Bashar Assad's alleged gassing of Syrian citizens was the main argument in support of American intervention in the situation.  It has consequently been the main source of controversy and most discussed example of the US's total outsider status and lack of understanding of the country's situation.  The Western world simply does not know which side of the conflict used the gas.

Now, Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, is saying that a study of the August 21 Damascus gas attack – the event which raised the question of foreign intervention – conducted by the Russian government shows that the gas was homemade.  This would indicate that the gas was used by the rebels, rather than the Syrian government which has stockpiles of the chemical weapon.

Samples of the gas were compared to homemade gas used in a similar incident in Aleppo in March, and, according to Lavrov, matched though the concentration was higher in the August attack.  Other evidence of rebel guilt was gleaned from news articles in which rebel fighters described being handed strange weapons they didn't know how to operate.

Homemade sarin gas can be distinguished from industrially manufactured versions of the product by the lack of stabilizers present in the mix.  Without stabilizers, the substance has a very short shelf life – a few months for the purest versions, and weeks for others – and cannot be stored in aluminum casings.  According to Russian officials, the gas used has no stabilizers present.  This necessarily means that the gas was recently produced, though Assad has over 1,000 tons of the substance stockpiled, and French officials have had them in their sights for over 25 years.

The study took place at the request of the Syrian government, which Russia has staunchly backed since the beginning of the conflict.  The Syrian government had also requested that the UN investigate the Aleppo incident, but the UN did not respond to the request.  Syria's current government is an important Russian ally in the Middle East, providing the country with a warm-water Naval port.  The presence of Saudi-backed Al Qaida and Chechen rebels in the opposition, though, has solidified Russian support of Assad.

Lavrov presented his findings to the UN and to John Kerry, though he emphasized Russia's continued support of the bilateral plan to destroy Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.  Russia will not support any action which could lead to the authorization of military force in the country, however.  A UN resolution adopted Thursday is legally binding but provides no means of automatic enforcement.

Lavrov's evidence does show that rebel use of the gas is a serious possibility, and perfectly illustrates the prudence with which America and other countries should approach the situation in Syria.

I asked Congressman Jeff Duncan (SC, R) if the evidence regarding Assad using chemical weapons on Aug. 21st was a "slam dunk?" Congressman Jeff Duncan's spokesperson Allen Klump told me, "the Congressman has seen evidence that the chemical weapons used in Syria came from Assad. However, that doesn't change the Congressman's position that there are no good guys in this situation, and that we do not need to be involved militarily in Syria."

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