‘OPCW lacks transparency and lucidity on Syria chemical incident’

Martin Jay
Martin Jay is an award winning British journalist now based in Beirut who works on a freelance basis for a number of respected British newspapers as well as previously Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle TV. Before Lebanon, he has worked in Africa and Europe for CNN, Euronews, CNBC, BBC, Sunday Times and Reuters. Follow him on Twitter @MartinRJay
Why does the OPCW need to take so much time before it sends a proper team of investigators to the site of the chemical incident in Idlib, asks journalist and Middle East expert Martin Jay.

The Organization for the Prohibition Of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) rejected a Russian and Iranian proposal for a new team to investigate the suspected chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held area in Syria's Idlib province, on April 4. Moscow suggests the OPCW cannot accurately confirm anything until it's visited the site. Pro-opposition sources reported that more than 70 people died in the attack.

READ MORE: UN doesn’t send experts to Idlib 'chemical incident' site as West & US are blocking it - Assad

RT: How can agencies be so sure sarin gas was used when it doesn't appear the OPCW has physically visited the site?

Martin Jay: It is not unreasonable to question at all – it is entirely reasonable. We’re not getting the answers that we deserve. We just don’t know at this stage what evidence this is based on. Is it the British scientists? There have been some other reports that have filtered through that some sort of agents were sent by the OPCW. Whether they were investigators themselves, or whether they were local proxy operators on the ground – we just don’t know. There is just such lack of evidence and a lack of lucidity in the messages that are coming from this organization, which claims to be independent, but it is, in fact, a UN body and doesn’t really believe that much in transparency. So more questions than answers I would say at this stage.

RT: Given the questions that were being asked, you would think they would say: “Ok, here is our evidence…”

MJ: Yes, and you’d think that there would be dead keen to get that out as soon as possible. What is really going on here? Does it take a cynical journalist like me to wonder – are we being played here? Is there a different agenda here being played out altogether? Why does this organization need to take so much time before it sends over a proper team of investigators with the full kit? The longer you leave that, the easier it becomes for evidence to be tampered with, or new evidence to be placed at sites. Anything could happen. I am really wondering whether this organization is as independent and as objective as it claims to be. I think the whole thing stinks, frankly.

RT: Why wouldn’t they agree with what Russia is asking for and send the team to the site to investigate further and say ok: “We’ll use that evidence plus the evidence we’ve already got?”

MJ: If you look at the history, if you look at what this organization did in 2013 – they did quite good work. It is not surprising that somebody got an award at the end of it. But their objective was very limited: it was to go to Syria, to establish there were chemical weapons there, find them and negotiate a deal with Assad to have them confiscated. They did all that – they ticked all the boxes. But the very basis, the very premise of that investigation was entirely skewed, entirely perverted toward a Western agenda, which is being driven very strongly by Britain, France and America at that time, which proved the point that Assad had chemical weapons and don’t go beyond that point. Those same countries, who were pushing the UN and the OPCW that time to go ahead with the investigation - France, Britain, and America - did not push for the mandate to go further. What the mandate was – was limited, it was limited exclusively to looking at the regions that Assad held. So the critics at that time said: “These people did quite a good job, but they didn’t look, didn’t have any mandate whatsoever to look at the chemical weapons held by rebels.” And this is hugely important.

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