Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Video showing SAA launch of the mystery missile

The following video shows one of the mysterious missiles being launched by SAA from an unknown area. I don't know what time this video was taken, so I can't say from which direction it was launched. But it looks like an industrial area.

The uploader has claimed that this is a chemical weapon missile. I would disagree. First of all, the video shows a lack of excitement and urgency. Too much lounging. Also, the SAA personnel do not have CW protection gear. Not a single one of them.

What it instead looks like is the preparation for the launch of a new weapon system. In this case, both I and other bloggers (first to raise this theory to me was Matthew Asheville) believe that this missile type is a thermobaric bomb. Of the civilians on the improvised launching platform, I believe the guys in the red and the white shirts are the engineers responsible for the launch. The guy in white has probably more authority, but the guy in red deals with the technical issues.

Related articles:

Analysis on the origin of CW missile #197 that landed in Ghouta, Syria.
Follow up analysis of alleged CW missile #197: Was it a thermobaric bomb?

Evidence at least part of Aug. 21st munitions were fuel air explosives, not chemical warfare munitions (from Matthew Asheville's blog)


Follow up analysis of alleged CW missile #197: Was it a thermobaric bomb?


After my previous post on the alleged CW missiled #197, I was contacted by Matthew Asheville, who pitched his theory on the missile. His take was that it was actually a thermobaric weapon, which had failed to detonate and had instead deflagrated (I will explain the difference later in my post). This struck a chord with me, as I had previously, through both Twitter and Email, explained that I did not believe that missile #197 had detonated. The damage to the surrounding environment was, in my opinion, not consistent with a detonation. There was also no apparent crater, except for the furrowing caused by the missile during crash landing. But the pictures also reveal an urgency by the photographer to document the damage caused to the building (where in one of the photos, the photographer had focused on a large section of the building, as if trying to associate its damage with the missile). After some consideration and research, I was convinced that Matthew was onto something, and I decided to write this post to share my conclusions with you.

The Analysis

Previous use of thermobaric bombs by the Syrian Army in areas such as Qusair had, according to the opposition, leveled whole buildings and had forced the rebels to withdraw due to unacceptable casualties. In the pictures and videos from Zamalka, where missile #197 apparently fell (geolocated and confirmed by Brown Moses and his Storyful Open Newsroom investigation team), we can see extensive damage to the northern exterior wall (and some interior walls) of the building closest to the missile.

I had naively ignored the surroundings, only concentrating on the bomb and its position. As I don't know Arabic, I can't understand what they're saying in the following video, taken at the impact zone in Zamalka.

Matthew writes in one of his blog posts that the narrator says that the surrounding used to have some type of vegetation, but that the bomb had wiped it away. A closer look at the exterior wall shows an almost circular charring with a center that is aligned with the bomb.

Picture #1

I still think that the stress bend was caused by the inertia at impact, but I'm also willing to claim that it could have been aided by the pressure caused by the deflagration of the bomb. The deformation of the circular disc (circled in blue), around the mid-part of the missile implies this. A similar disc is called a "non-rupturable end wall" in a design by John H. Lee (notation 84, sheet 3, US Patent #5,168,123). This disc is bent in almost the same direction as the tail section.

A thermobaric weapon works in two stages. In the first stage it disperses fuel over a large area (through a small explosion), and in the second stage, it ignites a high-explosive charge that creates a shockwave that causes the fuel to detonate. Well, that's what it's supposed to do, expressed in the simplest terms possible.

