The next few weeks could potentially be the most difficult and most dangerous of Theresa May’s ill starred UK Premiership.
On 18th April 2018 the OPCW’s executive council is due to meet. One of the subjects of discussion is expected to be the OPCW’s report on the Skripal case.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is claiming that Swiss laboratory tests of the chemical agent used to poison Sergey and Yulia Skripal show that it was not a Novichok as the British claim but BZ, a chemical agent first produced in the 1950s and weaponised by the US in the 1970s as a chemical weapon.
I should say straight away that I am not sure that Lavrov is right about this. A comment from the Swiss laboratory in question – though written in twisted language – looks to me very much like a denial that what he is saying.
Only OPCW can comment this assertion. But we can repeat what we stated 10 days ago: We have no doubt that Porton Down has identified Novichock. PD – like Spiez – is a designated lab of the OPCW. The standards in verification are so rigid that one can trust the findings. #Skipal pic.twitter.com/3xp3dBFAdP
— Spiez Laboratory (@SpiezLab) April 14, 2018
If however it turns out that Lavrov is right then Theresa May – and her Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – politically speaking are toast.
I say this even though – if the OPCW confirms the chemical agent was BZ rather than a Novichok – that no more proves Russia’s innocence than its being a Novichok proves Russia’s guilt.
However having insisted for weeks that it was a Novichok Theresa May’s, Boris Johnson’s and Porton Down’s credibility would not survive if it turned out that it was actually BZ.
Frankly, I cannot see either Theresa May or Boris Johnson remaining long in their posts in that case.
Anyway, this all pales into insignificance by comparison with what the OPCW might say about the 7th April 2018 incident in Douma.
Having flouted the British Parliament’s authority and provoked a huge political row by launching a hugely unpopular missile strike on Syria without first seeking Parliament’s approval, Theresa May’s credibility and authority would be shot to pieces if the OPCW says that the alleged chemical weapons attack on Douma on 7th April 2018 – her supposed reason for carrying out the strike – never took place.
Frankly her credibility would be so shattered that I doubt she would survive as Prime Minister.
No doubt the British behind the scenes – along with the US and the French – are heavily lobbying the OPCW to make sure the OPCW’s investigation into the Douma incident goes the “right” way.
Having said this, it is strange that a British Prime Minister should put herself in this position, stake her entire political credibility and her future in her job in a finding of a body like the OPCW.
The next few weeks are likely to be nail-bitingly stressful for Theresa May.