When the OVCW Division “investigation and identification Team”, or IIT for short, presented its maiden report in The Hague shortly before Easter, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had already finished his statement. On behalf of the German government, Maas welcomed the report “on chemical weapons operations in Syria in March 2017,” according to a statement issued by the Federal Foreign Office. He said it was an “important step towards solving these heinous crimes” committed by “Air Force units of the Syrian regime.”
Maas thanked the OPCW “for its professional and independent investigation under very difficult circumstances “and stated that” such a blatant violation of international law … should not go unpunished”. Now the “international community must react immediately and … ensure that those responsible are held accountable”. The German government will “strongly advocate” this in the UN Security Council and the OPCW.
The report was welcomed in the USA, Great Britain and Europe and condemned by the Syrian government. However, the IIT Team had not really been able to clarify the circumstances and had only expressed “legitimate reasons to believe” that the Syrian Air Force was the perpetrator. According to the IIT Team, it could not have been any different when presenting their report.
Three weeks later, active and former OPCW experts are now commenting on the OPCW / IIT report on the alleged chemical weapons attacks at Al Ltamenah in March 2017. the exclusive article was published in the US internet newspaper “the Grayzone”.
Like forensic doctors, the authors dissect the report and also deal rather snappily with the controversial “investigation and identification Team” IIT. As expected, this fulfilled its raison d’être, the unnamed authors begin their Text. The OPCW was"abused by influential states parties for their political and foreign policy goals”. The establishment of the IIT was not intended to investigate alleged attacks with chemical substances in Syria, but rather, the Team was only “established to accuse the Syrian government of carrying out chemical attacks.”
There are now “a number of impartial and principled experts” who “no longer want to be associated with the politically motivated reports issued by the fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the OPCW and now the IIT. Many consider this work and these reports to be technically and scientifically flawed. Some of us believe that they should not be considered as work of OPCW inspectors at all.”
The authors provide a scathing critique of the IIT report, which is merely a continuation of the technically weak and superficial reports of the fact-Finding mission, FFM. In your Text you list the “most obvious and harmful errors”.
They question the motive why the Syrian leadership should have accepted the risk of an alleged attack with chemical weapons. By crossing the “red line” – the alleged use of chemical weapons-it would have risked its own survival. It would have deliberately triggered a Western Intervention, a Regime Change. For this they would have used Sarin, that is “real” poison gas, and dropped some sarin bombs, but could it really have been that way? The question of the motive belongs to the area of a criminal investigation and does not correspond to the procedure of OPCW inspectors. And yet, the authors ask, shouldn’t this question also have been at the beginning of the IIT investigation?
In addition, the alleged chemical attacks took place shortly after a high-level OPCW inspection at the scientific study and research centres (SSRC) in Barzeh and Jamrayah in Damascus. The OPCW inspectors had investigated” inconsistencies “in the official Syrian statements and noted that “the Syrians have made substantial efforts to clear the headache over the” chemical Dossier””. It is hard to believe that the Syrians, on the one hand, made such an effort to drop sarin bombs shortly afterwards, which would have turned the whole world against them.
The middlemen of the Opposition
No one from the IIT team had visited or examined the location of the event. Everything presented in the case “was presented by the sworn enemies of the Syrian government.” The so-called “evidence” was generally handed over at a “secure location in Turkey”. The depiction of the events, testimonies, soil samples, metal fragments, photos and Videos – all were submitted by the Opposition. If the so-called” chain-of-custody “could have been adhered to at all only after the so-called” evidence " had been handed over, this would be a pity for the scientific reputation of the OPCW. Even if it was the circumstances, why FFM or IIT Teams would not have been on site for security reasons, it must be clear that the basis of the investigation leaves many questions unanswered. To say, “there are legitimate reasons to believe”, is not enough.
Who are the IIT experts?
OPCW investigation teams usually work according to a” fair geographical distribution”, the authors continue. With the IIT Team, however, most of the members would come from a Western and/or NATO state. And it was striking that neither the FFM investigation teams nor JIM (Joint Investigation Mission) nor the IIT had acted independently in the military, scientific or technical investigations. Instead, they had to rely on an” approved " list of experts who had been asked for their technical analysis. The question is: “where do these experts come from? The OPCW experts criticise that their analyses are not counter-checked, as is usual with scientists: they remain “nameless, faceless “experts”.”
The authors also deal in detail with the question of whether the alleged attack with chemical weapons was a “staging”, which the IIT report denies. They analyse the sarin investigation, which points to” the world-famous Syrian method”, and they discuss the experts who have been active behind the scenes in Syria in the form of non-governmental organisations and consultants. In the end, the IIT report expressed a one-sided view on Syria and it was “regrettable that Western governments, non-governmental organizations, commentators and the media” had so zealously presented the report as a fact that no scientific analysis had been made.
The report is flawed and does not stand up to scientific scrutiny, it is finally said. It would have been better if “a group of unbiased, impartial, internationally recognized scientists, investigators and weapons specialists” had been commissioned to “transparently” investigate the alleged chemical weapons attacks. Then the OPCW could have made the names and professional career of these experts public.
The investigation and identification Team, IIT, was only established in the summer of 2018 against considerable doubt and resistance within the OPCW. It is assigned to the fact-Finding Mission (FFM), which is exclusively responsible for Syria. Different rules apply here than for the Rest of the OPCW investigation teams, whose work is usually based on internal discussion and transparency. FFM and IIT are under the direct authority of the Technical Secretariat and the general secretary of the OPCW. Germany is the third largest donor of the organization for the Prohibition of chemical weapons, OPCW, after the USA and Japan.