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Expert: alleged Syria chem. attack ‘has to have been a military’

August 21st, 2013
04:10 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

It is “more and more likely” that chemical weapons were used in an attack outside Damascus, a Chemical, biological, and nuclear threat analyst told CNN’s Hala Gorani on Wednesday.

“Initially what I thought is that it could well be a concentrated riot control agent,” Gwyn Winfield said. But “as the footage has sort of gone on, it looks more and more likely that some kind of organophosphate – so that is some kind of nerve agent – has been used.”

Survivors, portrayed in videos posted online, are “showing more sort of typical chemical warfare agent signs and symptoms.”

Winfield was not able to identify what type of agent may have been used, but said that it did not appear to be a “pure weapons-grade” attack.

“It may well be that this was some kind of an Assad homebrew,” he said, “where he has managed to get elements of an organophosphate, mix it with other chemicals, and then delivered it onto these people.”

The only way to know, he said, for sure will be to get hair, and possibly blood samples from alleged victims, and bring them to a laboratory.

“The next forty-eight hour window is going to be crucial,” Winfield explained.

After that, the concentration of “certain key elements” in the bloodstream will start to fall, making detection more difficult.

“The agent itself – it could be a gas, it could be a vapor, it could be an aerosol – will now have dispersed,” he said, though added that some evidence may remain in the soil.

“We’ve yet to work out exactly who delivered these munitions,” Winfield said, “but the one thing that we are sure of, when you look at the amount that’s used, is it has to have been a military. This isn’t a small rogue element; this isn’t a small group. This is a concentrated, well-organized attack by a significant player.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Syria
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. aiman

    It's the regime Einstein....... it was a rebel-held area who else would use chemicals on it ..... angry birds ?!
    and how the hell would anyone make a chemical weapon if it were that easy you would've seen it all around the world

    August 21, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Reply
    • brian

      its easy to make some chemical weapons..take ricin for example, all the ingredients are legal and also grow abundantly in the can find instruction manuals by goggling it so its as easy to make as an apple pie

      August 22, 2013 at 7:32 am | Reply
      • tadpole

        Your comment shows you obviously have never made ricin.

        August 22, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • brian

      by the way if people can make chemical weapons 150-200 years ago with primitive tools then how hard do you think it is for people today who have so much more access to information and supplies??

      August 22, 2013 at 7:34 am | Reply
      • Loki

        150 to 200 years ago? You're smoking rope. Chemical weapons were introduced by the Germans in WWI.

        September 4, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  2. m6munich

    Would the Assad government resort to such an attack knowing the UN investigators are in the country right now? Hell no. This is a no brainer for Western no brains.

    August 21, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Reply
    • marie

      on the contrary I would think this was assad's doing. what better cover than "would I do this knowing the inspectors are present" then blame it on the rebels doing it against themselves to frame him. no if it was some outer area of little importance MAYBE the rebels would have done it but with it being a key stronghold en route to the capitol one that the rebels would not want to undermine their holdings in I don't see the rebels doing this. this is truly assad.

      August 22, 2013 at 7:53 am | Reply
      • m6munich

        Your guess is as good as mine. There are moe than one indication that this is another Tonlin boat.
        Qui bono?

        August 23, 2013 at 5:24 am |
  3. CIA

    More than likely a false flag operation by the CIA.

    August 21, 2013 at 7:04 pm | Reply
  4. Antiwar American

    No way do I believe the Assad government would use chemical weapons on their own people. CNN has been cheerleading for U.S. war on Syria for months and gets a lot of advertizing revenue from war profiteer corporations. Their is a United Nations inspector in Syria, why isn't he and his findings the news? And the so-called CNN expert, Gwyn Winfield? He makes his living advising the British government how to stay safe from terrorism! And how much money is the UK putting into regime change for Syria?! This is outrageous to try and say Gwyn Winfield's opinion represents actual news. Shame on you, CNN.

    August 21, 2013 at 11:22 pm | Reply
  5. Dan

    That guy just lost his credibility . As McCain and Obomba before him. .

    August 22, 2013 at 4:54 am | Reply
  6. Dima

    Assad has more than enough of proper, weapon grade Sarin, Soman and VR. Very unlikely that his army would trouble itself with "homebrew". That is to say, deploying chemical weapons requires a proper training. Especially if you want to use it properly, to achieve greater effect and kill as many as possible – you need to have decent training in the field, not something that you can learn in some basement in Turkey while you wait for the next convoy to take you through the border to Syria

    August 22, 2013 at 7:36 am | Reply
  7. erik

    Assad is so clever as to wait several years ! till inspectors would come and after they arrive would use gas.
    Where are your brains Winfileld !!!