On the other hand, the high-explosive charge can fail to detonate the fuel, where it will instead "deflagrate" it. The difference between detonation and deflagration is that, in a detonation the reaction speed of the material exceeds 3,100 ft/s, and any reaction speed below that is called a "deflagration." The behaviors of detonation vs. deflagration is best explained by John D. DeHaan of the California Institute of Criminalistics:

"The effects of detonations are very different from those of deflagrations. Deflagrations tend to push, shove, and heave, often with very limited shattering and little production of secondary missiles (fragmentation). Building components may have time to move in response to the pressure as it builds up and vent it. The maximum pressures developed by deflagrations are often limited by the failure pressure of the surrounding structure. Detonations, on the other hand, tend to shatter, pulverize and splinter nearby materials with fragments propelled away at a very high speeds. There is no time to move and relieve pressure so damage tends to be much more localized (seated) in the vicinity of the explosive charge (and its initiator) than a deflagration whose damage is more generalized. Damage from a deflagration tends to be more severe away from the ignition point, as the reaction energy grows with the expanding reaction (flame) front. It is for this reason that identification of an ignition source and mechanism for a deflagration may be more difficult than for a detonation."
The next to last sentence is important: "Damage from a deflagration tends to be more severe away from the ignition point, as the reaction energy grows with the expanding reaction (flame) front." In the case of #197, there seems to be no charring around it. But the damage increases in severity the further away we get from the missile. Once the flame front hit the building, it had accumulated enough energy to char a circular uniform section, with an impact strong enough to shake loose parts of the wall.
But this doesn't really explain why detonation didn't occur. A commenter named Jerry writes in response to Matthew Asheville's post that it is plausible that the Syrian Army had a batch of faulty fuzes. That could very well be. What actually detonates the fuel is not the initial shockwave, but the reflected shockwave. That's why thermobaric bombs work so well in confined areas (especially bunkers). So in order to have a deflagration to detonation (DDT), you need a shockwave amplifier (similar to a sound echo): the first shockwave heats up the fuel, but each reflected wave increases this heat until you reach detonation. So why didn't this happen in Zamalka? Well, it seems like the bomb failed to use the ground as an amplifier, where it instead sent the shockwave in a more horizontal direction. Toward the wall. But the wall of the building wasn't reinforced enough to stand the initial shockwave and reflect it back. Instead, the initial shockwave just passed through, resulting in minimal reflection (with negligible amplification as result).

If deflagration vs. detonation is still a mystery to you, watch this video for excellent visual (and auditory) demonstration by pyroma.. ehm.. pyroenthusiasts. (TATP = Acetone Peroxide.)

Deflagration vs. Detonation is the "Whoosh!" vs. "Boom!" That could also explain why the citizens of East Ghouta, who by now are used to loud "booms" and "bangs," didn't hear much of that from this bomb.

But what does it really mean that detonation didn't occur? It probably means that the initial shockwave instead sent the fuel over a very wide area. Imagine a fuel cloud that is violently pushed, and rides on a hemispherical shockwave that just grows in radius. Though, I can not make any claims on how much of the fuel burned up, and how much of it became toxic rain.

The fuel cloud itself is extremely toxic, and if it doesn't detonate, it will act like a chemical weapon. In a report dating back to February, 2000, the Human Rights Watch wrote about the Russian thermobaric bombs used during the war in Chechnya. They quoted a 1993 U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency study (obtained by HRW through FOIA) on thermobaric bombs, where the agency writes:
"If the fuel deflagrates but does not detonate, victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel. Since the most common FAE [fuel-air explosives] fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide, are highly toxic, undetonated FAE should prove as lethal to personnel caught within the cloud as most chemical agents."
Fuel-air explosive is another name for thermobaric bombs. And just how dangerous fuel mixes can be was also apparent when the Russian Proton-M rocket exploded over Kazakhstan on July 2, 2013.

As I have already mentioned the Human Rights Watch's report, let's take another quote from the report that could aid us in our examination of the claim made by the Zamalka video's narrator regarding the obliteration of the surrounding vegetation:
According to one Russian military scientist writing for the Russian military magazine Voyennyye Znaniya (Military Knowledge), FAE weapons are effective against exposed personnel, combat equipment, fortified areas and individual defensive fortifications, clearing passages in minefields, clearing landing sites for helicopters, destroying communication centers, and neutralizing strongholds in house-to-house fighting in a city. In addition, he stated that "fuel-air explosives are capable...of completely destroying in a given area vegetation and agricultural crops that have been planted."
There are a couple of other points to make regarding this specific missile type. It has been seen before; in both Daraya, Damascus, on January 4, 2013, and at two occasions in Adra, Damascus on June 11, 2013, and on August 5, 2013. The missile in Adra even has a fuel-like substance on it (and that's not CW, as the guys filming the missile aren't in any distress, rolling on the floor, and/or convulsing). It would have been great if the opposition had taken samples of that substance for further examination.

