Disinfo: Internal OPCW e-mail proves that OPCW’s Douma investigation is biased

Summary

What really happened on April 7, 2018, in Douma, Syria? The Western version, according to which a chemical attack has been perpetrated by the Syrian army, has become more and more fragile in recent days. It is an email sent by a member of the OPCW mission to Syria,  unveiled by WikiLeaks, which is causing the trouble. According to it, the conclusions would have been distorted in the official report of the OPCW.

There were already the reservations of some journalists in Syria and even that of a producer of the BBC. Now critics are coming from people directly involved in the investigation. An e-mail from one who introduces himself as one of the members of this mission in Syria has been unveiled by Wikileaks. The sender of this email regrets a misleading rewrite of his observations: “By the unintentional omission of certain facts and observations an inadvertent bias has been introduced into the report, undermining its credibility. In fact, some crucial facts that have been maintained in the corrected version have turned into something quite different from what was originally drafted.”

The core of the problem observed by the author of the e-mail is, in particular, the conclusions about the presence of bottles of chlorine on the scene of the alleged attack.”The initial report underscored the fact that, although the cylinders may have been the source of the suspected release of chemicals, the evidence was insufficient to assert this and it is a major difference with from the redacted report…”

Disproof

WikiLeaks indeed released an email from an employee within the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) indicating that the OPCW "misrepresents the facts he and his colleagues discovered on the ground". This email has been used to call into question the impartiality and effectiveness of the OPCW’s conclusion about the alleged chemical weapon attack in Douma, Syria. But the comparison of the date when it was written and of the points raised in the letter with the OPCW's final report makes it clear that the OPCW addressed these concerns of said employee. Unusually, OPCW issued two reports on Douma, the preliminary and the final ones. The concerns of the said employee have been taken into account in the final report, points out Belingcat.

The e-mail is dated 22 June 2018. Thus, the interim report, published on 6 July 2018, stated that the found cylinders were the likely source of the chlorine or reactive chlorine-containing chemical. The final report published on 1 March 2019 states, however, in paragraph 2.16 that it was “possible that the cylinders were the source of the substances containing reactive chlorine”. See the analysis by Bellingcat of how the concerns of the said employee raised in June 2018, were taken into account in the final OPCW's report released on 6 July 2018.

The narrative of the insufficient proofs of using chemical weapons in Syria and of the "staged chemical attacks" is recurrent. Read previous debunk claiming that a BBC producer admits the chemical attacks were staged. See more cases here.

It is to note that RT France received a reprimand from French regulator CSA, which was recently maintained by State Council after the appeal, for its biased coverage of the chemical attack in Douma in April 2018. In the reprimanded report RT France did false voice-overs of two interviews of Syrian citizens, distorting their messages. In addition, the French regulator noticed that the whole 18 minutes of Douma's incident coverage by RT France broke the Convention signed with the regulator. The convention obliges the channel to check the credibility of its information. "Because of a confusion between the presentation of the facts and their commentary and the choice of banners as 'simulated attacks', the channel gave the impression that the fictitious nature of the chemical attacks occurring in the city of Douma on 7 April 2018 was an established fact, although it was an uncertain and controversial fact, which justified the sending of a mission of the OPCW. The only intervention on the board of an 'international strategy advisor' stating that the Syrian Army did not use chemical weapons, that the jihadists had manufacturing laboratories of such and that public opinion in Western countries was manipulated, without any other element of the program counterbalancing its words, led to a univocal presentation of a controversial issue," states the French State Council's decision.

RT France called the false voice overs "a simple technical mistake and in no way a failure to respect honest information coverage". The channel recognized that only one expert was invited to the panel to discuss the attack but called it an honest coverage.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 177
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 01/12/2019
  • Language/target audience: French
  • Country: Syria
  • Keywords: Douma, OPCW, White Helmets, West, Chemical weapons/attack

Disclaimer

Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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Western journalism is dominated by Russophobia and prefers fantasy and story-telling to objective reporting

After the Skripal case, even the most respected Western media have increasingly discarded objective reporting and have substituted the latter with Russophobic fantasy stories and spy-fiction. The most recent examples of Russophobic spy-fiction is a Le Monde article, and a previous New York Times article, on an alleged top-secret Russian intelligence unit that engaged in “destabilising activities” throughout Europe.

