Prestigious journal rejects paper about chemical attack in Syria after backlash

Science | AAAS | 10/14/2019 | Staff
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In an about-face, a prestigious journal has decided not to publish a controversial paper that casts doubt on the Syrian government's responsibility for a 2017 chemical attack that killed more than 80 people. Science and Global Security (SGS) had originally accepted the paper, but reversed itself after a backlash from scientists who accused one of the authors, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor emeritus Ted Postol, of pushing conspiracy theories.

“The Editors have decided to return this manuscript to the authors without prejudice and not proceed further with considering it for publication,” an update posted on the journal's website on Saturday says.

Paper - Attack - Sarin - Gas - City

The paper concerns an attack with sarin gas in the rebel-held city of Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017. The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded that the Syrian government had dropped a sarin-filled bomb on the town, as did U.S. intelligence agencies. But Postol, mathematician Goong Chen of Texas A&M University in College Station, and other authors used computer modelling to argue that the impact crater believed to be the site of the sarin release was not formed by a bomb but by an artillery rocket armed with a small explosive warhead. Postol, a respected expert on missile defence, has argued in interviews and blog posts that the Syrian regime is not responsible for the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack and two others he has examined. In fact, he says he believes sarin was not used at all in Khan Shaykhun.

Gregory Koblentz, a biological and chemical weapons expert at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, says the paper's aim was clear: “While on its surface, Postol's article appeared to revolve around a narrow technical question about whether a rocket or a bomb created the crater in Khan Sheikhoun,...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Science | AAAS
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