A new report from Reuters outlining the findings of a United Nations investigation into chemical weapons use in the bloody Syrian civil war says the UN confirmed that chemical weapons were used in five of the seven cases it investigated. The report claims that sarin gas was used in at least four of the attacks.
The UN investigation reportedly found that chemical agents were used in Khan al-Assal, near the city of Aleppo, in March; in Saraqeb, in April; and in Jobar and Ashrafiat Sahnaya, which are both located near Damascus, in August. The report also concluded that in several cases the victims included government soldiers and civilians, but said it was not always possible to confirm who used the weapons or who the victims were.
The investigation reportedly focused on whether chemical weapons were used, not who used them, according to the UN. The Syrian government was accused by the US of using the weapons, but they have steadfastly denied those allegations. It stands to reason if Syrian government troops were among the victims of the attacks that opposition forces were responsible for using them.
President Obama and other supporters of US intervention in the Syrian conflict claimed chemical weapons use by Syrian troops on the orders of President Bashir al-Assad warranted military action by the US to overthrow Assad's government. Plans to send US military support to Syria were scrapped after strong public opposition against such an action.
It seems odd that such a lengthy investigation could confirm that chemical weapons were used, and that government troops were among the victims, but not make any determination as to who used the weapons. Perhaps the UN didn't find the answers it was looking for. Both the Syrian government, and many in the US who opposed American military involvement in Syria claimed all along that opposition forces were responsible for the chemical attacks. Lack of coverage of the report's findings in the US media speaks volumes in this case.
Basically the UN report confirms what we already knew, that chemical weapons were used. What possible reason could the UN have for not even attempting to determine who was responsible for using the weapons? One very real possibility is that they already knew, and did not want that information to be confirmed publicly.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon initiated the investigation after the Syrian government wrote to Ban accusing the rebels of launching a chemical attack in Khan al-Assal. It would appear more than possible that was the case, but since that conclusion doesn't fit the narrative of those who were in favor of attacking Syria, the UN investigation conveniently was unable to pin the attacks on anyone.
“The use of chemical weapons is a grave violation of international law and an affront to our shared humanity,” Ban said after the report was delivered to the UN on Thursday. “We need to remain vigilant to ensure that these awful weapons are eliminated, not only in Syria, but everywhere.”
Ban did not comment on who was responsible for the attacks, but will brief the UN General Assembly on the report today and the UN Security Council on Monday.