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Tue04Apr IDLIB chemical weapons attack kills 58

 
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TonyGosling
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 12:27 pm    Post subject: Tue04Apr IDLIB chemical weapons attack kills 58 Reply with quote

Idlib chemical weapons attack in Syria: is ISIS or Assad responsible?

Link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQm8nYo-VuY

Jumping to conclusions; something is not adding up in Idlib chemical weapons attack
By Paul Antonopoulos -
04/04/2017
https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/jumping-conclusions-something-not -adding-idlib-chemical-weapons-attack/

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:47 P.M.) – At least 58 people were killed in a horrific gas attack in the Idlib Governorate this morning. However, even before investigations could be conducted and for evidence to emerge, Federica Mogherini, the Italian politician High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, condemned the Syrian government stating that the “Assad regime bears responsibility for ‘awful’ Syria ‘chemical’ attack.”

The immediate accusation from a high ranking EU official serves a dangerous precedent where public outcry can be made even before the truth surrounding the tragedy can emerge

Israeli President, Benjamin Netanyahu, joined in on the condemnation, as did Amnesty International.
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Merely hours after the alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun, supposedly by the Syrian government, holes are beginning to emerge from opposition sources, discrediting the Al-Qaeda affiliated White Helmets claims.

For one, seen in the above picture, the White Helmets are handling the corpses of people without sufficient safety gear, most particularly with the masks mostly used , as well as no gloves. Although this may seem insignificant, understanding the nature of sarin gas that the opposition claim was used, only opens questions.

Within seconds of exposure to sarin, the affects of the gas begins to target the muscle and nervous system. There is an almost immediate release of the bowels and the bladder, and vomiting is induced. When sarin is used in a concentrated area, it has the likelihood of killing thousands of people. Yet, such a dangerous gas, and the White Helmets are treating bodies with little concern to their exposed skin. This has to raise questions.

It also raises the question why a “doctor” in a hospital full of victims of sarin gas has the time to tweet and make video calls. This will probably be dismissed and forgotten however.


It is known that about 250 people from Majdal and Khattab were kidnapped by Al-Qaeda terrorists last week. Local sources have claimed that many of those dead from the chemical weapons were those from Majdal and Khattab.ALSO READ Jihadist rebels claim over 400 Syrian Army soldiers killed in last two months


This would suggest that on the eve of upcoming peace negotiations, terrorist forces have once again created a false flag scenario. This bares resemblance to the Ghouta chemical weapons attack in 2013 where the Syrian Army was accused of using the weapons of mass destruction on the day that United Nations Weapon’s Inspectors arrived in Damascus.

Later, in a separate chemical weapon usage allegation, Carla del Ponte, a UN weapons inspector said that there was no evidence that the government had committed the atrocity. This had however not stopped the calls for intervention against the Syrian government, a hope that the militant forces wished to eventuate from their use of chemical weapons against civilians in Khan-al-Assal.

Therefore, it is completely unsurprising that Orient TV has already prepared a “media campaign” to cover the Russian and Syrian airstrikes in Hama countryside against terrorist forces, with the allegations that the airforces have been using chemical weapons. And most telling, there announcement of covering the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, hours before this allegation even emerged…….. Seems like someone forgot to tell him that it would not occur for a few more hours before his tweet.


Meanwhile, pick up trucks have been photographed around bodies of those killed. Again, it must be questioned why there are people around sarin gas without any protective gear, and not affected at all when it can begin attacking the body within seconds? Also, the pick up trucks remain consistent to what local sources have said that many of those dead were kidnapped by Al-Qaeda terrorists from pro-government towns in rural Hama.ALSO READ In pictures: ISIS drones drop bombs on Kurdish boats crossing the Euphrates River



Also, what is brought into question is where the location of the hose is coming from in the below picture, a dugout carved into the rock. This also suggests that the location is at a White Helmets base where there are dug out hiding spots carved into the mountainside and where they have easy access to equipment, as highlighted by Twitter user Ian Grant.


In response to the allegations, the Syrian Arab Army soldiers in northern Hama denied the use of chemicals weapons today. This is consistent with the Russian Ministry of Defense who denied any involvement in the attack.

The army “has not and does not use them, not in the past and not in the future, because it does not have them in the first place,” a military source said.

And this of course begs the question. With the Syrian Army and its allies in a comfortable position in Syria, making advances across the country, and recovering lost points in rural Hama, why would they now resort to using chemical weapons? It is a very simple question with no clear answer. It defies any logic that on the eve of a Syria conference in Brussels and a week before peace negotiations are to resume, that the Syrian government would blatantly use chemical weapons. All evidence suggests this is another false chemical attack allegation made against the government as seen in the Khan-al-Assal 2013 attack where the terrorist groups hoped that former President Obama’s “red-line” would be crossed leading to US-intervention in Syria against the government.

Most telling however, is that most recent report shows that the government does not deny striking Khan Sheikhun. Al-Masdar’s Yusha Yuseef was informed by the Syrian Army that the air force targeted a missile factory in Khan Sheikoun, using Russian-manufactured Su-22 fighter jet to carry out the attack. Most importantly, the Su-22’s bombs are unique and cannot be filled with any chemical substances, which is different than bombs dropped from attack helicopters. Yuseef was then told that the Syrian Air Force did not know there were any chemical substances inside the missile factory in Khan Sheikhoun. It remains to be known whether there actually were chemicals in the missile factory targeted by the airstrikes, or whether the terrorist forces used gas on the kidnapped civilians from the pro-government towns and brought them in the lorry trucks to the site of the airstrikes. Whether they were gassed by the militant forces, or the airstrikes caused a chemical weapon factory to explode, the gruesome deaths of children, seen foaming in the mouth because of the gas, lays in the hands of the terrorists.ALSO READ Jihadists attack Russian embassy in Damascus


Therefore, it becomes evident that the area targeted was definitely a terrorist location, where it is known that the White Helmets share operation rooms with terrorist forces like Al-Qaeda as seen after the liberation of eastern Aleppo. Civilians and fighting forces, including Kurdish militias, have all claimed that militant groups that operate in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo countrysides, have used chemical weapons in the past. Therefore, before the war cries begin and the denouncement of the government from high officials in power positions begin, time must be given so that all evidence can emerge. However, this is an important factor that has never existed in the Syrian War, and the terrorist forces continue to hope that Western-intervention against the government will occur, at the cost of the lives of innocent civilians.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2017 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Who used chemical weapons in Syria?

http://thebridgelifeinthemix.info/black-ops/chemical-weapons-syria/#st hash.2kadJw7a.dpbs

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My piece on Press TV which was removed from YouTube by Fox News 😠
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5hbphe_syria-committed-to-cwc-arms-c ontrol-treaty_news


"Syria committed to CWC arms control treaty" by presstv

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Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SWAMPING SOCIAL MEDIA Sick trolls claim Syria gas massacre was a ‘deep state’ false flag operation designed to trick Donald Trump into war with Assad
The suspected chemical attack in northern Syria killed more than 70 people including children and babies
By Mark Hodge
6th April 2017, 2:13 pm
Updated: 6th April 2017, 3:27 pm
https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3271382/syria-gas-attack-donald-trump-as sad-false-flag-operation-trolls/

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TWISTED online trolls are claiming the horrific Syria gas massacre was a ‘false flag’ operation carried out by a shadow government.

The chemical weapons assault hit rebel-held Khan Sheikhun in northwestern Syria on Tuesday, killing more than 70 civilians including children and babies.

One of the dozens of victims of the suspected chemical attack in northern Syria pictured wearing an oxygen mask to help her breath AP:ASSOCIATED PRESS
4
One of the dozens of victims of the suspected chemical attack in northern Syria pictured wearing an oxygen mask to help her breath
Writer and conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson is one of the social media users claiming the attack was a false flag operation
4
Writer and conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson is one of the social media users claiming the attack was a false flag operation


While the international community, including President Donald Trump, has condemned President Assad over the depraved attack – conspiracy nuts claim the atrocity was orchestrated by the ‘deep state’.

The term ‘false flag’ refers to a covert operation usually orchestrated by a government designed to appear as if it was carried out by another group or country.

British far-right conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson is one of the ‘truthers’ peddling the vile claims online.

He believes the so-called ‘deep state’ or shadow government wants to trick President Trump into invading Syria to force regime change.

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Tweeting directly at Trump, Watson wrote: “Dear @realDonaldTrump – you are being manipulated by the same scam they pulled in 2013. No regime change in Syria.”

American documentary filmmaker Mike Cernovich also tweeted at the former Apprentice host warning him about the crackpot theory.

He posted: “President @realDonaldTrump, we will not support a war with Syria. You are being played by war mongers.”

Replying to Cernovich, another user said: “So true…… this entire attack stinks of false flags. So sad.”

Filmmaker Mike Cernovich is another who believes the gas attack was carried out to contrive regime change in Syria
4
Filmmaker Mike Cernovich is another who believes the gas attack was carried out to contrive regime change in Syria
A Syrian father holds his two dead twin babies killed in the depraved gas attack
4
A Syrian father holds his two dead twin babies killed in the depraved gas attack

h
World shock as scores killed in suspected chemical gas attack in Idlib, Syria
Some users also retweeted a post allegedly from an anti-Assad reporter which mistakenly referred to the chemical weapons attack the day before it happened.

The post reads: “Tomorrow we are launching a media campaign to cover the airstrikes on Hama country side including the usage of CW.”

In a reply to one of Watson’s post, a Twitter user appears to stick up for President Assad who is suspected of carrying out another chemical attack in 2013.

The user wrote: “Let Russia help Assad to end the terrorists. Assad is not to blame here. He got framed by the media for a long time...”


h
Syrian dad Abdel Hameed al-Youssef buries baby twins - killed in a suspected chemical attack


h
Shocking video shows aftermath footage of suspected chemical gas attack in Idlib, Syria
Former Presidential hopeful Ron Paul also said there was “zero chance” Assad would have carried out the attack deliberately.

Speaking on his YouTube show ‘The Liberty Report’, far-right politician Paul said he believed the atrocity in Syria was carried out to force regime change in the country.

He said: "It makes no sense, even if you were totally separate from this and take no sides of this and you were just an analyst, it doesn’t make sense for Assad under these conditions to all of the sudden use poison gasses.

“I think it’s zero chance that he would have done this deliberately.”


h
Ex presidential hopeful Ron Paul suggests Syria gas attack was a false flag
Richard Spencer, the so-called leader of the Alt-Right movement on the fringes of US politics, has also retweeted posts which claim anti-Assad reporters knew about the attack beforehand.

He also tweeted out his own video blog which poses the question: "Will Trump Gas His Presidency Over Syria?"

Spencer, who has been branded a white supremacist by his critics, also retweeted a post which supported the theory that Assad was not behind the atrocity.

The post read: "Assad whatever else he might be is smart enough to be a MD,why would he do the ONE thing guaranteed to get him in trouble with the Empire?"


