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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Why Is Russia making war on the OPCW now?

Russian/Syrian is carpet bombing of Jisr al Shoghour today
First reports speak of 5 killed, 10 wounded.
This is what the OPCW "leak" story is meant to distract us from.
Russia claims that it is the United States government, and not the Syrian government, that is responsible for the chemical attacks that have taken place in Syria in recent years. According to the Syrian Arab New Agency (SANA), Russia will be presenting new evidence to back that claim on Friday. AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA) is reporting:
Moscow to present additional data on alleged chemical attack in Syria's Douma

11 July 2019
Source: SANA
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov announced that Moscow on Friday will present additional data on the alleged chemical attack in Douma City.

”We will soon present additional data gathered by our experts and social activists regarding the Douma incident. As I see it, a relevant presentation will be held in the Hague tomorrow and we will present new data on July 12 and we will invite journalists,” Sputnik Agency quoted Ryabkov as saying in a statement to journalists.

The US through its tools of terrorist organizations and members of the so-called “White Helmets” stage false flag chemical attacks to indict the Syrian Government in an attempt to prevent the inevitable end of terrorists in the face of the Syrian Arab Army and to justify the foreign aggression on Syria. More...
This promise of new allegations from Russia came the day after Anthony Deutsch of Reuters reported that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) would be sending the newly created Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) to Syria to determine who was responsible for nine recent chemical attacks in Syria, including the one that took place on 7 April 2018 in Douma:
THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A new team established by the global chemical weapons watchdog to attribute blame for the use of banned munitions in Syria will investigate nine alleged attacks during the country’s civil war, including in the town of Douma, sources briefed on the matter told Reuters.
Both Russia and Syria opposed the formation of the IIT, or any fault finding mission.
While consistently claiming that the US lead terrorist jihadists are behind every chemical attack in Syria, they have just as consistently opposed any investigation of these attacks with the power to place blame. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of member states to the OPCW voted to give the IIT the power to find fault. Now it is beginning its investigations and has named the CW attacks it will be investigating. And now the Syria government is refusing visas to the IIT investigators, and is refusing to turn over relevant materials to them. This would seem to be very strange behaviour to come from a government that insists none of the evidence should indicate it was responsible for any attack.

This is one reason Russia, and its minions, have been making war on the OPCW. They need badly to discredit it ahead of any finding of the obvious, which is that the same war criminals that have been massacring civilians from the air with conventional explosives, have also occasionally done the same by dropping chemical weapons on them.

The Assad regime turns to chemical weapons because despite claims to the contrary, it is not winning without them. Ever since 21 August 2013, these minions have been claiming that Assad had no use for CW because he was winning without them. Six years running, longer than WWII! That has been their mantra: “he's winning without them.” But even today, even in the last holdout province of Idlib, he isn't winning, at least not easily, even with them, and very heavy Russian carpet bombing. He uses CW because it is a terror weapon par excellence, because it kills the little children first, and because it gets at those hiding in the basements from his bombs.


There is another reason why Russia is feeling none too friendly towards the OPCW these days. The OPCW is questioning whether the Assad regime has been honest in declaring and giving up all of its chemical weapons. One of the simplistic counter-arguments to be heard from the “Working Group,” and other Assad apologists, is that the regime couldn't possibly be responsible for chemical weapons attacks since it gave up all its CW years ago. They never entertained the possibility that mass murderers could also be liars, but The Arab News reported Tuesday that it appears Assad hung on to a hidden stash:
Top watchdog voices concerns over Syria’s chemical weapons

THE HAGUE: Member states of the global chemical weapons watchdog voiced concern Tuesday that Syria may still possess such weapons after inspectors discovered traces of what could be a byproduct of a nerve agent or poison gas at a Syrian research facility.

In a report submitted to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Executive Council, the organization’s director-general said the traces were found late last year at Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center in Barzah. More...
Russian Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Georgy Kalamanov, claimed recently that the Assad regime couldn't be responsible for any of the recent chemical weapons attacks in Syria because it “has declared and destroyed all its chemical weapons arsenals.” So, like the Trump cabal, they are now refusing to co-operate with what they call “endless” investigations. According to the Russian News Agency TASS:
A number of Western nations have repeatedly accused Damascus of using chemical weapons, providing no evidence to support these allegations. The Syrian authorities have repeatedly denied the accusations. Russia is against additional inspections in Syria to verify the destruction of chemical weapons
Only one of the above statements is not true, which ain't bad for Tass. There has been plenty of evidence.

Director-General Fernando Arias also reported that Syria has refused to issue a visa to the coordinator of an OPCW team that aims to attribute blame for chemical weapons attacks in the country.

Many of these issues came up for discussion at 91st session of the OPCW Executive Council, which was held 9-12 July 2019 in The Hague, the Netherland. At it H.E. Sabine Nölke, Permanent Representative to the OPCW from Canada, issued an insightful statement about the current controversies whirling around the OPCW. In it he said:
Canada is deeply concerned by recent reports of the Declaration Assessment Team (DAT) that Syrian authorities have removed and destroyed equipment and munitions that the DAT had requested be preserved for further assessment. Samples of a chemical detected at Barzah were identified by two separate designated labs as a likely by-product of a Schedule 1 chemical. This adds to the growing evidence of deliberately false declarations by Syria, destruction of possible evidence, and the alarming likelihood that Syria continues to possess Schedule 1 chemicals. Continued possession of these chemicals by Syria lends additional credence to existing allegations of their use by the regime.
I'd be curious to hear the “Working Group's” apology for Assad on this question. Destruction of evidence is not the act of an innocent party.
Beyond the submission of an incomplete or untrue declaration, the Syria continues to obfuscate and present obstacles to undermine the work States Parties have instructed the OPCW to carry out. Syrian authorities have refused to issue a visa to the Coordinator of the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) to enter the country as a member of a delegation from the Technical Secretariat. This violates Article VII, paragraph 7 of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which obliges each State Party to “cooperate with the Organization in the exercise of its functions and in particular to provide assistance to the Technical Secretariat”. We urge Syria to fulfill its obligations under the Convention.
The Canadian representative then goes on to speak of Ian Henderson's “Executive Summary” of a paper none have seen:
The Director General informed the States Parties on April 28th that an OPCW internal engineering report, produced as part of the work of the Fact-Finding Mission on Douma, had been leaked to actors outside the organisation. The FFM considered the report in question along with all available information it examined, weighed and deliberated on. Based on the overall facts and evidence collected and analysed, the FFM found that there are reasonable grounds to conclude that molecularchlorine was used as a weapon in Douma. Since the leaked engineering report also addressed attribution questions outside the mandate of the FFM, the DG asked that it also be transferred to the IIT for consideration in its ongoing work.
I emphasised that part because I had also reached the same conclusion, Henderson had submitted it to the wrong mission, possible because he already knew Syria would refuse to recognize the IIT.
Canada remains steadfast in its confidence in the professionalism and integrity of the FFM and its methods.However, Mr. Chair, we are unsettled with the leak of official confidential documents from the Technical Secretariat. The DG has indicated that an investigation is underway to determine how the breach occurred and to ensure that it does not happen in the future. We are all aware that there have been serious attempts to compromise the information security and confidential material held by the Technical Secretariat, including by States Parties in this room. The Organisation, its current and past staff, and States Parties are all bound by the OPCW’s Policy on Confidentiality and have a responsibility and an interest in preserving internal information. We support the DG for his management of this issue.
He probably was referring to the hacking attempt mount against the OPCW in The Hague by the Russian GRU. Was he also thinking of the “leaked” Henderson note?
In a similar vein, we are watching with concern a growing coordinated effort to undermine this organisation. We have seen efforts from a number of actors to conduct smear campaigns against individuals in the TS, circulate false information and attempt to discredit the OPCW as an institution. Canada, like most of us here, is bound by facts, evidence-based decision-making and the rule of law. We will not be distracted by efforts to draw attention away from the use of chemical weapons, or the use of non-facts and non-science to call into question the scientific evidence and investigation into these crimes. We will continue to call out disinformation where we see it, and to counter it with the facts and the truth, which underpin rules-based international order.
This is how Sabine Nölke called out Russia's war on the OPCW just a few days ago.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Thursday, July 4, 2019

