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  1. Phungushead
    View attachment 31023 The Syrian military used an exotic chemical weapon on rebels during an attack in the city of Homs, some U.S. diplomats now believe.

    That conclusion — first reported by Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin and laid out in a secret cable from the U.S. consul general in Istanbul — contradicts preliminary estimates made by American officials in the hours after the December 23 strike. But after interviews with Syrian activists, doctors, and defectors, American diplomats in Turkey have apparently rendered a different verdict. It’s important to note, however, that this was the conclusion of a single consulate within the State Department, and there is still wide disagreement within the U.S. government over whether the Homs attack should be characterized as a chemical weapons incident.

    “We can’t definitely say 100 percent, but Syrian contacts made a compelling case that Agent 15 was used in Homs on Dec. 23,” an unnamed U.S. official tells Rogin.

    Agent 15 is another name for 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate or BZ, a powerful hallucinogen that the American military tested out on its own soldiers during the Cold War. Its emergence on the Syrian battlefield would be nothing short of bizarre. While Syria is well-known to have a massive supply of chemical weapons, international observers haven’t ordinarily included BZ on that list.

    Over the years, there have been rumors of BZ being used on a battlefield — including one that Iraqi insurgents were dosing themselves with the drug to pump up their aggressiveness. If the cable is accurate, this would be the first confirmed case of BZ employed as a weapon. At the moment, however, the cable’s claims are not confirmed.

    “The reporting we have seen from media sources regarding alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria has not been consistent with what we believe to be true about the Syrian chemical weapons program,” White House national security council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement. “If the Assad regime makes the tragic mistake of using chemical weapons, or fails to meet its obligation to secure them, the regime will be held accountable.”

    President Obama has called the use of chemical arms in Syria a “red line” that could trigger outside intervention in the civil war that has killed more than 60,000 people. It’s unclear whether the White House would consider a BZ strike to be a step over that line; Agent 15 isn’t nearly as deadly as a nerve agent like sarin. Last week, America’s top military officer said preventing a chemical attack by the Assad regime would be “almost unachievable.”

    American and allied intelligence services have been watching the Syrian government’s acquisition and possible use of chemical weapon components for years. They’ve blocked the importation of precursor chemicals and equipment into Syria when they’ve been able, and immediately reported to the White House when the Syrian military began mixing those precursor chemicals and loading them into munitions for a possible attack.

    But when U.S. officials first caught wind of Syrian rebels’ chemical weapons claim, the officials didn’t make much of it. In graphic videos uploaded to YouTube, opposition activists said they were hit by a gas that was “something similar to sarin,” a deadly nerve agent. The videos showed victims howling in agony and barely able to breathe. But the symptoms, as gruesome as they were, didn’t seem like the one produced by sarin.

    There were complaints of strong smells in the videos; sarin is often odorless. There were reports that the victims inhaled large amounts of the chemical; a minuscule of amount of inhaled sarin can be fatal.

    “It just doesn’t jibe with chemical weapons,” one U.S. official told Danger Room at the time.

    Later accounts from Homs more closely match what one might expect from a nerve gas victim. Rogin spoke with Dr. Nashwan Abu Abdo, a neurologist from Homs, who talked about victims with pinpoint pupils, “choking on their own secretions.”

    Abdo’s descriptions, however, don’t correspond with the conclusions of the State Department cable. A hallucinogen like BZ is unlikely to produce the effects Abdo outlined; such drugs typically cause pupils to grow, for instance, not contract.

    Something horrible happened in Homs on December 23. Exactly what that horrible event was still isn’t clear.

    January 15, 2013

    Noah Shachtman

    Drugs-Forum thread: 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate

    Some more info:


  1. enquirewithin
    This seems like a story with very little substance. The US wants an excuse to invade-- remember Saddam and his chemical weapons? They were not there. Note that this chemical was invented in the US. If Syria isn't know to have any, it probably doesn't.
  2. Basoodler
    I dont believe a person under the influence of BZ would be able to deliberately continue an organized attack after the drug has kicked in. I would think any violence would be random and not sticking to the story board of the conflict. Its more likely as syria warns, people would likely do damage to things close at hand and not seek out to find things to destroy
  3. Willyzh
    I think it's interesting how the opposing sides made completely different claims...

    If it's BZ, which it seems to have been from the initial claims (maybe but who knows) then casualties may be prevented by the incapacitating effects and Syria will not be held responsible by the U.S.

    If it is Sarin (it wasn't) then the U.S. may have to intervene because nerve gas is horrible.

    I find it hard to believe that any country would have a hard time acquiring chemicals. China is willing to ship to anyone. Perhaps it is different with weapons-grade chemicals, but the black market is strong in the Middle East and Asia.

    This is sort of off topic but if the world were dosed with LSD we would all be much better off.*

    *I don't agree with the previous statement and it is for novelty purposes only.
  4. enquirewithin
    The US sells more weapons than anybody else. The ME is already awash with weapons paid for by NATO and the US, directly or indirectly.

    This article is just part of a media propaganda blitz to find justification to intervene directly in Syria. This is just one of the more odd stories.

    In fact, it is just as likely (or unlikely) that the US has used BZ recenly: "Back during the first Gulf War, some in the tinfoil-hat crowd tried to argue that the US used BZ on Iraqis. Wouter Basson even claims to have found traces of BZ in the urine of supposed victims."
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