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Post comment as...
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Tom Slekn
Tom Slekn 52 minutes ago
Thou shalt not question the official narrative

1LIKEREPLY
Bella
Bella 1 hour ago
Assad is the only one who can get away with it because he is the only one who is already stuffed. He will never set foot outside the country again, either his own will kill him or he will be arrested the second he tries to go anywhere. He hasn't become a good guy over night and irrespective of what games those in the West are playing, Assad is a monster who needs to be taken out. And I do get irritated by those saying the West is up to its old tricks, if the millions of Syrian deserters went home and sorted him out the West would have no place setting foot in the country. Go home and do your duty!

LIKEREPLY
Cynthia Warren
Cynthia Warren 1 hour ago
Where's the proof that this was done by Assad? Any journalists worth their salt would be asking who's going to benefit from this action? It's definitely not Assad so instead of calling names why not do your job, Mark Hodge?

3LIKEREPLY
Rebecca Rose
Rebecca Rose 4 hours ago
Where is the evidence of who caused this ? where ?. Assad is winning the war, regardless of what you think of him, he has allies, his enemies in the west US/UK start saying maybe Assad will have to stay in charge of Syria and then 1 day later I am supposed to believe he drops chemicals on Syrians ? It doesn't make sense. Is assad a dictator-yes, are the "rebels" rebels-no they are jihadists, are the White Helmets a charity-no they are jihadists. The first casualty of war is always the truth, propaganda is being pumped out. WMD-we were sold that lie once to force the west into a war the public didn't want. They are trying it again. Saudi, Qatar, Uk, US Cia MI6, Big Corps, Arms companies, Big Banks: all trying to control the narrative. The first casualty of war is the truth, the second and biggest casualty is always always ordinary people. The winners are always the warmongers who will never be under any threat of being killed. The public in any country are just cannon fodder to them. Facts please not emotive pictures, true or not, they no longer work.

5LIKEREPLY
Danny AKIM
Danny AKIM 4 hours ago
You need to look at this carefully before jumping to conclusions, why would Assad after all this time decide to use chemical weapons when he knows only to well what the outcry would be from around the world. as there has been very little said about Assad and the rebels over the past couple of months on the media grapevine why would he be looking for headlines like these, until they or some independent body can 100% prove the gas was done by the Assad air force, maybe just maybe there is something more sinister to this.

6LIKEREPLY
Paul Watson
Paul Watson 4 hours ago
"Sick trolls" dare to question narrative having been lied to about every single war in the Middle East ever.



"Sick trolls" question statements of known liars pushing BS propaganda to start Middle Eastern wars that kill hundreds of thousands.



Questioning the media on war propaganda about "weapons of mass destruction" is crazy. What kind of sick conspiracy theorist would doubt them? Ahem....Iraq.



The Sun is a joke.

_________________
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Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scott Bennett: "Syria's future and the role of Assad will be determined by the Syrian people", Trump said. Really? So is Trump a liar and hypocrite, or a fool and a puppet? Either way, these disqualify a person from being President of the United States. However, if we give Trump the benefit of the doubt, he's been fed lies and bad information by liars and bad people around him. But he is responsible for allowing them there in the first place. He hired them, not vice versa.

Additionally, the basic lesson of foreign policy and war is this: "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Therefore since ISIS was declared the enemy of the American people, then everyone fighting ISIS was naturally a "friend" of the American people. Sadly, Trump has said the opposite: by attacking Assad and Syria, Trump is attacking the enemy of ISIS, and therefore is proving he is a friend of ISIS, which means he is an enemy of the people of the United State of America. Truth is stranger than fiction.

HOW THE WORLD SHOULD RESPOND:

Russia and Syria should respond with a merciless attack upon ISIS forces, and Iraq should do the same in Mosul. They should completely obliiterate any and all pockets of ISIS, and any other of their allies in the land of Syria. Agents should be activated in Saudi Arabia and clandestine attacks, protests, and regime change disruptions should be executed against Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and disruption of their oil producing facilities initiated. This will turn attention inward, and stop the exporting of terrorism outside of Saudi Arabia. Similar operations should be initiated against Turkey.

Russia-Iran-Syria-China should stand against such a schizophrenic "regime change policy" demonstrated by this bombing, and call for an immediate condemnation of this U.S. action, and also accuse the U.S. of financing and supporting the ISIS terrorists and all of their facilities and weapons using and storing chemical weapons. The chemicals destroyed in Syria should be clearly connected to the U.S. CIA-Mossad-turkish supporters of ISIS.

Finally, This action should be redefined as an attack upon Europe as well, as this inevitably will send thousands of refugees into Europe, and Europeans should be encouraged to condemn this attack by the U.S. on Syria. Additionally, Russia should deploy its anti-missile S-400 systems and military forces into positions that will enable it to block future attacks by US-Israli-NATO forces, and adopt a "no tolerance" policy for any future attacks upon Syria and Russians stationed there. Putin and Assad should demand peacekeepers from the United Nations to come in, and stand next to Syria facilities to provide the shielding needed for defending against future U.S. attacks. Putin should immediately begin communicating to the world that Donald Trump has been lied to by those desperate for war in the American neoconservative establishment, and that he has a choice: become their puppet and betray the American people who elected him to office; or reject the lies and liars feeding him false information and propaganda. The world cannot afford another Libya regime change, and Europe cannot accept more refugees. If Trump doesn't get it, impeach him.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 08, 2017 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote




Link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=788cBqLK4iQ

_________________
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Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 08, 2017 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This Fishy Smell of Sarin, or Was It Chlorine?
ANATOLY KARLIN • APRIL 5, 2017 • 400 WORDS • 401 COMMENTS • http://www.unz.com/akarlin/this-fishy-smell-of-sarin-or-was-it-chlorin e/

There are so many problems with the propaganda campaign against Assad getting unrolled now.



partisangirl-fake-sarin(1) You can’t treat exposure to sarin with your bare hands without falling ill/dead yourself, as the White Helmets were apparently doing in the aftermath of the Idlib attack.

(2) As Syrian war reporter @Partisangirl noticed, some journalists were apparently discussing a chlorine sarin attack before it actually happened.

(3) It is eerily reminescent of the aftermath of the 2013 Gouta attacks, in which the Western media and neocon and neocon-in-all-but-name politicians and punditry parroted the official line that Assad’s troops were responsible even though consequent journalistic work by Sermour Hersh and MIT raised serious doubts over the veracity of that allegation.

(4) The “moderate rebels” have themselves resorted to poison gas on various occasions.

(5) Unlike in 2013, Assad is now winning. Why on Earth now, of all times, would he resort to poison gas – one of the few things he can do to that is capable of provoking a strong Western reaction – just to kill all of 75 civilians?

this-makes-sense

It just makes no sense.

So one can’t help but treat Nikky Haley’s melodramatic performance at the UN with skepticism. The idea that the poisoning was due to a bomb hitting a chemical weapons manufactory seems more plausible.

Trump’s initial non-interventionist rhetoric on assuming the Presidency was encouraging, as was his promotion of other anti-war figures such as Tulsi Gabbard. However, the latest response of the US administration, including Trump himself, is not giving any cause for optimism:

I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me, big impact. That was a horrible, horrible thing. And I’ve been watching it, and seeing it, and it doesn’t get any worse than that… And I will tell you it’s already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.

To be sure, one might view this as a merely ritualistic expression of outrage, but also coming on as it does on the eve of Steve Bannon’s dismissal from the National Security Council… one can’t help but start having dark thoughts on whether the deep state might be triumphing after all.

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http://utangente.free.fr/2003/media2003.pdf
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2017 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

UK-trained doctor hailed a hero for treating gas attack victims in Syria stood trial on terror offences ‘and belonged to the group that kidnapped British reporter John Cantlie’
Dr Shajul Islam was arrested for kidnapping journalists is back in Syria
The ex-NHS doctor and his brother were released after the case collapsed
He was released as the prosecution's witnesses weren't able to give evidence
He published a video of the patients after the attack which killed 86 on Tuesday
By ANTHONY JOSEPH and ROBERT VERKAIK FOR MAILONLINE
PUBLISHED: 01:36, 7 April 2017 | UPDATED: 01:51, 7 April 2017
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4388780/Doctor-Syria-stood-tri al-terror-offences.html



A UK-trained doctor, who was hailed a hero for treating gas attack victims in Syria, stood trial on terror offences and allegedly belonged to the group that kidnapped British journalist John Cantlie.

At least 86 people, including 20 children, died in Tuesday's attack on a rebel-held town in Idlib province. Dozens more were left gasping for air, convulsing and foaming at the mouth.

Dr Shajul Islam, from East London, published a video of the patients on his Twitter account after the attack. He said his hospital took care of three victims all with narrow, pinpoint pupils that did not respond to light.

The University of London graduate was arrested and charged with kidnapping two journalists - Mr Cantlie and Dutch reporter Jeroen Oerlemans - in 2012 but was released after the trial collapsed when neither of the prosecution's witnesses were able to give evidence.

Dr Islam, worked as a doctor at St Bart's hospital, is currently removed from the medical register after a fitness to practise hearing at the General Medical Council in March

A medical doctor going by the name of Dr. Shajul Islam on Twitter said his hospital in Idlib province received three victims, all with narrow, pinpoint pupils that did not respond to light

Dr Islam was accused of kidnapping Western journalists in Syria in 2012, but was cleared when the case collapsed

Dr Islam (pictured in a court sketch from 2012) stood trial on terror offences and allegedly belonged to the group that kidnapped British journalist John Cantlie

The University of London graduate was arrested and charged with kidnapping two journalists - Mr Cantlie (pictured) and Dutch reporter Jeroen Oerlemans - in 2012 but was released after the trial collapsed when neither of the prosecution's witnesses were able to give evidence

He has always protested his innocence, saying he went to Syria to use his medical skills to treat victims of the civil war.

Dr Islam, worked as a doctor at St Bart's hospital, is currently removed from the medical register after a fitness to practise hearing at the General Medical Council in March.

After the criminal case against him collapsed, and he was found not guilty, he faced close monitoring by the security services.

According to a GMC report, a secret tribunal panel heard the disciplinary case against Dr Islam in March this year and banned him for misconduct. The hearing was held in private so the details of the misconduct are not publicly known.

At the time of his 2012 prosecution Dr Islam, then 28, and a second man, Jubayer Chowdhury, then 24, were the only alleged British jihadists charged with kidnapping Westerners in Syria.

The pair — held in high security Belmarsh prison — walked free from court after all charges were dropped.

Cleared: The prosecution was forced to fold when their two key witnesses were unable to give evidence

At the start of the hearing in November 2013, prosecutor Mark Dennis QC told the court that all evidence against the brothers rested on the two victims, who were unable to be called, and therefore could not proceed with the case.

A verdict of not guilty was recorded for the charge of kidnapping.

Media reports later suggested Islam may have held the key to the then unknown identity of Jihadi John, who was later unmasked as Mohammed Emwazi.

In his YouTube video of the toxic attack on Tuesday, Dr Islam said: 'The patients keep just flooding in from this chemical attack,' he says in a Twitter video , purportedly taken inside a Syrian hospital this morning. 'Every one - every one - has got pinpoint pupils'.

'The patients keep coming, we've run out of ventilators,' the humanitarian aid added.

'We don't have enough ventilator space, so we're now taking out the transport ventilators we have in our ambulances and we're going to try to modify them to see if we can use them for our patients.'

