On May 21, we read a report about a piece of news on papers: “The US State Department regards the claim of a chlorine assault in Idlib on May 19 as a resurge of the Assad regime to use chemical weapons.”
The news on Idlib must prompt concern. Turkey entered the quagmire in Syria as a pawn of the US and made huge contributions. The venturesome drifts have finally come to a dead end in Idlib. Calamity in foreign relations are on the agenda and this is why we must be concerned.
The claim of “chemical assault in Syria” has a history. Let us take a look:
2011-2016: The chemical weapons in Syria
When Syria was subject to assaults of imperialism in 2011, they had not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention Treaty which bans the production and use of toxic gases.
In 2012, Obama warned Assad with the message that “use of chemical weapons is the red line for the US”. A year later, the claim of use of chemical weapons was brought up again, this time in the Syrian town of Gouta. Putin decided to give military support to Syria, preventing the downfall of the regime. Obama failed to receive the support he expected from Congress and suspended a possible military intervention. In the end, Assad signed the treaty banning chemical weapons.
In 2014 and 2015, the chemical weapon reserves and facilities in Syria were disposed of under the supervision of the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). On January 4, 2016, the OPCW announced that the destruction of the chemical weapons was complete.
In time, it was made clear that jihadist gangs can also produce chemical weapons and use them from time to time. It was possible for Syria to violate rights and Assad would have to face charges.
2017: Allegation of using chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun
It was claimed that “toxic gases were used” against the civilians in Khan Shaykhun on April 7, 2017, which was under the invasion of the Al-Nusra Front.
Video footages showing civilian victims were brought to the Western media and they triggered an anti-Assad campaign in public opinion. Trump launched 59 missiles on Shayrat Military Airbase and was congratulated by the mainstream US media.
The reports and evaluations of unbiased experts and observers after the incident in Khan Shaykhun were included in one of my previous articles: The bombardment of the town by Syrian air forces caused the destruction of the toxic gas storages of the jihadists and “fake missile cases” were laid in those places afterward. The circumstances of the people after the bombardment were video-recorded with the addition of “chemical indications”.
This was built the “chemical assault in Khan Shaykhun” and was conveyed to the Western media and politicians.
April 2018: Journalists in Douma
Douma was a town populated by 100,000 people until the civil war and was under the control of the jihadist Army of Islam (Jaysh al-Islam) until April 2018. The jihadists had admitted defeating and decided to evacuate the town. They launched a few more missiles on Damascus on their way out and triggered a counter-attack by Syrian air forces.
Douma was under heavy bombardment on April 7. Right after that, the Army of Islam evacuated the town in cooperation with the Russian authorities and settled in Idlib. The White Helmets, who were leaving the town alongside the jihadists, delivered the video footages of the “chemical assault” to the Western media. Another campaign against Assad was so created.
Western journalists entered the town a few days after the Syrian army. Robert Fisk from the UK and Uli Gack from Germany looked for and failed to find any evidence or testimony that could confirm the “toxic gas” allegations.
Dr. Asim Rahaibani was a witness and his words were covered in reports: “There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet’, shouted ‘Gas!’, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”
The journalists who witnessed the conditions in Douma immediately after the attack reached the conclusion that the claim of chemical assault was sham.
The Trump-Macron-May trio who had to be content with video footages decided to punish Assad and the allies launched over a hundred missiles on various targets in Syria.
March-June 2019: OPCW report and experts
After the missile attacks, the Syrian government appealed to the OPCW so as to investigate the chemical gas allegations. The OPCW prepared a fact-finding mission (FFM) for Douma. The report of this mission on Douma was made public on March 1, 2019.
The report of the FFM concludes that there was no encounter with any toxic organic material; on the other hand, a kind of toxic chemical substance dispersed from two metal cylinders that had pierced the roof of a building and landed on the ground might have been used as a chemical weapon.
The report does not accuse anyone directly; however, only the Syrian air forces could be responsible for the “two metal cylinders that had pierced the roof of a building and landed on the ground”. Therefore, the Syrian regime is indirectly accused.
Nonetheless, two important experts find technically and scientifically incorrect and invalid the finding of two toxic gas cylinders that were “dropped by aircrafts” to settle on the ground.
The first expert is Ian Henderson, representing the engineers on the OPCW FFM, who presented the team’s rapporteur with a 15-page “Engineering Assessment” document dated 27 February. The document states that the team of engineers “disputes that the cylinders were dropped from the air and … it's more likely they were ‘manually placed’ in the spot where they were found” (The Independent, May 23; al-bab.com, May 29).
The rapporteur, however, did not take account of this document and did not even add it to the report as an “opposing view”.
When the Henderson document leaked into the Western media, the OPCW faced tough criticism. Russia repeated their allegation that “the OPCW is in cooperation with the US”. The bitter criticism of Robert Fisk, who had the opportunity to be a first-hand witness to the Douma incident, is particularly attention-worthy (The Independent, May 23).
Why didn’t the FFM report take into consideration the “Engineering Assessment”? The OPCW administration answered this question with an awkward “defense”: “Since this document points to those that could be held liable…” It was not on the agenda of the FFM to “detecting the perpetrators”.
It is true that Henderson did not point any fingers, but the two metal cylinders that had been “manually placed” on the ground of that building before the Syrian army arrived are “fabricated evidence” and can only be the work of jihadist gangs. It is uncertain whether nearly 20 people died as a result of the dispersal of the toxic gas by those gangs or the diagnosis of Dr. Asim Rhaibani (“hypoxia resulting from bombardment”). In neither case, however, the Assad regime can be held liable for a “chemical assault”.
As seen, regardless of their agendas, the FFM and the Engineering Assessment tacitly determine two different perpetrators: the Assad regime and the jihadists.
The second expert who agrees with the assessment of the engineers is a “big gun” in the area of chemical weapons–Theodore A. Postol, a professor emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an authority on ballistic missiles and chemical-biological warfare. He is the scientists who debunked the “chemical weapon use in Khan Shaykhun” scenario with four different reports in 2017.
The documents of the OPCW on the Douma incident were also filtered by Postol. His assessment titled “Contradictions in the Conclusions, Science and Data in the UN OPCW Fact-Finding Mission Report” was posted on washingtonsblog.com on June 3, 2019.
Postol’s results are parallel with those of Henderson: It is impossible that the cylinders that are indicated as the source of the chemicals to have been dropped off from an aircraft. The results of the FFM are in contradiction and inconsistent with their data. [Henderson’s] Engineering Assessment, on the other hand, represents professional integrity and correct.
The history of American imperialism is full and smudgy with “fake assault scenarios” that caused many disasters.
It is possible that another scenario of this kind can be staged in Idlib, Turkey’s dead end in Syria. Sooner or later, the ambitions and chronic lack of insight in the politics of the Middle-East will be heavily paid for. Maybe it is time now.