Investigation into Khan Sheikhoun: Rules-based order tested by Western scheming
Unfortunately, the work of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) to Syria is shrouded in secrecy. What is clear is that it continues to operate in a remote mode, using Internet data mostly concocted by the radical elements of the Syrian opposition, including the notorious “White Helmets”.
From the scarce information one can gather that the samples taken from those injured or dead were tested in the OPCW-licensed laboratories in Britain and Turkey and established to be sarin or sarin-like substance. However, the samples were not taken at the site of the incident. Hence, the basic principle of the investigation, that of the chain of custody, hasn’t been observed. There are no answers on that from our Western partners. As there is no clear evidence that those people were from Khan Sheikhoun and not from somewhere else.
Equally dubious is the questioning of the “witnesses” by the FFM. One can’t be sure they were residents of Khan Sheikhoun. Moreover, those “witnesses”, as we understand, are mostly supporters of the opposition or their family members. Their impartiality is questionable. However, information is available, including provided by the Swedish Doctors for Human Rights, which demonstrates that those photo- and video- materials were clearly staged.
It looks like the FFM, so far, is not doing its job properly. That the FFM team, in terms of its composition, is absolutely dominated by the countries hostile to Damascus, is another fundamental flaw. This is in sharp contrast to the established international practice. According to the UN Secretary-General decision the UN-OPCW Investigation Mechanism mustn’t include representatives of the UNSC P5, as well as Syria’s neighbors. And yet the heads of both FFM segments are British citizens, albeit no one can in earnest assume the British position in the Syrian conflict as unbiased. Why not act by the book and why afraid of the truth being established in due course? The proposal to have a special investigation, with due oversight of the international community, was voted down by the West.
There’s still time to conduct a proper, full-fledged investigation. According to the UN Secretariat, the security situation in Khan Sheikhoun is quite acceptable. The Syrian side is also ready, in the interests of this investigation, to put a ceasefire in force along the way of the OPCW staff’s travel to the site. The Director-General of the OPCW Technical Secretariat stated his willingness to send the OPCW experts to Khan Sheikhoun.
The Syrian Government is also ready to ensure a totally secure environment for the FFM staff to visit Shayrat airbase. We insist on such a visit. The US Administration explained its Shayrat missile attack by the alleged storage of sarin at this airbase. It is necessary to verify this allegation.
It is a fair assumption that sarin could have been used in Khan Sheikhoun. The question is who did it and how the toxic substance was delivered. A few versions exist. As the information is accumulated there is more and more grounds to think that the terrorists controlling this area blew up the home-built sarin munition on the ground which resulted in civilian casualties. The “White Helmets” acted too hastily to stir public outrage and posted in-advance prepared materials on the Internet. However, they made several bad mistakes which point to the staged nature of those materials.
The definitive answer to what really happened in Khan Sheikhoun can only be provided by a full-fledged investigation in full compliance with the OPCW verification provisions. It is too serious a matter for peace in the region and a wider world for the OPCW to fail this test of credibility. Those who have taken over the FFM investigation are all to eager to manage the truth in their vested interest. Otherwise they wouldn’t obstruct efforts to open it up for due scrutiny. It is this tactics of pushing the UN Security Council to act on the basis of forged evidence and flawed investigation, that undermines the rules-based world order.
It has to be borne in mind that the British Foreign Secretary recently hypothesized on joining another US action in Syria in response to another chemical incident, which means that an order for it has already been placed. A lot is said about the disastrous lack of trust in international relations. Unilateral actions and takeovers of international bodies by the West further undermine it.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.