Dr Islam said that it was 'definitely not a chlorine attack', suggesting that the more severe sarin was used.

Footage from his hospital shows adults and children lying on hospital beds unresponsive, as medics work to save their lives.

'I will show you the evidence again and again, but you know what? The world doesn't care and no-one is doing anything,' says Dr Islam.

'We urge you to put pressure on your government - put pressure on anyone - to help us.'


Dr Islam said that his hospital in Hama, which is a short drive away from Khan Sheikhoun, received several victims of a suspected sarin attack

Dr Islam said that it was 'definitely not a chlorine attack', suggesting that the more severe sarin was used. Footage from his hospital shows adults and children lying on hospital beds unresponsive, as medics work to save their lives.

Doctors at the facility were using basic equipment, and attempting to revive patients who were not breathing following the attack

Dr Islam, who trained in the UK and now works in northern Syria, said that seriously ill patients were still 'flooding' into his hospital

An AFP journalist in Khan Sheikhun saw a young girl, a woman and two elderly people dead at a hospital, with foam still visible around their mouths.

Doctors at the facility were using basic equipment, some not even wearing lab coats, and attempting to revive patients who were not breathing.

A father carried his dead little girl, her lips blueish and her dark curls visible, wrapped in a blue sheet.

As doctors worked, a warplane circled overhead, striking first near the facility and then hitting it twice, bringing rubble down on medics and patients.

In a video posted online by Idlib's local medical directorate, a doctor described patient symptoms as he treated a child.

'We are seeing unconsciousness, convulsions, pinpoint pupils, severe foaming, and lack of oxygen,' he said.

Dr Islam hit the headlines last summer, when he appeared in another YouTube video, filmed in Idlib, claiming to be providing medical help to the victims of Syrian and Russian airstrikes

The video for citizen journalist site On the Ground News, shows Islam wearing hospital scrubs and a stethoscope

Dr Islam hit the headlines last summer, when he appeared in another YouTube video, filmed in Idlib, claiming to be providing medical help to the victims of Syrian and Russian airstrikes.

The video for citizen journalist site On the Ground News, shows Islam wearing hospital scrubs and a stethoscope.

He tells American journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem that he is one of very few foreign doctors treating civilians injured in air strikes in north Syria.

Asked why he has come to Syria, Islam replies: 'I'm a doctor. There's a serious shortage of doctors.

'Anyone who is a doctor needs to be here. I don't understand why anyone who is sitting in England or Europe or America isn't here.'

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

President Assad: Chemical Attack was 100% Fabrication

Link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjzEQKvm95Q

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2017 10:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the case of the April 4 chemical-weapons incident in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which reportedly killed scores of people including young children, I was told that initially the U.S. analysts couldn’t see any warplanes over the area in Idlib province at the suspected time of the poison gas attack but later they detected a drone that they thought might have delivered the bomb.

A Drone Mystery

According to a source, the analysts struggled to identify whose drone it was and where it originated. Despite some technical difficulties in tracing its flight path, analysts eventually came to believe that the flight was launched in Jordan from a Saudi-Israeli special operations base for supporting Syrian rebels, the source said, adding that the suspected reason for the poison gas was to create an incident that would reverse the Trump administration’s announcement in late March that it was no longer seeking the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/12/trump-withholds-syria-sarin-evid ence/

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Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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PostPosted: Fri May 26, 2017 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Russian Foreign Minister Slams OPCW For Failure To Investigate Syrian Chemical Attack
Two months after the alleged chemical attack in Syria, OPCW inspectors show no hurry inspecting the scene of the attack or the location from which attack was allegedly launched.
By Alexander Mercouris | May 26, 2017
https://www.mintpressnews.com/228211-2/228211/

Two months after the alleged chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Syria and the US cruise missile strike on Al-Shayrat air base from where the alleged chemical attack was allegedly launched, the OPCW investigators charged with investigating the alleged chemical attack have failed to inspect either location.

This has provoked an angry and exasperated statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday, highlighting especially the failure of the OPCW inspectors to inspect Al-Shayrat air base, the location from which the chemical attempt was allegedly launched

All the conditions have been created there in terms of security and compliance with obligations under the Convention. The Syrian government demanded an urgent visit, thus reaffirming the preparedness to fulfill its obligations that arise from Clause 12 of the OPCW mission mandate and from the provisions specified in Clause 15 of Part IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention appendix on inspections. These documents state in clear terms that an (OPCW) inspection group has the right of access to any and all areas that might have been affected by the employment of chemical weapons. This means all the conditions have been created there (at Shayrat) in terms of security and compliance with obligations under the Convention. Standing in a sharp contrast to it is the inaction of the (OPCW/UN) Joint Mechanism and the detached position of the OPCW leadership that believes a trip to Shayrat is outside of the sphere of competence of the OPCW Mission.


I discussed the obvious lack of enthusiasm of the OPCW inspectors to inspect either location in an article I wrote for The Duran on 21st April 2017. I pointed out in that article that though there might be safety concerns preventing the OPCW inspectors from inspecting the location of the alleged attack at Khan Sheikhoun – which is under Jihadi control – the same was certainly not true of Al-Shayrat air base, which was from where the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun was allegedly launched.

I said that the failure of the OPCW inspectors to inspect either location meant that the investigation of the Khan Sheikhoun attack had effectively collapsed even before it started.

Needless to say, it is a basic principle of any criminal investigation – which is what this investigation essentially is – that the investigators inspect the crime scene and any other locations related to it. The fact that the inspectors, in this case, have not even attempted to discharge this basic task shows that they are not really interested in carrying out an investigation at all.

This is the inevitable consequence of the President of the United States and of Western governments making a pronouncement of the Syrian government’s guilt before any investigation of the Khan Sheikhoun incident had taken place. That inevitably was going to prejudice the conduct of the investigation, with the result that we now see.

What that means is that when the investigation eventually reports its findings they will carry no authority, and will be rejected with good cause by those who dispute its conclusions.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A lesson from Syria: it’s crucial not to fuel far-right conspiracy theories
George Monbiot
The way discredited stories spread after a chemical weapons massacre in Syria should be a matter of serious concern
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/nov/15/lesson-from-syri a-chemical-weapons-conspiracy-theories-alt-right

@GeorgeMonbiot
Wednesday 15 November 2017 06.00 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 15 November 2017 07.54 GMT
What do we believe? This is the crucial democratic question. Without informed choice, democracy is meaningless. This is why dictators and billionaires invest so heavily in fake news. Our only defence is constant vigilance, rigour and scepticism. But when some of the world’s most famous crusaders against propaganda appear to give credence to conspiracy theories, you wonder where to turn.


Syria chemical weapons attack: what we know about deadly air raid
Read more
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) last month published its investigation into the chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun, which killed almost 100 people on 4 April and injured around 200. After examining the competing theories and conducting wide-ranging interviews, laboratory tests and forensic analysis of videos and photos, it concluded that the atrocity was caused by a bomb filled with sarin, dropped by the government of Syria.

There is nothing surprising about this. The Syrian government has a long history of chemical weapons use, and the OPCW’s conclusions concur with a wealth of witness testimony. But a major propaganda effort has sought to discredit such testimony, and characterise the atrocity as a “false-flag attack”.

This effort began with an article published on the website Al-Masdar news, run by the Syrian government loyalist Leith Abou Fadel. It suggested that either the attack had been staged by “terrorist forces”, or chemicals stored in a missile factory had inadvertently been released when the Syrian government bombed it.

The story was then embellished on Infowars – the notorious far-right conspiracy forum. The Infowars article claimed that the attack was staged by the Syrian first responder group, the White Helmets. This is a reiteration of a repeatedly discredited conspiracy theory, casting these rescuers in the role of perpetrators. It suggested that the victims were people who had been kidnapped by al-Qaida from a nearby city, brought to Khan Shaykhun and murdered, perhaps with the help of the UK and French governments, “to lay blame on the Syrian government”. The author of this article was Mimi Al-Laham, also known as Maram Susli, PartisanGirl, Syrian Girl and Syrian Sister. She is a loyalist of the Assad government who has appeared on podcasts hosted by David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. She has another role: as an “expert” used by a retired professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology called Theodore Postol. He has produced a wide range of claims casting doubt on the Syrian government’s complicity in chemical weapons attacks.

In correspondence with the chemical weapons expert Dan Kaszeta, Postol revealed that the “solid scientific source” he used to support his theory about the origin of sarin used in Syria was “Syrian Sister”. When Postol and Susli both appeared on a podcast run by the Holocaust “revisionist” Ryan Dawson, Postol explained why he had chosen to work with her: “I was watching her on Twitter. I could see from her voice … that she was a trained chemist.” First, Postol claimed that the crater from which the sarin in Khan Shaykhun had emanated was most probably caused not by a bomb dropped from the air but by an explosive device laid on the ground (a hypothesis examined and thoroughly debunked by the OPCW report). Then he claimed that there was “no evidence to support” the notion that sarin had been released from the air, and proposed there was strong evidence to suggest that the mass poisoning had been caused by a bomb that hit a rebel weapons depot.

He further claimed that a French intelligence report contradicted the story that sarin had been dropped from a plane, as it suggested that sarin had been dropped by helicopters in a different place. (In reality, he had confused the attack in April 2017 with one in April 2013). Each of these contradictory hypotheses was patiently explored and demolished at the time by bloggers and analysts.

The Guardian visited Khan Shaykhun (also known as Khan Sheikhun) in the aftermath of the attack – the only news organisation in the world to do so. It established that there had been no weapons depot near the scene of the contamination. Surrounding warehouses were abandoned. Birdseed and a volleyball net were all that existed inside. None had been attacked in recent months. The contamination came from a hole in the road from where the remains of a projectile protruded.

But eight days after the Khan Shaykhun attack John Pilger, famous for exposing propaganda and lies, was interviewed on the website Consortium News. He praised Postol as “the distinguished MIT professor”, suggested that the Syrian government could not have carried out the attack – as he claimed it had destroyed its chemical arsenal in 2014 – and maintained that jihadists in Khan Shaykhun “have been playing with nerve gases and sarin … for some years now. There’s no doubt about that.” Despite many claims to the contrary, I have found no credible evidence that Syrian jihadists have access to sarin.

On 26 April Noam Chomsky, interviewed on Democracy Now, claimed that Postol, whom Chomsky called “a highly regarded strategic analyst and intelligence analyst”, had produced a “pretty devastating critique” of a White House report that maintained the Syrian government was responsible. Although Chomsky accepted that a chemical attack had taken place and said it was plausible that the Syrian government could have carried it out, this interview helped trigger a frenzy of online commentary endorsing Postol’s hypotheses and dismissing the possibility that the Assad government could have been responsible. The atmosphere became toxic: when I challenged Postol’s claims, people accused me of being an Isis sympathiser, a paedophile being blackmailed by the government, and a Mossad agent. But the madness had only just begun.