For 4th of July, Military Times tells military their Commander-in-Chief is an idiot

One of the Break News stories of the day was the way in which United States President Donald Trump is planning to politicize the American celebration of its revolutionary Declaration of Independence from the English monarchy on 4 July 1776, in way that has never been done before in the more than 240 times it has been celebrated since its first anniversary in 1777, and certainly since it became an official federal holiday in 1870, after the country had been re-united by the Civil War.

Trump is planning fly overs by war planes from each branch of the military, and he is bringing tanks to Washington. Military Times reported on Monday:
Officials told The Washington Post, according to a story published earlier Monday, that the White House had requested Army vehicles for the celebration but that the service was scrambling to figure out what to send and how to get it to D.C.

“You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks, because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks," [Trump] said. “So we have to put them in certain areas, but we have the brand new Sherman tanks and we have the brand new Abram tanks.”

The M4 Sherman, best known for its role in World War II, went out of service in 1957. The M1 Abrams came online in 1980.
“tanks for the memories”
Our president is an idiot. Please note that I cite the Military Times for this quote and correction, because while it is less read by the general public than The Washington Post, it is very widely read by its target audience, and is almost certainly more popular than “The Post” in the military. So, the Military Times is, in effect, warning all the soldiers and officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines that their Commander-in-Chief is an idiot!

We have also learned that the Republican National Committee is handing out tickets for reserved seating in a special access area for this command performance by the Pentagon to high dollar donors of the president's campaign.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, a commander of US troop in Afghanistan said:
“This looks like it’s becoming much more of a Republican Party event — a political event about the president — than a national celebration of the Fourth of July, and it’s unfortunate to have the military smack dab in the middle of that."
Retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, whose service goes back to the Vietnam War, was more blunt:
“The president is using the armed forces in a political ploy for his reelection campaign and I think it’s absolutely obscene.”
It's pretty clear that the con-man Donald Trump is trying to turn the Independence Day celebration on the National Mall into a big tax-payer funded campaign rally.
About six weeks ago I did a blog post about the corruption of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and in it I made a prediction with regards to Donald Trump's future ambitions:
Maduro's final campaign rally on 17 May was an example of corruption that Donald Trump will undoubtedly try to top because the Tal Cual newspaper called it the “greatest demonstration of corruption” for its “shameless” use of state resources. The paper published the PSUV party operational plan for the rally. Instead of assigning tasks to party members, they were assigned directly to the ministries and other public agencies: PDVSA, the state-run oil company, was responsible for the main stage, the backing, the sound system, and generators. The Ministry for Mining Development was responsible for decoration. The Defense Ministry was responsible for fireworks, and other agencies were responsible for portable toilets, refreshments, etc. The plan even specified that those closest to the stage should be militia members dressed as civilians.
Now, it looks like he is really taking up the challenge! I don't know how much government money Maduro spent on his campaign rally, but its probably didn't top the federal dollars The Donald will spend on his.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Thursday, June 27, 2019

“Working Group” Can you find Henderson or “leak” his full OPCW report?

In the middle of April, a group of British academic supporters of war criminals that call themselves the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media release a 15-page PDF that claimed to be the Executive Summary signed by a Ian Henderson of an “Engineering Assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident.” Now more than two months have gone by and nobody has seen neither hide nor hair of Mr. Henderson, and nobody has claimed to even have seen the “Engineering Assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident,” that Ian Henderson's Executive Summary claims to summarize.

United States Attorney General William Barr has recently shown us how much we should trust an “Executive Summary” while we are being denied the full report.



     
“shouldn't give it
      the time of day.”
No one should continue to give this so-called "Executive Summary" a minutes attention as long as the document being summarized is missing and the author is unavailable to validate his work.


The “Working Group” is obviously affected with  the chemical weapons fetish. As many as 1700 civilians were murdered by Assad's big sarin attack on East Ghouta, 21 August 2013, but the body count on other CW attacks comes nowhere close to that. While over 300 chemical attacks have been reported on Syria since 2012, only a handful have caused a hundred or more deaths. For most CW attacks, the death toll was much smaller, and many caused no deaths at all.

The point is that in a civil war in which more than a half-million civilians have been slaughtered, chemical weapons have played a small part in the killing. The Russian and Syrian air forces have done far more damage, and taken far more lives, than these chemical attacks. It is their wanton attacks on civilian targets that brand Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin as war criminals, even if they never used chemical weapons.

And yet the “Working Group” is focused almost entirely on defending the Syrian and Russian governments against charges that they have used chemical weapons, and they have yet to find even one CW attack either of these two regimes are responsible for, even though they both have documented histories of war crimes by non-chemical means. That history of conventional war crimes, and police state torture, is not of interest to the “Working Group.” They are the chemical warfare barristers for war criminals.

In their latest post promoting the Henderson “leaked” Executive Summary, they claim to have contacts inside the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) that are feeding them secrets. 

 Our sources have provided information that fills in some details of how the investigation was nobbled.”
Have your sources been able to come up with anything backing Henderson's claims beyond his “Executive Summary”?
"Our sources report that even before he took up his post as an employee of the OPCW, he was frequently in the building ...”

Well, wasn't he the French Deputy permanent representative to OPCW even before he changed jobs and became an employee of the OPCW?

Have your sources told you when Ian Henderson was last in the building, and why he has no comment, after two months, about the report that bears his name?
“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.”

Scandalous! He associates with people who save lives.

Have any of your sources spotted the illusive Mr. Henderson, or found even a few pages of the  “Engineering Assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident.” beyond the 15-page summary?
“We have learned from multiple sources that the second stage of the investigation involved consultation with Len Phillips...”
Thank you for providing the Linkedin link for Phillips. Now, could you please provide one for Henderson? Linkedin finds 1,394 Ian Hendersons, won't any of your multiple sources tell you which is your man Henderson?

Finally, you thank your sources inside the OPCW:

“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.”
A pity one of the OPCW staff members who continue to communicate with you isn't Ian Henderson. Have they been able to give you any clue as to his whereabouts or the reason for his prolonged silence?

You say:
“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.”
We also need to see more than Henderson's Executive Summary. When can we see the report he is summarizing?

You say:

“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." 
Actually, to resolve any discrepancy between the conclusions of the internal Engineering Assessment and those of the Final Report, we would need to see the Engineering Assessment, and not just the mysterious Mr. Henderson's “Executive Summary” of the Engineering Assessment. So, we are all awaiting the leaking of the “Engineering Assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident.” - so far we have only seen the “Executive Summary”

When will we see “Engineering Assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident”?
Where is Ian Henderson?
Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for our posts on the 2016 US Election
Click here for a list of our other blogs on Syria
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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Russian's War on the OPCW— Putting the Henderson "leak" in context

Chemical weapons have always been seen as especially heinous. In 1918, the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) referred to them as “barbarous inventions” the use of which can “only be called criminal.” Perhaps, because of the bloodless way they kill. Perhaps, because they favor the old, the sick, and the childrenover healthy adults of fighting age. Most certainly, because of the agonizing, ugly, and often slow, way they kill. In East Ghouta, the sarin flowed down to the basement where the children were bedded down so that they would be safe from the bombing. After the horror of chemical weapons was revealed to all on the battlefields of World War I, they were banned in the 1925 Geneva Protocol.

