More evidence has emerged to indict the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in carrying out a despicable cover-up in Syria. Even more damning is that the cover-up appears to have been orchestrated at the highest ranks of the organization in response to political pressure from the United States and Western allies.
This is a grave matter considering the UN-affiliated body is supposed to be a neutral, technical watchdog overseeing the implementation of the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention banning the use of such weapons of mass destruction. The seeming politicization of the OPCW means that it has become a propaganda tool for Western powers which can be used to advance nefarious geopolitical agendas. The erosion of its authority is thus a serious setback to global efforts aimed at non-proliferation and maintaining security.
The incident in question relates to an alleged chemical weapon (CW) attack in Douma, a suburb near the Syrian capital Damascus, on April 7, 2018. The incident was followed a week later by up to 100 airstrikes against Syria carried out by the US, Britain and France on April 14. Those airstrikes were said to be in retaliation for the alleged use of CW by Syrian state forces in Douma. Video footage taken by anti-government militants of the CW incident in which children were seen being doused with water, ostensibly in a hospital, was widely circulated by Western news media. The Syrian government was accused of dropping toxic material from helicopters on to the civilian population. President Donald Trump quickly vilified Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad as being an “animal”; Trump also condemned Russia and Iran for being allies of Assad.
Subsequent OPCW reports, in July 2018 and March 2019, while not directly blaming the Syrian government, did however suggest that the Western and militant narrative was essentially correct. Namely, that reactive chlorine was dropped on civilians from the air. In that way, the OPCW was giving retrospective justification for the US, British and French airstrikes against Syria.
Over the past year, several leaked documents from OPCW insiders published by Wikileaks have shown a very different picture. The alternative perspective is that the OPCW’s official reports were doctored in such a way as to portray a false account of what really happened in Douma. The leaks claimed that technical assessments by OPCW experts who were on the ground were omitted. In particular the finding that gas cylinders were not dropped from the air, but rather were put in place in buildings by persons who were in the location. Furthermore, the leaks indicated that the cover-up implicating the Syrian government was sanctioned by senior OPCW officials based at the organization’s headquarters in The Hague.
Last week, the OPCW director-general Fernando Arias published an extraordinary statement in which he excoriated the inspectors behind the leaks. He accused them of “egregious behavior” and denigrated them as being disgruntled employees who were in breach of professional standards.
“The OPCW is, and will remain, the global institution mandated to deal with chemical weapons in an impartial and independent manner,” wrote the director-general in a high-profile statement published on February 6.
Subsequent leaks from OPCW personnel, cited in an exclusive report this week by the Grayzone independent journalist site, have shown director-general Arias’ remarks to be disingenuous. The inspectors he sought to undermine were highly regarded within the organization and were closely involved in the field work pertaining to the Douma incident. The leaks confirm earlier exposés pointing to a cover-up by OPCW senior staff at the behest of American political pressure. The conclusions made in the official OPCW report were at odds with the field research which indicated that the CW incident was a staged provocation carried out by the anti-government militants. The official report contradicted the field research and implied the culprit was the Syrian government, and in that way was a retrospective justification for the Western military offensive against Syria.
A third OPCW whistleblower cited by Grayzone corroborates previous leaks that the UN body distorted the incident in Douma. The third source also attests that the inspectors denigrated by the OPCW chief were impeccable scientists adhering to professional standards. Moreover, the latest whistleblower also speaks in chilling terms of a culture of intimidation and fear within the OPCW to toe the line in order to avoid retribution and even “personal harm”.
This OPCW source is quoted as saying: “I fear those behind the crimes that have been perpetrated in the name of ‘humanity and democracy’… they will not hesitate to do harm to me and my family, they have done worse, many times, even in the UK… I don’t want to expose myself and my family to their violence and revenge, I don’t want to live in fear of crossing the street!”
Note the comment, “even in the UK”. Is that an oblique reference to British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter who were mysteriously poisoned in Salisbury in March 2018, and have never been seen since, presumably held to this day in British state custody?
As Aaron Maté at Grayzone documents, American government officials such as John Bolton have a long and sordid history of threatening the OPCW personnel going as far back as the spurious allegations of chemical weapons in Iraq leading up to the 2003 US-led war.
What this means is that the UN-affiliated OPCW has become fatally compromised as a political tool for the US and its Western allies. Its reports on Syria in particular are discredited, attributing blame to the wrong parties while whitewashing the real culprits – the jihadist militants and their media agents in the White Helmets. What’s more, an organization which is supposed to be dedicated to upholding international security is actually allowing itself to be used for propaganda purposes leading to aggression.
As things stand, the US, British and French airstrikes on Syria in April 2018 were an unprovoked aggression against a sovereign nation – a war crime. And the OPCW is complicit in that war crime.