. This leaves at least around 12 hours available for creation of the crater during the night, and JIM does not provide any more evidence or discussion on this issue.

4) The crater was caused by the impact of an aerial bomb travelling at high velocity

The detailed discussion to justify this argument is provided in the sections “Crater analysis” and “Munition analysis.” All discussion is based on analysis of characteristics of the images and photographs of the location from several independents sources (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 45). Below is a short summary of the discussion proving the point of an “aerial bomb traveling at high velocity” without unnecessary repeating similar expert opinions:

— According to experts the crater “site appeared to have been disturbed after impact”;

— According to experts, indications were found that the ground had been hit by a substantially heavy object that had travelled at high velocity, though “it could not rule out the idea that the crater had been caused by other means”;

— According to experts, the type of munition most likely to have caused the crater was a relatively large bomb with a mass of 300 to 450 kg, probably filled with liquid and dropped from 4 to 10 km, which is proved by the relatively circular shape of the crater with a diameter of approximately 1.5 to 1.65 m and a depth of between 42 and 51 cm.;

— A filler cap and a deformed piece of metal have been found in the crater;

— According to some information, the filler cap is uniquely consistent with Syrian chemical aerial bombs;

— According to experts, the piece of metal is the casing of an aerial bomb measuring between 300 and 500 mm in diameter based on the size and thickness of the metal piece protruding from the crater;

— The rest of munition remnants have little probative value as they lack chain of custody.

With respect to different scenarios of crater formation, the outcome of the discussion is the following:

— According to experts, an improvised explosive on the ground is ruled out based on:

     o   appearance of the crater;

     o   opinion that “such an explosion would have caused much more damage to the surroundings than what had been observed”;

     o   the fact that the metal objects protruding from the crater are too deeply embedded to be consistent with such a scenario;

— According to experts, the use of a ground-launched munition was unlikely, as no remnants peculiar to a rocket had been evident in the crater or found in its vicinity;

— Experts dismissed the possibility of excavation and placement of the objects based on the appearance of the crater, depth of objects buried in the crater, and lack of marks of excavation tools on the crater edges;

— If the same quantity of sarin were used, an aerial bomb would be expected to deposit smaller amounts of sarin on the ground than an explosive charge placed directly on the ground (section “Dispersion of sarin”).

The analysis of this discussion provided by JIM to defend argument #4 clearly shows that most of the conclusions of the experts were made on the assumption that the appearance of the crater site is genuine, i.e. the crater on the photographs and videos looks exactly as it looked at the moment of its formation. However, “a defence research institute with expertise in high explosives and related materials noted that the site appeared to have been disturbed after impact” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 49). This means that the crater’s appearance was altered. All these arguments discuss only the appearance of the changed site, not to the appearance of the genuine crater. JIM does not address this issue at all.

Every munitions expert knows that after bomb deployment, the tail of a bomb almost always remains comparatively intact. This is especially true for chemical bombs, in which the chemical agent is usually located between the bursting charge and the tail and absorbs a significant part of the explosion, leaving less damage for the tail. It is reasonable to expect that the tail portion of the bomb in Khan Shaykhun would be found near the crater. This is not the case. JIM does not address this issue at all.

Another fact that is difficult to explain is a filler cap that was found in the crater. JIM carefully avoids firm conclusion regarding whether or not there was an explosion, limiting the discussion to some hints that “any explosion from the bursting charge would be small” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 54). This point is very important to note because an explosion that is able to rip the filler cap out clean from the munition body should be quite powerful, which leaves little chances for the cap to stay in the crater as the burst would send the loose parts of the munition body to the sides with significant force. The probability that a filler cap originally located on the side of a Syrian bomb could stay in the crater after such explosion is vanishingly small. Theoretically, it could happen only if the bomb exploded lying on its side, filler cap down, which is highly unlikely for a bomb dropped from an altitude of 4 to 10 km. In the case of no explosion, the bomb would penetrate the surface with very high energy, forming a sort of a tunnel. But in this case the whole munition body would stay at the crater. JIM does not address this issue at all.

