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November 16, 2019

OPCW Whistleblowers: Management Manipulated Reports – Douma ‘Chemical Weapon Attack’ Was Staged

On April 7 2018 Syrian ‘rebels’ claimed that the Syrian government had used chlorine gas and Sarin in an attack on the besieged Douma suburb near the Syrian capital Damascus. They published a series of videos which showed the dead bodies of mainly women and children.

Before the incident Jaish al-Islam, the main ‘rebel’ group in Douma, had already agreed to leave towards Idleb governorate. Under those circumstances the claims made no sense. The various details in the produced videos and pictures were inconsistent with a chemical incident.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) investigated the incident and in July 2018 produced an interim report (pdf) that showed that no Sarin was used in Douma. The OPCW inspectors had only found various chlorinated organic chemicals (COCs) which are common in every household. Media falsely claimed that those finds were proof of a chlorine gas attack.

The interim report did not show any use chemical weapons but it had, as we noted, some curious anomalies:

The preliminary OPCW report says nothing about the concentrations in which these substances were found.Without knowing the concentrations, which may may be extremely low, one can not come to further conclusion. The report includes none of the witness statements the fact finding mission took. In various TV reports the medical personal of the one hospital involved in the stunt said that none of their patients were affected by chlorine or chemical weapons.

The final report (pdf), published in March 2019, changed the tone. It specifically claimed that gas cylinders found at two places of the incident must have been dropped from the air. As only the Syrian government, not the ‘rebels’, has used helicopters the report was an indictment of the Syrian government.


In May 2019 one OPCW inspector came forward and said that the OPCW management had suppressed an internal engineering assessment that contradicted the claim that the gas cylinder fell from the air. OPCW management had used external expertise of unknown provenance that had come to the wrong conclusion. The cylinders must have been positioned by hand. The incident was staged.

Now a second OPCW whistleblower came forward with additional claims that the OPCW management manipulated the findings of its own inspectors after it had come under pressure from U.S. officials.

Jonathan Steele, a former chief foreign correspondent for the Guardian, writes:

The inspector went public with his allegations at a recent all-day briefing in Brussels for people from several countries working in disarmament, international law, military operations, medicine and intelligence. They included Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on Palestine and Major-General John Holmes, a distinguished former commander of Britain’s special forces. The session was organised by the Courage Foundation, a New York-based fund which supports whistle-blowers. I attended as an independent reporter.

The whistle-blower gave us his name but prefers to go under the pseudonym Alex out of concern, he says, for his safety.

He is the second member of the Douma Fact-Finding Mission to have alleged that scientific evidence was suppressed.

The OPCW inspector had written the original interim report and, based on his own and his colleagues findings, concluded that the incident was “a non chemical-related event”. But the OPCW management rewrote the report and left that conclusion out.

The whistleblower also explained the lack of COC concentration values in the interim report that we had noted:

By then the inspector had learnt that the results of the quantitative analysis of the samples from the allegedly attacked buildings had been delivered to management from the test laboratories but not passed on to the inspectors. He got sight of the results which indicated that the levels of COCs were much lower than what would be expected in environmental samples. They were comparable to and even lower than those given in the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on recommended permitted levels of trichlorophenol and other COCs in drinking water. The redacted version of the report made no mention of the findings.

Alex described this omission as “deliberate and irregular”. “Had they been included, the public would have seen that the levels of COCs found were no higher than you would expect in any household environment”, he said.

The inspector who drafted the original report was furious when he realised it was to be replaced by a doctored management version. He wrote an email of complaint to the OPCW’s director general. The DG was Ahmet Uzumcu, a Turkish diplomat but his chef de cabinet, the man considered to have the most power in the OPCW on day-to-day issues was Bob Fairweather, a British career diplomat.

The intervention was unsuccessful and the OPCW management published the manipulated report without the concentration values.

It soon became clear to the inspectors who was behind this manipulation:

On July 4 there was another intervention. Fairweather, the chef de cabinet, invited several members of the drafting team to his office. There they found three US officials who were cursorily introduced without making clear which US agencies they represented. The Americans told them emphatically that the Syrian regime had conducted a gas attack, and that the two cylinders found on the roof and upper floor of the building contained 170 kilograms of chlorine. The inspectors left Fairweather’s office, feeling that the invitation to the Americans to address them was unacceptable pressure and a violation of the OPCW’s declared principles of independence and impartiality.

Under U.S pressure the OPCW management ignored the findings of its own inspectors and published at least two manipulated reports that falsely accused the Syrian government of a chemical attack.

The OPCW management did not respond to questions Jonathan Steele submitted to it.

Previous Moon of Alabama coverage of the Douma incident and its aftermath:

April 8 2018Syria – Timelines Of ‘Gas Attacks’ Follow A Similar Scheme (Update II)
April 9 2018Syria – Any U.S. Strike Will Lead to Escalation
April 11 2018Syria – A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile – But Serve A Purpose – by M. K. Bhadrakumar
April 11 2018Trump Asks Russia To Roll Over – It Won’t
April 12 2018Syria – Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back
April 13 2018Syria – Manipulated Videos Fail To Launch World War III – Updated
April 14 2018F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria – Who Won?
April 16 2018Syria – Pentagon Hides Attack Failure – 70+ Cruise Missiles Shot Down
April 19 2018Syria – Who Is Stalling The OPCW Investigation In Douma?
April 20 2018Syria Sitrep – Cleanup Around Damascus – WMD Rumors Prepare For New U.S. Attack
July 6 2018Syria – OPCW Issues First Report Of ‘Chemical Weapon Attack’ in Douma
July 7 2018Syria – Mainstream Media Lie About Watchdog Report On The ‘Chemical Attack’ In Douma
May 13 2019Syria – OPCW Engineering Assessment: The Douma ‘Chemical Weapon Attack’ Was Staged

Posted by b on November 16, 2019 at 17:53 UTC | Permalink