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 6 - Hearsay, rumor and information
We found one rather disturbing comment, delivered almost as an aside, in the IIT report: “The IIT obtained information that, in March 2017, Shayrat airbase was used to store chemical weapons. The IIT further obtained information that former members of the previously designated Branch 450, a component of the Syrian Arab Republic’s chemical weapons programme responsible for storage, mixing, and filling of chemical weapons, including sarin, were present in Shayrat airbase in late March 2017.”
This passage is reminiscent of many previous throwaway accusations made at the political level. It would be staggering, if true, that chemical weapons were being stored at Al-Shayrat. Indeed, it could have been seen as close to a smoking gun.
But what level of credibility can we ascribe to such a comment? Did it come from US, British or French intelligence services? Or was it the product of a throwaway “report” provided by an OPCW delegate in The Hague? Is it “incontrovertible evidence” in the same way the supposedly clear evidence of proof of the now-discredited allegation of the Douma chemical attack was?
We should perhaps take that comment of the IIT “obtaining information” as ranking alongside the credibility of similar intelligence reports leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.