In a new phase of a multi-year cover-up, the OPCW has accused Syria of a chemical attack in Douma. But to make the case, the OPCW breaks its own rules and offers an argument that its own findings undermine.
In the latest chapter of an international cover-up scandal, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has definitively accused Syria of committing a deadly chemical attack in the town of Douma. A new report from the chemical watchdog’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) alleges that Syrian forces dropped two chlorine gas cylinders and killed 43 civilians on April 7, 2018.
The report received an immediate and unequivocal endorsement from the US Department of State, the British Foreign Office and French Foreign Ministry – the diplomatic branches of the countries that rushed to bomb Syria in response to the events in Douma.
The IIT’s conclusion follows years of refusal by OPCW leaders to account for the suppression of the Douma probe’s initial findings.
The OPCW’s first report, finalized in June 2018 by a separate Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), raised doubts that a chemical attack occurred in Douma. It also left open the possibility that the incident was staged, presumably by insurgents who controlled the area at the time. Leaked documents reveal that this original report was doctored, and, along with other critical material, concealed from public view. The following month, a delegation of US officials lobbied the FFM team to conclude that chlorine gas was used as a weapon in Douma and that the Syrian government was responsible. A follow-up report, released in March 2019, omitted the original’s key findings and endorsed the US-led narrative of a chlorine attack.
The manipulation of the Douma probe was challenged by OPCW inspectors who deployed to Syria for the mission. OPCW Director General Fernando Arias has refused to meet with them or address their concerns.
The US, UK, and France have declared that the IIT report “refutes the Russian claim” that insurgents faked the use of poison gas use in Douma to frame the Syrian government. They also touted what they called “the independent, unbiased, and expert work of the OPCW staff.”
Yet the IIT report fails to address the concerns of the dissenting OPCW staffers who originally investigated the Douma incident. It does not resolve the identified suppression, inconsistencies, and errors across key areas of the probe, including toxicology; chemical analysis; ballistics; and witness testimony. Instead, after burying the original findings and stonewalling calls for accountability, the OPCW has doubled down on the deception in Douma.
This first installment of The Grayzone’s review of the IIT Douma report focuses on the core investigative pillar of chemical analysis, which heavily factors in the IIT’s conclusions….