People accused me of being an Isis sympathiser, a paedophile being blackmailed by the government, and a Mossad agent
In June the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published an article in the German paper Die Welt, based on information from a “senior adviser to the US intelligence community” who maintained that there had been no sarin strike on Khan Shaykhun. Instead, a meeting of jihadist leaders in “a two-storey cinder-block building” had been bombed by the Syrian air force with the support of the Russians and with Washington’s full knowledge. Fertilisers and disinfectants in the basement, Hersh claimed, could have caused the mass poisoning. (Again, this possibility was examined and discredited by the OPCW).

So which building was he talking about? I asked Hersh to give me its coordinates: the most basic evidence you would expect to support a claim of this nature. The Terraserver website provides satellite imagery that makes it possible to check for any changes to the buildings in Khan Shaykhun, from one day to the next. But when I challenged him to provide them, first he sent me links to claims made by Postol, then he told me that the images are not sufficiently “precise and reliable”. As every building is clearly visible, I find this claim is hard to understand.

Scepticism of all official claims is essential, especially when they involve weapons of mass destruction, and especially when they are used as a pretext for military action – in this case Tomahawk missiles fired on the orders of Donald Trump from a US destroyer on 7 April. We know from Iraq not to take any such claims on trust. But I also believe there is a difference between scepticism and denial. While in the fog of war, there will always be some doubt, as the OPCW’s report acknowledges, there is no evidence to support the competing theories of what happened at Khan Shaykhun. Propaganda by one side does not justify propaganda by another.

In Vox earlier this month, the writer David Roberts suggested that America is facing “an epistemic crisis” caused by the conservative rejection of all forms of expertise and knowledge. Politics in the US and elsewhere is now dominated by wild conspiracy theories and paranoia – the narrative platform from which fascism arises. This, as Roberts proposes, presents an urgent threat to democracy. If the scourges of establishment propaganda promote, even unwittingly, groundless stories developed by the “alt right”, we are in deeper trouble than he suggests.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 17, 2017 11:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did Al Qaeda Dupe Trump on Syrian Attack?
November 9, 2017 By Robert Parry
Special Report: Buried deep inside a new U.N. report is evidence that could exonerate the Syrian government in the April 4 sarin atrocity and make President Trump look like an Al Qaeda dupe, reports Robert Parry.
https://consortiumnews.com/2017/11/09/did-al-qaeda-dupe-trump-on-syria n-attack/

A new United Nations-sponsored report on the April 4 sarin incident in an Al Qaeda-controlled town in Syria blames Bashar al-Assad’s government for the atrocity, but the report contains evidence deep inside its “Annex II” that would prove Assad’s innocence.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile from the Mediterranean Sea at Syria, April 7, 2017. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price)

If you read that far, you would find that more than 100 victims of sarin exposure were taken to several area hospitals before the alleged Syrian warplane could have struck the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Still, the Joint Investigative Mechanism [JIM], a joint project of the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW], brushed aside this startling evidence and delivered the Assad guilty verdict that the United States and its allies wanted.

The JIM consigned the evidence of a staged atrocity, in which Al Qaeda operatives would have used sarin to kill innocent civilians and pin the blame on Assad, to a spot 14 pages into the report’s Annex II. The sensitivity of this evidence of a staged “attack” is heightened by the fact that President Trump rushed to judgment and ordered a “retaliatory” strike with 59 Tomahawk missiles on a Syrian airbase on the night of April 6-7. That U.S. attack reportedly killed several soldiers at the base and nine civilians, including four children, in nearby neighborhoods.

So, if it becomes clear that Al Qaeda tricked President Trump not only would he be responsible for violating international law and killing innocent people, but he and virtually the entire Western political establishment along with the major news media would look like Al Qaeda’s “useful idiots.”

Currently, the West and its mainstream media are lambasting the Russians for not accepting the JIM’s “assessment,” which blames Assad for the sarin attack. Russia is also taking flak for questioning continuation of the JIM’s mandate. There has been virtually no mainstream skepticism about the JIM’s report and almost no mention in the mainstream of the hospital-timing discrepancy.

Timing Troubles

To establish when the supposed sarin attack occurred on April 4, the JIM report relied on witnesses in the Al Qaeda-controlled town and a curious video showing three plumes of smoke but no airplanes. Based on the video’s metadata, the JIM said the scene was recorded between 0642 and 0652 hours. The JIM thus puts the timing of the sarin release at between 0630 and 0700 hours.

The photograph released by the White House of President Trump meeting with his advisers at his estate in Mar-a-Lago on April 6, 2017, regarding his decision to launch missile strikes against Syria.

But the first admissions of victims to area hospitals began as early as 0600 hours, the JIM found, meaning that these victims could not have been poisoned by the alleged aerial bombing (even if the airstrike really did occur).

According to the report’s Annex II, “The admission times of the records range between 0600 and 1600 hours.” And these early cases – arriving before the alleged airstrike – were not isolated ones.

“Analysis of the … medical records revealed that in 57 cases, patients were admitted in five hospitals before the incident in Khan Shaykhun,” Annex II said.

Plus, this timing discrepancy was not limited to a few hospitals in and around Khan Sheikhoun, but was recorded as well at hospitals that were scattered across the area and included one hospital that would have taken an hour or so to reach.

Annex II stated: “In 10 such cases, patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 125 km away from Khan Shaykhun at 0700 hours while another 42 patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 30 km away at 0700 hours.”

In other words, more than 100 patients would appear to have been exposed to sarin before the alleged Syrian warplane could have dropped the alleged bomb and the victims could be evacuated, a finding that alone would have destroyed the JIM’s case against the Syrian government.

But the JIM seemed more interested in burying this evidence of Al Qaeda staging the incident ­ and killing some expendable civilians ­ than in following up this timing problem.

“The [JIM] did not investigate these discrepancies and cannot determine whether they are linked to any possible staging scenario, or to poor record-keeping in chaotic conditions,” the report said. But the proffered excuse about poor record-keeping would have to apply to multiple hospitals over a wide area all falsely recording the arrival time of more than 100 patients.

The video of the plumes of smoke also has come under skepticism from Theodore Postol, a weapons expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who noted that none of the three plumes matched up with damage to buildings (as viewed from satellite images) that would have resulted from aerial bombs of that power.

Postol’s finding suggests that the smoke could have been another part of a staging event rather than debris kicked up by aerial bombs.

The JIM also could find no conclusive evidence that a Syrian warplane was over Khan Sheikhoun at the time of the video although the report claims that a plane could have come within about 5 kilometers of the town.

A History of Deception

Perhaps even more significantly, the JIM report ignored the context of the April 4 case and the past history of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front staging chemical weapons attacks with the goal of foisting blame on the Syrian government and tricking the U.S. military into an intervention on the side of Nusra and its Islamic-militant allies.

Photograph of men in Khan Sheikdoun in Syria, allegedly inside a crater where a sarin-gas bomb landed.

On April 4, there was a strong motive for Al Qaeda and its regional allies to mount a staged event. Just days earlier, President Trump’s administration had shocked the Syrian rebels and their backers by declaring “regime change” was no longer the U.S. goal in Syria.

So, Al Qaeda and its regional enablers were frantic to reverse Trump’s decision, which was accomplished by his emotional reaction to videos on cable news showing children and other civilians suffering and dying in Khan Sheikhoun.

On the night of April 6-7, before any thorough investigation could be conducted, Trump ordered 59 Tomahawk missiles fired at the Syrian air base that supposedly had launched the sarin attack.

At the time, I was told by an intelligence source that at least some CIA analysts believed that the sarin incident indeed had been staged with sarin possibly flown in by drone from a Saudi-Israeli special operations base in Jordan.

This source said the on-the-ground staging for the incident had been hasty because of the surprise announcement that the Trump administration was no longer seeking regime change in Damascus. The haste led to some sloppiness in tying down all the necessary details to pin the atrocity on Assad, the source said.

But the few slip-ups, such as the apparent failure to coordinate the timing of the hospital admissions to after the purported airstrike, didn’t deter the JIM investigators from backing the West’s desire to blame Assad and also create another attack line against the Russians.

Similarly, other U.N.-connected investigators downplayed earlier evidence that Al Qaeda’s Nusra was staging chemical weapons incidents after President Obama laid down his “red line” on chemical weapons. The militants apparently hoped that the U.S. military would take out the Syrian military and pave the way for an Al Qaeda victory.

For instance, U.N. investigators learned from a number of townspeople of Al-Tamanah about how the rebels and allied “activists” staged a chlorine gas attack on the night of April 29-30, 2014, and then sold the false story to a credulous Western media and, initially, to a U.N. investigative team.

“Seven witnesses stated that frequent alerts [about an imminent chlorine weapons attack by the government] had been issued, but in fact no incidents with chemicals took place,” the U.N. report said. “While people sought safety after the warnings, their homes were looted and rumours spread that the events were being staged. … [T]hey [these witnesses] had come forward to contest the wide-spread false media reports.”

Dubious Evidence

Other people, who did allege that there had been a government chemical attack on Al-Tamanah, provided suspect evidence, including data from questionable sources, according to the report.

Nikki Haley, United States Permanent Representative to the UN, addresses the Security Council’s meeting on the situation in Syria on
April 27, 2017 (UN Photo)

The report said, “Three witnesses, who did not give any description of the incident on 29-30 April 2014, provided material of unknown source. One witness had second-hand knowledge of two of the five incidents in Al-Tamanah, but did not remember the exact dates. Later that witness provided a USB-stick with information of unknown origin, which was saved in separate folders according to the dates of all the five incidents mentioned by the FFM [the U.N.’s Fact-Finding Mission].

“Another witness provided the dates of all five incidents reading it from a piece of paper, but did not provide any testimony on the incident on 29-30 April 2014. The latter also provided a video titled ‘site where second barrel containing toxic chlorine gas was dropped tamanaa 30 April 14’”

Some other witnesses alleging a Syrian government attack offered curious claims about detecting the chlorine-infused “barrel bombs” based on how the device sounded in its descent.

The U.N. report said, “The eyewitness, who stated to have been on the roof, said to have heard a helicopter and the ‘very loud’ sound of a falling barrel. Some interviewees had referred to a distinct whistling sound of barrels that contain chlorine as they fall. The witness statement could not be corroborated with any further information.”

However, the claim itself is absurd since it is inconceivable that anyone could detect a chlorine canister inside a “barrel bomb” by “a distinct whistling sound.”

The larger point, however, is that the jihadist rebels in Al-Tamanah and their propaganda teams, including relief workers and activists, appear to have organized a coordinated effort at deception complete with a fake video supplied to U.N. investigators and Western media outlets.

For instance, the Telegraph in London reported that “Videos allegedly taken in Al-Tamanah … purport to show the impact sites of two chemical bombs. Activists said that one person had been killed and another 70 injured.”

The Telegraph quoted supposed weapons expert Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat and a senior fellow at the fiercely anti-Russian Atlantic Council, as endorsing the Al-Tamanah claims.

“Witnesses have consistently reported the use of helicopters to drop the chemical barrel bombs used,” said Higgins. “As it stands, around a dozen chemical barrel bomb attacks have been alleged in that region in the last three weeks.”

The Al-Tamanah debunking in the U.N. report received no mainstream media attention when the U.N. findings were issued in September 2016 because the U.N. report relied on rebel information to blame two other alleged chlorine attacks on the government and that got all the coverage. But the case should have raised red flags given the extent of the apparent deception.

