Iranian media, perhaps unwittingly, has helped destroy the propaganda line of Bashar al-Assad — propped up by former New York Times journalist Seymour Hersh — that sarin was not used in an Assad regime attack on Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria on April 4.
Tasnim features an interview with the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Ahmet Uzumcu, in which he says:
The Syrian government provided some samples to our team which were collected from the impact site…some soil samples that the Syrian government authorities themselves analyzed and they found Sarin. This let us make a new evaluation because the results of these analyses, in fact, confirmed everything we found from other sources.
The provision of the samples demolishes the oft-repeated claim by Bashar al-Assad that the sarin attack, which killed at least 92 people and wounded almost 600, was “100% fabrication”. It also undermines Hersh’s attempt to dismiss the assault, based on a single unnamed and unverified source, was actually the release of organophosphates — such as pesticides — or even detonated fertilizer rather than sarin.
Uzumcu also effectively rebuts the attempt by Assad defenders to say that the OPCW has cleared the regime by not assigning blame:
The mandate of the fact-finding mission is limited to determine whether chemical weapons are used or not. The fact-finding mission does not have the task the actors or perpetrators of those attacks.
The OPCW’s detailed report, summarized by analysts last week and now published, reconfirms the finding that “sarin or a sarin-like substance” was responsible for the deaths and injuries in Khan Sheikhoun.
Despite the regime’s confirmation of sarin, the Foreign Ministry declared last Saturday that the OPCW’s report was “a fabricated narrative with no credibility at all and which cannot be accepted because it is removed from logic”: “The main purpose of forming such committees is to hide facts, and that these committees’ reports are written and prepared in advance by certain circles that are hostile to Syria.”
The Ministry never mentioned that the regime had been able to obtain samples from Khan Sheikhoun, instead portraying the site as off-limits because of “terrorists”.
Deputy Foreign Minister Feisal al-Mikdad went farther in the denial on Monday, “The samples lifted were provided by [terrorists] and by the so-called ‘White Helmets organization’ which is affiliated to the US and British intelligence.”