Five days after the event, a United Nations team of experts Monday, Aug. 26, start scouring a site in eastern Damascus for shrapnel left over from the poison gas shells or rockets fired by the Syrian army’s 155th Brigade last Wednesday.
Given the low prospects of finding evidence at this late date, debkafile’s sources report that the UN Secretariat and the White House in Washington agreed Sunday night that the only chance of the chemical weapons experts finding evidence of their use was to examine one of the targeted sites or injured victims. The Assad regime has only offered to open one site to the UN team, not grant them access to the approximately 2,000 victims under treatment at the three hospitals. Therefore, the inspectors’ best bet was to go for shell shrapnel first.
Even after the alleged Syrian army’s exhaustive cleanup operation after its poison chemical attack, the UN experts still hope to turn up overlooked fragments, however microscopic.
The US and UN also agreed that the experts would submit their initial findings as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday morning, Aug. 28. The Obama administration made clear that it was not prepared to hang around and wait for the results of more extensive tests. The assumption in Washington is that the initial UN findings would suffice as the starting signal for the US and its allies, Britain, France, Canada, Turkey, and Germany, to go forward and launch planned targeted strikes on Syria.
Notwithstanding the official statements coming out of Washington that President Barack Obama has still not decided on his military options against Syria’s chemical attack, debkafile’s sources confirm that limited, targeted Western military action is scheduled for the coming week.
The position of the Gulf emirates and Saudi Arabia is less cut and dried. Riyadh doesn’t want a targeted strike but an early all-out offensive for overthrowing the Assad regime once and for all.
This opens up the possibility of a separate Saudi-Qatari-UAE assault in Syria, coordinated with Washington, but conducted in different regions from those targeted by the US-led lineup.
The result is potentially the pursuit of a broad-based pan-Arab offensive on the Syrian regime, alongside a surgical Western strike.
As the moment of reckoning for his regime approaches, Bashar Assad said Monday, Aug. 26 in an interview with the Russian Izvestia that a US attack on his country would end in “failure.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was deeply concerned over possible US action in Syria.
Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commented that what is happening in Syria simply demonstrates what will happen if Iran gets even deadlier weapons. He told the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel's "finger is on the pulse" of the situation in Syria and – if need be – its finger would move to the trigger.