Additionally, the filler cap and a piece of metal found in the crater seem to have different history. There are some images of good enough quality which demonstrate that the filler cap is highly corroded with no paint on it, while the piece of metal is painted with no apparent marks of corrosion. The filler cap is lying with its outer side facing up; this is unlikely, as during an explosion the inner side is pushed from the inside out, forcing the outer side of the munition body against surface of an obstacle. So, the filler cap should lie with its inner side facing up unless it was turned over or artificially placed in the crater. Additionally, a chemical munition body is torn during an explosion into a flower-like shape. The shape of the piece of metal in the crater is not consistent with this type of tearing. JIM does not address these issues at all.

The rest of munition remnants, according to JIM, have little probative value as they lack chain of custody. As JIM leaves these remnants without consideration and discussion, we have to draw the conclusion that the filler cap and metal piece found in the crater have full chain of custody. Otherwise, JIM, being consistent in its methodology and impartiality principle, would not use it as grounds for its argument. Unfortunately, there is no indication that those samples have a better chain of custody than do the other remnants, except that some of them appear more often on the pictures than the others. Though reluctantly, we have to admit that from the pool of remnants without chain of custody, JIM takes some to use as proof and leaves others as lacking confidence.

Another important conclusion drawn by JIM addressed the possibility of the use of a ground-launched munition. According to JIM, this was unlikely, as “no remnants peculiar to a rocket had been evident in the crater or found in its vicinity” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 50). The absence of a tail, the most peculiar remnant of a bomb, does not lead JIM to a conclusion that the use of a bomb was unlikely. Yes, the filler cap found is indeed peculiar to a Syrian chemical bomb, but based on the set of points discussed above, finding the cap in the crater is rather contradictory to the idea of a bomb. Considering that the site “was disturbed after impact,” how does JIM know that the remnants of a ground-launched munition, ground-placed improvised munition, or some other munition were not removed? JIM does not discuss that.

Finally, in the section “Dispersion of sarin,” JIM compares two scenarios, aerial bomb and improvised explosive device, with regards to the dispersion of sarin. This discussion was sparked by the fact that sarin was detected “10 days after the incident, in the crater area and the area near the silos 80 m to the east of the crater” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 67). The comparison is made through dispersion modeling conducted by a defence research institute commissioned by JIM. As a result of this comparison, JIM draws the conclusion that “the analysis supports the scenario of an aerial bomb depositing a larger amount of sarin on or into the ground than would be deposited by an improvised explosive device containing 25 litres of sarin.” This is one of the strangest statements provided by JIM in this report. First, according to the experts, “no firm conclusion as to the amount of sarin used in Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017 could be established” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 66). Second, the experts state that “if the same quantity of sarin were used, an aerial bomb would be expected to deposit smaller amounts of sarin on the ground than an explosive charge placed directly on the ground” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 66). Third, after modeling, JIM compares the amount of sarin to be deposited on the ground by a bomb with 150-250 liters of sarin depositing 10-15 % of its content on the ground and an improvised explosive device containing 25 liters of sarin. Fourth, JIM notes that a bomb with an amount of sarin 10 times larger than in the improvised explosive device would deposit more sarin on the ground (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 67). Fifth, JIM states that “the analysis supports the scenario of an aerial bomb depositing a larger amount of sarin on or into the ground than would be deposited by an improvised explosive device containing 25 litres of sarin” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 68). It seems that there are general systemic flaws in the JIM logic. If the amount of sarin is unknown, why is volume of the improvised device set to 25 liters? To make a conclusion about the amount of sarin to be deposited by an improvised device, the design of such device should be well understood. For instance, if the device is designed with an explosive located on the top of a container with sarin, the amount of sarin deposited on the ground could be much higher than in case of a bomb. Why would JIM compare two munitions with different amount of sarin if the result seems quite obvious – the munition with larger amount of sarin leaves more sarin on the ground then the one with smaller amount? If, according to the experts, a comparison of munitions with the same quantity of sarin shows smaller amounts of sarin on the ground in the case of a bomb, using a bomb 10 times larger than an improvised explosive device as a point of comparison looks like manipulation.

