MP Chris Williamson confronts UK government with apparent evidence of ‘staged’ chemical attack in Syria

Chris Williamson and Theresa May

MP Chris Williamson has confronted Theresa May’s government with a leaked report on the 7 April 2018 alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria. The leaked analysis for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) contradicts the official narrative, which claims the Syrian government dropped cylinders from above to gas civilians.

During a joint press conference with Donald Trump on 4 June, however, May doubled down on the narrative:

In Syria, when innocent men, women and children were victims of a barbaric chemical weapons attack, Britain and America – along with France – carried out targeted strikes against the regime.


The report (published by the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media) suggests that “the only plausible explanation” was that the cylinders were “manually placed” at the scene. So Williamson submitted a written question to May on 3 June, which read:

in light of investigations suggesting that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma in April 2018 were staged and with reference to reports that OPCW expert advice was redacted from its final report, whether she has made a reassessment of the decision to bomb targets in Syria in 2018.


Read on...

Following reports of the alleged chemical attack, the US, UK and France bombed three Syrian government sites that they claim stored or researched chemical weapons. At the time, many people pointed out that these states had the right to report any alleged chemical weapons sites to the OPCW. But they instead opted to bomb the sites they claimed had chemical weapons, following reports on the alleged chemical attack in Douma.

Back then, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas also pointed out that two of the sites the US-led forces struck “were compliant with having no chemical weapons on site” five months beforehand.


Now, the leaked OPCW analysis throws into question the official Western justification for the airstrikes. The engineering assessment found:

The dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders, and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder being delivered from an aircraft.

In each case the alternative hypothesis [that cylinders were manually placed at location] produced the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.

The assessment also appears to contradict the OPCW’s final report, which suggested the cylinders had been dropped from above. In response, the OPCW said that the information contained in the leaked report was “outside of the mandate” of its fact-finding mission (FFM). The OPCW claimed that’s because the assessment of the cylinders came too close to placing blame, which would go against its mandate.

In response, the academics at the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media wrote:

The argument that the mandate of the FFM prevented it from endorsing the Engineering Assessment’s conclusion is easily refuted as a matter of logic. Announcing the release of the Final Report, OPCW stated that “The FFM’s mandate is to determine whether chemical weapons or toxic chemicals as weapons have been used in Syria.” In Douma this could be reduced to deciding between two alternatives: (1) the gas cylinders were dropped from the air, implying that they were used as chemical weapons; (2) the cylinders were placed in position, implying that the incident was staged and that no chemical attack had occurred. Although to conclude that alternative (2) was correct would implicate the opposition, this would not be attribution of blame for a chemical attack but rather a determination that chemical weapons had not been used.

Oppose Western imperialism and authoritarian regimes

If the alleged chemical attack was indeed staged, however, that still does little to improve the record of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Because as award-winning journalist Robert Fisk argued after the report’s release, its conclusion “does not mean that gas has not been used in Syria by the government or even by the Russians or by Isis and its fellow Islamists. Undoubtedly it has. All stand guilty of war crimes in the Syrian conflict.”

But we can oppose both Western military misadventures and brutal administrations in the Middle East. It’s not one or the other.

In its final report, the OPCW did not address the concerns in the engineering assessment. It simply ignored them. Now, the leaked assessment casts doubt on the alleged chemical weapons attack in April 2018. Williamson, the MP for Derby North, deserves our respect for bringing the inconvenient analysis directly to the British government.

Featured image via Mohamed Elmaazi and CBS News/ YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. Great article up to end part anyway. No doubt many people think a nation defending itself from hundreds of thousands of terrorists – with at least 100,000 coming in from over 60 other documented countries – should use what, water cannons, to fight them? Got to love how westerners are appalled at “barrel” bombs when their own countries are using cluster bombs, white phosphorus, depleted uranium etc in their endless wars of aggression against nations that are zero threat to them. The US and UK have been actively supporting al Qaeda in Syria and have often assisted ISIS, along with numerous other terrorist groups. European countries have purchased ISIS oil from Syria while forbidding the legitimate government from selling oil. None of this would have happened if the US, UK and allies had not manufactured this proxy war to topple a popular leader and rip Syria apart for Israel’s “interests” of stealing land and resources of both Syria and Lebanon. While both the US and UK are so enthusiastically assisting Saudi Arabia, the true terrorist regime, in its slaughter and starvation of Yemen; after the “leaders of the free world” destroyed Iraq and Libya; after the same “defenders of democracy” applaud Israeli apartheid and punishing illegal military occupations – any and all absurdly, murderously hypocritical faux condemnation of Syria should be considered as null and void. Indeed, it is the western nations, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey that should be brought to the international criminal court for war crimes, supporting terrorists, and crimes against humanity.

    2. It’s surprising that your author doesn’t realize that the total fraudulence of the Douma hoax is just the “canary in the coal mine” pointing to the total fraudulence of ALL the reports of “Assad gassing his own people”. The OPCW’s reports on previous episodes, based on “evidence” and statements provided by jihadi-affiliated groups, have little if any credibilty – especially now that it is clear that the OPCW is a political actor helping the West with its defamation of Assad. In any case, anyone with a bit of common sense could see that it NEVER made sense for the Syrian army to use banned chemical weapons when conventional armaments work just as well or better for mass slaughter.

      When I was examining the “evidence” for Saddam’s WMDs in the run up to the attack on Iraq, after finding that there were strong grounds for doubting each of the claims I had analyzed to that point, it occurred to me that I didn’t need to rebut any more, because there was evidently a mechanism in place that rewarded Iraqi expatriates for lying about Saddam’s activities – and that the whole body of claims was therefore most likely a lie. If you have one REAL truth, you don’t need a barrage of lies. I think the current situation with Syria is quite comparable.

      The ONLY reason we have been able to learn the truth about Douma is that the Syrian army gained control of the city very soon after the “incident”. This was not the case in previous such episodes – the OPCW got their “evidence” from “the rebels”.

      I can’t rule out the possibility that some lower level half-wit in the Syrian army once used some chlorine – but, if so, no way was that policy endorsed from the top.

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