DISPATCHES FROM MOON OF ALABAMA, BY “B”
This article is part of an ongoing series of dispatches from Moon of Alabama
With regards to the revelations about the OPCW management manipulation of its staff reports the former UN weapon inspector Scott Ritter makes a very valid point:
Thanks to an explosive internal memo, there is no reason to believe the claims put forward by the Syrian opposition that President Bashar al-Assad’s government used chemical weapons against innocent civilians in Douma back in April. This is a scenario I have questioned from the beginning. It also calls into question all the other conclusions and reports by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was assigned in 2014 “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.”
Besides its activities around dubious ‘chemical’ incident in Syria there is another rather famous case in which the OPCW got involved: The alleged ‘Novichok’ attack on Sergei and Julia Scripal in Salisbury, Britain.
We discussed the OPCW involvement in the Skirpal case in our April 15 2018 report: Were the Skripals ‘Buzzed’, ‘Novi-shocked’ Or Neither?
The Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, threw a bombshell at the British assertions that the collapse of the British secret agent Sergej Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4 in Salisbury was caused by a ‘Novichok’ nerve agent ‘of a type developed by Russia’. (See our older pieces, linked below, for a detailed documentation of the case.)
- The Skripal poisoning happened on March 4.
- Eye witnesses described the Skripals as disoriented and probably hallucinating. The emergency personal suspected Fentanyl influence.
- A few days later the British government claimed that the Skripals had been affected by a chemical agent from the ‘Novichok’ series which they attributed to Russia. It insinuated that the Skripals might die soon.
- A doctor of the emergency center at the Salisbury District Hospital publicly asserted that none of its patients was victim of a ‘nerve agent’.
- On March 14, after much pressure from Russia, Britain finally invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to analyze the blood of the victims and to take environmental samples.
- The OPCW arrived on March 19 and took specimen on the following days. It also received a share of the samples taken earlier by the British chemical weapon laboratory in Porton Down, which is only some 10 miles away from Salisbury.
- The OPCW split the various samples it had in a certified laboratory in the Netherlands and then distributed them to several other certified laboratories for analysis.
- One of those laboratories was the highly regarded Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland which is part of the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection and fully certified.
- On April 12 the OPCW published a public version of the result of the analyses it had received from its laboratories.
- A more extensive confidential version was given to the state members that make up the OPCW.
During a public speech yesterday Lavrov stated of the OPCW report:
[A] detailed and fairly substantial confidential version was distributed to the OPCW members only. In that report, in accordance with the OPCW way of conduct, the chemical composition of the agent presented by the British was confirmed, and the analysis of samples, as the report states, was taken by the OPCW experts themselves. It contains no names, Novichok or any other. The report only gives the chemical formula, which, according to our experts, points to an agent that had been developed in many countries and does not present any particular secret.
After receiving that report Russia was tipped off by the Spiez Laboratory or someone else that the OPCW report did not include the full results of its analysis.
According to Lavrov this is what the Spiez Laboratory originally sent to the OPCW:
“Following our analysis, the samples indicate traces of the toxic chemical BZ and its precursor which are second category chemical weapons. BZ is a nerve toxic agent, which temporarily disables a person. The psycho toxic effect is achieved within 30 to 60 minutes after its use and lasts for up to four days. This composition was in operational service in the armies of the US, the UK and other NATO countries. The Soviet Union and Russia neither designed nor stored such chemical agents. Also, the samples indicate the presence of type A-234 nerve agent in its virgin state and also products of its degradation.”
The “presence of type A-234 nerve agent”, an agent of the so called ‘Novichok’ series, in its “virgin state”, or as the OPCW stated in “high purity”, points to later addition to the sample. The ‘Novichok’ agents are not stable. They tend to fall rapidly apart. Their presence in “virgin state” in a sample which was taken 15 days after the Skripal incident happened is inexplicable. A scientist of the former Russian chemical weapon program who worked with similar agents, Leonid Rink, says that if the Skripals had really been exposed to such high purity A-234 nerve agent, they would be dead.
The whole case, the symptoms shown by the Skripals and their recuperation, makes way more sense if they were ‘buzzed’, i.e. poisoned with the BZ hallucinogenic agent, than if they were ‘novi-shocked’ with a highly toxic nerve agent.
The OPCW had send blood samples from the Skripals to the Spiez laboratory in Switzerland which found BZ, a psycho agent 25 times stronger than LSD. The OPCW hid this fact in its reports.
An attack with BZ on the Skripals would be consistent with the observed symptoms that bystanders had described. The Skripals were indeed hallucinating and behaved very strange with Sergei Skipal lifting his arms up to the sky while sitting on a bench. Exposure to BZ would also explain the Skripals’ survival.