What is even more important is that in the effort to construct some argument from ill assumptions and logic, JIM overlooked a very important issue. JIM mentioned that 10 days after the incident, traces of sarin were found in the area near the silos 80 m to the east of the crater. It is extremely unlikely that sarin could be present there, as about 20 meters from the crater, the east direction is blocked by the wall of a building. Besides this, the OPCW team established that between 0600 and 0900 hours the wind was moving from south and east with speed of 2-4 miles/hour (FFM report, paragraphs 5.6 and 5.7), which would prevent an aerosol cloud formed after the explosion to get 80 meters to the east from the crater, move around the building from the side looking to the south, and precipitate on the ground. It should be noted that finding sarin 10 days after release on the open ground indicates that the initial amount of chemical agent deposited 80 meters to the east of the crater should be significant. The question stays unanswered – how did it happen that such a significant amount of sarin could be found at such distance and conditions if an aerial bomb created the crater?

And again, there is the conclusion of the munitions experts from OPCW specialized in chemical weapons who have analyzed the same photographs and videos and definitely seen all of these problems, which can be summed up in the discussion of JIM’s argument #4: “after analysing photographs and video supplied by witnesses, the FFM could not establish with a great degree of confidence the means of deployment and dispersal of the chemical” (FFM report, paragraph 6.19).

5) A large number of people were affected by sarin between 0630 and 0700 hours on the morning of 4 April 2017

This argument is discussed in section “Medical effects and response.” The actual information is presented by JIM in Annex II, paragraph 77:

— Total number of medical records of the patients from Khan Shaykhun received by JIM is 247;

— Several hospitals appeared to have begun admitting casualties of the attack between 0640 and 0645 hours;

— In 57 cases patients had been admitted to five hospitals before the incident (at 0600, 0620 and 0640 hours);

— In 10 cases patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 125 km away from Khan Shaykhun at 0700 hours

— In 42 cases patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 30 km away at 0700 hours.

Fast calculation shows that in 109 cases out of 247, the records directly contradict this JIM argument. It should be noted that the records indicate the time when a patient is present in the hospital admission area. It takes significant time for rescuers to find a victim of sarin exposure, make an effort to administer first aid, recognize the need for professional medical care, and deliver the patient to the hospital, especially if it is located 30 or 125 km away. In the case of a large-scale incident when most observers of the victims symptoms might have difficulty distinguishing nerve agent exposure from the flu or food intoxication, the reaction time could be even longer. All these factors could indicate that the exposure started much earlier than at 0630 hours. Is it reasonable to expect that JIM looks into these facts and explains the contradiction? Here is the JIM answer: “the Mechanism did not investigate those discrepancies and cannot determine whether they are linked to any possible staging scenario or are the result of poor record-keeping in chaotic conditions.” However, “those discrepancies” represent about 44% of cases, contradicting the JIM version fundamentally. This is far from statistical error. This is a problem.

Did JIM verify the home addresses of the victims to make sure that the exposure took place only around the crater? This would be an indicator that despite the contradictions in the hospital records, the exposed victims had a real chance to be exposed in their hoses in immediate vicinity of the crater. It would be even more important in light of the contradiction in the FFM report regarding the sarin cloud moving across or even against the wind. According to OPCW inspectors, the main area of exposure is located south-west from the crater, while the wind was coming “from somewhere between the South and the East” (compare FFM report, paragraph 5.7 and paragraph 5.32 and Figure 7). FFM report resolves this contradiction by stating that “a chemical denser than air … followed the slightly descending nature of the hill towards lower areas towards the West and South West of the likely initiation location, and along a street descending from the hill in a southerly direction” (FFM report, paragraph 6.21). However, FFM inspectors did not visit the incident site and did not have a chance to accurately measure the ground coordinates around the crater. The Google Earth Pro application can be used to verify the FFM statement about the “descending nature of the hill.” There are a number of studies indicating that the elevation accuracy of the application is quite high. One of the researches conducted in the Middle East came to a conclusion that “the accuracies for terrain with small height difference (1.85 m RMSE) meet the vertical accuracy requirements of the ASPRS (1993) for the production of ‘Class III’ contour maps”. The application indicates that the terrain profile indeed lowers about 7 m to the south-west at a distance of 150 m from the crater. But most critical for the sarin cloud travel is the terrain profile in the immediate surroundings of its source, not at distances over 100 m. Here is the actual terrain profile 100 m around the crater:

— To the south of the crater (along the road to the south), the terrain profile elevates 1 m at a distance of 25 m from the crater and stays about the same at 50 m, 75 m and 100 m distances;

— To the south-west (along the road to the south-west), the profile stays about the same at 25 m from the crater, lowers 1 m at 50 m, and drops 2 m more at 100 m;

— To the west, the profile lowers 1 m at 25 m, another 1 m at 50 m, and drops 3 m at 100 m from crater;

— To the north, the profile lowers 1 m at 25 m, another 1 m at 50 m, and then stays about the same up to the distance of 100 m;

— To the east, the profile steadily elevates 1 m for the 100 m of distance from the crater.

These elevation measurements show that the terrain descends to the north and west, elevates to the east and south, and stays flat to the south-west, which indicates that the crater spot is located on the north-west slope of a hill. Together with the wind blowing from the south and the east, i.e. down the hill along the northern or western slope, it is extremely hard to build a scenario in which the sarin aerosol cloud or vapor could move up the hill against or across the wind to the south or south-west.

I also know from personal experience that a steady wind, even moving at low speed like 2-4 km/h, can prevent sarin detection in open areas at a distance of 4-5 meters from the source if monitors are located at the upwind side. To reach the inhibited area from the crater, the sarin cloud should cross an open triangle area formed by a road intersection and travel 93 meters before reaching the first residential house. However, the eastern and southern two buildings, the silos and the bakery, form a funnel with the tip directed to that triangle and perpendicular to the suggested sarin travel route. Such building funnels are known to increase the wind speed significantly which makes such a scenario even more unlikely.

Though the use of the Google Earth Pro can be criticized for not being perfectly accurate, it gives the idea of the terrain profile and demonstrates that there is no terrain descending around the crater that could possibly make sarin to travel in a south-west direction.

The verification of victims’ home addresses could also exclude 4 other possible impact points that could be the source of sarin release, which are described in the FFM report as mentioned by witnesses (FFM report, paragraphs 5.30 and 5.31). Unfortunately, JIM does not address all of these issues.

6) The number of persons affected by the release of sarin on 4 April 2017, and the fact that sarin reportedly continued to be present at the site of the crater 10 days after the incident, indicate that a large amount of sarin was likely released, which is consistent with its being dispersed through a chemical aerial bomb

Compare this argument to the FFM conclusion: “…a large number of people, some of whom died, were exposed to sarin, and … the release that caused the exposure was likely initiated from a release in the vicinity of a crater in the road…” (FFM report, paragraph 6.25). The difference is that in its argument, JIM makes a certain deduction that there is a connection between the release of sarin and a use of a chemical aerial bomb. The consistency means that the two parts of statement do not contradict each other, but it does not mean that one resulted from another.

Provided above analysis of the JIM arguments makes the possibility of such connection highly unlikely. When the use of a chemical aerial bomb is not substantiated, the release of sarin is not less consistent with the use of an improvised explosive device. There would be no less consistency with the discharge of sarin from a container on the ground or the use of an explosion separate from sarin release to stage an aerial bomb impact. It would be consistent with the release of sarin at several locations. The only arguments against alternative scenarios are speculations of experts who have never been at the incident site and who confirmed that the “site has been disturbed after the impact”.

7) The symptoms of the victims and their medical treatment, as well as the scale of the incident, are consistent with large-scale sarin poisoning

The fact of sarin poisoning was established by the FFM. The OPCW inspectors collected biomedical specimens from three fatalities and seven casualties when visited hospitals in a “neighboring country”. Analysis conducted in OPCW designated laboratories demonstrated that most of those specimens had been exposed to sarin or sarin-like substances (FFM report, paragraphs 6.4-6.7). Additionally, the FFM identified approximately 100 fatalities and at least 200 other casualties who had survived acute exposure though this conclusion was based on records and testimonies and could not be cross-checked.

Regardless the fact that neither JIM not the FFM visited the site of the alleged use of the chemical weapons, the physical evidence collected by the FFM in the neighboring country along with testimonies and records was enough to draw a conclusion about large-scale poisoning. However, this fact alone does not help to determine responsibility.

