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Letter From the Chairman of the UK Joint Intelligence Committee on Syria

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From the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee

Ref: Jp 115

Prime Minister

29 August 2013

SYRIA: REPORTED CHEMICAL WEAPONS USE

Following the widespread open source reports of chemical weapons (CW) use in the suburbs of Damascus in the early hours of 21 August 2013, the JIC met on 25 August to agree an assessment. At a subsequent meeting on 27 August we met again to review our level of conf idence in the assessment relating to the regime’s responsibility for the attack. The JIC’s conclusions were agreed by all Committee members. The final paper informed the National Security Council meeting on 28 August, at which I provided further background and a summary of the most recent reporting, analysis and challenge. The paper’s key judgements, based on the information and intelligence available to us as of 25 August, are attached.

It is important to put these JIC judgements in context. We have as sessed previously that the Syrian regime used lethal CW 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. We think that there have been other attacks although we do not have the same degree of confidence in the evidence. A clear pattern of regime use has therefore been established.

Unlike previous attacks, the degree of open source reporting of CW use on 21 August has been considerable. As a result, there is little serious disp ute that chemical attacks causing mass casualties on a larger scale than hitherto (including , we judge, at least 350 fatalities) took place.

It is being cl aimed, including by the regime, that the attacks were either faked or undertaken by the Syrian Armed Opposition. W e have tested this assertion using a wide range of intelligence and open sources, and invited HMG and outside experts to help us establish whether such a thing is possible. There is no credible intelligence or other evidence to substantiate the claim s or the possession of CW by the opposition. The JIC has therefore concluded that there are no plausible alternative scenarios to regime respons ibility.

We also have a limited but growing body of intelligence which supports the judgement that the regime was responsible for the attacks and that they were conducted to help clear the Opposition from strategic parts of Damascus. Some of this intelligence is highly sensitive but you have had access to it all.

Against that background, the JIC concluded that 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 – though intelligence may increase our confidence in the future.

There has been the closest possible cooperation with the Agencies in producing the JIC’s assessment. We have also worked in concert with the US intelligence community and agree with the conclusions they have reached.

Jon Day

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