If the seven townspeople were telling the truth, that would mean that the rebels and their allies issued fake attack warnings, produced propaganda videos to fool the West, and prepped “witnesses” with “evidence” to deceive investigators. Yet, no alarms went off about other rebel claims.

The Ghouta Incident

A more famous attack – with sarin gas on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21, 2013, killing hundreds – was also eagerly blamed on the Assad regime, as The New York Times, Human Rights Watch, Higgins’s Bellingcat and many other Western outlets jumped to that conclusion despite the unlikely circumstances. Assad had just welcomed U.N. investigators to Damascus to examine chemical attacks that he was blaming on the rebels.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (right) talks with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, with John Brennan and other national security aides present. (Photo credit: Office of Director of National Intelligence)

Assad also was facing the “red line” threat from President Obama warning him of possible U.S. military intervention if the Syrian government deployed chemical weapons. Why Assad and his military would choose such a moment to launch a deadly sarin attack outside Damascus, killing mostly civilians, made little sense.

But this became another rush to judgment in the West that brought the Obama administration to the verge of launching a devastating air attack on the Syrian military that might have helped Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and/or the Islamic State win the war.

Eventually, however, the case blaming Assad for the 2013 sarin attack collapsed.

An analysis by genuine weapons experts – such as Theodore Postol, an MIT professor of science, technology and national security policy, and Richard M. Lloyd, an analyst at the military contractor Tesla Laboratories – found that the missile that delivered the sarin had a very short range placing its likely firing position in rebel territory.

Later, reporting by journalist Seymour Hersh implicated Turkish intelligence working with jihadist rebels as the likely source of the sarin.

We also learned in 2016 that a message from the U.S. intelligence community had warned Obama how weak the evidence against Assad was. There was no “slam-dunk” proof, said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. And Obama cited his rejection of the Washington militaristic “playbook” to bomb Syria as one of his proudest moments as President.

With this background, there should have been extreme skepticism when jihadists and their allies made new claims about the Syrian government engaging in chemical weapons attacks. But there wasn’t.

The broader context for these biased investigations is that U.N. and OPCW investigators have been under intense pressure to confirm accusations against Syria and other targeted states.

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney receive an Oval Office briefing from CIA Director George Tenet. Also present is Chief of Staff Andy Card (on right). (White House photo)

Right now, the West is blaming Russia for the collapsing consensus behind U.N. investigations, but the problem really comes from Washington’s longtime strategy of coercing U.N. organizations into becoming propaganda arms for U.S. geopolitical strategies.

The U.N.’s relative independence in its investigative efforts was decisively broken early this century when President George W. Bush’s administration purged U.N. agencies that were not onboard with U.S. hegemony, especially on interventions in the Middle East.

Through manipulation of funding and selection of key staff members, the Bush administration engineered the takeover or at least the neutralizing of one U.N.-affiliated organization after another.

For instance, in 2002, Bush’s Deputy Under-Secretary of State John Bolton spearheaded the takeover of the OPCW as Bush planned to cite chemical weapons as a principal excuse for invading Iraq.

OPCW Director General Jose Mauricio Bustani was viewed as an obstacle because he was pressing Iraq to accept OPCW’s conventions for eliminating chemical weapons, which could have undermined Bush’s WMD rationale for war.

Though Bustani was just reelected to a new term, the Brazilian diplomat was forced out, to be followed in that job by more pliable bureaucrats, including the current Director General Ahmet Uzumcu of Turkey, who not only comes from a NATO country but served as Turkey’s ambassador to NATO and to Israel. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “U.N. Enablers of ‘Aggressive War.’”]

Since those days of the Iraq invasion, the game hasn’t changed. U.S. and other Western officials expect the U.N. and related agencies to accept or at least not object to Washington’s geopolitical interventions.

The only difference now is that Russia, one of the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council, is saying enough is enough – and Russia’s opposition to these biased inquiries is emerging as one more dangerous hot spot in the New Cold War.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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Trustworthy Freedom Fighter
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 12, 2020 12:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media
How the OPCW’s investigation of the Douma incident was nobbled*
http://syriapropagandamedia.org/how-the-opcws-investigation-of-the-dou ma-incident-was-nobbled

Paul McKeigue, David Miller, Jake Mason, Piers Robinson

Members of Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media

First Published 26 June 2019

*The term ‘nobbled’ is used here to describe illegal or unfair interference. The term was originally used to describe actions designed to prevent a horse from winning a race.

1 Summary
2 Introduction
3 The Fact-Finding Mission in Syria
4 The boss: Sébastien Braha
5 The Team Leader: Sami Barrek
6 The freelance: Len Phillips
7 The interim and final reports
8 Distortion of evidence in earlier reports where Phillips was FFM Team Leader
8.1 Idlib 2015: refrigerant canisters
8.2 Khan Shaykhun 2017: recorded times of hospital admissions
8.3 Ltamenah 2017: intact sarin persisting after months in the open
9 UK-led information operations associated with alleged chemical attacks
9.1 Ministry of Defence: Targeting and Information Operations
9.2 ARK, Basma, Mayday Rescue and the White Helmets
9.3 SecureBio and the CBRN Task Force
9.4 UK communicators
10 A next step: replication of the engineering studies
11 Role of external engineering experts and toxicologists
12 Acknowledgements
1 Summary
The creation in 2014 of a new mechanism – the “Fact-Finding Mission in Syria” (FFM) – to investigate alleged chemical attacks allowed the OPCW to bypass the procedures laid down in the Chemical Weapons Convention for investigations of alleged use, and to set its own rules for these investigations.
The roles of the Director-General and the newly appointed director of the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) are mostly ceremonial. The effective boss of the OPCW is the Chief of Cabinet Sébastien Braha, a French diplomat, and the Principal Investigator of the IIT is Elise Coté, a Canadian diplomat. Although these individuals have obvious conflicts of interest in relation to Syria, the OPCW lacks any procedure for managing such situations.
The Technical Secretariat’s excuse for suppression of the Engineering Assessment – that evidence that the cylinders were manually placed rather than dropped from the air is “outside of the mandate and methodology of the FFM” – is fallacious and contradicts OPCW’s published reports on the Douma incident.
It was already clear from open source evidence, as we pointed out in an earlier briefing note, that the Interim and Final Reports of the FFM on the Douma incident had been nobbled. Our sources have now filled in some of the details of this process. Specifically:
By mid-June 2018 there would have been ample time to draft an interim report that summarized the analysis of witness testimony, open-source images, on-site inspections and lab results. We have learned that the original draft of the interim report, which had noted inconsistencies in the evidence of a chemical attack, was revised by a process that was not transparent to FFM team members to become the published Interim Report released on 6 July 2018 that included only the laboratory results.
After the release of the Interim Report, the investigation proceeded in secrecy with all FFM team members who had deployed to Douma excluded. It was nominally led by Sami Barrek who as FFM Team Leader had left Damascus before the on-site inspections began. These FFM team members do not know who wrote the document that was released as the “Final Report of the FFM”.
We have learned from multiple sources that the second stage of the investigation involved consultation with Len Phillips, the previous leader of FFM Team Alpha who worked in the OPCW during this period as a self-employed consultant.
From examination of three earlier FFM reports on incidents in 2015 or 2017 where Phillips was the Team Leader, it is clear that these reports also excluded or ignored evidence that these alleged chemical attacks had been staged. Specifically:
The FFM report on the alleged chlorine attacks in Idlib between 16 March and 20 May 2015 omitted the crucial fact, later noted by the Joint Investigative Mechanism, that the refrigerant canisters allegedly used as components of chemical munitions could not have been repurposed.
The FFM report on the alleged sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017 omitted the information, later noted by the Joint Investigative Mechanism which had access to the same records, that the recorded hospital admission times of at least 100 patients were too early for them to have reached hospital if they had become casualties at the time the attack was alleged to have occurred.
The FFM investigation of the alleged chlorine attack in Ltamenah on 25 March 2017, reported on 13 June 2018, led it to discover a previously unrecorded sarin attack nearby the day before, and to prompt the White Helmets to provide, eleven months later, munition parts that tested positive for intact sarin. The report failed to explain or even comment on how intact sarin could have persisted for so long in the open.
This indicates that the suppression of the Engineering Assessment of the Douma incident was not an isolated aberration. In this context it is relevant that the opposition-linked NGOs on which the FFM has relied for evidence since 2014 have dubious provenance, and at least some of them have been set up under UK tutelage.
The credibility of the OPCW cannot be restored simply by finding some way to reverse what were purported to be the findings of the FFM on the Douma incident, but only by an independent re-examination of all its previous investigations of alleged chemical attacks in Syria, and a radical reform of its governance and procedures.
To resolve the discrepancy between the conclusions of the internal Engineering Assessment and those of the Final Report, a first step would be to make public the assessments of the external engineering experts on whom the Final Report relied. The engineering assessments were based on observations of the cylinders and measurements at the locations where they were found. As the cylinders, tagged and sealed by the OPCW inspectors, are in the custody of the Syrian government, it is feasible to undertake an independent study to determine whether the conclusions of earlier engineering assessments can be replicated. For such a study to be credible, it would have to be undertaken by a panel independent of OPCW, in accordance with methods for reproducible research.
2 Introduction
In response to our release of the suppressed Engineering Assessment, OPCW management produced three explanations in the space of ten days:

The Engineering Assessment “is not part of any of the material produced by the FFM” and Ian Henderson “has never been a member of the FFM”. (Deepti Choubey, 11 May)
Henderson was “on the sidelines of the FFM”, but his report was “a dissenting assessment” and “his findings were considered but were a minority opinion as final report was written” (off-the-record briefings to Scott Lucas and Brian Whitaker, 16 May). The Director-General, answering a question on 6 June, confirmed that the Engineering Assessment “was considered and it was analysed, it was part of the investigation”, thus contradicting Choubey’s email of 11 May).
Henderson was in Douma “to provide temporary support to the FFM” but the Engineering Assessment was excluded because it “came too close to attributing responsibility, and thus fell outside the scope of the FFM’s mandate.” (Whitaker’s “informed source”, quoted 24 May). This was the explanation given by the Director-General in a “Briefing for States Parties” on 28 May: Henderson “was tasked with temporarily assisting the FFM” but his report was “outside of the mandate of the FFM with regard to the formulation of its findings.”
These three mutually contradictory excuses bring to mind Sigmund Freud’s story of the defences offered by a man who was accused by his neighbour of having returned a kettle in a damaged condition:

In the first place, he had returned the kettle undamaged; in the second place it already had holes in it when he borrowed it; and in the third place, he had never borrowed it at all.
This fumbling response to the release of the document casts doubt on the Director-General’s statement that the OPCW first became aware in March 2019 that it might have leaked. No leak investigation was launched at this time. It is however evident that by 14 March 2019 several delegations at the OPCW were aware that there was dissent among FFM team members. A commentary by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted that the Executive Council on 14 March had blocked the Russian proposal to hold a briefing with “all without exception experts of the OPCW Mission” and commented that “such a briefing could reveal very serious inconsistencies in the anti-Syrian conclusions in the Final Report”. A gloating tweet from the Netherlands delegation that the Russian proposal had been voted down with “only 5 votes in favour” was retweeted by the Canadian and UK delegations.