Victims of Assad sarin attack on East Ghouta | 21 August 2013
That international ban has largely held, with a few notable exceptions, for more than 85 years. However, now it would seem that chemical weapons are on something of a comeback. This started in 2012 in Syria, where there have been more than 300 reported chemical attacks linked to the Assad regime. But CW hasn't been just for Syria anymore. Since 2012, CW attacks have also been reported in Malaysia, Northern Ireland, Iraq, the UK, and Sudan.

This is a worrying trend that should concern us all.

Because chemical weapons proved to be relatively ineffective against troops and defenses properly equip and trained to defeat them; because they could be dicey to use on a quickly shifting battlefield; and most importantly, because they had many other ways of destroying the enemy, the war mongers found the CW ban relatively easy to swallow. But with dawn of the 21st century, humanity faces immense new challenges that may prompt the most barbarous rulers to seek their rehabilitation:
  1. The rapid implementation of robotics and artificial intelligent technologies under capitalism may unemploy a hundred million workers worldwide in just a few decades. It is estimated that five million professional driving jobs will go the way of self-driving vehicles in the US alone in the next decade, and I've heard, on the q.t., that soon there will be few supermarket cashiers.
  2. The warming of the planet means that as more and more areas become flooded, or otherwise uninhabitable, the remaining areas will become increasingly crowded. It has been said that climate-change-caused drought contributed to the pressures that broke out in the Syrian civil war, and it will almost certainly exacerbate the South to North immigration flow that influences much of our current politics.
Conditions are likely to develop that lead to insurrections and uprisings among the people, and chemical weapons offer a unique advantage to a country's rulers in dealing with these. Whereas the capitalist generally has no problem with destroying the other guy's infrastructure to kill a ton of people while making war on another country, he is not so happy to pound his own cities and factories into rubble to retake them. Chemical weapons provide the perfect solution. A well-executed sarin attack, for example, can kill thousands of people within minutes without even so much as a telephone pole being knocked down, and it would be safe for people to reoccupy the area within days.

There are also those overlords that will cynically see drastic population reduction as the principal solution to these twin dilemmas of the 21st century. Chemical weapons also have a proven utility in that area as well.

For these reasons, we must not take lightly any attempt to normalize chemical weapons use in the 21st century. It was popular pressures that forced the 1925 ban. We must again demand the complete eradication of all stockpiles of chemical weapons, and prosecution of all perpetrators of CW attacks.

That's not what's happening now. We are seeing a rising tide of CW use around the world. In Syria, the Assad regime continues to carry out sarin attacks even after it promised to turnover its CW stockpiles to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for destruction, while Russia uses its United Nations Security Council (UNSC) veto power to protect the perpetrators.

The OPCW was formed on 29 April 1997 with the adoption of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). At the time, 65 countries had ratified the treaty. Today that number has grown to 193. OPCW first started work in Syria on 16 October 2013 after it joined the convention as part of the deal it made to give up its chemical weapons in the wake of the August sarin massacre of over a thousand people. That is when the OPCW-UN Joint Mission was formally established. It was to oversee the removal of Syria's chemical weapons.

After persistent reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the OPCW sent a Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) to Syria in May 2014. It had the power to find facts, but not to find fault because of restrictions put on it by the Russian, and sometimes Chinese, UNSC veto. On 7 August 2015, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) was established by UNSC Resolution 2235 to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks confirmed by the FFM. Even Russia voted for it, together with its one year expiration date, a term which was renewed only once. After its mandate expired in November 2017, the OPCW had no fault-finding body until it created the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) on 27 June 2018 to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Russian Federation conducts military attack on OPCW

GRU team to hack OPCW picked up in Schiphol airport.
Photograph: Netherlands defense ministry
On 7 April 2018, a chemical attack on the Syrian city of Douma killed at least 70 people and injured more than 500. Three days later, the OPCW Secretariat started discussions with the Syrian Arab Republic about sending a Fact-Finding Mission to investigate that chemical attack.

On that very same day, 10 April 2018, a Russian GRU intelligence cyber-warfare team, arrived in the Netherlands under diplomatic cover. This wasn't just any Russian spy team, this was GRU's Unit 26165, also known as APT 28 and Fancy Bear. It is known for conducting cyber operations around the world. The Mueller Report cites it as one of the two Russian military units responsible for cyber intrusions into the Clinton campaign and the DNC. It says:
Military Unit 26165 is a GRU cyber unit dedicated to targeting military, political, governmental, and non-governmental organizations outside of Russia, including in the United States. The unit was sub-divided into departments with different specialties. One department, for example, developed specialized malicious software (malware) while another department conducted large-scale spear-phishing campaigns.
There is no need to put any quotes around “war” in the title of this post because this was a Russian military unit and they were going to The Hague to make war on the OPCW, which has its headquarters there.

Equipment seized from 4 GRU spies trying to hack OPCW
Photograph: PA
Alexei Morenets, 41, was on this four-man team. He was also investigated by Mueller for his part in Russia's intrusion into the US 2016 elections. He and Yevgeny Serebriakov, 37, who's been implicated in a previous GRU operation targeting Malaysian institutions in relationship to the MH-17 investigation, have been described by Dutch officials as “cyber-operators.” They were accompanied by Oleg Sotnikov and Alexei Minin - both age 46 - who were named as support agents. All four were among the seven named in the United States Department of Justice indictment of seven GRU officers in October 2018 [United States v. Alexei Sergeyevich Morenets, No. 18-263 (W.D. Pa)].


Their plan was to get into OPCW's network by getting up close and hacking its WiFi. Many WiFi systems are notoriously insecure, so for organizations that don't take extreme measures, like routing all WiFi traffic through encrypted IPSec tunnels, it can be an easy way in, provided one is willing to get up close and personal. The OPCW thought its work was non-controversial, and probably hadn't hardened its cyber defenses against a sophisticated attack like this.

Fortunately, the Dutch MIVD intelligence service was on to them from the beginning. When they rolled them up, they found Minin's camera showed reconnaissance photos of the OPCW building, which the GRU spies had been scouting. They had setup special equipment in the back of a car parked in the lot of a nearby Marriott. In the car was a hidden antenna aimed at the OPCW building. It was connected to a smartphone and a computer. Their plan was to use this setup to intercept login credentials that then could be used in future attacks to steal information, and disrupt the activities of the chemical weapons police.

Who would oppose the chemical weapons police?

The OPCW may have thought their work non-controversial, after all, who would oppose the CW police? As I'm sure OPCW has figured out by now, there are at least two answers to that question: First, there is the obvious answer: War criminals who use chemical weapons. Second, there is the Russian answer: Those wrongly accused by a “politicized” OPCW. The fact that the Russians employ such clearly criminal methods as this hacking attempt in their struggle against the OPCW, reinforces the conclusion that the obvious answer is also, in this case, the correct one. Russia and Syria are making war on the chemical police because they are war criminals who have employed chemical weapons and intend to keep doing so. This key finding must be considered when evaluating their complex critiques of any OPCW report that points a finger at them.

