11:18 GMT28 February 2021
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    The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has found itself in a growing scandal after information about its controversial conduct of the inquiry into the April 2018 chemical incident in Douma, Syria started emerging in the media, reinvigorated by the latest WikiLeaks reports.

    According to the latest exposures by WikiLeaks, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) suppressed reports casting doubt on the view that the alleged April 2018 gas attack on Douma was conducted by Damascus or forces allied to the Syrian government, which became the trigger for the massive "retaliation" missile strike by the US, France, and Britain.

    The documents revealed that a senior OPCW official demanded the "removal of all traces" of information that threw the claim that gas cylinders had been dropped from the air – which was the key "proof" that Damascus was behind the alleged attack – into question.

    Why Crucial Evidence Remained Under the Rug

    Before WikiLeaks started to release details of the OPCW's handling of the Douma chemical incident in late October, an internal document of the organisation written by the watchdog's employee Ian Henderson and dated 27 February 2019 surfaced on the Internet in May 2019 suggesting that the gas cylinders found in Douma after the alleged attack had been "manually placed" at the spot, rather than being dropped from the air. These findings were excluded from the OPCW’s final report to the UN Security Council in March 2019.

    For its part, mainstream media have repeatedly suppressed the reporting on the growing scandal. Thus, in early December 2019, a Newsweek reporter, Tareq Haddad, resigned after the media outlet reportedly banned his OPCW story. Previously, BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati came under heavy criticism for suggesting that the 2018 Douma incident was staged and later deleted his tweet.

    These cases are no exception: according to Eric Van de Beek, journalist and editor of Novini, a Dutch geopolitics magazine, he tried his best since April 2019 to get the matter published in the Dutch press, but "no paper was interested".

    For its part, the watchdog also refuses to comment on the emerging reports related to the Syrian chemical episode. Van de Beek explains that they are not responding because they "have outsourced their PR to Bellingcat".

    "I spoke to a journalist of a leading Dutch newspaper, De Volkskrant", Van de Beek, who at one time interviewed Russia's representative at the OPCW Alexader Shulgin, recalls. "She said she hadn’t published about OPCW and Douma, because Bellingcat had reported [that the] OPCW had included the critique of the OPCW whistleblowers into its final report".

    He explains that the OPCW "can afford not to answer questions as long as the main Western media outlets are not reporting on this scandal surrounding [the] OPCW and as long as they take anything published by Bellingcat for granted".

    "Hopefully this will change", the journalist notes. "Although it has been clear for anyone following social and alternative media for about eight months now [that] the Douma poison attack was a false flag, recently three British newspapers published about it. Also Fox News did an item on the OPCW whistleblowers".

    'OPCW is Not What It Pretends to Be'

    Commenting on the appalling revelations, Eric Van de Beek opines that it appears that the "OPCW is not what it pretends to be, a chemical watchdog".

    This is not the first time that the OPCW has swept crucial evidence under the rug, thereby whitewashing operations by the US and its NATO allies. In 2002, the US government allegedly forced former OPCW Director-General Jose Bustani to resign from his position due to disagreements over his wish to send OPCW weapons inspectors to Iraq right before the invasion, which was launched on 19 March 2003. In one interview, Bustani stated that John Bolton - then serving as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs - had even threatened him.

    Van de Beek suggests that the US may have used the same modus operandi when it came to the Douma case: "Dissenting experts at [the] OPCW, protesting against the doctoring of their work, were invited to a meeting with three American officials who were 'cursorily introduced without making clear which US agencies they represented'", he says. "The three 'told them emphatically that the Syrian regime had conducted a gas attack'".

    Furthermore, the journalist points out that the OPCW is not allowed to attribute blame since it's the prerogative of the UN Security Council and international courts. It's up to them to punish those responsible for the commission of the most serious crimes under international law, Van de Beek emphasises.

    "[OPCW] is more like an organisation facilitating the US and its aligned state parties in the demonisation of non-aligned states and in providing them with casus bellis", the journalist concludes.

    The OPCW Report on the 2018 Douma Attack

    In March 2019, the OPCW released its conclusions, saying that chlorine was most likely used during the alleged chemical incident in Douma, north-eastern Syria, claiming that the toxic substance came from cylinders dropped from aircraft supposedly belonging to Syrian government forces.

    The trigger for the OPCW inquiry was a video published by the White Helmets, a controversial humanitarian group with ties to jihadists, featuring the purported chemical attack in Douma. The footage was also used by the US, UK, and France to back their decision to launch a massive missile strike against Syrian government military targets, in what they called a "retaliation" attack. Moscow has repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that the OPCW ignored evidence provided by Russia and Syria.

    According to WikiLeaks, the OPCW March report prompted one of the scientists who participated in the fact-finding mission (FFM) to file a memo revealing that "the FFM core team" who conducted the investigation in Douma was not involved in writing the final version of the report, which was compiled by an almost entirely new team that resulted in serious omissions in describing the facts from the ground.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Related:

    OPCW Backs Adding Novichok Nerve Agent to List of Banned Chemicals
    WikiLeaks Says Released Unredacted Documents of OPCW Douma Report Showing Changes in Final Version
    Toning Down Inconsistencies, Excluding Experts, and Ignoring Evidence: What New OPCW Leaks Show Us
    Tags:
    US missile strike, Wikileaks, chemical attack, Douma, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), US
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