87 out of 193 states withdraw their rights and obligations from OPCW member Syria. Only 15 states backed Syria. The other states abstained or did not show up to vote. Today in The Hague, the 25th State Conference of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) comes to an end. It was the second part of the meeting, the first part had already taken place at the end of November. Journalists were not allowed, but could follow the public parts of the conference on the Internet. In addition to formalities such as the adoption of the budget and the Director-General’s report, the victims of chemical weapons attacks were commemorated as every year.
Review of horror
During the first World War (1914-1918), chemical weapons were mainly used by Germany, France and Great Britain. Great Britain fought with chemical weapons in the 1920s uprisings of the Northern Iraqi Kurds. Various types of chemical warfare agents were used by the National Socialists in concentration camps to murder prisoners. The U.S. air force used Agent Orange and Napalm in their Wars in Vietnam and Laos (1964-1975). During the war between Iraq and Iran (1980-1988), Iraq resorted to chemical warfare agents. Although Iraq was almost completely disarmed under the aegis of UN sanctions and arms controls between 1990 and 2003, and all chemical or biological weapons programmes were terminated, the US and the UK used alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a pretext to invade the country in 2003. There was no resolution of the UN Security Council. The speech by then Secretary of State Colin Powell, with whom he sought approval in the UN Security Council for the attack on Iraq, turned out to be a lie.
The Israeli army, in the war against the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip as phosphorus, as in the war against Lebanon in 2016. In the use of U.S. troops was and is white phosphorus, an incendiary bomb: Falluja, Iraq (2004), Mosul, Iraq and raqqa, Syria (2017). Turkey also used white phosphorus in northern Syria (2019). White phosphorus is not on the prohibition list of the Chemical Weapons Convention, but is prohibited under the Geneva Convention for use against the population. Long-term damage in the offspring of victims of this weapon is documented at least from Falluja.
Syria in the pillory
Since 2013, numerous attacks with chemical substances have taken place in the Syrian war. To this day, the Syrian government rejects allegations that it has used chemical weapons against insurgents. In September 2013, Syria signed the Chemical Weapons Convention and handed over its entire chemical weapons arsenal to the OPCW for destruction.
Nevertheless, attacks with chemical substances from Syria continued to be reported. Unnamed Western intelligence sources said Syria had other undeclared chemical weapons and was working on a new chemical weapons program. The issue was regularly raised by the US, UK and France with their allies in the UN Security Council and Syria was asked to provide missing information on its chemical weapons programme. Syria may be the same today as Iraq was in 2002. An Iraqi scientist, who with his team was supposed to prove to UN and OPCW weapons inspectors that Iraq no longer had chemical or other weapons of mass destruction, told journalists in Baghdad: “How are we supposed to prove that we don’t have something we don’t have?!”
For years now, allegations about alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian Arab Republic have caused conflicts within the OPCW. At the current OPCW Conference of States there was a motion tabled by Western states on “Possession and use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Arab Republic”. Objective: to deprive Syria of its “rights and privileges” as an OPCW member state.
The “Syrian chemical weapons Dossier”
The background to the ongoing conflicts is the question of which decision-making powers lie with the UN Security Council and which with the OPCW, or more precisely, with the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW and the Director General. Since 2014, there have been the Fact-Finding Missions (FFM), which from 2015-2017 was supposed to identify the perpetrators behind chemical weapons attacks in Syria in a joint mission with the UN (JIM). Conflicts over the FFM’s approach led to Russia wanting to put JIM’s work on a new footing in the UN Security Council. The corresponding draft resolution was rejected by the US and its partners in the UNSR. JIM stopped working.
In 2018, at the initiative of the United States and the United Kingdom, the “Investigation and Identification Team” (IIT), also known as the attribution team, was established at a special OPCW meeting to name the perpetrators behind alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Both FFM and IIT operate beyond the originally clear and transparent OPCW structure and are integrated into the Technical Secretariat of the OPCW. The Technical Secretariat, on the other hand, only cooperates with the Director General in matters of “Syria”, other areas of the OPCW are excluded. Russia and other states rejected the establishment of the IIT because the formation of such a body is not provided for in the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Meanwhile, IIT has assigned two reports of alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria – three attacks in Ltamneh in March 2017 and a night attack in Sarakeb in February 2018 – “with high probability” to the Syrian army. This accuses Syria of a repeated violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Following the publication of the IIT report on Sarakeb on 12 April 2021, the Federal Foreign Office made a clear statement in Berlin: “It is clear to us that such a clear breach of international law must not remain without consequences. Those responsible must be held accountable, " demanded a spokesman. According to the will of Western states, including Germany, Syria is now to be punished at the 25th State Conference. A corresponding application is available.
“The Federal Government, together with other partners, will support a decision to revoke Syria’s rights and privileges under Article 12 of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CÜW) in response to Syria’s responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in Ltamenah as identified in the first report of the” Investigation and Identification Team” (March 2017), " the Federal Foreign Office said at the author’s request. Syria is a " decision of the Executive Council of the OPCW of 9. The Federal Foreign Office also stated that it had failed to take a position on the process and to restore its adherence to the treaty by 31 July 2020.
