Inconsistencies over the death toll and other details related to the attack also have fueled doubts among skeptics.
The Obama administration says 1,429 people died in 12 locations mostly east of the capital, an estimate close to the one put out by the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition. When asked for victims’ names, however, the group provided a list of 395. On that list, some of the victims were identified by a first name only or said to be members of a certain family. There was no explanation for the hundreds of missing names.
In Ghouta, Majed Abu Ali, a spokesman for 17 clinics and field hospitals near Damascus, produced the same list, saying the hospitals were unable to identify all the dead.
Casualty estimates by other groups are far lower: The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it only counts victims identified by name, and that its current total stands at 502. It has questioned the U.S. number and urged the Obama administration to release the information its figure is based on. The AP also has repeatedly asked for clarification on those numbers.
The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders says it has not been able to update its initial Aug. 24 estimate of 355 killed because communication with those on the ground around Damascus is difficult. That estimate was based on reports from three hospitals in the area supported by the group.
“We can’t get our heads around this — why would any commander agree to rocketing a suburb of Damascus with chemical weapons for only a very short-term tactical gain for what is a long-term disaster,” said Charles Heyman, a former British military officer who edits The Armed Forces of the U.K., an authoritative bi-annual review of British forces.
Putin said only Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France supported a military operation against Syria, while Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Italy opposed the option at the G20 summit. “You said the vote was 50/50. This is not quite so.”
Libya is facing its most critical moment since the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi with armed groups blockading oil fields and terminals, choking output to a 10th of normal levels and threatening economic disaster.
“We are currently witnessing the collapse of state in Libya, and the country is getting closer to local wars for oil revenues,” said Swiss oil analysts Petromatrix.
Afghan security forces’ weekly death toll tops 100
Afghanistan‘s police and army are losing too many men in battle, and may need up to five more years of western support before they can fight independently, the top US and Nato commander in the country has told the Guardian.
“We’ll have forces here post-2015,” he said. “In my mind the BSA is about addressing the environment of uncertainty here in Afghanistan, the fear that people have about 2015 and beyond.”