Statement Analysis®

Did Syria use chemical weapons?

On April 7, 2017, President Trump ordered an air strike on a Syrian airfield in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed scores of civilians. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denounced the attack claiming his government was not responsible for the chemical attack.

On April 12, 2017, President Assad was interviewed by Sammy Ketz with the news agency AFP. The questions were asked in English and President Assad replied in English. Since English is not Assad's first language, this may explain why he used some wrong verb tenses.

Ketz: "Did you give an order to strike Khan Sheikhun with chemical weapons last Tuesday?"

President Assad: "Actually, no one has investigated what happened that day in Khan Sheikhun till the moment. As you know, Khan Sheikhun is under the control of Al-Nusra Front, which is a branch of Al-Qaeda, so the only information the world have had till this moment is published by Al-Qaeda branch. No one has any other information. We don't know if the whole pictures or videos that we've been seeing are true or fabricated. That's why we asked for investigation to what happened in Khan Sheikhun. This is first.

Second, Al-Qaeda sources said that the attack happened at 6, 6:30 in the morning, while the Syrian attack in the same area was around noon, between 11:30 to 12. So, they're talking about two different stories or events. So, there was no order to make any attack, we don't have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago. Even if we have them, we wouldn't use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history."

When the word "actually" is used, a person is comparing two thoughts. President Assad may be comparing the interviewer's belief the attack has been investigated with Assad's belief it has not been fully investigated. Then again, he may be comparing that he knows it has been investigated with his statement that it has not been investigated.

Most people will state what happened or will answer the question asked of them. When people explain their actions by using words such as "so," "therefore" and "since," it is an indication of sensitivity within the statement.

Up to this point, Assad has not answered the specific question, "Did you give an order to strike Khan Sheikhun with chemical weapons last Tuesday?" He finally answered the question by saying, "There was no order to make any attack." Notice how he does not personalize his answer. He did not state, "I did not give an order to strike."

Assad denies having any chemical weapons. He then goes on to say, "Even if we have them, we wouldn't use them." Why talk about a hypothetical situation if you don't have them? To state that if you had chemical weapons you would not use them makes no sense. Why possess them?

Those of you familiar with Statement Analysis probably saw that Assad use the unique word "never." He used it correctly since he did not use it as a substitute for the word "no." However, the use of the word "never" in a denial weakens the denial. "We did not" is a better denial. I can tell you that I have "never" gone sky diving. That is a truthful statement and the correct way to use the word "never." I am not denying going sky diving. I am simply stating a fact. Assad though, is in denial mode.

Overall, we see Assad did a poor job in answering the question, "Did you give an order to strike Khan Sheikhun with chemical weapons last Tuesday?"

Return to the In The News page

Return to the Famous Cases page