    August 22, 2013 at 7:54 am | Reply
  8. jhon kiris

    Yes this expert is right 100 per cent.And i have more information for him to analyze.In a few hours assad will drop an atomic bomb and after that he will drop another four hydrogen bombs.Don't forget to call him again.But you can always find a better actor with the same money.

    August 22, 2013 at 8:02 am | Reply
  9. JoeTexan

    Arabs are killing Arabs in at least a dozen countries. We should support all factions and arm them all so they can kill each other faster. We could reduce the Muslim population by 50% if we arm every and all Muslims factions with small arms such as AK-47s. They love the passion of killing each other and we should use that to our benefit.

    August 22, 2013 at 8:30 am | Reply
    • John

      Don't forget though, cash up front.

      August 22, 2013 at 8:48 am | Reply
  10. you do remember the truth right?

    It was a sad sight to see. You were not telling the truth then in 2011. Now here again with your label on disinformation. You are Barbara are in this together?

    August 22, 2013 at 8:54 am | Reply
  11. Blue Dawn

    Assad is not a fool. Why would he use chemical warfare now when he has the advantage? Some group/force wants to draw other powers into this quagmire. Sounds too much like the sequence of events that led to the 'evidence of weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq. And we all can see how that turned out.

    August 22, 2013 at 8:57 am | Reply
  12. KEVIN

    These 'rebels" love and live to fight amoungst themselves. They would kill anything, even their own children.

    August 22, 2013 at 9:08 am | Reply
  13. Charly (Plantation)

    This is a bluff. We are only trying to find a reason to invade Syria after we already destroyed the country. That's not fair.

    August 22, 2013 at 9:21 am | Reply
    • j mason

      Are you on drugs!!!??

      August 22, 2013 at 10:27 am | Reply
  14. NTR

    Here we go again – just like in Iraq.. Remember those WMDs.... The US is trying to get into another war based on phony "experts". If you really want objective analysis, go to sites like Jerusalem Post, Finnish News etc where experts of real caliber discuss and so far the conclusion is totally unclear on whether it was even chemical and by who!

    August 22, 2013 at 9:37 am | Reply
    • Loki

      You've got to come up with more specific references than that if you want to be taken seriously.

      September 4, 2013 at 11:53 pm | Reply
  15. nx3pde

    We've been getting biased information about this war since its beginning.The atrocities committed by the cannibals,however gruesome, are accepted while the regime is criticized.We'll soon find out who's responsible by this attack and then the media hypocrisy will be in full display.

    August 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  16. Mirna

    We need more peace action regarding Syria Amanpoor

    August 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  17. Mirna

    Mrs Amanpour people are dying in Syria not animals, as you are one of the best reporter in CNN news, please try to find a way to convince president Obama to act urgently regarding the kids that gone, and we did not know why, Assad don't see them a human being coz his not used people, he used to be an animals... I saw the interview that you did with him a year ago and was reading his body language how he was professionally acting that he is an angel, he was swelling all lies, always pretending action, satan he is,,,,, as long he's alive as long he believes that he is a king never die...

    August 22, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Reply
  18. Brian

    Mrs Amanpour people are dying in Syria not animals, as you are one of the best reporter in CNN news, please try to find a way to convince president Obama to act urgently regarding the kids that gone, and we did not know why, Assad don't see them a human being coz his not used people, he used to be an animals... I saw the interview that you did with him a year ago and was reading his body language how he was professionally acting that he is an angel, he was swelling all lies, always pretending action, satan he is,,,,, as long he's alive as long he believes that he is a king never die...he is war criminal.bombing cities towns buildings, churches, temples,likes to see bloods,

    August 22, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Reply
  19. H. B.

    Winfield, like most of the media, assumes that those "rebels" aren't well organized, concentrated, or a "significant player." It makes it easier to maintain the public assumption that the chem attacks HAD to be done by the regime.

    If the jihadist "rebels" had no such weapons, and wanted them, they would get them from other jihadist people all over the world. Surely, we are no longer able to believe that these rebel groups are ordinary resident Syrian citizens rising up against their government? We'd have to be cretins to believe it, when it's been announced many times that the people doing most of the fighting are jihadists from other countries, well-organized Islamist groups who are also well-equipped to wage war. They are also thoroughly adept at propaganda and other techniques to get people with power, who would ordinarily rebuff them, to actively help them. When the rebels realized that chemical weapons use was a "red line," they knew how to get the West to give them military help.