8) The sarin identified in the samples taken from Khan Shaykhun was found to have most likely been made with a precursor (DF) from the original stockpile of the Syrian Arab Republic

The justification of this argument is presented by JIM in the section “Chemistry” and is based on the well-known fact that every reaction produces some byproducts. Even if the intended product is then transformed by another reaction, the byproducts will remain in the resulting chemical as impurities. So, if byproducts are unique to the chemical produced through a particular chain of chemical reactions, these byproducts can be considered markers which can help to identify the origin of the raw materials

JIM assumed, from the FFM analytical results, that the sarin was produced by the reaction of methylphosphonyl difluoride (DF) with isopropanol. JIM also suggested that the DF that served as precursor for the sarin used in Khan Shaykhun and the DF stored in the Syrian Arab Republic stockpile are the same. To prove this hypothesis, JIM compared the impurities in the environmental samples from Khan Shaykhun with the samples of DF from the Syrian stockpile.

It was found that both the environmental and stockpile samples contained phosphorus hexafluoride (PF6), a specific chemical that is formed during synthesis of DF with the use of HF.

It was also found that environmental samples contained isopropyl phosphates and isopropyl phosphorofluoridates. Though the stockpile samples did not contain those two chemicals, two of the five stockpile samples contained phosphorous oxychloride (POCl3), which can produce those two chemicals when reacting with isopropanol.

JIM called these three chemicals found in environmental samples – PF6, isopropyl phosphates and isopropyl phosphorofluoridates - “marker chemicals” and stated that “their presence is a strong indicator that the sarin disseminated in Khan Shaykhun was produced from DF from the Syrian Arab Republic stockpile” (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 88).

This reasoning might look very robust at first glance, and it can be easy to miss the major mistake made by JIM in justification of this argument. According to JIM, the marker chemicals of Syrian DF are so unique that their presence becomes “a strong indicator” that the DF could come only from the Syrian Arab Republic stockpile. This logic suggests that DF from any other stockpile or DF produced “ad hoc” would not contain these marker chemicals or would have little chance to contain them. This is absolutely untrue. The byproducts and impurities present in a sample depend on production or synthesis method and do not depend on the specific stockpile or country in which it is synthesized. Any OPCW designated laboratory could prove this assertion.

In most sarin production methods, the penultimate step is the synthesis of DF from methylphosphonyl dichloride. The easiest way to do this is to bubble gaseous HF through methylphosphonyl dichloride at a temperature between 70 and 120 degrees C. There are a number of fluorinating agents that can produce DF, but HF is cheap, easy to handle, and provides high yield. Though JIM states that “the use of HF indicates a high degree of competence and sophistication in the production of DF and points to a chemical-plant-type production method,” this is not entirely true. Out of all steps of sarin synthesis, fluorinating with HF is probably one of the easiest, providing a “clean and fast reaction”[i] especially if HF is available for the reaction. HF can be easily produced in the laboratory by heating a mixture of fluorspar (CaF2) with sulfuric acid at 300-800 degrees C, but is also readily available from Alibaba.com where HF is offered in quantities starting from 1 kg to 20 tons. A discussion of other details concerning the capabilities for production of chemical weapons by non-government and terrorist organizations in Syria is provided in my earlier work.[ii]

Synthesis of DF with the use of HF is exactly the reaction where PF6 can be produced as a byproduct. PF6 is not actually a chemical. It exists as a part of hexafluorophosphoric acid, HPF6, in a form of PF6-anion. During DF synthesis, the acid is produced when HF reacts with phosphorus pentachloride (PCl5) or phosphorus oxychloride (POCl3). PCl5 is used at the earlier chlorinating stage of sarin production, and POCl3 is formed during chlorination as a byproduct. Both chemicals are carried through the production stages in small quantities until reacting with HF to form a PF6-anion.