The explanations by the Director-General of how the FFM took into account the findings of the Engineering Assessment are somewhat contradictory. In a prepared statement on 28 May he indicated that the FFM report used the raw data collected by Henderson’s sub-team but relied for analysis on the assessments of the three “external experts” who analysed these data:

This is what the FFM did with the information included in the publicly disclosed document; all available information was examined, weighed and deliberated. Diverse views were expressed, discussed and considered against the overall facts and evidence collected and analysed. With regard to the ballistics data collected by the FFM, they were analysed by three external experts commissioned by the FFM, and working independently from one another. In the end, while using different methods and instruments, they all reached the same conclusions that can be found in the FFM Final Report.
In an unscripted panel discussion at a conference on 6 June he appeared to imply that the Engineering Assessment had been considered but rejected as “not fit to the conclusion”.

all the information given by any inspectors is considered but sometimes it is not fit to the conclusion. This information [the Engineering Assessment] was considered and was analysed, it was part of the investigation …
Either of these explanations undermines the OPCW’s credibility. If, as the briefing on 28 May indicated, the authors of the Final Report had excluded the OPCW’s internal engineering assessment from consideration, relying only on the assessments of experts who had not inspected the sites or examined the cylinders, this would have been difficult to justify. If, as the Director-General indicated on 6 June, the authors of the Final Report had considered Henderson’s assessment along with the three external assessments and decided in favour of the three external assessments, their failure to mention the existence of an internal assessment that was discordant with the other three assessments might reasonably be considered fraudulent. We might doubt also that the authors of the Final Report, having excluded the FFM’s own engineering subteam, would have had the expertise required to make such a judgement. The rationale that Henderson’s assessment was outside the mandate of the FFM appears to have been constructed at a later stage as a way out of this dilemma.

If we are to believe the Director-General, all three external engineering assessments independently reached the conclusions in the Final Report that at Location 2:

the damage observed … is consistent with the creation of the aperture observed in the terrace by the cylinder found in that location.
and that at Location 4:

after passing through the ceiling, the cylinder continued altered trajectory, until reaching the position in which it was found.
As noted below, the Director-General has asked “civil society” to “believe in what we do”. A first step towards restoring belief in the integrity of the OPCW’s investigations would be to make the reports from all three external engineering consultancies publicly available.

The Director-General’s briefing does not spell out how the Engineering Assessment was deemed to be “outside of the mandate of the FFM with regard to the formulation of its findings.” The Technical Secretariat’s response to Russian criticisms, dated 21 May, spells out more specifically its contention that to assess how the cylinders arrived at their respective locations was outside the mandate of the FFM:

the FFM report does not elaborate in any part on the “high probability that both cylinders were placed at Locations 2 and 4 manually rather than dropped from an aircraft”. In fact, this type of information is deemed outside of the mandate and methodology of the FFM.
We reiterate that this argument is fallacious, and quote our last briefing note:

OPCW stated that “The FFM’s mandate is to determine whether chemical weapons or toxic chemicals as weapons have been used in Syria.” In Douma this could be reduced to deciding between two alternatives: (1) the gas cylinders were dropped from the air, implying that they were used as chemical weapons; (2) the cylinders were placed in position, implying that the incident was staged and that no chemical attack had occurred. Although to conclude that alternative (2) was correct would implicate the opposition, this would not be attribution of blame for a chemical attack but rather a determination that chemical weapons had not been used.
As Hitchens has noted, the contention that evidence that the cylinders were manually placed rather than dropped from the air would be “outside of the mandate and methodology of the FFM” contradicts explicit statements in the Interim Report and the Final Report. For instance the Interim Report had stated that “Work is ongoing to assess … how the cylinders arrived at their respective locations”. Hitchens commented that “I don’t think the people who dreamed up this particular escape clause have thought through their ideas very well.” the OPCW has not responded to his request for clarification.

In what appears to be a reference to the Working Group, the Director-General complained on 6 June that:

We are attacked with misinformation, with proxies that produced reports to undermine an official report of the Fact-Finding Mission about investigations in Syria, and I ask you, civil society, to believe in what we do.
The “misinformation” was not specified: we should welcome rebuttals showing, with direct quotations and references to original sources, where we have disseminated misinformation. The suggestion that we are “proxies” is a smear of the kind that we have become accustomed to. As for “civil society”, if that term means anything it would include entities like the Working Group, whose members collaborate in their spare time unpaid to ask questions that academics in the field of arms control and all but a few corporate journalists have failed to ask. We are well aware that most staff in the OPCW continue to work professionally for the organization’s mission of upholding the Chemical Weapons Convention. It should now be evident to OPCW staff, including those in senior management positions, that unless the capture of the Technical Secretariat by the France-UK-US-led alliance of States Parties is reversed, the future of the organization is at risk.

We now report on how the OPCW reports purporting to be the findings of the Fact-Finding Mission investigating the Douma incident were prepared. This is based on combining open source material with information communicated to us by OPCW staff members, whose identities we shall protect.

3 The Fact-Finding Mission in Syria
As we noted in an earlier briefing, the Chemical Weapons Convention (Part XI of the Verification Annex, “Investigations in cases of alleged use of chemical weapons”) lays down strict procedures for investigations of alleged use, and does not empower OPCW management to interfere in such an investigation once the inspection team has been selected and dispatched. In April 2014, when the first alleged chlorine attacks were reported from opposition-held areas, the Director-General decided to create a new operation designated the “Fact-Finding Mission in Syria”, with a mandate “to establish the facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.” This was announced on 29 April 2014, before any meeting of the Executive Council had considered it. The first report of the FFM stated that:

the establishment of the FFM was based on the general authority of the OPCW Director-General to seek to uphold at all times the object and purpose of the Chemical Weapons Convention;
This mechanism allowed the Technical Secretariat to set its own rules and procedures for the investigation of alleged chemical attacks in Syria. The first Team Leader of the Fact-Finding Mission was Malik Ellahi, who had been Political Adviser to the Director-General. After coming under fire in May 2014 when attempting an on-site inspection in opposition-held territory, the FFM resorted to collecting evidence in Turkey, with witnesses and materials provided by opposition-linked NGOs.

In early 2015 the Fact-Finding Mission was split into two: Team Alpha, headed by Len Phillips, and Team Bravo, headed by Steven Wallis. This arrangement was criticized by the Russian envoy to the OPCW who complained on 14 April 2017 that:

Under the mandate defined for [the Fact-Finding Mission], its membership should be approved by the Syrian government, and it should be balanced. For some time, these provisions were observed somewhat, but then the mission was split into two groups. One [Team Bravo], led by Steven Wallis from Britain, works in contact with the Syrian government, while the other one [Team Alpha], headed by his fellow countryman Leonard Phillips, deals with the claims filed by the Syrian armed opposition. This latter group is working completely non-transparently. Its membership is classified, and no one knows where it goes or how it operates. They are allegedly using the same methodology as Steven Wallis’s group, but they are clearly working mostly remotely, relying on the internet and the fabrications provided by Syrian opposition NGOs, and never go to Syria. At least, we are not aware of a single such trip.
In January 2018 Phillips was replaced as leader of Team Alpha by Sami Barrek. In January 2019 both teams were merged and Boban Cekovic, a former inspector who had worked as a decontamination specialist in the Serbian Ministry of Defence before joining OPCW, was rehired to become the Head of the Fact-Finding Mission.

On 23 January 2018 an initiative named the International Partnership against Impunity for Chemical Weapons was launched at a meeting in Paris. A leaked diplomatic telegram from the British diplomat Benjamin Norman indicated that the second meeting of the secret Small Group on Syria (representing France, UK, US, Saudi and Jordan) was to be held on the sidelines of this meeting, following the first meeting of this group on 12 January in Washington at which the US had confirmed its intention to maintain a significant military presence in Syria. On 4 February 2018 an alleged chemical attack was reported in Saraqib. We have commented elsewhere on the anomalies in the subsequent FFM report which concluded that in this incident “chlorine, released from cylinders through mechanical impact, was likely used as a chemical weapon”. The International Partnership against Impunity for Chemical Weapons, to which 38 countries signed up, laid the basis for a UK-tabled resolution passed by the Conference of States Parties on 27 June 2018 deciding that:

the Secretariat shall 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 in Syria 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.
We note in passing that the FFM report on the Douma incident did not determine that “use or likely use” of a chemical weapon occurred, but used the more diffident wording “reasonable grounds”.

On the basis of this resolution the Technical Secretariat established another operation that had not been provided for in the Chemical Weapons Convention, designated the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT). The newly-appointed director of the IIT, Santiago Oñate, who had been the legal adviser and later special adviser to the OPCW since 2004, cannot be a line manager (under OPCW rules about tenure, he can be employed only as a consultant). This implies that the staff of the IIT report to the Chief of Cabinet. The Principal Investigator of the IIT is Elise Coté, a Second Secretary at the Canadian embassy in The Hague. This is an obvious conflict of interest, as the Canadian government is strongly opposed to the Syrian government and maintains that “use of chemical weapons” by the Syrian government is an established fact for which it should be “held accountable”.

4 The boss: Sébastien Braha
OPCW management are collectively referred to as “the first floor”, where they have their offices. The current Director-General has a mostly ceremonial role (as was evident from his confused answers in a panel discussion on 6 June), and the effective boss of the OPCW is the Chief of Cabinet, Sébastien Braha, who has been a French diplomat since 2006 and served as the deputy French Permanent Representative to the OPCW from September 2014 onwards. On 22 May 2019, when one of us tweeted a screenshot of his Linkedin profile, this profile showed him to be still in this diplomatic post. Within a few days his profile was updated to show that he left his diplomatic post in July 2018 when he took up his post as Chief of Cabinet. Our sources report that even before he took up his post as an employee of the OPCW, he was frequently in the building giving instructions on expectations from his capital to the Technical Secretariat.

5 The Team Leader: Sami Barrek
The timeline of the Final Report records that the Team Leader “redeployed for information gathering activities from all other available sources” on 17 April 2018 three days after the team had arrived in Damascus, leaving the Deputy Team Leader in charge. A posting dated 22 April 2018 by a pro-government Syrian journalist writing as “Military Zonex” had reported this with more details:

the OPCW special mission headed by Mamadou Yerbanga continues its work in Syrian Douma. The previous head, Saami Barek was called off to another mission, to Turkey, due to unknown reasons. Earlier, the Syrian opposition claimed that Bashar Al Assad used chemical ammunition in Idlib. They also said that the ammunition fragments had been sent to Turkey. It is likely that Saami Barek (from Tunisia) is now in Turkey or at the north of Syria to help the opposition in gathering ‘evidences’ to blame the Syrian government in using chemical weapon. The Tunisian is likely to have established contacts with “White Helmets” – the organization, which has many times been caught in making fake videos demonstrating ‘outcomes’ of use of chemical weapon by the Syrian army.
We have confirmed from other sources that the Team Leader who left Damascus was Sami Barrek and that he was subsequently seen in Turkey with the White Helmets. As we pointed out, it is surprising that the Team Leader was suddenly redeployed from on-site inspections to take charge of information gathering activities elsewhere that would have far less evidential value. We have not been able to confirm that the Syrian opposition claimed a chemical attack in Idlib at this time, as Military Zonex reported.