    Remember when they claimed the regime was targeting babies? Dying, some with their pacifiers still in their mouths? This was a gambit by the rebels, because they knew the West would go after the regime for them if they got angry enough at its atrocities. But in the absence of atrocities, they decided to "create" some.

    The very idea that the regime would make a massive chemical attack on these rebels while inspectors had just arrived to investigate such claims, is self-destructive and ridiculous. It would be ASKING to have proof available to the inspectors of their culpability. But for the rebels to "stage" such an inopportune attack is entirely likely. Since evidence of chemical attacks becomes hard to find fairly soon, they created a fresh one. Which speaks loudly about their organization.

    I see very little to indicate that our media is even giving serious consideration to the perpetrators of the chem attacks being the rebels themselves. And I have to wonder why. Because, in truth, BOTH sides would cheerfully use them, if they thought it could help them prevail – without serious consequences. But it's the consequences which are most telling, here. The rebels will face almost none, if it is proven that they did it. The regime will face it all, even if the rebels ARE proven to be the perpetrators. While I find both sides utterly repugnant, there IS such a thing as a fair analysis, even when neither side merits a trace of respect. Frankly, I can't even imagine a scenario that could be a constructive outcome in Syria. However that mop flops, it's going to be very bad news.

    But would they really do such a thing? Kill a bunch of their OWN people, in order to gain military participation from the West?

    If they were us, with our cultural values, they'd never even contemplate it. It would be unthinkable. But these rebels do not share our values. Nor does the regime. We keep forgetting that one ENORMOUS fact. By now, few of the "rebels" are NOT Islamists. Any of the more reasonable people have fled by now.

    While I truly hate to think of Iran and Russia maintaining their hold in Syria, and I thoroughly detest Assad and his regime, all of that pales, compared to a win by the Islamist "rebels." Even among the horrific, there are variations of "horrificness."

    I know most of the West wants Assad gone. I do, too, but NOT with a win from the rebels. If there isn't a better way to replace Assad, then it's best to let him stay. Because nothing – absolutely NOTHING – could be worse than yet another new Islamic State.

    Haven't we figured that out yet?

    To gain a strategic advantage in their wars, Islamists stop at NOTHING. If the end is to serve Allah, even killing their own people to gain that advantage is entirely acceptable.

    And they've already done it before – with the pacifier sucking dead babies.

    So WOULD they really kill their own people to gain Western military participation? Absolutely. But, of course, the body count would include as many non-Islamists as possible.

    The flat – and ugly – truth of the matter is that we should stay out of this entirely, except for humanitarian aid. Nothing we do can improve the outcome. Anything we DO do will result in more people who hate us. They already do, anyway.

    People who have never been civilized cannot know how to BE civilized. Before a real democracy can be enjoyed, the population must first value life. Next, it must value all human life. Then it must accept the equality of the human and civil rights of ALL people, not just people they like. Even people they don't like must be granted the respect for their equal rights to one's own. None of the countries in the Mideast is remotely ready for that. The "might makes right" notion is all they've known, all their lives. An Islamic culture may be orderly, because of its draconian laws, but it is still NOT civilized. Civilized means the people behave reasonably well, because they love their liberty. They know WHY it is important to do so, and because they WANT it that way. They know that, to have rights, they MUST acknowledge the rights of everyone, and that that supremely important value must also be in the minds of the people in government. Can you envision any Islamic State having a population like that?

    Syria is centuries before it will have a democracy, and thus equal centuries before they can become civilized.

    America HAS known this, and has had a very workable and fulfilling democracy for many decades. Unfortunately, many of the American people are now steadily unraveling it. Syria can't hope to win a fight to get a democracy, and I'm afraid America is losing the fight to KEEP the one they had.

    Both are tragic.

    August 24, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  20. demata

    An attack in Syria is really dangerous for the peace in Mediterranean Area. Maybe, more than issues in Palestine.

    August 26, 2013 at 10:56 am | Reply
  21. J.A.H

    So, It's O.K. to show pictures AND video of civilians men woman and children suffering and dead... But we can't see a single picture of the most wanted man EVER (Usama B.L.) and possibly the most hated man in America, dead? Can you say propaganda CNN? I call B.S.

    September 8, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  22. J.A.H

    Pearl harbor was only a limited (No boots on the ground) air strike... Not an act of war? Franklin D. Roosevelt directed congress to declare war in response to the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks. And they did it! Don't fall for the propaganda! If we consider the same action toward us an act of war, WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

    September 8, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Reply
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