The OPCW explained the BZ find by claiming that it had mixed BZ into the probe to test the laboratory. Something which it said it regularly does. At that time I still believed in the OPCW and found that explanation reasonable:
The OPCW responded to Russian question about the BZ and high rate of A-234 in the Spiez Laboratory probe and report.
OPCW said today that it was a control probe to test the laboratory. Such probes are regularly slipped under the real probes to make sure that the laboratories the OPCW uses are able to do their job and do not manipulate their results.
That explanation is reasonable.
I guess we can close the BZ theories and go back to food poisoning as the most likely cause of the Skripals’ illness.
In light of the OPCW management manipulation or suppression of the reports of its own specialists for the purpose of attributing the Douma incident to the Syrian government I have to change my opinion. I hereby retract my earlier acceptance of the OPCW’s explanation in the Skripal case.
As we now know that the OPCW management manipulates reports at will we can no longer accept the ‘control probe’ excuse without further explanations or evidence.
Here is what seems to have happened.
The OPCW did not send a control sample to Spiez to test the laboratory. It sent the original samples from the Skripals. Spiez found BZ and reported that back to the OPCW. The OPCW suppressed the Spiez results in its own reports. Somehow Russia got wind of the Spiez results and exposed the manipulation.
Acceptance that the Skripals had been ‘buzzed’, not ‘novi-shocked’ is central to the Skripal case. It makes the whole Skripal case as a British operation to prevent the repatriation of Sergei Skripal to Russia much more plausible.
OPCW Manufactured A Pretext For War By Suppressing Its Own Scientists’ ResearchLeaks from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) provethat the OPCW management ignored or manipulated reports its Fact Finding Mission had written about the April 2018 Douma incident in Syria.
The history of the Douma incident and the OPCW and media manipulation around it is available from the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media under the headline: How the OPCW’s investigation of the Douma incident was nobbled. Our own posts around the incident are linked below.
The OPCW management ignored that the technical, chemical and medical analysis of its own specialists exculpated the Syrian government from the allegation that it poisoned some 40 people in Douma by dropping Chlorine canisters from a helicopter.
The OPCW scientific staff found that dropping the canisters could not have created the damage that was found. Those canisters must have been placed by hand. The amount of chlorinated organic chemicals found at the two scenes was very low and it is very unlikely that they are the result of a reaction with chlorine gas. The medical symptoms of the casualties as was seen in various videos at the time of the incident were inconsistent with death by chlorine inhalation.
The OPCW management twisted the interim and the final OPCW report on the incident to make it look as if the Syrian government was guilty of dropping chlorine canisters. The detailed internal technical analysis was ignored. It was replaced by external analysis from unknown sources who claimed the opposite of what the OPCW engineers and chemists had found. The wording of the report suggests that high levels of chlorinated organic chemicals were found without giving the very low concentrations (in parts per billions) that were actually found. The internal medical analysis was eliminated from the official report.
OPCW emails and documents were leaked and whistleblowers came forward to speak with journalists and international lawyers. Veteran journalist Jonathan Steele, who has spoken with the whistleblowers, wrote an excellent piece on the issues. In the Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens picked up the issue and moved it forward:
New sexed-up dossier furore: Explosive leaked email claims that UN watchdog’s report into alleged poison gas attack by Assad was doctored – so was it to justify British and American missile strikes on Syria?.
Hitchens also responded to the Bellingcat scam: Bellingcat or Guard Dog for the Establishment?.
Quoting Bellingcat Peter Hitchens (PH) writes:
However, a comparison of the points raised in the letter against the final Douma report makes it amply clear that the OPCW not only addressed these points, but even changed the conclusion of an earlier report to reflect the concerns of said employee.
Apart from the words ‘a’, and ‘the’, everything in the above paragraph is, to put it politely, mistaken. Bellingcat have been so anxious to trash the leak from the OPCW that they have (as many did when the attack was first released) rushed to judgment without waiting for the facts. More is known by the whistleblowers of the OPCW than has yet been released, but verification procedures have slowed down its release. More documents will, I expect, shortly come to light.
One, which I have seen, is very interesting. It is a memorandum of protest, written many months after the e-mail of protest published at the weekend. This was sent to the OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias (there is some doubt about whether it ever reached him) by an OPCW investigator (one of those who actually visited Douma), on 14th March 2019. It has reached me through hitherto reliable sources. This is nearly two weeks *after* the release of the ‘final’ report (on Friday 1st March 2019) which is supposed to have resolved the doubts of the dissenters.
