Two months after the alleged chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Syria and the US cruise missile strike on Al-Shayrat air base from where the alleged chemical attack was allegedly launched, the OPCW investigators charged with investigating the alleged chemical attack have failed to inspect either location.
This has provoked an angry and exasperated statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry yesterday, highlighting especially the failure of the OPCW inspectors to inspect Al-Shayrat air base, the location from which the chemical attempt was allegedly launched
All the conditions have been created there in terms of security and compliance with obligations under the Convention. The Syrian government demanded an urgent visit, thus reaffirming the preparedness to fulfil its obligations that arise from Clause 12 of the OPCW mission mandate and from the provisions specified in Clause 15 of Part IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention appendix on inspections. These documents state in clear terms that an (OPCW) inspection group has the right of access to any and all areas that might have been affected by the employment of chemical weapons. This means all the conditions have been created there (at Shayrat) in terms of security and compliance with obligations under the Convention. Standing in a sharp contrast to it is the inaction of the (OPCW/UN) Joint Mechanism and the detached position of the OPCW leadership that believes a trip to Shayrat is outside of the sphere of competence of the OPCW Mission.
I discussed the obvious lack of enthusiasm of the OPCW inspectors to inspect either location in an article I wrote for The Duran on 21st April 2017. I pointed out in that article that though there might be safety concerns preventing the OPCW inspectors from inspecting the location of the alleged attack at Khan Sheikhoun – which is under Jihadi control – the same was certainly not true of Al-Shayrat air base, which was from where the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun was allegedly launched.
I said that the failure of the OPCW inspectors to inspect either location meant that the investigation of the Khan Sheikhoun attack had effectively collapsed even before it started.
Needless to say it is a basic principle of any criminal investigation – which is what this investigation essentially is – that the investigators inspect the crime scene and any other locations related to it. The fact that the inspectors in this case have not even attempted to discharge this basic task shows that they are not really interested in carrying out an investigation at all.
This is the inevitable consequence of the President of the United States and of Western governments making a pronouncement of the Syrian government’s guilt before any investigation of the Khan Sheikhoun incident had taken place. That inevitably was going to prejudice the conduct of the investigation, with the result that we now see.
What that means is that when the investigation eventually reports its findings they will carry no authority, and will be rejected with good cause by those who dispute its conclusions.