Last Tuesday (28 February, 2017), Russia and China vetoed a resolution put before the United Nations by the FUKUS axis (France, United Kingdom, United States)proposing increased sanctions against Syria. Their case was based on an OPCW-UN report on the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons in 2014 and 2015. Security analyst Charles Shoebridge pointed out that most media did not appear to have even read the report.
In August 2015, the Security Council adopted resolution 2235, which commissioned an investigation to identify who was responsible for alleged chemical weapons attacks carried out in Syria between April 2014 and August 2015. The UN set up the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, and tasked it it with producing a report on the attacks. The report was published in August 2016.
The FUKUS axis resolution blocked last week mentioned the conclusions of the OPCW-UN report, which, the resolution claimed, blamed the Syrian government for three chemical attacks using chlorine. Russia and China complained that the report’s conclusions were unconvincing.
Speaking to Radio Sputnik about the vetoed resolution and the OPCW-UN report it cited, Charles Shoebridge, an independent security expert specializing in counter terrorism, explained that the OPCW-UN investigation contained findings which differ widely from what was reported by the mainstream media.
“When you actually go to the report itself, which interestingly, only a few of the Western media outlets actually link to, you find that this report, unsurprisingly for professional investigators, is absolutely full of caveats and reservations,” Shoebridge said.
He noted, “there are three standards of proof listed in the report, one of which is ‘overwhelming evidence’ to support the conclusion, the second ‘strong evidence’ and the third ‘sufficient evidence’; beyond that is ‘insufficient evidence’. In each of the three cases” (where investigators said there was evidence to say that the Syrian military was responsible for an attack) “it is that very lowest standard of proof, sufficient evidence’ that has been reached.”
“In other words, the evidence wasn’t sufficiently good to declare that Syria had dropped chlorine to a standard that could be considered ‘strong’, or ‘overwhelming’.”
The significance of this detail could not be overestimated, Shoebridge stressed. After all, “when one thinks about what the UN Security Council actually is in this context, it’s actually acting as the world’s most superior court; it has the power to impose sanctions, and even to authorize war in some circumstances.”
Therefore, the analyst noted he was quite surprised to hear, “on such a basis of low standard evidence, that people are saying that this is sufficient to put in place punishments for a government. I think that was part of the case that Russia and China made, along with the very principled point of not interfering in other countries’ internal affairs.”
Furthermore, the expert pointed out that “as the report said, a lot of its evidence was reliant on first responders giving information to investigators; because of the security situation, the investigators were not able to visit the scenes these attacks themselves, and were reliant on what the report calls ‘first responders’, and what we know to be the White Helmets.”
These White Helmets are hardly an impartial source, having been set up by a former UK army officer and funded by the British and US governments, both of which believed it was more important to depose Assad than to defeat the terrorism of Islampic State. They have been linked with radical Islamist terrorist groups, and over “the last 3-4 years have put out a stream of anti-Assad, anti-Russia propaganda.”
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