The passports of the four men apprehended by Dutch
authorities. Photograph: Netherlands police
On 13 April 2018, the day after the OPCW FFM advance team arrived in Damascus, the GRU team was apprehended as they were trying to destroy one of their mobile phones. Since they had diplomatic passports, they were expelled to Russia, rather than arrested.

Still, much intelligence was gleamed from the electronic equipment they didn't have time to destroy. Serebriakov's laptop had an interesting tale to tell. It seems it was also used in Malaysia to target the investigation of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH-17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014. It was also used to hack a laptop belonging to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Lausanne, Switzerland. According to the UK Foreign Office, the Canadian Centre had a laptop compromised by 'APT28' malware at a WADA conference at the Alpha Palmiers Hotel in Lausanne in September 2016. The laptop seized from the GRU agents in the Netherlands had been connect to the same WiFi at the time. WADA has exposed the taking of performance enhancing drugs by Russian athletes. This same laptop was also used in Brazil, although I don't know what for. Holiday maybe? In any case, it gave up a lot of information. I'm surprised they didn't wipe it after each operation, but then they were a little sloppy. Officials found a taxi receipt that showed Alexei Morenets traveled from GRU headquarters to Moscow airport on 10 April - the same day they arrived in the Netherlands. I guess he wanted to make sure he was reimbursed for the expense! He reminds me of the mob courier Artie in Scorsese's Casino, who kept a notebook of travel expenses that turn out to be so helpful to the FBI.

This is how US Western District indictment tells the story of this Russian attack on the OPCW:
On April 7, 2018, the OPCW Executive Council convened at its headquarters in The Hague to discuss the use of toxic chemical weapons in Syria. Also, in April 2018, including on or about April 11 and 12, OPCW transmitted statements regarding its investigation of the March 4, 2018 poisoning of a former GRU officer and another Russian national in the United Kingdom with a chemical nerve agent.

89. On April 10, 2018, defendants ALEKSEI SERGEYEVICH MORENETS, EVGENH MIKHAYLOVICH SEREBRIAKOV, OLEG MIKHAYLOVICH SOTNIKOV and ALEXEY VALEREVICH MININ, all using Russian diplomatic passports, traveled to The Hague in the Netherlands in furtherance of another on-site operation. According to a taxi receipt found on his person, prior to his departure from Moscow on April 10, 2018, defendant MORENETS traveled by taxi from Pereulok, a street located at the rear entrance of GRU headquarters for Unit 26165, directly to Sheremetyevo Airport. (See Exhibit C).

90. Upon their arrival in the Netherlands, an identified official from the Russian Embassy escorted defendants MORENETS, SEREBRIAKOV, SOTNIKOV and MININ through customs. All four thereafter checked into a hotel situated adjacent to the OPCW headquarters in The Hague.

91. On April 11, 2018, defendants SOTNIKOV and MININ rented a car and thereafter assembled and secreted technical hacking equipment in the car's trunk. The technical equipment was capable of several techniques, including long-distance, surreptitious interception of Wi-Fi signals, as well as harvesting of WiFi user credentials. The next day, all four defendants checked into a second hotel located adjacent to the OPCW headquarters in The Hague.

92. On April 13, 2018, defendants MORENETS, SEREBRIAKOV, SOTNIKOV and MININ parked the rental car adjacent to the OPCW property, with the trunk facing the OPCW. (See Exhibit D). The hacking equipment was deployed with an antenna (covered by a jacket) aimed at the nearby headquarters of the OPCW and configured so that it could be controlled by either an attached laptop computer or through a remote 4G connection. (See Exhibit E).

93. After the GRU team activated the equipment, the Dutch defence intelligence service (Militaire Inlichtingen en Veiligheidsdienst or MIVD) disrupted the GRU teams' operation. As a result, the conspirators abandoned their equipment, including defendant backpack. This backpack contained additional technical equipment that the team could also use to surreptitiously intercept Wi-Fi signals and traffic, including a "Wi-Fi Pineapple." (See Exhibit F). At least one item of equipment in defendant possession contained technical data indicating that it had been used to connect to hotel Wi-Fi at Lausanne Hotels 1 and 2, where defendants MORENETS and SERBRIAKOV had stayed in Switzerland on September 20-22, 2016, (the dates they conducted the Wi-Fi compromise of the senior CCES officials laptop at the same hotel), as well as multiple other international destinations, including a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in December 2017. Defendant equipment was also found to have contained an image that placed him at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio on August 14, 2016. (See Exhibit G).
The GRU team intended to travel on to Switzerland, where the Spiez laboratory is located, on 17 April, four days before the OPCW FFM team in Syria was allowed to enter Douma. The chief of the Dutch intelligence service said of their arrival, “They were clearly not here on holiday.” Indeed, the synchronicity of the two teams, the GRU team going to The Hague, at the same time the FFM team was going to Douma, may be more than a coincidence. Quite possibly, the GRU was attempting to position itself to monitor the OPCW's Douma investigation, among other things.

Not deterred by the failure of this WiFi hacking attempt in April, it was immediately followed up by a GRU spear-phishing attack in May according to UK and Dutch authorities. The GRU sent spear phishing emails which impersonated Swiss federal authorities directly to OPCW employees in a further effort to steal login credentials.

Two other GRU operatives were expelled from Switzerland after they were caught trying to hack into the IT network of the Swiss chemical laboratory Spiez in June 2018. Spiez had confirmed that the Skripals had been exposed to the military-grade nerve agent novichok, and was also investigating poison gas attacks in Syria for the OPCW.

These hacking attacks show more clearly than anything else that Russia sees itself in an adversarial relationship with the chemical police, and is using its military to make war on the OPCW, using unethical and illegal methods. This must be taken on board when considering all other Russian denials and counter-claims. In that context, California civil jury instructions gives guidance:
[I]f you decide that a witness did not tell the truth about something important, you may choose not to believe anything that witness said.
Ex-Marine Intelligence Officer Scott Ritter has a pithy way of putting this “There is an old prosecutorial rule—one lie, all lies.” I think we can properly extrapolate from this one illegal hacking attempt to everything else the Russian Federation says or does with regards to the OPCW, but it can't be used in the racist way Ritter does to lump “White Helmets, SAMS, and other Syrian opposition groups” all together with the jihadists, and call them all liars en masse with no proof, but I digress, more on Ritter later.

Director General Arais @ GlobSec2019 Bratislava Forum
When he appeared as a panelist recently at GlobSec2019 Bratislava Forum, 6 June 2019, it was clear OPCW Director General H.E Fernando Arias felt blindsided by all the attacks on the organization. He lamented:
The OPCW has been victim of more than cyber-attack. With those cyber-attacks that occurred, and [the attacker] wants to intimidate. Wants to get confidential information, and wants to disrupt the IT system of the organization. What is very sad is that this organization was created 22 years ago. Nobody believed that an organization devoted to peace, security with an important humanitarian component, was to be attacked, and we are vulnerable. And even the building is vulnerable. Why? Because times have changed. The world today is much more dangerous and complex than the one twenty-two years ago.
Syrian air attack on Douma market left more than 100 dead
Assad's idea of “liberation" 17 August 2015
That same day the GRU hackers were apprehended, 13 April 2018, Paul Craig Roberts wrote on Alexander Dugin's influential Russian website, Katehon:
Even a low grade moron, which appears to be above the intelligence level of the current US Secretary of War, understands that Syria would not, within a few hours of its liberation of the Syrian people of Douma, have used chemical weapons against the civilian population for which its soldiers were dying in order to liberate.

