Syria conflict: Key documents

Last September, the US and France weighed up options for a military strike against Syria in the wake of an alleged chemical weapons attack by the Damascus government on 21 August. The two countries, as well as the UK, produced the following intelligence assessments to help decision-makers.

United States

"The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013."

Sources: Evidence is based on "human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting" as well as "additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources".

Deaths: 1,429 people, including at least 426 children

Key extracts: "Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21."

"Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours."

PDF download U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government's Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013[44.6 KB]

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United Kingdom

The Joint Intelligence Committee said "it is highly likely that the regime was responsible for the CW attacks on 21 August. The JIC had high confidence in all of its assessments except in relation to the regime's precise motivation for carrying out an attack of this scale at this time".

Sources: As well as "widespread open source reports of chemical weapons", the JIC report said there was "a limited but growing body of intelligence which supports the judgement that the regime was responsible for the attacks... Some of this intelligence is highly sensitive."

"We have also worked in concert with the US intelligence community and agree with the conclusions they have reached."

Deaths: At least 350 fatalities

Key extracts: "We have assessed previously that the Syrian regime used lethal CW (chemical weapons) on 14 occasions from 2012. This judgement was made with the highest possible level of certainty following an exhaustive review by the Joint Intelligence Organisation of intelligence reports plus diplomatic and open sources."

Below are the documents published by the UK government on 29 August, in support of its position, although it has since ruled out military action, after a defeat in Parliament on the issue.

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France

"The analysis of information we have now gathered leads us to consider that, on August 21, 2013, the Syrian regime has launched an attack on some suburbs of Damascus that were being held by the opposition forces, using together conventional means and a large amount of chemical agents."

Sources: "Declassified intelligence mostly drawn from French-only sources" as well as "methodical technical analysis of 47 original video tapes of the August 21 events".

Deaths: No fewer than 281 but could be up to 1,500 deaths according to different sources. The report says "work carried out by our specialists, by extrapolating an impact model of a chemical attack on the population of the mentioned sites, is consistent with these figures".

Key extracts: "Our intelligence confirms that the regime feared a wider attack from the opposition on Damascus at that moment."

"...it is clear, by examining the targets of the attack, that only the regime itself could have targeted positions that were so strategic for the opposition. Finally, we consider that the Syrian opposition does not have the capacity to lead an operation of that size with chemical agents."

The French government published a nine-page summary of its intelligence, on 2 September:

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