‘UK & US want OPCW powers expanded to justify future attacks against Syria’

London’s effort to empower the UN chemical watchdog with the right to assign guilt serves Western interests in finding loopholes and justifications for new attacks against Damascus, investigative journalist Rick Sterling told RT.

“The UK in alliance with the US is hoping to have the OPCW able to assign blame and provide a rationale for future attacks by the US and the UK,” Sterling believes.

Under Donald Trump’s administration, the US used chemical incidents in Syria as a pretext to stage two nearly instant ‘retaliatory’ strikes against Damascus without due investigation. The UK, as well as France, joined the US-led military endeavor this spring when they bombarded government bases and infrastructure in response to an alleged chemical attack in Douma on April 7. A year earlier, Washington unilaterally launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayrat Airbase, as a response to the Khan Shaykhun chemical incident on 4 April 2017.

Moscow has repeatedly criticized the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) for mishandling its probes, cherry-picking evidence and for vague wording in their reports. JIM’s mandate expired last November, following a number of failed attempts by the UNSC to extend its authority.

“One of the problems is that OPCW has not been willing to go to the sites in some cases and they don’t pursue evidence which contradicts the Western claims,” Sterling noted.

Despite repeated failures by OPCW experts to impartially investigate chemical attack claims in Syria –and at times even to visit the sites of an actual alleged incident– an ongoing special conference of the watchdog in the Hague is set to vote on the expansion of its mandate. The proposed new powers would involve the OPCW declaring any party to a conflict responsible for any chemical incident.

“OPCW has assigned blame to the Syrian government in various instances in the past, including chlorine, but if you look at their reports they rely really on witnesses who are provided to them by the opposition. So it is very logical to question the objectivity and the independence of the OPCW,” Sterling told RT. “Even the director of the OPCW is Turkish. And Turkey, of course, is a member of NATO.”

US seeking to turn OPCW into ‘manipulation instrument’ to exert pressure on Syria – Russian MoD

All of the latest OPCW reports were in large part based on open source data, witness testimonies and video and photo evidence provided by select ‘moderate’ rebel groups and controversial NGOs, such as the Syrian Civil Defence (SCD) –better known as the White Helmets– or the US-based Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). Those same sources by coincidence were instrumental in heating up international public outrage in the buildup for ‘retaliatory’ US-led strikes against Damascus.

“In the last several years we’ve seen a situation in Syria where the efforts of countries to overthrow, to topple the Damascus government have used claims, accusations of chemical weapons usage, and the OPCW have been a part of that,” Sterling believes.

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