JIM asserts that fluorinating agents other than HF do not form PF6 (JIM report, Annex II, paragraph 85). This is incorrect. One of the methods for producing DF employs fluorides of alkali metals as fluorinating agents.[iii] Since 1932, three other fluorinating agents used for DF production, NaF, KF, and NH4F, have been known to produce PF6 when reacting with PCl5.[iv] Another type of reagent that can produce PF6 from PCl6 is bifluorides such as potassium bifluoride (KHF2), sodium bifluoride (NaHF2), and ammonium bifluoride (NH4HF2)[v]. These chemicals are also widely described in literature as good fluorinating agents used in sarin production.[vi]

JIM mentioned that only two of the five Syrian stockpile samples contained phosphorous oxychloride (POCl3), which could produce two of the listed marker chemicals when reacting with isopropanol. That hardly sounds like “a strong indicator” when two thirds of the markers do not match 60% of the Syrian stockpile samples.

As a result of the discussion of argument #8, one can conclude that the presence of “marker chemicals” – PF6, isopropyl phosphates, and isopropyl phosphorofluoridates – does not indicate that the sarin disseminated in Khan Shaykhun was produced with DF from the Syrian Arab Republic stockpile. It only gives an idea of the possible sarin production route.

9) The irregularities described in the present annex are not of such a nature as to call into question the aforementioned findings

Certainly, JIM was quite shy when mentioning all “irregularities” in Annex II of the report. But even those described by JIM and discussed above more than seriously undermine JIM’s finding. Together with the results of the analysis provided in this article, these “irregularities” make the scenario that JIM uses to justify its conclusions more unlikely than likely.

Conclusion

Overall analysis of 7th JIM report brings me to a conclusion that the report lacks technical and scientific consistency and professionalism. JIM failed to establish substantive logical connections between available facts and resulting implications. Almost all arguments provided by JIM as justification of the final conclusion fall apart under technical scrutiny. It could be asserted that the 7th JIM’s report was not able to prove the responsibility of the Syrian Arab Republic for the release of sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017.

It is difficult to understand why JIM demonstrated such a low threshold of professionalism. It is possible that JIM’s personnel in charge of the technical investigation simply did not have specific professional backgrounds. Another, more unpleasant, version suggests that under political pressure, JIM decided to please all sides. Russia would be happy because IS was made responsible for the incident in Umm Hawsh as it was Russians who provided physical evidence from the site, and the U.S. would be pleased with SAR made responsible for Khan Shaykhun as the US president declared SAR responsible the day after the incident.

By all means, Russia had all reasons to challenge the 7th JIM’s report, and Russia did challenge it.

Aftermath

At the same time, it is very unfortunate that despite the assertion that JIM does not have any authority or jurisdiction to make a formal or binding judicial determination, its conclusions have already triggered some legal consequences. In response to JIM’s findings, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Syrian officials and military branches. Also following the report, the OPCW Executive Council decided to conduct additional inspections and samplings at certain Syrian facilities.

However, the lack of an international investigation mechanism is highly disadvantageous as it demonstrates the inability of the international community to fight the use of chemical weapons. The first attempt to fill this gap was the establishment of the “International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons” in Paris on 23 January 2018. Twenty-four countries and the European Union joined their efforts with the following purposes:

— to gather, compile and retain all available information on those who use chemical weapons;

— to facilitate the sharing of this information with countries and relevant international organizations so that the perpetrators will one day be held accountable for their actions;

— to use all existing mechanisms to identify the individuals and entities involved by providing all available documentation and supporting multilateral action to sanction them;

to publish the names of all individuals, entities, groups or governments which have been subject to sanctions, via a dedicated online platform;

— to help States which so require with capacity-building in order to implement mechanisms to collect information, or appropriate national legislation to prosecute the perpetrators of chemical attacks.

Ironically, the Partnership resembles the Russian proposal of 6 April 2016, “International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Chemical Terrorism,” especially concerning cooperation between states, collection and exchange of information, and communication with states and international organizations. Though the proposal has received some criticism, it found its way in political development.

For its own part, on January 23, Russia put forward a draft resolution at the UN Security Council to establish a “new structure to investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria” that would maintain higher level of transparency than JIM was able to provide. However, some member countries of the Partnership rejected the Russian proposal.

This standoff is definitely counterproductive. The absence of an international structure recognized by the UN and authorized to assign responsibility for the use of chemical weapons will lead the Partnership to be viewed as a non-legal substitution to such an international structure, one which demonstrates much less transparency. At the same time, the Partnership’s conclusions might have much stronger judicial and political consequences in the form of sanctions, prosecutions, accusations, etc. as the Partnership members are politically homogeneous. This complicates the ability to integrate alternative opinions into the Partnership’s decisions.