In his discussion of the issue Hitchens also mentions this blog:
[The OPCW report claim] ‘Various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from Locations 2 and 4, along with residues of explosive. These results are reported in Annex 3. Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is ongoing.’ resulted in some quite remarkable media reports. These are explored here:
Bellingcat and its supporters may not like the source, and I do not much like it myself, but it is a unique record, as far as I know, of the initial media response to the issue of the July 6 report. I have in fact checked its claims with Reuters and the BBC and they do not dispute what it says, though they say they later corrected the output.
It is sad, Peter, that you don’t like this blog much but I am afraid I can do nothing about it.
A few hours ago Hitchens published another piece: In defense of journalism – ‘Citizen journalists’ are no such thing. In it he again takes on Bellingcat and other such ‘citizen journalists’ and ‘researchers’ to then reveal that he himself has now talked to an OPCW whistleblower:
Luckily for me I have had the backing of people who know deep down that journalism must take risks to be any good. Someone had to say ‘yes’ to me when I headed off at short notice a few days ago, on my complicated way to a safe house somewhere in a major city on the European continent.
Someone had to fork out for my train fares and my cheap station hotels. Someone had to have the guts to let me tell my story about what I found when I got there — which was an honest man in turmoil. His job was to tell the truth and he was being prevented from doing so. So I could help him. In four decades of journalism, I have seldom felt closer to the Holy Grail, truth that had to be told, and truth that would shake power. Here it was. A pretext for war had been manufactured by suppression of research.
Hitchens must refer to an upcoming war that was supposed to be based on the now disgraced OPCW report.
There is indeed a possible path to war.
The original agreement for OPCW investigations in Syria stipulated that the OPCW would report the results of investigations to a Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) at the United Nations where the Security Council would then attribute guilt to either side of the conflict. The U.S. tried to use the JIM process to attribute dubious chemical incidents in Syria to the government. Russia vetoed those attempts. The U.S. then decided to circumvent the UN process.
In 2018 the U.S. and its proxies manipulated the OPCW statute and added the task of identifying the guilty party of chemical incidents to the OPCW’s agenda:
[The decision] also calls upon the [OPCW] Secretariat to put in place arrangements “to identify the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic by identifying and reporting on all information potentially relevant to the origin of those chemical weapons in those instances in which the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission determines or has determined that use or likely use occurred, and cases for which the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism has not issued a report”.
The decision further affirmed that whenever chemical weapons use occurs on the territory of a State Party, “those who were the perpetrators, organisers, sponsors or otherwise involved should be identified” and it underscored “the added value of the Secretariat conducting an independent investigation of an alleged use of chemical weapons with a view to facilitating universal attribution of all chemical weapons attacks”.
The manipulated OPCW report, which omitted the OPCW scientists’ findings, will now be the basic document which the new OPCW attribution group, the Investigation and Identification Team, will use to find the Syrian government guilty. That guilty verdict can then be used to publicly justify a war on Syria without further UN Security Council interference.
This is what Hitchens means when he writes that “A pretext for war had been manufactured by suppression of research.”
Russia, China and several other governments have protested against the change in the OPCW statute. The Russian statement to this year’s Chemical Weapon Convention (CWC) conference says:
The decision to vest the OPCW Technical Secretariat with functions to identify parties responsible for the use of chemical weapons adopted in June 2018 at the CSP-SS-4 in contradiction of the Convention is illegitimate. This innovation forced on the OPCW goes beyond the scope of the CWC and the Organization, the decision itself was adopted in violation of the Convention, and its implementation is nothing other than an interference with the exclusive competence of the UN Security Council.
As a clearly foreseeable result of this questionable decision, fundamental problems with its realization ensued, namely, the lack of transparency and accountability of the “attribution” mechanism, which is the Investigation and Identification Team, to the OPCW governing bodies. The States Parties have yet to learn about the terms of reference of this entity, its operating conditions, its criteria for selection of “incidents”to investigate or sources and modalities of its financing.
The OPCW scientists found serious evidence that the Syrian government can NOT be guilty of the Douma incident. Under U.S. pressure the OPCW management suppressed its scientists’ technical reports or replaced them with those from “external experts” to make it look as if the Syrian government caused the incident. The new attribution group at the OPCW will use that manipulated report to find Syria guilty of causing the incident. The U.S. and others could then use that guilty verdict as pretext to launch a war.
We only learned of this plan because courageous scientists and engineers at the OPCW do not want to see their organization abused to find pretexts to wage wars on the innocent. They came forward and told the public what it needs to know. They deserve our gratitude.
Previous Moon of Alabama coverage of the Douma incident and its aftermath:
Posted by b on November 29, 2019 at 19:02 UTC | Permalink
^5000The arch-hypocritical corporate media are our worst enemies.
They shamelessly block truth, peace, equality, and true democracy.
They are shills for those who murder the environment with impunity.
It's time you embrace YOUR media, the citizens' press.
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