Appearance and reality
Syria, however, does not recognize the IIT reports because they did not come about according to the procedure specified by the OPCW. Although they had been invited, there were no OPCW inspectors in Ltamneh or Sarakeb to collect samples, talk to eyewitnesses, assess the situation and obtain information about what was happening from all sides. The material, which was evaluated by the FFM and eventually also by IIT, came from opposition forces and was handed over to the OPCW inspectors in a neighboring country of Syria, presumably in Turkey. The Syrian Foreign Ministry in Damascus said after the Ltamneh report that the conclusions were “fabricated with the aim of making false accusations against the Syrian government.” According to Damascus, the witnesses were members of the Nusra Front and the White Helmets.
After the alleged attack in Sarakeb/Idlib, news agencies (Reuters, AP) reported that information about a helicopter attack by the Syrian army had been disseminated by the “white helmets”. After that, “three of her rescue workers and six other people complained of breathing difficulties.” The “Syrian-American Medical Society” (SAMS), which is also close to the Syrian opposition, reported that “in its hospitals in Idlib, 11 patients were treated with “suspected chlorine gas poisoning”.
Despite many doubts and irregularities about the information and subsequent investigations, Western states agree that Syria should be responsible for the attacks. On 31 March 2021, 18 European states, including Germany, declared that they had established an” International Partnership against impunity for the use of chemical Weapons " in Syria. “Forty states and the European Union (…) will not rest until those who have used chemical weapons are punished for their crimes.”
A proposal is rejected
Since the alleged attack with chemical weapons in Douma on 7 April 2018 at the latest, the accusations against Syria of having used chemical weapons during the war have also been seriously questioned internationally. OPCW inspectors involved in the Douma investigation had considered a chemical weapons attack unlikely due to their investigations. First, no corresponding chemical substance was found that could have been attributed to a weapon. Secondly, the containers that allegedly carried the gas and were supposed to have been dropped by the Syrian Air Force appeared to have been “manually” transported to their place of discovery. This information was not found in either the interim or final report, the entire original Douma team had been deducted after the submission of the first interim report.
Former high-ranking UN diplomats such as the first Director General of the OPCW José Bustani, Hans von Sponeck and Richard Falk have joined the Berlin Group 21 and recently published a “Declaration of Concern” signed by 28 internationally renowned personalities, including former OPCW and UN weapons inspectors.
For the Berlin Group 21, Hans von Sponeck and Professor Richard Falk now turned directly to the 193 participating states of the 25th Conference of the Member States and made a mediation proposal to bring light into the fog around the “editorially edited” OPCW final report on the events in Douma and to relax the situation within the OPCW.
The Scientific Advisory Board of the OPCW (SAB) should provide a “suitable body” in which the information of the inspectors, who had determined on site in Douma and had come to a different result than the official final report, should be reviewed. According to the proposal, the inspectors and the SAB should be involved in the review process behind closed doors. “Objective and informed comments, recommendations and assessments” should be exchanged. Finally, the results of this process could be published to enable “full transparency and accountability”.
“The Federal Government will not support the proposal of the so-called Berlin Group 21, which it claims was founded specifically for this purpose,” the Federal Foreign Office replied to a request from the author. One does not agree with the criticism of the final report Douma. “There was no doubt that all evidence, testimonies, environmental and biomedical samples had been carefully evaluated and taken into account in the Douma report”, “a new assessment of the Douma incident would therefore be unnecessary and unnecessary.“In the view of the Federal Foreign Office, there have been” systematic attempts to discredit the work of the OPCW " since the OPCW began investigating the Syrian chemical weapons programme.
The OPCW: Credible or vicarious agent of some states?
While still working on this text, the German news agency dpa reported from the OPCW state Conference: “Syria has been suspended by the OPCW chemical weapons control authority because of the multiple use of poison gas in the civil war.“The country has lost its right to vote because it has “repeatedly violated the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.”
A group of 46 Western states had demanded the punishment of Syria in a motion “On the possession and use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Arab Republic”. According to dpa, the French ambassador, Luis Vassy, introduced the resolution because it was “owed to the Syrian people.”
Of the 193 member States, 136 took part in the vote. Of these, 87 voted in favour of the resolution, following the request of the EU and NATO states Canada, the USA and Australia. 15 States voted against the Resolution, 34 abstained.
Before the vote, Russian OPCW Ambassador Alexander Shulgin appealed to the State Conference to reject the declaration. Since everything that Russia has put forward is now immediately rejected by certain countries as a “disinformation campaign” with which “the OPCW should be discredited”, he wants to describe it differently.
The” foundations of the OPCW “would be undermined by a” Euro-Atlantic community " to enforce its geopolitical interests (in the Middle East and against Syria). In recent years, Western states have established a mechanism within the OPCW to discredit undesirable states. What in the case of Syria is “legalized” as “facts” by OPCW structures is based on a scenario in which Western-sponsored non - governmental and pseudo-humanitarian organizations “like the infamous white helmets” have been involved with provocations and posted videos. The events produced in this way are then disseminated by Western media, politicians make statements and the OPCW “legalizes” these counterfeits. Never in the history of the OPCW and the Chemical Weapons Convention has there been anything like action against Syria.
According to Shulgin, the future of the OPCW is at stake: “Either it will continue to be an internationally credible organization committed to the disarmament and non-proliferation of chemical weapons, or it will become a platform for manipulation and accomplishment of the ambitions of certain states.”
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was founded in 1997. The Chemical Weapons Convention on which it is based has been signed by 193 states to date. 98 percent of the world’s chemical weapons stockpiles have been destroyed under the supervision of the OPCW. In 2013, the organization was awarded the Nobel peace prize.