White House: 'Massive' Evidence Shows Sarin Came from Assad Base
WASHINGTON -- White House officials said today that the U.S. has amassed a mountain of evidence confirming that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used sarin against the town of Khan Shaykhun last week, and indicated they're still trying to determine if Russia knew about the attack beforehand.
A declassified summary of the intelligence report on the attack that killed dozens and injured hundreds one week ago today found that the Syrian and Russian assertion that the nerve agent must have come from terrorist or rebel forces also has no basis in fact.
New information coming in "continues to be clear and consistent with our understanding of the attack," a senior White House official told reporters on background today.
The declassified information was compiled from open-source materials ranging from videos to on-the-ground accounts, geospatial intelligence, U.S. signals intelligence, and physiological samples from attack victims.
The attack came from Su-22 fixed-wing aircraft out of the Shayrat airfield hit in subsequent U.S. strikes, the report says; the planes were in the Khan Shaykhun area for 20 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack came in, and left soon after. The administration also has "information that suggest that personnel historically associated with the chemical weapons program were at Shayrat airfield in late March preparing for this attack," and these people were there again on the day of the attack.
The U.S. has confirmed the agent used in the attack was sarin, from testing on the victims and from symptom reports as well as "leakage around the actual weapon that we think the sarin came from." Emergency personnel suffered exposure symptoms from coming into contact with contaminated victims.
A hospital treating attack victims was struck by conventional weapons about six hours after the chemical attack.
On hoax theories, the White House official said the "absolute massive data we have in all the different vehicles -- we've gotten it from open-source videos, to victim accounts, to imagery, to signals intelligence, is just too massive for really any -- any intelligence organization to fabricate in that short a period of time; we just think that's not a feasible explanation." Intel agencies have confirmed that videos distributed of the attack were filmed at the time and in the locations claimed.
"Across the board starting in 2013 [with the Ghouta sarin attack] and then since, we've seen both the Russians and the Syrians have a very clear campaign to try to obfuscate the nature of attacks, the attackers, and what has happened at any particular incident," the official said.
"They've thrown out a bunch of potential agents, a bunch of potential responsible or accountable parties. And often their own information is inconsistent with their own narrative. They certainly have dismissed the allegations of a chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun. They called it a 'prank of a provocative nature.' But again, we don't think it's remotely possible for the Syrians or the Russians to have fabricated this much information so fast and so consistently on this attack."