According to RT, the Organization for the prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is on its way to inspect the site. I had read that the US had vetoed allowing an investigation. According to RT, the OPCW is only permitted by Washinton(sp) to determine whether any chemical weapons were used, not, if they were, by who. If the OPCW can be pressured to say evidence of chemical weapons use was found, Washington will seize on that as proof that Syria did it.
...
The members of the OPCW preferred their Washington subsidies to being an honest organization. It makes no sense for Russia to rely on “international organizations” that are under Washington’s control.
As you can see, the Assad regime has been within a few hours of “liberating” the people Douma for many years now.

That is a very tricky way Roberts has of implying that the US vetoed allowing an investigation. This is 100% false. It is Russia that has consistently vetoed any fault-finding investigation, but who can doubt what Roberts might have read somewhere? He writes for a publication that prints so many lies, and, after all, readers of his piece will also be left with the impression that they read that somewhere too. But the truth is clear from the history.


Following an 82-24 vote at a special meeting of OPCW member states on 26-27 June 2018 in The Hague, OPCW was granted a mandate to place blame. Previously, they had been allowed to investigate but not “indict,” rather like the Mueller investigation of President Trump.

Not only did Russia vote against this measure, The Telegraph spoke of “fierce Russian opposition,” it fought hard against the draft decision entitled “Addressing the Threat from Chemical Weapons Use” (C-SS-4/DEC/CRP.1/Rev.1, dated 22 June 2018). Five amendments designed to gut the measure were submitted by Iran, Venezuela, Burundi, Belarus and Kazakhstan. They were all voted down. Still, the Russian UN ambassador called the decision “illegitimate.” On 13 June 2018, before the vote, he told reporters that whatever passed, it could not legitimately authorize find-fault as far as Russia was concerned:
“The only legitimate way to re-establish an attribution mechanism is an agreement within the Security Council.”
Where Russia can veto it! Six resolutions had been vetoed in 2017, the most since 1988. Five of them focused on CW use is Syria.

In reporting on this historic decision, Arms Control Association recounted the history of “attribution mechanisms" in OPCW investigations:
Although the OPCW has been investigating suspected chemical weapons use in Syria through an investigative body called the Fact-Finding Mission, it was not previously mandated to assign blame for attacks. The body that had attributed responsibility, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), ceased operations after Russia blocked a proposed extension of its UN Security Council mandate last November. (See ACT, December 2017.)

The OPCW mission released a report June 13 determining that chlorine and sarin were very likely used as chemical weapons in Ltamenah, Syria, on March 24 and 25, 2017. “This OPCW report underscores the urgency of establishing, as swiftly as possible, a new mechanism to determine those responsible for these attacks,” the French Foreign Ministry stated in a June 13 press release. A mission report on the use of chemical weapons in an early April 2018 attack in Douma that killed dozens is expected imminently.

Since the breakdown of the JIM, confirmed uses of chemical weapons in Syria have not been attributed. Several attempts in the Security Council to restart independent investigations to assign blame were blocked by Russian vetoes. (See ACT, April 2018.)
Actually, Russia vetoed the extension of JIM's mandate three times! As JIM began is assign responsibility with its third and fourth reports in 2016, Russia started a campaign of criticism, questioning its working methods and claiming its conclusions were unsubstantiated. Russia also said JIM findings weren't definitive, and couldn't be used as the basis for legal action until Syrian government investigations were completed. The response of the European Union was immediate:
In this regard, the EU is deeply concerned that Russian vetoes have blocked the renewal of the mandate of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, to further investigate this and other incidents and identify those responsible for the use of chemical weapons. In this respect, on Friday 24 November the High Representative Ms Mogherini made a Declaration on behalf of the EU which set out our grave concern on the failure to reach agreement on the renewal of the mandate of the JIM, which undermines attempts to ensure accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria and damages efforts to consolidate the international chemical non-proliferation regime. We call for quick action that will allow JIM to continue its crucial work. Perpetrators must be identified and held accountable.
Frustrated by the Russian veto that ensured that OPCW war crimes investigations would remain toothless, the OPCW did an end run around the UN Security Council, and remembering that it is not a UN body or formally under UN authority, granted itself the right to place blame based on an overwhelming vote of the member states, 27 June 2018. After all, these certainly weren't victim-less war crimes, and they shouldn't be allowed to remain perpetrator-less. Imagine the uproar if the mandate of your city police was to determine if a murder had been committed or not, and just leave it at that?

Generally, Russia always opposes measures to strengthen, or enforce, the ban on chemical weapons. This April, Russia opposed a Canadian-Dutch-US proposal to add novichok-related chemicals to the list of banned chemicals, forcing it to a vote at the next meeting of treaty members in November.

So, both Katehon and RT are putting out misinformation about who has been blocking OPCW fault-finding. It was actually Russia that was blocking any attempt to establish what happened, and who was responsible. Russia had been conducting a low-grade war against the OPCW for years, but after this new decision to start conducting fault-finding missions, instead of just fact-finding missions, the war against the OPCW swung into high gear.

Douma

In any case, the US, UK and France didn't wait for any OPCW finding, a week after the Douma chlorine attack, 14 April 2018, they made over a hundred airstrikes on what they said were Syrian government CW facilities. Clearly, they blamed that government for the Douma attack.

After first denying that any chemical attack took place in Douma, on 7 April 2018, Russian officials claimed it was a fabrication staged by British intelligence agencies. Alexander Shulgin, Russia's envoy at the OPCW, didn't serve up any evidence with this allegation. As if none were need, he said “there is no other plausible explanation.” UK called this a “blatant lie.” The OPCW didn't have any evidence yet either because the FFM team hadn't been able to visit the site yet.

On 16 April 2018, the UK Delegation OPCW sent out this tweet complaining that Russia and Syria were denying the FFM team access to the Douma site:

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov responded the same day, blaming the delay on an attacks by the US and its allies:
“Everything was borne in the absence of coordination by the UN Security Department on the departure of OPCW experts to the Duma event site. Therefore, as I understand it, the consequences of the illegal, illegal armed action, which the United Kingdom along with a group of other countries committed as recently as Saturday night.”
UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric made clear that same day that the OPCW team had full UN authorization:
“The United Nations has provided the necessary clearances for the OPCW team to go about its work in Douma. We have not denied the team any request for it to go to Douma.”
In London, British PM Theresa May accused Russia and Syria of carrying out a cover up:
“A wider operation to conceal the facts of the attack is underway, supported by the Russians.”
Before the 16th of April had ended, the Russian military said it would help secure the Douma site. Maj. Gen. Yuri Yevtushenko, of the military's Reconciliation Center in Syria, said military police would protect the FFM Team, and Igor Kirillov, a Russian CW expert, said the team would be able to visit the site in two days.

After the final report of the FFM Team on Douma was published almost a year later, 1 March 2019, it was met with an intense criticism campaign that used a minority report written by a dissenting staff member and “leaked” to the pro-Assad “Working Group” to discredit it.

The timing of the April GRU hacking attempt in The Hague was also curious because it was just a few weeks after the Salisbury novichok attack, which was probably the first use of a chemical weapon in Europe in the 21st century, novichok being a Russian nerve agent many times more potent than sarin.

