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OPCW insiders slam ‘compromised’ new Syria chemical weapons probe

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 3 - Opposition middlemen and the mishandling of evidence

These issues have been debated ad nauseam, but the message appears to have fallen on deaf ears. Surely it must be well understood by all readers now, that the foundation for the whole case is terminally fragile when no so-called “fact-finder or investigator” has even been to the alleged incident site. That’s right, not one member of the IIT conducted a field investigation. Literally everything in the case has been provided by the sworn enemies of the Syrian government.

The opposition forces have brought all the so-called “evidence” for these allegations of chemical attacks, often in response to requests and guidance from the FFM, piecemeal over a period of months and years, to hand over to the FFM and IIT. This handover has generally been at a safe location in Turkey.  

The middlemen, representing some so-called NGOs that have been known to coordinate and coach the opposition groups and OPCW inspectors throughout the follow-up on these incidents, have reportedly been a couple of well-known British military figureheads. The narratives, the witness accounts, the soil samples, the metal fragments, the photographs and videos; every item of so-called “evidence” had been provided by those who have everything to gain by implicating their enemies in a chemical attack.

So, to declare in the FFM reports that chain-of-custody on material and samples was strictly maintained “after receipt of the items” is quite simply laughable, and perhaps this meaningless excuse should better remain unsaid in the future. It does little for the scientific reputation of the OPCW.

One may argue that this is not the fault of the FFM or IIT, but it nonetheless puts them in a very weak position, where they need to start suggesting “factual findings” on the basis of circumstantial piecing-together and attempted corroboration of the narratives and items presented by the opposition forces.

If the bar for IIT findings hadn’t been set so conspicuously low, that of reporting “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that there had been a chemical attack, surely the whole case would have been dismissed at the start?

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