(Too) many open questions regarding the alleged chemical attack near Damascus

To start, here is a brief summary of arguments that highlight the unlikeliness of the syrian army being behind the chemical attacks around Damascus:

1. The syrian army has been making a number of military gains, especially in the Homs governorate but also in and around Damascus. The current military situation was not threatening at all. Resorting to chemical attacks in the midst of „normal“ military clashes does not make sense.
2. The syrian government for month has been threatened with military intervention by Nato countries in case the „red line“ of using chemical weapons would be crossed.
3. It has been the syrian government itself that invited a UN inspector team which arrived only 2 days before the alleged attacks.
4. Contrary to repeated accusations by western media and politicians from the US, UK and France (among others) the syrian government is not „insane“. Even after being subject to multiple attacks by the israeli airforce and artillery and in one case by the turkish army – acts that resulted in destruction and many casualties for the syrian army – the regime did not hit back, knowing well that any violent reaction would trigger a massive military attack that would be suicidal.

But there are more questions:
a) If it was the syrian army why did they not use „regular“ and much more deadly chemical weapons that they posses?
b) Why did they chose areas around Damascus for such an attack?
c) Why did the army not carry out a more massive chemical attack followed up by a major troop incursion, both to finish off the (remaining) rebel fighters and  – more important – remove the traces of the attack?
d) If it was the army, it must have been crystal clear to them that such a gas attack cannot be concealed. They would know that the victims would be brought to hospitals and clinics. It should not be difficult for the army to take control of those facilities in advance to avoid that medical reports „leak“ out and doctors give interviews that could implicate the army. Besides, the regime could break down the internet connection and block access to Youtube and co., while being prepared to spread their own (fabricated) story to the media before the „activists“ shape public opinion
e) It would be obvious to the army that the military value of apparently blind attacks on civilian areas supportive of rebels would be limited while the resulting outrage and revenge feelings would be huge

In addition there are a number of valid reasons why it is not just a conspiracy theory to suspect the rebels:

A good scientific analysis:http://strongpointsecurity.co.uk/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Revised-Thoughts-on-Damascus.pdf

Why it´s unlikely the syrian army used chemical weapons

There are at least four valid reasons why the syrian army is unlikely to have fired chemical weapons:
1. The army has made gains in the last months and is in no desperate situation2. The UN inspectors have just arrived in Syria, at invitation of the government
3. If the alleged chemical attack is explained as „revenge for rebel massacres in Lattakia“ it would make much more sense to attack their strongholds far away from the capital such as Rastan, Azaaz or Anaden
4. The syrian government and army have undertaken at times extreme measures to avoid foreign intervention and subsequent annihilation. The best example is the army´s non-reacting to Israeli attacks that destroyed facilities and killed soldiers.

All this makes it appear quite unlikely that the army would attack mostly civilian areas close to the capital with weapons of mass destruction

Here some media quotes:

BBC: „the timing is odd, bordering on suspicious. Why would the Assad government, which has recently been retaking ground from the rebels, carry out a chemical attack while UN weapons inspectors are in the country?…The BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen says many will ask why the government would want to use such weapons at a time when inspectors are in the country and the military has been doing well militarily in the area around Damascus.“

The Independent: „there are questions as to why the regime would want to take recourse to WMDs at a time when it was making gains using conventional arms and with the knowledge that UN inspectors were present in the country“

„If you look at the way they have sought legitimacy through having the UN team there, in a carefully orchestrated fashion, with the help of the Russians and the Iranians, the use of chemical weapons does not make sense,“ said a Western European diplomat. Robert Emerson, a security analyst, added: „Assad has not been doing too badly in the publicity stakes with the excesses of Islamists among the rebels like the cannibal commander, et cetera. Deploying WMDs at this stage would be a hell of an own goal.“

Did the Syrian Army use chemical weapons?

US, UK and Israel have increasingly been claiming that they have „proof“ that the Syrian Army used Sarin gas in Aleppo. This is however very unlikely, for many reasons:

1. A man is quoted who says his wife and his two children died because of a Sarin grenade that had fallen into his house. He says he felt a „a sharp, bitter odor„, but this does not make sense because Sarin is odorless.
2. Incidentally a team of US experts came very quickly to the house of the victim and took hair samples to analyze in a lab. This does not make sense either because Sarin is a volatile gas. It does not „remain“ to leave a trace.
3. Chemical weapons are weapons of mass destruction as can be seen from the Iraqi attack on Halabja in 1988 when within one day 5000 people died. Neither are chemical weapons suited for small scale attacks nor does it make sense militarily to kill single civilians with them.
4. The US has made clear many times that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Army would constitute passing a red line which could trigger a US military intervention. Why should the Syrian Army expose itself to such a danger only to have killed few civilians?
5. Syria has made clear that they would not use chemical weapons in an internal conflict and in any case using chemical weapons is a last resort. The military situation is by far not that bad that the regime would need to take such suicidal measures.
6. It is by now well known that the rebels are not a united power but consist of many different groups with varying degrees of radicalism, not to mention that a sizable portion of the rebels are non-Syrians. There is no way to rule out that either the attack- if it happened – was a false flag attack or that the reports about it are made up to draw the US into the war, especially since the rebels have suffered military setbacks in the recent weeks. The rebels would have a clear and undeniable motivation to let the world believe chemical weapons were used, while it is completely to the disadvantage of the Syrian government to use them.