Skripal

With this 21st century chemical weapons revival, CW isn't just for the battlefield anymore; the Russians have given it a personal touch. On 4 March 2018, it is alleged that two Russian nationals were murdered in Salisbury, UK, and a military-grade novichok nerve agent was used. The victims were former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia. Although Moscow denies any involvement with the attack, it was allegedly done by two men who entered the UK on Russian passports, using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Bellingcat identified Boshirov as GRU Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, and believes both were GRU officers. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed they were civilians in Salisbury for a tourist getaway, even though he had previously given an award to Colonel Chepiga.

The UK accused Russia of being behind the assassinations, and Russia denied it. Alexander Dugin said of the Skripal killings “Betray the Homeland, and be ready to pay for it,” but he also denied Russia's involvement. He had another suspect in mind - Christopher Steele. I kid you not! There is a Steele dossier angle to this story. Dugin references an article by the former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. Murray speculates that Christopher Steele and Orbis Intelligence got their Russian input for the dossier from Skripal, and then they had him killed because, “having a very loose cannon as one of the dossier’s authors might be most inconvenient both for Orbis and for the Clinton camp.” Which would seem to imply that Clinton was in on the murder too, and why not, according to the Russians, the Clinton and DNC emails weren't hacked by the GRU, they were leaked by a DNC staffer that the Clintons then had murdered.

Craig Murray has also supported Russia's latest campaign against the OPCW:

The UK requested the OPCW conduct its own independent investigation, and on 4 September 2018, it issued a report:
The results of the analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that intoxicated two individuals in Amesbury and resulted in one fatality.

The toxic chemical compound displays the same toxic properties of a nerve agent. It is also the same toxic chemical that was found in the biomedical and environmental samples relating to the poisoning of Mr Sergei Skripal, Ms Yulia Skripal, and Mr Nicholas Bailey on 4 March 2018 in Salisbury.
Now Russia had another bone to pick with the OPCW.


It was after the sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun that it first stepped up its war on the OPCW.

Khan Sheikhoun

Donald Trump is a racist who has never been interested in the fight for democracy in Syria or the plight of the Syrian people, in fact he applied his famous “Charlottesville method” to the Syrian conflict long before he applied it to the opposing protesters at Charlottesville. That is the method of seeing both sides when he can't openly favor the fascists:

While many dark forces have been at work in the Syrian conflict, at the heart of it has always been the Syrian people's struggle for justice and democracy against the fascist Assad regime and its supporters. Because of this, and because of what the United States use to say it stood for, President Obama always called for Assad to "step down,” while hypocritically backing him behind the scene, and denying his opposition what it needed to win. With help from Russia and Iran, this is how the war dragged on for years.

Then, on 31 March 2017, President Trump officially dropped “regime-change” from the list of US goals in Syria. Four days later, that regime, under Russian supervision, killed at least 89 people, and injured more than 541 by dropping a sarin bomb on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province, 4 April 2017.

Three days later, Trump carried out cruise missile strikes against Shayrat air base. It was a good public relations move for Trump because he was facing charges of being too cozy with the Russians, but many people saw it was really a show, or sham attack, because Russia and Syria were given ample notice so that they could move anything valuable or incriminating, and very little damage was done to the base. The runways weren't even bombed, and the SAAF was back to bombing Khan Sheikhoun from it a few hours after the strike!

An advance team for the OPCW FFM was deployed within a day of the 4 April incident, but they were unable to visit Khan Sheikhoun for security reasons. However, outside of Syria they were able to attend autopsies, collect bio-medical samples from casualties and fatalities, and receive environmental samples. While this methodology was no replacement for on-site investigation, it did allow them to determine, with a high degree of certainty, that sarin had been used, how and by whom. Still, the limitations imposed on the investigation gave a lot of opportunity for those that committed this war crime, and their supporters, to raise questions and doubts, and push outlandish conspiracy theories around spurious questions about chain of custody, and such. These issues became the basis for intense Internet campaigns against the OPCW.

On 26 October 2017, the OPCW-UN’s Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) on chemical attacks in Syria delivered its findings to the UN Security Council in a 39-page report that was leaked to the public a day later. The OPCW-FFM had already determined that sarin had been used at the site. JIM's task was to assign responsibility. This was its bottom-line conclusion:
With respect to identifying those responsible, the Leadership Panel has determined that the information it has obtained constitutes sufficient credible and reliable evidence of the following:
  • Aircraft dropped munitions over Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017;
  • Aircraft of the Syrian Arab Republic was in the immediate vicinity of Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017;
  • The crater from which the sarin emanated was created on the morning of 4 April 2017;
  • The crater was caused by the impact of an aerial bomb travelling at high velocity;
  • A large number of people were affected by sarin between 0630 and 0700 hours on the morning of 4 April 2017;
  • The number of persons affected by the release of sarin on 4 April 2017 and that sarin reportedly continued to be present at the site of the crater 10 days after the incident indicate that a large amount of sarin was likely released, which is consistent with it being dispersed via a chemical aerial bomb;
  • The symptoms of victims and their medical treatment, as well as the scale of the incident are consistent with a large-scale intoxication of sarin; and
  • The sarin identified in the samples taken from Khan Shaykhun was found to have most likely been made with a precursor (DF) from the original stockpile of the Syrian Arab Republic; and
  • The irregularities described in annex II are not of such a nature as to call into question the aforementioned findings.
Based on the foregoing, the Leadership Panel is confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017. The findings of the Leadership Panel regarding the evidence in this case are based on the information set forth in detail in annex II.
Before this report came out, and even after it did, the Assad regime, and its supporters, promoted a number of conflicting conspiracy theories about how it was a “false-flag” attack designed to frame the regime. As with the 4 April 2018 chlorine attack on Douma, there was a massive campaign to exonerate Assad for the Khan Sheikhoun sarin deaths.

Initially, the Assad regime, and its Russian backers, claimed that what had happened was that Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF) conventional bombs had struck a warehouse that terrorists had turned into a chemical weapons factory, and it was their sarin, or whatever, that got released, and caused the chemical deaths. Sputnik News wrote this on 12 April 2017:
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russia stands by its assertion that the Syrian forces struck a militant chemical weapons production facility on April 4, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday.

“According to our absolutely reliable information, the point at issue are Syrian Arab Republic air force's Su-22 airstrikes on a site controlled by terrorists where chemicals were produced,” Ryabkov told reporters.
Seymour M. Hersh supported this line in his extensive defenses of Assad with regards to Khan Sheikhoun, as did Gareth Porter, who further claimed with regards to his own AlterNet study:
The evidence gathered in this investigation undercuts the credibility of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) laboratory test results that showed exposure to sarin, demonstrating how the organization violated its own protocols and opened the door for tampering.
He meant, if they were unable to gather the evidence onsite themselves, they shouldn't have gathered evidence at all. That was also the Russian position.

The JIM report stated the following in response to the claim that the SAAF had bombed a terrorist chemical weapons factory:
37. The Mechanism also conducted investigations with respect to the possibility that sarin may have been released following the bombing of a building on the eastern outskirts of Khan Shaykhun at around noon on 4 April 2017. The location, referred to in some public statements as a terrorist ammunition depot, appears to be a building used by the Syrian Civil Defence as a medical point in the eastern outskirts of Khan Shaykhun. Apart from the fact that victims of the sarin incident earlier that morning had been treated there, the Mechanism did not link that location to the release of sarin.
Even before that report came out, this initial Russian/Syrian explanation was wearing thin. Reporters from the Guardian visited, “the site of the attack, examined a warehouse and silos directly next to where the missile had landed, and found nothing but an abandoned space covered in dust and half-destroyed silos reeking of leftover grain and animal manure.” It also belatedly dawned on the war criminals that they could not entirely escape culpability by admitting to have knowingly bombed a chemical weapons storage facility in a civilian neighborhood.