In the August 5, 2013 video from Adra, we see the same missile type, and it has done the same type of physiological damage to animals (human casualties not seen in the video) as it did in Zamalka. In this case, the missile seems to have charred a big swath of the ground, where it probably succeeded creating a shockwave amplification. But this video has convinced me that this type of munition is obviously worthless as a thermobaric bomb.

Another point to make is the color coding on the surviving canister of the same missile type (#900).

A yellow band would tell us, if it had been NATO ammunition, this is some type of an HE (High-Explosive) bomb. Brown Moses has researched this missile type, and has not been able to match this missile with any known design. Strongly implying that it is either 1) DIY-type design, 2) domestically manufactured by the Syrians within the last two years. I can therefore not say whether those who manufactured this missile have followed NATO standards of ammunition color codes, or the color code used by the Russians and their allies. But if it is Russian color coding, it would either be a "Ball Shrapnel", or indicating that there is a "presence of a piece of lead-wire as decoppering agent." Two not so convincing or consistent designations.


  1. Yes, I think this was intended to be a thermobaric bomb.
  2. Albeit a lousy design (based on the little empirical data gathered), this type of munition is too advanced to have been made by FSA or their allies. A numbering and color coding system implies that these missiles are being cataloged and stockpiled. I think that there is a high probability that these munitions are associated with SAA or their allies.
  3. This missile could have been an attempt by the Syrians to domestically manufacture their own line of thermobaric weapons; to either circumvent the weapons sanctions or to safeguard against a possible non-delivery of similar weapons from their allies (ODAB-500). Or because they're running low of ODAB's, or they want a surface-to-surface type of TB-rocket with specific properties (short-range, long-range, etc).
  4. The R&D department that created these bombs obviously sucks, and they're just a notch above FSA's rag-tag ex-car-mechanics-turned-weapons-manufacturers. It is either the secondary stage not doing its job properly, or this missile is not aerodynamically sound. Whatever it is, there is a high probability that this bomb will inadvertently turn into a CW bomb when used.


I would like to thank Matthew Asheville for sharing his theory and sources with me. My discussions with him have been invaluable to my research, and saved me countless of hours! Please visit and bookmark his blog! The same gratitude and eloge goes to Brown Moses for his research on conventional and DIY munitions in the Syrian war theater. Last but not least, I would also like to extend my gratitude to Arjen Donan for his input and support.


I don't think it has escaped anybody that a blog named "The Kurdish Cause" is a Kurdish blog, and that I am Kurdish. These are my views, which I have tried to deliver in the most neutral fashion possible. The use of Chemical Weapons reverberates a bit differently with us Kurds, and it is in my, and my people's interest, that any alleged use of CW by any military force be investigated, and if true, prosecuted in the harshest terms.

Also, typos/grammatical errors are all mine. I might have missed something, stated the obvious, or just generally committed an honest error. My intention was to publish this before the U.S. decides to bomb Syria.

Contact Info

Please send me encouragements or hate mail through thekurdishcause at gmail, or contact me with your real-time rants and raves on Twitter, at @r3sho.

Monday, August 26, 2013

HPG warns Turkey: "If you fail to take steps in the peace process, we will reinstate our former war positions"

In a press conference held on August 26, the Kurdish People's Defense Forces (HPG) warned Turkey that they would reinstate their war positions if the Turkish government failed to live up to their responsibilities regarding the current peace process between PKK and Turkey.

(From left to right) HPG Military Council member Gulistan Gulhat, People's Defense Center member Delal Amed, and HPG Military Council member Bawer Dersim. (Photo: Firat News Agency)

Delal Amed, member of the newly reorganized People's Defense Center, said "We clearly state this: Our approach is sincere, we aim for a true solution. Those who don't have a sincere approach to a solution, those who have a flippant attitude toward the Kurdish question and are trying to drop our Leadership [Ocalan] into a void, they will receive the answer they deserve."

