The situation in Syria is extremely complicated, but some of that complexity is working against Russia and Syria’s own claims that there was never a chemical weapons attack in Douma on April 7, 2018. Today is April 21st, and only now is the team from the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) finally entering Douma.
Earlier reports this week from Al-Jazeera indicated that a contingent of the UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) attempted entry into the Syrian city on Tuesday, 17 April, but were repelled by an outbreak of small-arms fire, this in a city reportedly completely secure of terrorists. The UNDSS has been continuing its work but while laying blame on no one, they expressed some concerns, as reported by the OPCW’s internal document dated April 18:
On 16 April, we received confirmation from the National Authority of the Syrian Arab Republic that, under agreements reached to allow the evacuation of the population in Ghouta, the Syrian military were unable to enter Douma. The security for the sites where the [Fact Finding Mission, a.k.a. FFM] plans to deploy was under the control of the Russian Military Police. The United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) has made the necessary arrangements with the Syrian authorities to escort the team to a certain point and then for the escort to be taken over by the Russian Military Police. However, the UNDSS preferred to first conduct a reconnaissance visit to the sites, which took place yesterday. FFM team members did not participate in this visit.
On arrival at Site 1, a large crowd gathered and the advice provided by the UNDSS was that the reconnaissance team should withdraw.
At Site 2, the team came under small arms fire and an explosive was detonated. The reconnaissance team returned to Damascus.
The UNDSS will continue to work with the Syrian National Authority, the local Councils in Douma, and the Russian Military Police to review the security situation. At present, we do not know when the FFM team can be deployed to Douma. Of course, I shall only consider such deployment following approval by the UNDSS, and provided that our team can have unhindered access to the sites.
This incident again highlights the highly volatile environment in which the FFM is having to work and the security risks our staff are facing…”
On 21 April, the Spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova gave this comment about the situation:
Early on April 21, a special OPCW mission for finding traces of chemical weapons left for the city of Douma (Eastern Ghouta) to the place of suspected use of toxic chemicals on April 7. We consider such delays in a notable case like that, for whatever reasons, to be unacceptable, since the security of the OPCW staff was ensured not only by the Syrian side, but also by the command of the Russian military forces in the Syrian Arab Republic…”
There is a dissonance between the two reports since the OPCW claims that affiliated activity was thwarted by hostile fire in Douma, and that it took place days ago. It appears that Russia is worried that the OPCW will not be factual and honest when they conduct their work:
According to Zakharova, Moscow expects OPCW experts to conduct an impartial investigation of the Douma incident and submit an unbiased report as soon as possible. “We appeal to western colleagues to refrain from actions obstructing efforts to establish the truth regarding the provocation in Eastern Ghouta on April 7,” she said.
The efforts of OPCW experts to limit the scope of locations related to the suspected chemical attack planned to be visited and the round of those examined in Douma raise concerns, the statement said.
From an outside observer’s point of view, particularly in the West, this dissonance of information tends to make Russia look bad, as if they were trying to hide something. While we at The Duran have thrown a great deal of light on the situation already, and that light appears to indicate that there was indeed, NO chemical attack in this city, the fact that there seems to be very little in the way of objective media coverage seems to be deliberately turned against Russia and Syria. Al-Jazeera has indicated its alignment to be quite strongly anti-Putin and therefore by extension, anti-Russia in much the same manner as the West.
In all matters concerning Syria then, at least for the next few weeks, the news flow from this region is extremely suspect. While it has always seemed that the legitimate powers in the region are the Syrian government and Russia, the West has the propaganda advantage.
This war is being fought in the newsrooms of the world every bit as much as it is being fought on the ground, and this is an injustice to the people of Syria in the worst way.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.