Crater in street at Khan Sheikhoun
So, then they brought forth a second explanation of how Assad didn't do it. Now they agreed that it was sarin, and the source was indeed the crater in the street, but now they claimed it was terrorist sarin, and the terrorists exploded a pipe full of it in the street by exploding a pipe bomb over it, in other words, they were claiming this chemical attack was a staged event.

Those claiming it was the “terrorists” that used sarin in East Ghouta and Khan Sheikhoun, never explained where they got it; making sarin requires a multi-million-dollar chemical plant. They also never even tried to answer this question: If Assad's opposition had sarin to use on its own people in 2013 and 2017, why didn't they ever use it on Assad's forces?

As always with their Assad didn't do it theories, they think it's enough to say they've punched some holes in OPCW's evidence to conclude his opposition murdered its own people. They see no need to positively prove who committed the war crime and how. This reveals how they are acting as defense attorneys for Assad, rather than dissenting prosecutors for the people. A dissenting prosecutor wouldn't think the job was done until other suspects were found, evidence developed against them, and charges brought against the real criminals. The defense attorney, on the other hand, knows his job is done as soon as he can create enough reasonable doubt to get his client off. This is pretty much the way Assad supporters roll.

As with their current claims about Douma in April 2018, they argued that the science doesn't support the theory that the munition was airdropped on Khan Sheikhoun either. This is how Russia's UN Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov put it:
We expect at the same time that the version of staged incident would also be carefully studied since frankly speaking we tend more and more to opt for that version. It is supported in particular by the following circumstances. The analysis of the photographs of explosion crater leads us to doubt that it was a result of an air bomb strike. According to Russian military experts if the air bomb were used the crater would be five to six meters in diameter and up to two meters deep. The photo and video footage prove that the shape of the crater in Khan Shaykhun is much smaller – 1 to 1,5 meters in diameter and only half a meter in depth. Moreover, the size and geometrical shape of the crater and the direction of the rims of asphalt pavement on its perimeter not outwards but inwards the hole in the ground formed after the explosion prove that the explosion of sarin container was set off directly on the ground. Most likely the improvised explosive device was placed on its surface and the container had less than 1,2 kg of chemical agent.
Dr, Ted Postol, the ex-MIT professor who was recently on Grayzone adding his gravitas to the position that the chlorine attack in Douma 7 April 2018 was also staged and the gas cylinders “manually placed,” also thought the Khan Sheikhoun attack was staged. He was the biggest advocate of the pipe-bomb in the crater theory while the Russians and Syrians were claiming they had bombed a terrorist chemical weapons factory. By the time he was retracting his pipe-bomb theory with Russian Explanation of the Mass Poisoning in Syria Could Be True, they were adopting it as a handy explanation that kept them completely in the clear.

Fellow MITer Noam Chomsky was a fan of Postol's first position, so were Stephen F. Cohen and James Carden of The Nation, Jonathan Steele of The Guardian, Robert Parry, Ben Norton, John Wight, and Steven Rosenfeld, to name a few. Many were on Democracy Now. All were in competition to see who could most completely exonerate Assad.

Not only had OPCW come to the conclusion that the SAAF had dropped a sarin bomb on Khan Sheikhoun, France did its own study and came to that conclusion. So did the United States, the United Kingdom, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International.

Russia was not at all pleased by the OPCW-JIM Final report on Khan Sheikhoun, and tried to pick it apart, pretty much the way they have been doing with the OPCW-FFM Final report on Douma. In a line that could have been taken from their critique of the Douma report, Russia said of the Khan Sheikhoun report, “There are many omissions or gaps in the text of the report itself. ”  RT reported:
The OPCW-UN investigation into the chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province is littered with “systemic deficiencies,” Russia’s deputy UN envoy has told the UN Security Council, reiterating that Moscow maintains the April 4 incident was staged.

On October 26, the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) issued a report in which it pinned blame for the Khan Shaykhun incident on Damascus. With JIM’s mandate set to expire on November 16, Russia criticized the methodology of the UN fact-finding mission, casting doubt on the mandate’s extension.
When it did expire, Russia vetoed any extension. They didn't like it at all that OPCW missions designed to investigate, and find fault, kept coming to the conclusion that the same side that had been bombing the life out of East Ghouta, Khan Sheikhoun, Douma, and many other Syrian cities, with their monopoly of air power, was also the side responsible for those CW attacks.

After the OPCW-JIM report on Khan Sheikhoun charged Assad, Russia greatly accelerated its war on the OPCW. It vetoed JIM's existence. It stopped any fault-finding mission from being authorized by the UN. It refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the IIT. After the OPCW-FFM issued its final report 1 March 2019 on the April 2018 Douma chlorine attack, both Russia and Syria took issue with its findings on a wide range of questions.

The campaign to sow doubt about the FFM Douma report and undermine the OPCW, gained new traction after essentially the same critique the Russian Federation had been making was presented in a 15-page Executive Summary of a dissent engineering sub-team report “leaked” by a Working Group with a history of supporting Russia's war against the OPCW.

H.E Fernando Arias Gonzales, Director-General, OPCW, 6 June 2019:
“We have not only been attacked through the cyber system, through the IT system, we are attacked with misinformation, with proxies that produced reports to undermine and official reports of the Fact-Finding Mission about investigations in Syria.”
Current Events

On 1 March 2019, The OPCW issued the final report of the FFM investigation of the 7 April 2018 incident in Douma, and a week later it announced that “The IIT will be responsible for identifying the perpetrators...”

After the Douma report was issued, a dissenting report became public. This was the 15-page Executive Summary of an “Engineering Assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident” written by Ian Henderson.

Ian Henderson has been identified as “a staff member of the organization” by the Director-General of OPCW, but they have also said that Henderson was not with the FFM, and the engineering sub-team wasn't part of the FFM investigation. He has a 20 year history with the OPCW as a specialist in Challenge Inspections. Ian Henderson has yet to be heard from either to authenticate the paper that bears his name, or to weigh in on the controversy it has created.

Henderson's Executive Summary bears the date 27 February 2019, just two days before the FFM final report was issued. We don't know when it was given to the FFM, and even why it was given to the Fact-Finding commission. Since it clearly went beyond its mandate in the area of attribution, it should have gone to the IIT in the first place. It only became clear why Henderson might have elected to submit it to the FFM later. When asked about this 15-page note at GlobSec2019, 6 June 2019, the OPCW DG said:
“This information was considered, and it was analyzed. He was part of the investigation, and this information is going to be given, it has already been given to the Investigation Identification Team in charge of attributes and responsibilities, because this information, that you refer to, is more focusing, is more targeted to establish responsibilities than we focus to the facts.”
On or about 12 April 2019, Henderson's 15-page note was published on the Internet, together with their commentary, by a group of mainly British academics that call themselves the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media.” Their commentary started the false claims that would come to characterized the promotion of this document:
  1. The 2/27/19 note “was excluded from the published Final Report” that came out 2 days later.
  2. Summary proves “the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April 2018 was staged.”
  3. The main point: the OPCW “has been hijacked at the top by France, UK and the US.”
Here is a curious thing about the “Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media” website. On the organization's “About” page, it says, The working group has been established to facilitate research into the...2011-present conflict in Syria including related topics.” It also says “The group is entirely independent...and is not aligned to any state or non-state actor.” But when you move over to the Briefing Notes” tab, the first three items listed on the drop-down are about novichoks and the Skripal murders, not anything to do with Syria. Those come further down the list. Now, why would that be, if not to align the group with a certain state actor?

