What happened in the Syrian city of Douma on 7 April remains a subject of controversy. An OPCW report stated that chemical weapons were used that night, but what is believed to be an unpublished assessment by OPCW experts contradicts the official findings.
Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters has questioned the integrity of the Western governments that struck Syria after the dubious Douma incident, in the wake of a leaked OPCW paper casting doubt on the chemical watchdog’s official statement.
“The White Helmets probably murdered 34 women and children to dress the scene that sorry day in Douma,” Waters wrote in a Facebook post next to a video of him describing Syria’s White Helmets as a “fake organisation that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists” at a Barcelona gig last year.
“How do they sleep?” he asked rhetorically, referring to the governments of the United States, the UK and France who “bought into the White Helmet’s callous and murderous fairy-tale”.
The three NATO allies fired over 100 missiles last April against multiple government sites in Syria, which they described as chemical weapons facilities. They said the strikes were in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian authorities against the civilian population in the then-rebel-held city of Douma on 7 April 2018. Incidentally, the strikes came before international investigators released the results of their probe.
They cited “video evidence” provided by the so-called White Helmets, a self-styled humanitarian rescue group in Syria, which showed Douma residents, including children, whom doctors were trying to save from the effects of toxic substances. The footage featured purported compressed gas cylinders allegedly dropped from the air by government forces.
Moscow and Damascus maintained that the Douma incident was a “false flag attack” orchestrated by UK security services to whip-up anti-Russia hysteria and create a pretext for military action.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the international chemical watchdog, said in March that its experts provided “reasonable grounds” that a toxic chemical − likely chlorine − was used in the city on 7 April 2018.
Moscow slammed the report as ignoring “substantial information” from Russia and Syria, which indicated that the chemical attack was staged by the White Helmets.
However, this week the academic working group on Syria, propaganda and media announced that it had obtained an unpublished report by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission. According to the leaked findings, engineering experts found that the gas cylinders had been placed at the scenes manually rather than delivered from aircraft.
It is unclear where the documents were authentic, but Piers Robinson, a member of the working group, said he had “reliable confirmation” from several sources that they were genuine. The OPCW has not denied their authenticity either, as of the time of writing.
“Because the US, France and UK bombed Syria in response to the alleged Douma attack, they have a powerful political interest in the OPCW issuing a report that justifies their attack on Syria,” Robinson said.
“Naturally, the question arises as to whether pressure has been exerted on the OPCW to use one set of assessments rather than another. Interestingly, we saw this kind of dynamic in the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when experts were sometimes pressured and/or side-lined when the UK and US governments were making their false claims regarding alleged Iraqi WMDs”, he noted.