Sami Barrek, originally Tunisian, has a background in analytical chemistry. His affiliation on a paper published in 2009 was with a lab in France. He joined the OPCW as an inspector in January 2010. OPCW employment contracts are term-limited to seven years, though for some inspectors these limits were extended or they were retained on Special Service Agreements (equivalent to consultancy contracts). Some former inspectors were re-hired for up to three years.

The Twitter account @samibarrek was set up in April 2013 but has never tweeted. One of its few followers is @LenP91535865, an account set up in June 2018. Examination shows that this is Len Phillips, the leader of FFM Team Alpha from 2015 to 2017. As Sami Barrek’s account has never tweeted, there is no obvious reason for Phillips to follow it other than to allow private messaging. Phillips’s twitter account @LenP91535865 has two followers excluding a relative and authors of this article: the second follower was Sébastien Braha. As the 48 brief tweets posted by Phillips from June 2018 to May 2019 are unlikely to be of wide interest, the most plausible reason for Braha to have followed Phillips’s twitter account would have been to allow private messaging. Phillips also follows Braha’s twitter account.

We can thus identify what appear to be arrangements for private communication between three people: Barrek, the leader of the FFM team investigating the Douma incident; Phillips, working for the OPCW during 2018 as a freelance; and Braha, the Chief of Cabinet. This itself is not necessarily anything untoward (unless they were using this channel to communicate on OPCW matters) but it leads us to examine the possible role of Phillips.

6 The freelance: Len Phillips
Phillips’s Linkedin biography records that after obtaining degrees in chemistry and engineering he worked for twelve years in the chemical industry. His last job in industry was as a process engineer at the Associated Octel plant in Anglesey, which closed in 2003 with the loss of 100 jobs. In January 2008 he began working as an inspector for the OPCW in The Hague, and was promoted to Inspection Team Leader in January 2011. Phillips’s bio records for this period that he:

Led fact finding mission team and reported on allegations in Idlib, Spring 2015; Marea, August 2015; Khan Shaykhun, April 2017, Ltamenah, 30 March 2017.
These investigations were based on interviews with White Helmets in Turkey and materials that they provided. We have been told that Phillips met regularly in Turkey with James Le Mesurier, founder of the White Helmets. His biography records that after a sabbatical during the first quarter of 2018 he was from April 2018 a self-employed “Chemical investigations Consultant, with particular focus on use of chemicals as weapons”.

On 8 April 2019 Phillips registered a UK company named PhBG Consultants Ltd, with an address in Anglesey. Although the incorporation document records that Phillips is sole director and sole shareholder, the acronym “PhBG” and the plural form “Consultants” in the company name suggest that there may be a partner. The “Nature of Business” registered for this company appears rather close to what an OPCW investigation might commission from “engineering experts”.

66210 – Risk and damage evaluation 70229 – Management consultancy activities other than financial management 71122 – Engineering related scientific and technical consulting activities
Phillips’s Linkedin profile lists two “Interests” apart from his old universities and the OPCW: the UK Government’s Stabilisation Unit, and Bellingcat. On Twitter, Phillips appears to interact with Eliot Higgins and follows three other Bellingcat-associated accounts. He follows accounts associated with three opposition-linked NGOs that have provided evidence of alleged chemical attacks to FFM Team Alpha: the White Helmets, the Chemical Violations Documentation Centre Syria, and the Syrian American Medical Society. The first follower of the twitter account @LenP91535865 was Fahad Abu Waleed (@c8ll08TZ3FM6e2s, joined in July 2018), who (front row, third from the right in a group photo) had been based in Douma as a White Helmet and was affiliated to Jaish al-Islam, the opposition group in control of Douma up to April 2018. This affiliation is documented by a Facebook post dated 25 December 2016, in which Fahad commemorated “the first anniversary of the martydom” of Zahran Alloush, the notoriously brutal and sectarian leader of Jaish al-Islam, with the words “my sheikh and higher in the heavens”. We note with unease that of the tweets during 2018 “liked” by Fahad, several were announcements of the evacuation of White Helmets to Jordan and their impending relocation to the UK.

7 The interim and final reports
As we pointed out in an earlier briefing note, when the Interim Report and the Final Report on the Douma investigation were examined together, there were several indicators of interference with the investigation:

The Interim Report, released on 6 July 2018, reported laboratory results showing chlorinated organic compounds in environmental samples, but did not include any material from interviews, stating only that “Analysis of the testimonies is ongoing”. As all 34 interviews had been completed by 12 May we would have expected the Interim Report to include a summary of the witness testimony, checked for consistency with other sources including visual evidence. We would also have expected a summary of the results of on-site inspections which had beeen completed by 2 May.
After the release of the Interim Report, the timeline of the investigation showed no further activity till September, when “consultations with toxicologists” were recorded, followed by “consultations with toxicologists and engineering experts” in October. While the existence of a suppressed internal engineering investigation provides an explanation for why consultations with external engineering experts were sought at such a late stage, we still have no explanation for why the FFM waited till September 2018 to seek the opinions of toxicologists or forensic pathologists, when the relevant lab results had been received in May 2018.
The FFM team, or what was left of it, had redeployed to conduct a new round of interviews in Turkey in October, including five new purported witnesses. No explanation was given for why these additional interviews were sought. We may surmise that the results of the original interviews were disagreeable to those who were by this time running the investigation.
Our sources have provided information that fills in some details of how the investigation was nobbled. An internal note shared among OPCW staff members dated 23 June 2018 stated that:

the OPCW report on the alleged chemical attack in Douma Syria on 7 April is currently under review by management. As it is currently drafted, the report indicates a high degree of probability that the alleged chemical attack was staged by an opposition group.
The note concluded:

I predict that the OPCW simply will not be allowed to issue a report that raises any doubts on the pre-judged guilty party.
What happened at this stage, leading to the release of an unsigned Interim Report with only lab results, was not transparent to FFM team members. From then onwards the investigation proceeded in secrecy, nominally led by Barrek, with all the FFM team members who had deployed to Douma excluded. The Director-General’s statement that Henderson “was tasked with temporarily assisting the FFM” could be applied to all these team members; they do not know who wrote what was released as the final Report of the Fact-Finding Mission. It is presumed that Barrek as Team Leader up to the end of 2018 and Cekovic as Head of the FFM from the beginning of 2019 were the formal lead authors.

OPCW staff members have told us that the subsequent investigation involved consultation with Len Phillips, who was frequently seen in the building with Barrek during the summer of 2018. There is indirect corroboration of his role from his Twitter account:

The use of Phillips’s Twitter account to follow Barrek suggests that a private messaging channel between these two individuals was set up in or after June 2018.
The first follower of Phillips’s Twitter account was Fahad Abu Waleed. As the obscure account @LenP91535865 would not easily have been found by anyone who was not looking for it, this suggests that Phillips was in contact with at least one member of the White Helmets who had been based in Douma. Such a contact would have been relevant to the Douma investigation but not to the FFM’s investigations of earlier incidents in Idlib where Phillips was Team Leader.
Phillips’s most recent Twitter follow (and the only UK-based journalist that he follows) is Brian Whitaker, who on 24 May 2019 reported that Henderson had been advised to submit the Engineering Assessment to the IIT, citing an “informed source”. As this information, confirmed a few days later by the Director-General, would have been known to very few people, it is evident that Whitaker’s “informed source” is in the clique responsible for managing the release of the Final Report. The referral to the IIT had been hinted at in a blog post by Scott Lucas posted a few hours after our release of the document on 13 May. On 16 May both Whitaker and Lucas channelled a somewhat different story to the effect that Henderson was “on the sidelines of the FFM” and that his report was a “dissenting assessment”. Lucas had boasted on 17 March that “I have known about [the FFM report on the Douma incident] throughout its development” and on 16 May that “I know how OPCW review process was conducted and what place Henderson’s assessment had in it”. Of the few people who could have provided such briefings to Lucas and Whitaker directly or indirectly, Phillips is a more likely candidate than Braha or Barrek. Phillips has not responded to requests for comment.
8 Distortion of evidence in earlier reports where Phillips was FFM Team Leader
In the light of what we have learned about the role of Phillips in the FFM investigation of the Douma incident, it is relevant to examine his track record in three earlier FFM investigations of alleged chemical attacks where he was the Team Leader: these are Idlib (2015), Khan Shaykhun (2017), and Ltamenah where two FFM reports were issued: one on an alleged attack on 30 March 2017 (released 2 November 2017), and the other on alleged attacks on 24 March and 25 March 2017, (released 13 June 2018).

8.1 Idlib 2015: refrigerant canisters
In March 2015 a series of alleged chlorine attacks began in Idlib. The Report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria regarding alleged incidents in the Idlib Governorate of the Syrian Arab Republic between 16 March and 20 May 2015 concluded that:

several incidents that occurred in the Idlib Governorate of the Syrian Arab Republic between 16 March 2015 and 20 May 2015 likely involved the use of one or more toxic chemicals – probably containing the element chlorine – as a weapon.
Larson has examined in detail the contradictions in the story of the most widely-publicized of these incidents: the alleged attack in Sarmin on 16 March 2015 that led to the deaths of the Taleb family. We shall focus specifically on the alleged munitions.

Images from the sites of these alleged attacks showed canisters of R22 (a hydrochlorofluorocarbon refrigerant) and half-litre plastic bottles containing a purple substance that was later identified as potassium permanganate. Potassium permanganate reacts with hydrochloric acid to produce chlorine; this is a convenient and safe way to produce small quantities of chlorine in a laboratory. R22 itself is non-toxic, with or without mixing with permanganate.

The FFM report included a drawing of the alleged munition, made up of R22 canisters and bottles of potassium permanganate wrapped in detonating cord and enclosed in a steel barrel. It should have been clear to Phillips, as a chemical process engineer, that this device was implausible as a munition, as there is no mechanism for the potassium permanganate to mix with the contents of the canisters before the device is detonated. Binary chemical munitions are designed to mix the precursors in flight or before launch. More specifically, the FFM report omitted a key fact that was later noted by the Joint Investigative Mechanism’s report: the R22 canisters are disposable and their repurposing or refilling would require technical modification of the valve. Phillips’s FFM report did not mention this, though the FFM had been provided with several canisters allegedly used in these munitions. If the canisters could not have been refilled with something else, they could not have been used in chemical munitions either on their own or with potassium permanganate.

8.2 Khan Shaykhun 2017: recorded times of hospital admissions
In the Khan Shaykhun incident on 4 April 2017, a Syrian jet was alleged to have dropped a sarin-containing munition on the town, causing the deaths of at least 70 people who were seen from about 7 am onwards being hosed down by the White Helmets outside their base in a cave complex near the town, and later laid out in morgues. The Joint Investigative Mechanism’s investigation of the incident reported that a flight map (presumably provided by the US military) showed that the Syrian jet had passed no closer than 5 km from the town, effectively ruling out an airstrike as the explanation for the incident. Although the FFM did not have access to this flight map, it ignored other observations that should have cast serious doubt on whether a chemical attack had occurred as described. One of these observations was the recorded times of hospital admissions. The report of the Joint Investigative Mechanism noted that hospital records showed admission times before the alleged attack occurred.