If non-UN and non-conventional organizations make their decisions more powerful (in terms of legal consequences) than the UN and OPCW, we would see the erosion of the chemical weapons prohibition regime as a result. The decisions of non-UN organizations will have little international trust due to the lack of transparency and inability to justify their decisions.

On 29 May 2018, eleven State Parties to the CW Convention requested to convene a special session of the Conference of the State Parties. The reason for the request was deep concern “about the use of chemical weapons around the world, in spite of the long-standing norm against their use.” Though it is a step forward in the current stalemate, there is a chance that some State Parties can use the conclusions of the 7th JIM’s report (together with conclusions of the other JIMs’ reports) as justification of their political stance. However, this can be counterproductive because the controversies of JIM’s reports will weaken their arguments and complicate unifying the positions of State Parties.

Lessons to learn

Right now it seems very important to overcome the differences in the positions of some countries and make sure that a transparent international mechanism is established in the nearest future. One may even consider extending a new mechanism’s scope of responsibilities by granting authority to collect and analyze all available information on production, development, storage, transfer, transportation, and acquisition of chemical weapons.

To make the work of the new international mechanism more effective, its members should have backgrounds corresponding to conducted investigation. The members of the new mechanism should be chosen on the principle of fair geographical distribution, as balanced geographical representation makes the results of the mechanism more trustworthy, particularly when working on politically sensitive issues. The new mechanism must maintain standards of work accepted by OPCW or higher (including chain of custody and arbitrary samples). It must also follow the procedures of internationally accepted investigation standards. The investigative work must be reviewed by a panel of independent experts based on fair geographical distribution before the release of reports.

To make the work of such a mechanism more transparent, all information collected during investigations should be made available to the public. Names of all experts and/or expert organizations should be announced along with justification of their expert opinions. Information provided by intelligence services which can not be verified should not be used as evidence, though this information might become a trigger for an additional inquiry. The mechanism should not be forced into assigning responsibility at any cost; if there is no strong evidence, there is no conclusion.

To enhance performance of the new mechanism, the countries that are State Parties to the CWC should establish a new level of cooperation, standards of which could be drawn from the proposal on International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Chemical Terrorism and the declaration of Partnership against impunity.

The OPCW work could be improved if the inspectors are trained to collect information and evidence according to internationally accepted investigation standards.

Concerning visits to the incident sites, there should not be any political obstacles to dispatching either an OPCW mission or a new mechanism to the sites as soon as possible. If something delays a mission visit, then Article X of the CWC should be put in force. Paragraphs 9-11 of Article X give the Director-General the authority to start an investigation within 24 hours if a State Party requests “to receive assistance and protection against the use or threat of use of chemical weapons if it considers that chemical weapons have been used against it.” According to this Article, the Syrian government can request assistance if it believes that chemical weapons have been used on the territory of SAR, and the Director-General has a right dispatch a mission without consulting with the Executive Council. For this purpose, the Director-General can use either the Fact Finding Mission or Rapid Response and Assistance Mission established in 2016.


[i] Norlin Rikard and Gosta Lindberg, Synthesis of [14C] Sarin. J Label Compd Radiopharm, Vol. 46, 2003, p. 599–604

[ii] Anton Utkin, Islamic State – new participant of chemical war? “Security Index” Journal, Vol. 114, p. 83-94, 2015. (in Russian)

[iii] Franke S., Chemistry of chemical agents. Vol. 1. Moscow, Khimia, 1973, 440 p. (in Russian)

[iv] Lange Willy und Gerda v. Krueger, Uber eine Reaktion zwischen Phosphorpentachlorid und Metallfluoriden. Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft, Vol. 65B, 1932, p. 1253-1257

[v] Woysky M.M., Hexafluophosphates of sodium, ammonium, and potassium. Inorganic Syntheses, Volume III, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1950, p. 111-117.

[vi] Hoenig Steven L., Compendium of Chemical Warfare Agents. Springer Science & Business Media, 2006, 222 p.



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