Eine perfide Erfindung

A perfidious invention: barrel bombs the Assad government is throwing out of helicopters onto residential urban areas of Syria. The steel barrels contain accelerant and e.g. nails, for large possibly napalm-like explosions that distribute sharp shrapnel. Opposition sources indicated these hardware-store bombs are being used for terrorism of civilians living in rebel-controlled areas; one was dropped near a school for example.

Meanwhile, the peaceful protesters who tried to oust the violent Assad family by nonviolent means and then understandably fled the country in droves suffered in an unusual blizzard last month, which dropped ~40 cm of snow on Jerusalem in early December 2013. German news showed footage of families living in tents on frozen dirt floors, with plastic tarp walls not even keeping out the wind, in Jordan, or a dozen people crowded into one unheated room with a weeping wet ceiling in Lebanon. Asking for several billion dollars in aid, especially from wealthy neighbors like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the United Nations estimated the number of Syrian refugees would increase to several million in the next year, while three-quarters of Syria’s population might experience food shortages. There’s talk too of a lost generation because, it was estimated in a U.N.H.C.R. report, ~3 million Syrian children aren’t attending school because of the war.

Update on 29 Dec 2013: Spiegel.de said a “rebel-friendly human rights organization” reported that Syria’s air force used the dreaded barrel bombs to blow up an open-air fruit-and-veg market in Aleppo’s old city on a Saturday morning.

Update on 19 Apr 2014: ZDF heute journal said the Assad troops dropped >300 barrel bombs from helicopters in March 2014; it’s unclear whether that was just over Aleppo or all battle zones in Syria.
For what it’s worth, a London-based Arabic-language newspaper said the Assads are hiring foreign mercenaries as pilots, possibly because some Syrian troops have refused to fly these helicopters.

(Eye nah   peah FEE dah   eah FINNED oong.)

Fluorwasserstoff, Ammoniumhydrogendifluorid, Natriumfluorid

Hydrogen fluoride, ammonium hydrogen difluoride, sodium fluoride.

What did your country’s companies export to the Assads’ Syria that could have been used to hurt civilians?

These are three of the chemicals German companies exported tons of to Syria between 2002 and 2006 that could have been used to make chemical weapons, at a time when the Assad regime was known to have a chemical weapons program.

The German government’s Ministry for the Economy [Bundeswirtschaftsministerium] drew up and published a list of such chemicals, including quantities, dates and prices, that could have been used to manufacture chemical weapons and for which the government issued export permits, in response to a question submitted by the Leftists party (Die Linken) and by Bundestag member and former U.N. weapons inspector Jan van Aken (Leftists) in particular. The government supplied this information one week before a national election.

Update on 30 Sep 2013: After the national election the government supplied more information. German companies were issued export permits for “dual-use” chemicals even until 2011, after the Assads were killing peaceful Syrian protestors. From 1998 to 2011, ~300 tons of such chemicals, which could be used for civilian or military purposes, were delivered from Germany to Syria. Klaus Barthel (S.P.D.) criticized the Bundeswirtschaftsministerium for, among other things, phased provision of the truth. The Bundeswirtschaftsministerium said they reviewed the investigation and remain convinced of the plausibility of the civilian uses cited, but the C.D.U. said plausibility is not enough when dealing with regimes like the Assads’. Reporter Arnd Henze said Germany has to be especially careful in these matters because the world knows that chemical weapons were produced in Libya and Iraq “with German support.”

On 01 Sep 2013 it was announced that Britain had issued licenses to export sarin gas precursors potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride to Syria in January 2012, ten months into the uprising against the Assad family. The export licenses were revoked in July 2012 after the European Union agreed to sanctions against the Assad regime. Prime Minister David Cameron (Tory)’s office initially responded by saying the U.K. has the the most rigorous export control regime, with a computer system called C.H.I.E.F., which is how they know that though the export permits were issued at that unfortunate time no chemicals were exported under the permits. Later it was indicated this was not so. Following up, Business Secretary Vince Cable (LibDem) subsequently reported that other licenses to export sarin precursor chemicals to Syria were issued by previous U.K. governments between 2004 and 2010 (the year Mr. Cameron’s Conservative-LibDem government came to power).

Update on 09 Jul 2014: U.K. foreign minister William Hague sent a written statement to the British parliament announcing that British companies had probably exported hundreds of tons of chemicals to Syria in the 1980’s that could have been used to make chemical weapons such as sarin and VX.

(FLEW or voss ah SHTOFF,   a MOAN ee oom hee dro GAIN dee FLEW oar EAT,   NOT ree oom FLEW oar EAT.)

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