This strong warning was issued with a backdrop of newly arrived Kurdish HPG guerrillas from the Dersim [Tunceli] area. "Behind us stands the visual proof that the Turkish Prime Minister's statements [regarding HPG's pullout] does not mirror the truth. These comrades walked for two months, all the way from Dersim," Amed continued.

Delal Amed also said that the Turkish AKP government has not taken any steps other than halt major operations. "Beginning with our pullout, all the [Turkish] bases and outposts in northern Kurdistan [southeastern Turkey] have been reinforced, worn units have been rotated, new outposts have been built, and emphasis has been put on creating new dams and building new military roads."

The dams mentioned by Delal Amed is in reference to a new tactic employed by the Turkish government, which is using these dams to flood mountainous terrain supposedly used by Kurdish fighters. Countless of villages and hamlets have been confiscated, and the civilian populations "relocated" to large Kurdish urban areas, such as Diyarbakir, Hakkari, and Van. The construction of dams and new outposts is seen as major signs of Turkey's noncommittal to the peace process.

The warning comes as Turkey has promised to aid Western powers in the military strike on Syria, which seems to be inevitable. Kurds worry that Turkey will use this opportunity to occupy Kurdish areas in Syria (also called "Rojava" by Kurds), and lend their military aid to Jihadist forces currently fighting the Kurdish YPG.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Analysis on the origin of CW missile #197 that landed in Ghouta, Syria.


Before people accuse me of taking sides, I'd like to first and foremost say that I'm a Kurd. I will not take sides in this war, as doing so will either force me to support a brutal dictatorship like the Syrian Baath Party, or brutal Jihadists like al-Qaeda (call them "ISIS" or "Jabhat al-Nusra," it doesn't matter, both are al-Qaeda aligned.) I'm posting this because UN is refusing to send a proper investigation team to the sites that have allegedly been attacked with chemical weapons. This is worrisome. Especially to me, as a Kurd. If they can let the truth get away, then the next who might be attacked will be the Kurds, and we know how much the World really cared when Halabja got bombed by the Iraqi Baathists. My conclusions from this little investigation might not suit one side or the other, but it will be ONE truth unraveled from this mess. I'm an engineer by profession, and I have had military background. Those who know me, know this to be true, and I'm willing to verify this to any member of a U.S. govt. agency (that can show me an ID). Enough with annoying Italics; let's begin.


The following pictures were taken from this IMUGR account. As I don't know Arabic and as I'm not familiar with the logos on these pictures, I don't know WHO took them first. What I know is that it was taken by pro-Opposition sources. These pictures were taken from ONE of the sites allegedly attacked with chemical weapons in Ghouta, east of Damascus. I tried to verify the exact location by contacting several Syria "experts," but they did either not know, or I was ignored. In any case, I received no answers.

I initially gave up on investigating these pictures, but after giving them an umpteenth look, I realized that I could pinpoint a general direction of origin. I will present my conclusions with a series of original pictures, where I have tagged them with arrows and text.

The Pictures

If you look at the picture below, you will see the missile designated as #197 (verified through this picture: It can clearly be seen that the missile bent forward due to stress during impact. This itself shows which direction the missile came from. The missile bent toward the same direction it was flying (through inertia). There is another bend at the point of the missile, but that one is caused by the normal force from the ground opposing the impact of the missile.

Picture #1

Secondly, I would like you to look at the shadows cast by the people around the missile. Compare the different pictures, and you will notice that the shadows have changed angle in the later pictures. This implies that the pictures were taken at different times. The shadows will also help us determine WHERE the missile came from.


In this second picture, the missile is still stuck in the ground, and it has not been disturbed since impact. The shadow of the opposition fighter is very long, implying that the sun is low on the horizon. This won't tell us (YET!) whether this is an earlier picture (that is, whether the sun was rising) or a later picture (that is, the sun was setting). Notice the building in the picture. The bend (implying an angled impact) also tells us that it did not come from the direction where that building is placed (or it would have hit the building first).