Western journalism, and many aspects of Western culture, are increasingly Russophobic, Sinophobic and phobic towards any actor that is critical of dominant Western globalist thinking. Russia can be accused without any argument or evidence to support the accusations, and it is up to Russia to prove its innocence. The Western media system has deteriorated, it is no longer based on objective information but on scandals, accusations, commercial considerations and geopolitical motivations.

Disproof

No evidence is given. Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the spread of Russophobia in Western media, which also allegedly censors views that are critical of dominant Western narratives. A second recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative aims at discrediting investigative journalists that research Kremlin-sponsored, hostile, influence activities in the West, by claiming they are Russophobic and that their investigations are based on false information and dubious sources.

The Western media cannot be described as “Russophobic” nor as dominated by a ruling “globalist paradigm”. Media in pluralist democracies represent a wide range of political opinions and do not have a single editorial policy for any country or topic. Several journalistic investigations on topics such as the Skripal case have been based on serious research work and can in no way be described as “Russophobic”.

OPCW covered up the chemical attack in Douma

The “Wikileaks” website published last November an email from a member of the “Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons” investigation team about the alleged chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma in 2018, in which he accused the organization of covering up a defect in the report alleging the use of chlorine in Douma.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin narrative seeking to absolve the Assad regime of responsibility for chemical attacks perpetrated in the course of the Syrian civil war, as well as to undermine the credibility and independence of the OPCW.

The internal OPCW e-mail message sent to WikiLeaks on June 22, 2018, by an unidentified member of OPCW’s Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), does not accuse the OPCW management of deliberately manipulating and suppressing evidence gathered by the FFM in order to blame the Assad government for the Douma attack and to justify Western military intervention against Syria.

To contain and intimidate Russia, the West came up with a new Skripal-like Khangoshvili murder story

The story of murdered Chechen insurgent Zelimkhan Khangoshvili is strikingly similar to the Skripal case. In both cases Western media started their information campaigns only after some time: a week after the poisoning in the Skripal case and four months following Khangoshvili’s murder. The thing is in summer 2019 the West was seemingly interested in improving relations with Russia, so anti-Russian activists who started speaking about “Kremlin’s arm” and “mayhem” created by Russian security bodies in Europe, suddenly shut up for some time. In both cases, no conclusive proofs of Russian implication have been presented.

By all accounts, in both cases, there was a political decision to find a good reason to wage an information war against growing Russia. On the eve of Salisbury poisoning, Vladimir Putin demonstrated Russian brand-new hypersonic weapon which devalued the American anti-missile system and NATO infrastructure and made Russia the only country totally free from US’s military coercion.

The year of 2019 has also been successful for Moscow,  Russia does very well at the international stage. We are observing Russian negotiations about deeper integration with Belarus, its interim victory in Moldova, and Uzbekistan’s plans to enter the Eurasian Economic Union. In order to contain Russia and to make its position at the Normandy summit softer, Russia is being intimidated by Khangoshvili’s murder as a new Skripal case. It will not work though, and the Skripal case proved just that. Russia will be named a threat to the whole mankind again but talks with it will continue anyway.

Disproof

This is a mix of conspiracies suggesting Western Russophobia and coordinated Western media campaign against Russia in Skripal and Khangoshvili cases. The publication groundlessly presents two cases as Western provocations to punish Russia for its alleged successes in the military and foreign policy spheres.

It is reported that Germany’s chief public prosecutor suspects Russian intelligence agencies to be behind the killing of a former Chechen insurgent Zelimkhan Khangoshvili in Berlin and plans to take over investigations into the case. The assassin who shot Khangoshvili on 23 August 2019 was arrested by German police. He had travelled to Germany on a Russian passport issued in the name of Vadim Sokolov, but the document's authenticity is questioned.