Patrick Wintour, the Guardian’s diplomatic editor is giving us merely a few hours ago [update: yesterday 13 minutes before an idiot with a bulldozer went through the fiber optical cable] before the news on OPCW. So when we see “a special two-day session in late June in response to Britain’s call to hand the body new powers to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks“, what does that mean? You see, the setting is not complex, it should be smooth sailing, but is it?
Let’s take a look at the evidence, most of it from the Guardian. I raised issues which started as early as March 2018 with ‘The Red flags‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/03/27/the-red-flags/), we see no evidence on Russian handling, we see no evidence on the delivery, merely a rumour that ‘More than 130 people could have been exposed‘ (‘could’ being the operative word) and in the end, no fatalities, the target survived. Whilst a mere silenced 9mm solution from a person doing a favour for Russian businessman Sergey Yevgenyevich Naryshkin would have done the trick with no fuss at all. And in Russia, you can’t even perceive the line of Russians hoping to be owed a favour by Sergey Yevgenyevich Naryshkin. In addition, all these months later we still have not seen any conclusive evidence of ANY kind that it was a Russian state based event. Mere emotional speculations on ‘could’ ‘might be‘ as well as ‘expected‘. So where do we stand?
A little later in April, we see in the article ‘Evidence by candlelight‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/04/04/evidence-by-candlelight/), the mere conclusion ‘Porton Down experts unable to verify precise source of novichok‘, so not only could the experts not determine the source (the delivery device), it also gives weight to the lack of evidence that it was a Russian thing. Now, I am not saying that it was NOT Russia, we merely cannot prove that it was. In addition, I was able to find several references to a Russian case involving Ivan Kivelidi and Leonard Rink in 1995, whilst the so called humongous expert named Vil Mirzayanov stated ““You need a very high-qualified professional scientist,” he continued. “Because it is dangerous stuff. Extremely dangerous. You can kill yourself. First of all you have to have a very good shield, a very particular container. And after that to weaponize it – weaponize it is impossible without high technical equipment. It’s impossible to imagine.”” I do not oppose that, because it sounds all reasonable and my extended brain cells on Chemical weapons have not been downloaded yet (I am still on my first coffee). Yet in all this the OPCW setting was in 2013: “Regarding new toxic chemicals not listed in the Annex on Chemicals but which may nevertheless pose a risk to the Convention, the SAB makes reference to “Novichoks”. The name “Novichok” is used in a publication of a former Soviet scientist who reported investigating a new class of nerve agents suitable for use as binary chemical weapons. The SAB states that it has insufficient information to comment on the existence or properties of “Novichoks”“, I can accept that the OPCW is not fully up to speed, yet the information from 1995, 16 years earlier was the setting: ““In 1995, a Russian banking magnate called Ivan Kivelidi and his secretary died from organ failure after being poisoned with a military grade toxin found on an office telephone. A closed trial found that his business partner had obtained the substance via intermediaries from an employee of a state chemical research institute known as GosNIIOKhT, which was involved in the development of Novichoks“, which we got from the Standard (at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/uk-russia-nerve-agent-attack-spy-poisoning-sergei-skripal-salisbury-accusations-evidence-explanation-a8258911.html), so when you realise these settings, we need to realise that the OPCW is flawed on a few levels. It is not the statement “the OPCW has found its methods under attack from Russia and other supporters of the Syrian regime“, the mere fact that we see in regarding of Novichoks implies that the OPCW is a little out of their depth, their own documentation implies this clearly (as seen in the previous blog articles), I attached one of them in the article ‘Something for the Silver Screen?‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2018/03/17/something-for-the-silver-screen/), so a mere three months ago, there has been several documents all out in the open that gives light to a flawed OPCW, so even as we accept ‘chemist says non-state actor couldn’t carry out attack‘, the fact that it did not result in fatalities gives us that it actually might be a non-state action, it might not be an action by any ‘friend’ of Sergey Yevgenyevich Naryshkin or Igor Valentinovich Korobov. These people cannot smile, not even on their official photos. No sense of humour at all, and they tend to be the people who have a very non-complementary view on failure. So we are confronted not merely with the danger of Novichoks, or with the fact that it very likely in non-state hands. The fact that there is no defence, not the issue of the non-fatalities, but the fact that the source