The Mechanism received the medical records of 247 patients from Khan Shaykhun who had been admitted to various health-care facilities, … Analysis of the records revealed that in 57 cases, patients had been admitted to five hospitals before the incident (at 0600, 0620 and 0640 hours). In 10 of those cases, patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 125 km away from Khan Shaykhun at 0700 hours, while another 42 patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 30 km away at 0700 hours. The Mechanism did not investigate those discrepancies and cannot determine whether they are linked to any possible staging scenario or are the result of poor record-keeping in chaotic conditions.”
The FFM had reported that they received “699 pages of records (including autopsies, medical records, death certificates and other patient information)” and that:

The team collected a number of patient records, death certificates, and other medical documents from medical facilities throughout northern Syria, collected from medical NGOs, the Idlib Health Directorate (IHD), and the Khan Shaykhun Medical Centre.
The records from the Idlib Health Directorate covered 292 exposed individuals including 50 fatalities. If most of these fatal cases were recorded as not admitted to health-care facilities, the number of medical records collected by the FFM matches approximately the number received by the Mechanism, implying that these sets of records were largely the same. Whatever may be the explanation for the inconsistency of the recorded admission times with the time of the alleged attack, the failure of the FFM to mention it casts doubt on the reliability and integrity of the report.

8.3 Ltamenah 2017: intact sarin persisting after months in the open
The Report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria regarding alleged incidents in Ltamenah on 24 and 25 March 2017 dated 13 June 2018 concluded that “sarin was very likely used as a chemical weapon in the south of Ltamenah on 24 March 2017” and that “chlorine was very likely used as a chemical weapon at Ltamenah Hospital and the surrounding area on 25 March 2017”. Witnesses of the alleged incident on 25 March 2017 reported that a gas cylinder dropped from the air had pierced the roof of the Ltamenah cave hospital, causing three deaths. Chlorinated organic molecules had been found in samples from this attack but so had sarin degradation products on the clothes of one of the victims. The FFM attributed the sarin degradation products to secondary contamination from a previously unreported sarin attack the day before in which two munitions had allegedly fallen on agricultural land outside the town.

Environmental samples from the alleged incident on 24 March 2017 were received by the FFM team eleven months later on 19 February 2018, after the White Helmets had been prompted to provide them in an “interview process” that had started at the end of July 2017:

Based on information supplied during interviews, the FFM identified munition parts that were of potential interest in relation to the alleged incident of 24 March 2017 and arranged for their collection by an NGO. As a result, further environmental samples, including remnants of alleged munition parts, were received by the FFM team on 19 February 2018.
Surprisingly, despite the delay in obtaining these samples, they were found to contain intact sarin as well as sarin degradation products. Even if the White Helmets had collected the munition parts immediately after the “interview process”, sealed them and stored them in a freezer till February 2018, they would still have been lying in the open for at least 15 weeks. A review of studies by western defence research establishments shows that intact sarin does not persist in the open for more than one or two days in warm weather. While it is possible that intact sarin could persist for longer than this, for instance between surfaces or adsorbed, the report does not provide any such explanation, or even record the date when these samples were purportedly collected. As chemistry graduates trained to inspect chemical weapons, Phillips and his successor Barrek could be expected to be aware that this was a key point in evaluating whether there had been a sarin attack as alleged.

As no reports or images of the incident on 24 March 2017 appeared at the time, sceptics might doubt that it happened, and might even suspect collusion between the FFM team and the White Helmets in coming up with this explanation, at least three months later, for the presence of sarin degradation products in the samples from the alleged chlorine attack on 25 March. A more plausible explanation for the presence of sarin degradation products in environmental samples from an opposition base on 25 March is that preparations were being made for the incident in Khan Shaykhun on 4 April.

In summary, in the reports of these three investigations by FFM Team Alpha when Phillips was Team Leader, there are indications that evidence favouring staging over a chemical attack was ignored or distorted. This strengthens the case for retracting all these reports, not just the Final Report on the Douma incident, and allowing independent reassessment of the material collected.

9 UK-led information operations associated with alleged chemical attacks
From combining all available information, it is now clear that several entities involved in reporting and documenting alleged chemical attacks have their origin in a covert programme launched by the UK government in 2012. In this programme, like a low-budget theatrical production, the same actors reappear in different roles. For instance Hamish de Bretton-Gordon (HdBG) appears successively as covert agent collecting samples for Porton Down, as independent chemical weapons expert quoted in the media, as the founder of a small business setting up an NGO to collect evidence for the OPCW, and from 2016, described as a “former spy”, in the role of a humanitarian worker coordinating a network of hospitals. It is likely that this programme would have attempted to co-opt OPCW staff, especially UK nationals.

9.1 Ministry of Defence: Targeting and Information Operations
In June 2012 the UK government established a covert StratCom programme on the Syrian conflict, overseen by former Lt-Col Kevin Stratford-Wright in the Targeting and Information Operations directorate of the Ministry of Defence, later renamed as Military Strategic Effects. Stratford-Wright described this programme as “the UK’s largest of its kind since the Cold War”. Metadata revealed that tender documents for provision of media operations for the “moderate armed opposition”, issued in 2013 by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, were created by Stratford-Wright. This contract was eventually awarded to a company named InCoStratset up by Paul Tilley, another former Lt-Col who had been working with Stratford-Wright in the Targeting and Information Operations directorate.

9.2 ARK, Basma, Mayday Rescue and the White Helmets
An early step was the establishment in Istanbul of a company named Access Resource Knowledge (ARK) by Alistair Harris, a former FCO diplomat, together with a pro-opposition media outlet named Basma. Basma was the media source for the first alleged chemical attack in Homs in December 2012. As the “stabilisation and development” company ARK Group DMCC based in Dubai, ARK has received £19 million from the FCO since July 2015. The “Mayday Rescue” operation headed by Le Mesurier was spun out of ARK, where Le Mesurier worked. According to publicly available FCO expenditure records, a total of £43 million was paid to “Mayday Rescue” between May 2015 and October 2018, not to the non-profit Stichting Mayday Rescue Foundation registered in the Netherlands but to the company Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC established in 2014 and based in Dubai.

9.3 SecureBio and the CBRN Task Force
In April 2012, the company SecureBio set up a year earlier by HdBG became active with a new split of equity, and a separate company SecureBio Forensics was created. HdBG became prominent during 2013 in his overt role as an expert commentator on chemical weapons, and (as he revealed) in a covert role collecting samples from Syria for analysis at Porton Down and its French counterpart at Le Bouchet. He went on to establish a CBRN Task Force that provided apparently fabricated evidence of a chlorine attack in Talmenes to the FFM in 2014. He subsequently became affiliated with the ostensibly humanitarian NGOs UOSSM and Doctors under Fire. Recently he disseminated a story of an alleged chlorine attack in Idlib on 19 May 2018, shortly after it was first reported by a media outlet linked to the rebranded al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

9.4 UK communicators
We have noted the role of Brian Whitaker in 2012 when he promoted the blogger Eliot Higgins to prominence as a self-taught expert on the munitions used in the Syrian conflict. Higgins would later be acclaimed as the open source investigator who documented munitions found at the sites of alleged chemical attacks in 2013. Whitaker was the first journalist to devote an article to attacking the Working Group, in February 2018 when its only collective output had been a brief blog post. In May 2019 he took on a new role in channelling an “informed source” within the OPCW.

Professor Scott Lucas’s communications in support of UK foreign policy appear to date back to the establishment of his website Enduring America in October 2008, at a time when UK diplomats were privately expressing concern that the incoming Obama administration might seek an agreement with Iran. Lucas persistently attacked two US foreign policy experts, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett, who advocated a US-Iran rapprochement. He stated in a tweet on 16 May 2019 that he had been “developing info/contacts re OPCW process on Syria since 2013”. In a tweet on 30 April 2019, he revealed that “One of privileges of this job is meeting a lot of wonderful people on ground who, at risk to themselves, want to get story out. So that is why I have ‘facts’, in and beyond OPCW report.” It is not clear what he meant by “this job”, or why anyone whose honest intention was to “get story out” would choose Lucas as an outlet.

10 A next step: replication of the engineering studies
As we have noted, the Final Report recorded that the Syrian government retained custody of the two cylinders used for the internal Engineering Assessment, after they were tagged and sealed by “FFM team members” (presumably the engineering sub-team) on 4 June 2018. With access to the cylinders, and to open source records of observations at the locations where they were found, it should be possible to establish whether the findings of the engineering sub-team can be replicated, and to determine which of the two alternative hypotheses – dropped from aircraft or manually placed – is supported.

Such a study could be undertaken by an international panel of impact engineering experts, hosted by a university department with access to supercomputing facilities, and published in accordance with modern scientific standards for reproducible research so that all raw data and computer code used to generate the results are made freely available. For such a report to be credible it would have to be independent of the OPCW, although the IIT could be invited to participate and to provide the measurements taken by FFM team members at the locations where the cylinders were found. The IIT has no expertise to undertake or assess studies in this specialized field. The forthcoming meeting of the Executive Council would be an appropriate occasion to table such a proposal, on the basis that the proposed replication study will proceed with or without OPCW participation.

11 Role of external engineering experts and toxicologists
The Douma investigation included external consultations with engineering experts and toxicologists. The Final Report does not present the results of these consultations in their original form. The exclusion of the FFM’s own Engineering Assessment raises suspicion that other assessments may have been omitted or distorted. We are sceptical of the Director-General’s statement that all three external engineering consultants “reached the same conclusions that can be found in the FFM final report”. It is evident also that the opinions of the toxicologists have not been presented accurately. The explanation given in the Final Report for why the victims did not attempt to escape is that they were exposed to “an agent capable of quickly killing or immobilising”. Toxicologists would have been well aware that chlorine from a cylinder on the roof could not have done this, and would have said so. We invite the Technical Secretariat, if it really believes that it can stand by the FFM report on the Douma investigation, to take a step towards restoring the credibility of the OPCW by making public all the reports provided by engineering experts and toxicologists who were consulted during this investigation. We do not expect the Technical Secretariat to do this, and therefore we appeal to those who have access to the records of these consultations to make these documents publicly available.

As we have previously noted, if the Douma attack was staged the only plausible explanation for the deaths of the victims is that they were murdered as captives by the opposition group in control of Douma at the time. The visual evidence of this has been examined elsewhere. In most civilian and military jurisdictions, the duty to disclose a cover-up of such a crime would override any confidentiality agreement with an employer or with another organization.

Emails sent from a Protonmail account to our Protonmail addresses are secure. Messages can be additionally encrypted with our PGP public keys. Our Protonmail addresses and PGP key fingerprints can be found on our individual home pages, linked here.

12 Acknowledgements
We thank the OPCW staff members who continue to communicate with us, some of whom have provided detailed comments on earlier drafts of this briefing note. We thank Carmen Renieri for open source research on the White Helmets, which made use of archived studies by the late Ursula Behr Taubert.

_________________
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'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
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Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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