Picture #2

This third picture (which I used as a reference in the first picture to explain about the stress bend of the missile, and how it gave away the direction the missile came from) shows a picture taken in close proximity in time to the second picture. The opposition fighters have gathered around the missile, and are inspecting it. Notice the stone in the lower left corner, as I will use it in the next picture to show that it is 1) the same missile, 2) that this same missile has been disturbed. (Notice also that the opposition fighter to the very right is the same guy as in the second picture, telling us that it is the same missile.)

Picture #3

In the fourth picture, the missile has been dug out. This implies that this fourth picture is the LATER picture (later in the day). Notice also the direction of the shadows. They're now stretching toward the opposite side as the shadow in the first picture, corroborating the claim that this is the later picture. See the stone? This is the same stone as in picture three, and it is still to the right (or left, depending on how you look at it) of the missile. The building in the second picture is behind the photographer.

Picture #4

  1. As the second picture is taken earlier in the day, and as the shadows are stretching very long, it implies that the picture is taken in the morning. As the sun is rising from the east (behind the opposition fighter), the photographer is therefore facing SOUTH.
  2. Therefore, the first picture shows that the missile came from NORTH, as the stress bend is toward the SOUTH. So, it came from NORTH, impacted, the missile was structurally stressed, but it couldn't tumble forward, so it bent forward instead (due to inertia).
  3. As Ghouta is to the east of Damascus, and as the Syrian 155th Brigade (accused of launching these attacks) are shelling from Mount Kalmun army base in the south of Damascus, it can't have been launched from this site.
  4. IF the SAA launched this specific missile, it must have done so NORTH of this location. Now, I'm not an expert on the moving trenches of the Syrian War, and I have currently no calculations of the velocity of this missile (thus can't determine range). I don't know the range of these missiles, but what I can say is that it was most likely NOT fired at a high angle (as the impact is not at a straight down angle, as the stress bend shows).

    But I don't know exactly WHERE this impact occurred. But the only way this being a SAA strike, is if these pictures depict the alleged hit on Ayn Tarma (the lower-mid location on the map).

    [UPDATE: The location which this missile hit has been located and verified to be Zamalka, and the origin is most likely Al Qabun area, north of Zamalka. I had previously thought Al Qabun was under government control during the Ghouta incident, but this was conveyed to me through rebel sources, and after further investigation, I was not able to find proof of this claim.]

Picture from Wikipedia article on Ghouta chemical attack.

I hope this post will open up the discussion regarding the chemical attacks on Ghouta, which took countless of lives. The dead deserves the truth, and as UN is still dragging their feet and are once again showing us their spineless nature, I think it is up to YOU and ME to shed light on this atrocity. My agenda is clear: If the perpetrator of this attack won't be revealed, then the same perpetrator can commit the same atrocity anywhere in Syria, and then blame their opponent.

Also, if this is the deed of al-Qaeda, I'm then hoping that a public discourse on the truth will HALT our politicians from going into a war that is NOT in our interest. We waved goodbye to our troops with yellow ribbons on our chests. They went to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight those they believed to be responsible for 9/11. We lost THOUSANDS of soldier in these wars, allowing our politicians to use their deaths in their political campaigns, shedding crocodile tears for the miseries of the fallen soldiers' families. We now have the Patriot Act, and the NSA is spying on ALL of us, and the reason is to keep us SAFE from al-Qaeda. If that is so, then why would we SUPPORT them in Syria? Does this make sense to you? Because it does not to me.

If you need to get in touch with me, you can follow me on twitter at @r3sho, or send an e-mail to thekurdishcause at gmail.

/Resho Bistuyek

(Did some minor changes on typos, and updated the missile number. I had previously thought that it was either #191 or #161, but this picture shows it to be #197.)

Related articles:

Follow up analysis of alleged CW missile #197: Was it a thermobaric bomb?