could not be determined, is the dangerous setting and even as we hold nothing against Porton Down, the 16 year gap shown by the OPCW implies that the experts relied on by places like Porton Down are not available, which changes the landscape by a lot and whilst many will wonder how that matters. That evidence could be seen as important when we reconsider the chemical attacks in Syria on 22nd August 2011, so not only did the US sit on their hands, it is now not entirely impossible that they did not have the skills at their disposal to get anything done. Even as a compound like Sarin is no longer really a mystery, the setting we saw then, gives us the other part. With the Associated Press giving us at the time “anonymous US intelligence officials as saying that the evidence presented in the report linking Assad to the attack was “not a slam dunk.”” Is one part, the fact that all the satellites looking there and there is no way to identify the actual culprit is an important part. You see we could accept that the Syrian government was behind this, but there is no evidence, no irrefutable fact was ever given. That implies that when it comes to delivery systems, there is a clear gap, not merely for Novichoks, making the entire setting a lot less useful. In this the website of the OPCW (at https://www.opcw.org/special-sections/syria-and-the-opcw/) is partial evidence. When we see “A total of 14 companies submitted bids to undertake this work and, following technical and commercial evaluation of the bids, the preferred bidders were announced on 14th February 2014. Contracts were signed with two companies – Ekokem Oy Ab from Finland, and Veolia Environmental Services Technical Solutions in the USA” in light of the timeline, implies that here was no real setting and one was implemented after Ghouta, I find that part debatable and not reassuring. In addition, the fact finding mission was not set up until 2014, this is an issue, because one should have been set up on the 23rd August 2011, even as nothing would have been available and the status would have been idle (for very valid reasons), the fact that the fact finding mission was not set up until 2014, gives light to even longer delays. In addition, we see a part that has no blame on the OPCW, the agreement “Decides further that the Secretariat shall: inspect not later than 30 days after the adoption of this decision, all facilities contained in the list referred to in paragraph 1(a) above;“, perfect legal (read: diplomacy driven) talk giving the user of those facilities 30 days to get rid of the evidence. Now, there is no blame on the OPCW in any way, yet were these places not monitored by satellites? Would the visibility of increased traffic and activities not given light to the possible culprit in this all? And when we look at the paragraph 1(a) part and we see: “the location of all of its chemical weapons, chemical weapons storage facilities, chemical weapons production facilities, including mixing and filling facilities, and chemical weapons research and development facilities, providing specific geographic coordinates;“, is there not the decent chance (if the Syrian government was involved, that ‘all locations‘ would be seen as ‘N-1‘, with the actual used fabrication location used conveniently missing from the list? #JustSaying
It seems to me that if this setting is to be more (professional is the wrong word) capable to be effective, a very different setting is required. You see, that setting becomes very astute when we realise that non-state actors are currently on the table, the danger that a lone wolf getting creative is every bit as important to the equation. the OPCW seems to be in a ‘after the fact‘ setting, whilst the intelligence community needs an expert that is supportive towards their own experts in a pro-active setting, not merely the data mining part, but the option to see flagged chemicals that could be part of a binary toxic setting, requires a different data scope and here we see the dangers when we realise that the ‘after the fact‘ setting with a 16 year gap missing the danger is something that is expensive and equally, useless would be the wrong word, but ‘effective’ it is not, too much evidence points at that. For that we need to see that their mission statement is to ‘implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in order to achieve the OPCW’s vision of a world that is free of chemical weapons and of the threat of their use‘, yet when we look at the CWC charter we see: ‘The Convention aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by States Parties. States Parties, in turn, must take the steps necessary to enforce that prohibition in respect of persons (natural or legal) within their jurisdiction‘, which requires a pro-active setting and that is definitely lacking from the OPCW, raising the issue whether their mandate is one of failure. That requires a very different scope, different budgets and above all a very different set of resources available to the OPCW, or whoever replaces the OPCW, because that part of the discussion is definitely not off the table for now. The Salisbury event and all the available data seems to point in that direction.