While the paper is only signed by one person, Ian Henderson, it is titled “Engineering Assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident,” and it is written as though it is the report of an engineering sub-team, written by the team leader, and while the signer claims no position with the OPCW, a Google search can quickly establish a two decade long association with the OPCW from 1998 to at least March 2018, and since in 2018 he is listed as an OPCW Team Leader, many people have jumped to the conclusion that he is writing as a Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) Team Leader, speaking for one of the FFM engineering sub-teams that investigated the incident in Douma, Syria on 7 April 2018.
The point of this brief blog post is to explain why that conclusion is almost certainly wrong.
As note by others, Ian Henderson first shows up in 1998 in The CBW Convention Bulletin as one of the first OPCW P-5 level inspection team leaders. He is not associated with any special expertise in this early document, but the first paper in the bulletin is Routine and Challenge: Two Pillars of Verification, and on the whole this Bulletin seems focused on Challenge Inspections. This is based on my quick scan, and this phrase count: "routine inspections" 2; "challenge inspections" 12; "challenge investigations" 6. Challenge Inspections and Challenge Investigations appear to be synonyms. These different types of Inspections are important to understand and key to my argument.
You see, the OPCW does basically three types of inspections Routine Inspections, Challenge Inspections, and Investigations of Alleged Use of CW. As the title of the paper above implies, the first two are the pillars of the verification of compliance by state actors. Of those two, Routine Inspections has been the bread and butter of OPCW's inspection work. Challenge Inspections are also directed at the verification of compliance by state actors. A Challenge Inspection would happen when a State Party "request(s) the Secretariat to conduct an on-site challenge inspection" because they suspect non-compliance. Its not clear to me that a Challenge Inspection has ever been done. As we shall see Challenge Inspections are where Ian Henderson's specialty lies.
There hadn't been much use for "Investigations of Alleged Use of CW" for a decade by the time Ian Henderson was hooking up with the OPCW. He shows up again in 2002 as "Ian Henderson, OPCW Inspectorate" a participant in an "Expert Workshop on The Conduct of Challenge Inspections."
A 2007 academic forum lists him as a panelist for “Workshop II – Chemical Weapons Nonproliferation,” saying Ian Henderson “Has ten years of performing routine inspections helped prepare the OPCW Technical Secretariat for the event of a challenge inspection?”
Finally, a March 2018 meeting of the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board summary lists him as: Mr Ian Henderson (OPCW Inspection Team Leader) but a read of the paper makes it clear he was an OPCW Challenge Inspection Leader:
RRAM is a rescue mission, not an inspection mission. From this little we know, it's clear that Ian Henderson has had a long association with OPCW as a Team Leader and expert in Challenge Inspections, which is a different expertise, and probably a different department from the, up until recently largely inactive, Investigation of the Alleged Use, department. However, in 2013 the OPCW started getting called upon to investigate the alleged use of CW in Syria, and in 2014 it formally set up the Fact-Finding Mission in Syria to deal with the growing allegations of CW use. It has produced 22 reports, and 5 updates since then, including the disputed report on the Douma incident. All that while, it would appear from that March 2018 sighting, that Ian Henderson was still working on the Challenge Inspection side of the house. A month later the FFM would be starting its investigation into the Douma incident.
Another fact (those stubborn things) that has gotten lost in the current debate about Henderson's connection to the FFM is that the OPCW isn't just running one mission in Syria. It is running five missions in Syria: OPCW-UN Joint Mission, Declaration Assessment Team (DAT), OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), and of course OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM). So the OPCW footprint in Syria in considerably wider than just the FFM, and few would know that from the current discussions.
So, did Ian Henderson suddenly abandon as much as 20 years of specialization in Challenge Inspections, and move over to Investigations? That paper on the March 2018 OPCW Scientific Advisory Board summary mentions FFM 18 times, and in connection with many people, but not Ian Henderson, he is mentioned only in connection to Challenge Inspections, and as you can see above, he has long been considered an OPCW leader and expert in that field.
So, is there a way to square the claims by the OPCW that Ian Henderson was not a part of the FFM, and neither was the engineering sub-team, with Henderson's apparent claim to be writing as the team leader of the engineer sub-team behind the "Engineering Assessment of Two Cylinders Observed at the Douma Incident - Executive Summary"? I believe there is. Is it possible that Ian Henderson is a OPCW Challenge Inspection Team Leader, and he is talking about his CI engineering sub-team? Since they are part of the OPCW, they'd likely had ready access to the data. They, or he, could work up this independent report, and the way it is written, it doesn't say anything about itself or Henderson that wouldn't be satisfied by this construction. Although this may call into question any assumed expertise in investigations on the part of Henderson, it doesn't, in and of itself, call into question the findings in his paper. I have done that elsewhere.
Let me add as an after thought that it is one of the great tragedies resulting from the world's response to the Syrian conflict that the FFM had to be setup at all, but the greatest tragedy may yet prove to be that FFMs in many countries will become a growing part of OPCW's future budgets because the world looked the other way (or blamed the victims!) when the use of CW, long suppressed, started to resurface in Syria.
Clay Claiborne, Linux Systems Administrator L2
Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!