Even though Henderson's note was marked UNCLASSIFIED, they hyped it as the “leaked” OPCW document. Brian Whitaker, writing for Al-Bab, described how it was used:
Almost immediately after the leaked document appeared, Assad supporters and various conspiracy theorists began claiming that it disproved the FFM's findings and exonerated the regime.
This was Henderson's key finding:
In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.
On 26 April 2019, the Russian Federation put out its response to the OPCW-FFM report on Douma in an 11-page note. Its key finding:
The existing facts more likely indicate that there is a high probability that both cylinders were placed at Locations 2 and 4 manually rather than dropped from an aircraft.
I find it curious that the “leaked” conclusion of an unknown engineer is considered “proof,” whereas the same conclusion put forward in official papers by a state actor is easily discounted! Such are the times we live in, but it explains why Henderson's note, possibly unwittingly, became the focus of a big assault on the OPCW by the supporters of war criminals.

On 21 May 2019, the OPCW Technical Secretariat published its response to the Syrian/Russian objections to the OPCW-FFM report on Douma. Coincidentally, this 19-page note also answered those same objections when re-framed in Henderson's 15-page note if anybody promoting it cared to notice. They didn't.

The “leaked” Henderson note got its first big publicity push on 23 May 2019, when ex-journalist Robert Fisk wrote about it in The Independent. Fisk brought his considerable talents as a wordsmith to the promotion of the campaign's three main points:
  1. He writes that “the OPCW deliberately concealed” the “engineers’ “secret” assessment,” or “the dissenting assessment, which the OPCW made no reference to in its published conclusions.”
  2. He thinks the “leaked” Henderson note exonerates Assad: “Put bluntly, the paper is suggesting that the location of the cylinders was a set-up, that someone inside Douma ... – placed the cylinders in the locations...”
  3. He condemns OPCW as organization, writing of “OPCW’s dishonesty” because it never published the internal “report which the OPCW suppressed.” He artfully builds the tempo until “It is difficult to underestimate the seriousness of this manipulative act by the OPCW.”
After Fisk, Putin's whole support network started chiming in. This is how Democracy Now spun the story on the same day. As a prelude in passing, they mention that there has been a charge of chemical use in the current slaughter taking place in Idlib, and then segue to the diversion:
This all comes as new questions are being raised about an alleged chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma last year. The Syrian government was accused of dropping two gas cylinders on the city, killing dozens of people. The U.S. and allies responded by carrying out airstrikes. But a newly leaked internal document from the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons reveals there were conflicting views within the organization as to what happened.
Russia and Syria are members of the OPCW, along with the US, UK and 189 other countries, and Amy Goodman is shocked! shocked! to learn “there were conflicting views within the organization”? And as far as “new” questions being raised? These are really old questions being raised in a new wrapper, and while the eyes of Syria watchers are drawn to the “leaked” OPCW document story, Assad forces were reducing much of Idlib, still populated by millions of civilians, to ruble. On the same day Fisk and Goodman chose to focus our attention on charges of an anti-Assad bias in the OPCW, The Guardian ran this:
'Idlib is a bargaining chip': civilians
brace as Assad air assault escalates

Renewed regime attacks have killed hundreds in the Syrian opposition’s last stronghold
Wounded people are brought to a hospital after Assad regime airstrikes in Idlib. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
23 May 2019
By Bethan McKernan
Instead of looking forward to the pre-dawn Ramadan meal of suhoor, Dr Firas al-Jundi was cradling his scared children and surveying the damage done to his home by Syrian government airstrikes.

At least 11 people died in the overnight bombing on Wednesday of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province, the Syrian opposition’s last stronghold in the country, in the latest spasm of violence in an escalated campaign on the area by Bashar al-Assad’s forces. More...
25 May 2019, Dr. Theodore Postol is interviewed by Aaron Maté on Grayzone. They also thought Assad was being framed. This isn't surprising. Dr. Ted has never seen a chemical attack that he thought Assad responsible for.

After that, the flood-gates were opened and the “leaked” OPCW doc was being promoted everywhere as gospel by a wide assortment of Putin minions, Assad supporters, “anti-imperialists,” and conspiracy theorists of all stripes. By 3 June, this chatter had even reached British Parliament.

This is a graph of the popularity of #OPCW on Twitter over the last two months. I created it on hashtagify.me. It gives you a clue as to how this topic has been trending. Notice how it really takes off in the last half of May:

Graph created on 24 June 2019 on hashtagify.me
Here are the results for #Douma over that same period:

Graph created on 24 June 2019 on hashtagify.me

Those fighting this massive misinformation campaign also became more active. For my part, between 31 May and 8 June, I published six posts on this beat.

On 28 May 2019, the OPCW Director-General made some further comments on the Henderson note:
In March 2019, I received the first indication that an internal document pertaining to the Douma incident, produced by a staff member could have been disclosed outside of the Secretariat. It should be noted that, the time of the FFM deployment in Douma in 2018, this staff member was a liaison officer at our Command Post Office in Damascus. As such, and as is customary with all deployments in Syria, he was tasked with temporarily assisting the FFM with information collection at some sites in Douma.

The document produced by this staff member pointed at possible attribution, which is outside of the mandate of the FFM with regard to the formulation of its findings. Therefore, I instructed that, beyond the copy that would exclusively be kept by the FFM, the staff member be advised to submit his assessment to the IIT, which he did, so that this document could later be used by the IIT.
End Game Revealed!

Then, on 12 June 2019, we got a big clue as to what this particular campaign was preparing the way for: Reuters reported that the Syrian Arab Republic was refusing access to the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (IIT). The IIT is the fault-finding mission and the Assad regime is having none of that. OPCW DG Arias told member states:
“Syria refuses to recognise the decision and to deal with any of its subsequent implications and effects.”
Now, the immediate goal of this whole Henderson's “leak” campaign becomes clear. They needed to tarnish the reputation of the OPCW very badly, surround it with an air of corruption, to justify this rejection to the world. It also gives us a clue why Henderson would have submitted his paper to the FFM when he had to have known it should have been more properly submitted to the IIT. Did he know in advance that Syria was going to reject the IIT?

Still, they keep up the drumbeat because they depend on repetition to get their message across. The newest messenger is disgraced ex-Marine Officer Scott Ritter in The American Conservative, 20 June 2019. He makes the “Working Group's” three points this way:
  1. He calls it “the leaked internal report apparently suppressed by the OPCW.”
  2. “To my mind, the canisters were planted by the opposition in an effort to frame the Syrian government.”
  3. “The credibility of the OPCW itself and every report and conclusion it has released concerning allegations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government are now suspect.”
And the beat goes on... the beat goes on. One “leaked” document based on bad science and we should disregard the OPCW entirely. Russia and Syria will claim they are denying the OPCW because it is a completely corrupt tool of the West, but we know the truth, don't we? They are denying the OPCW because it is the chemical police, and they are war criminals.


Clay Claiborne, Linux Systems Administer L2

On the “leaked” Henderson report, see also:
Lies, damned lies, and engineering sub-team reports
Where in the world is Ian Henderson?
More on the silent Ian Henderson and his "leaked" OPCW paper
Dr. Ted Postol rides again - right into the OPCW "leak" controversy
OPCW Word Games - Exposing the Politics of the Henderson "leak"
Henderson's "leaked" OPCW Executive Summary: a searchable version

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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