It’s been a little more than a week since reports surfaced of a large-scale chemical weapon attack in Syria.
Governments in Europe and the United States have accused the Syrian government of attacking their own people, while the Assad government has pointed the finger at its opponents. The United Nations currently has inspectors in Damascus, who have been tasked with finding out if chemical weapons were used and, if so, by whom.
It’s not a simple matter to decide if a chemical attack has occurred. The inspectors will be looking for evidence to support or refute one of several possibilities: A non chemical cause, such as mass hysteria. A chemical cause not related to chemical weapons. An attack using chemical weapons, but an improvised delivery system. A military chemical weapons attack using artillery or bombs. In media interviews, former weapons inspectors have said that the symptoms are in line with a nerve agent such as sarin rather than the effects of a blistering agents such as sulphur mustard.