Current and former staff members of the OPCW have denounced the organization’s IIT report alleging Syrian government sarin use at Ltamenah, criticizing its reliance on rumor, hearsay, “scientifically flawed” claims and the influence of unqualified, secret “experts” aligned with the Western-backed opposition.
by OPCW Insiders
On April 8, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons released a report by its newly formed Investigation and Identification Team, a unit ostensibly established to identify alleged perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The IIT investigation examined three alleged incidents in the Syrian town of Ltamenah in March 2017. It concluded “that there are reasonable grounds to believe” that the Syrian army committed a sarin attack in two of the incidents, and a chlorine attack in the third.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised the IIT probe, calling it “the latest in a large and growing body of evidence that the Assad regime uses chemical weapons attacks in Syria as part of a deliberate campaign of violence against the Syrian people. The United States shares the OPCW’s conclusions.”
But missing from Pompeo’s remarks and the ensuing U.S. media coverage across the spectrum is the crisis of credibility consuming the OPCW and its senior leadership. The IIT report’s tenuous conclusion “that there are reasonable grounds to believe” the official version of events closely resembles the conclusion of an earlier OPCW report that is now the subject of major controversy and derision. A series of leaks show that OPCW leaders suppressed the findings of inspectors who probed another much more consequential alleged Syrian chemical attack, in the city of Douma in April 2018, which triggered US airstrikes.
The evidence collected in Douma undermined allegations of Syrian government guilt and strongly suggested a staged event by the armed opposition. Leaked internal OPCW emails and documents show that the Douma investigators protested the censorship of their findings, setting off an unfolding cover-up scandal that has called the OPCW’s impartiality into question.
The Grayzone has published a series of leaks from the OPCW’s Douma scandal, and plans to reveal new material that further undermines the official story. The article below reveals how the dissension within the OPCW ranks extends well beyond the Douma investigation.
Here, OPCW insiders offer a withering critique of the IIT report, blasting it as another hyper-politicized piece of bunk. The Grayzone can verify that the authors represent the view of, at minimum, a small group of current and former OPCW officials who took part in its drafting and review.
Max Blumenthal and Aaron Maté, The Grayzone
Part 2 - The question of motive
Before we go any further, let us admit we don’t understand the minds of the Syrian leadership. Let’s assume that they were willing to risk everything, including perhaps their own survival, to escalate back to the “red line” of alleged chemical weapons usage; to deliberately provide a reason for Western intervention and a justification for regime change.
Then let’s say they took this wild risk by using sarin, a “real” chemical weapon that had been declared in their stockpile, for the first time since their accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention. They did this by supposedly dropping a couple of sarin bombs on fields; agricultural lands in the middle of nowhere.
Perhaps, for some reason we cannot comprehend, they were deliberately thumbing their nose at Western powers. They didn’t use sarin during the desperate times when they had their backs to the wall and were close to being overrun by opposition groups; but for some reason chose a time when they were back in control.
And, since September 2015, they had been receiving critical military support from the Russian Federation. So they dropped chemical bombs despite a situation where, as a Russian officer reportedly explained to inspectors, his military command was working directly with the Syrians. As he commented, “Do you think we would be stupid enough to be sharing and coordinating airspace with the Syrians while they deploy chemical weapons from their aircraft in violation of an international treaty that is very important to us?”
The question of motive figures squarely within the realm of criminal investigation. Though this is not the usual line of work for OPCW inspectors, surely this questioning of motive must have been one of the fundamental starting points for the IIT investigation?
Secondly, these March 2017 alleged chemical attacks (and, it would later turn out, another sarin incident at Khan Sheikhoun on April 4), happened shortly after the first high-profile OPCW inspections at the secretive military research facilities, the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC) facilities in Barzeh and Jamrayah. Around this time, in the SSRC inspections and the work towards resolving issues described by the OPCW Declarations Assessment Team as “inconsistencies” in declarations submitted by the Syrians, delegations were aware the Syrians were putting in a substantial effort to clear up the headache of what they called “the chemical dossier.”
Were they engaged in this hard work so that they could then drop a couple of sarin bombs to then guarantee they would galvanize the world against them? One finds this hard to believe.