Tag Archives: Syria

Netanyahu’s naked empire-building: He demands US recognise Israeli ownership of Golan Heights

Land thief: Benjamin Netanyahu.

Let’s get this straight: The Golan Heights are owned by Syria. Israel has occupied them illegally since 1967.

Benjamin Netanyahu is simply seeking legitimisation of his country’s land-grab.

It is worth noting that Priti Patel resigned in disgrace after meeting Israeli politicians and then calling for the Department for International Development to give international aid money to field hospitals run by the Israeli army in the Golan Heights.

This would have been a tacit granting of legitimacy to the Israeli claim from the UK government.

Fortunately, it seems nobody is keen to accept Mr Netanyahu’s claim.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today said that he would not back down on his demand that the US recognise Israel’s right to the occupied Golan Heights.

“I will not give up our expectation that the United States recognise Israeli sovereignty over Golan,” he said in a statement.

Netanyahu’s remarks come one day after US National Security Adviser John Bolton told Reutersthat the US administration was “not considering the possibility” of recognising Israel’s right to the Syrian area.

Israel occupied the Syrian Golan Heights during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when it also occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The UN continues to describe the Israel-held Golan Heights as “occupied” territory.

Source: Netanyahu urges US to recognise Israel’s right to Golan – Middle East Monitor

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More evidence of false information on the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal

What’s wrong with this picture?

The Salisbury Poisoning story is beginning to unravel badly and the UK’s Conservative government is starting to look as guilty as sin.

The Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and the Media was established to facilitate research into organised persuasive communication (including propaganda and information operations) and media coverage, with respect to the 2011-present conflict in Syria, including related topics.

The poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury earlier this year is a related topic and the working group has been investigating it.

The findings seem clear:

The public has been told a series of stories about the poisoning of these people, none of which are likely to have been true. It seems clear that the government organisations telling these stories never believed they were true, also.

The UK government’s accusations against Russia are false.

The Skripals may have been targeted because of Mr Skripal’s connection with Orbis Business Intelligence, and possible involvement with the creation of a dossier containing questionable information on a connection between US President Donald Trump and Russia – as outlined in an earlier article on This Site.

The UK government’s position is further called into question by the fact that the person putting it forward, Sir Mark Sedwill, used uncorroborated “intelligence”. As he was one of the authors of the so-called “dodgy dossier” on Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, it is entirely possible that his evidence in this case is just as unreliable.

It seems there is no reason to believe anything the Conservatives have to say on this subject. We should all seek our facts elsewhere.

The following briefing note is developed by academics researching the use of chemical and biological weapons during the 2011-present war in Syria. The note reflects work in progress. However, the substantive questions raised need answering, especially given the seriousness of the political situation in the Middle East and UK-Russian relations. We welcome comments and corrections.

Authors: Professor Paul McKeigue, Professor David Miller and Professor Piers Robinson

Working Group on Syria, Media and Propaganda (syriapropagandamedia.org).

 

Key points

  • The Skripals were exposed to a phosphoroamidofluoridate compound named A-234, of high purity indicating that it was most likely prepared for research purposes.
  • A-234 or similar compounds have been synthesized at bench scale by national chemical defence labs in Russia and the US in the 1990s, and more recently in Iran and Czech. A small quantity of A-234 from a Russian state lab was used in the murder of Ivan Kivelidi and Zara Ismailova in 1995.
  • No data on the toxicity of A-234 are available in the public domain. The police statement that the Skripals were exposed through contact with their front door is implausible as there are no known nerve agents that cause onset of symptoms delayed by several hours, and it is improbable that absorption through the skin would cause both individuals to collapse later at exactly the same time.
  • Although Russia is one of several countries that have synthesized A-234 or similar compounds, there is no evidence other than Vil Mirzayanov’s story that these compounds were ever developed (implying industrial-scale production and testing of munitions) for military use. Mirzayanov’s credibility as an independent whistleblower is undermined by his role in a Tatar separatist movement during 2008-2009, backed by the US State Department.
  • There are multiple indications that the UK is hiding information:-
    • the withholding of the identity of the compound as A-234. For example, the UK statement to the OSCE 12 April 2018 states only that ‘ the name and structure of that identified toxic chemical is contained in the fall classified report to States Parties’. See also this briefing. The Chief Executive of Porton Down, in his statement 3 April, referred to the compound only as ‘Novichok’.
    • the withholding of information about its toxicity
    • the issue of a Defence and Security Media Advisory notice on the identity of Skripal’s MI6 handler and the attempt to conceal or deny his role in Orbis Business Intelligence.
    • the sequestration of Yulia Skripal.
  • The UK government’s case against Russia, stated in a letter to NATO, is based on asserting that “only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and motive for the attack on the Skripals”. Each of these points is open to question:-
    • Technical means: it is not seriously disputed that compounds such as A-234 can be produced at bench scale in any modern chemistry lab. 
    • Operational experience: it is alleged that Russia has a track record of state-sponsored assassination, but this is not enough to support the assertion that “only Russia” could have enough experience to attempt unsuccessfully to assassinate two unprotected individuals. 
    • Motive: No other attempted assassinations of defectors from Russian intelligence services have been recorded. Even if such an assassination campaign had been ordered, the Russian state would have good reasons not to initiate it in the first half of 2018.  In contrast there are obvious possible motives (outlined below) for other actors to have taken steps to silence Sergei Skripal at this time. 

 

What was the agent used?

An early report that the hospital was dealing with poisoning caused by an opiate such as fentanyl was most likely based on the initial working diagnosis.  Signs of organophosphate poisoning – constricted pupils, vomiting, reduced consciousness and reduced breathing – could easily be mistaken for opiate overdose, usually a more likely diagnosis.   OPCW has stated that the BZ detected by the Swiss Federal Institute for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection in one of the samples sent by OPCW was not from Salisbury but was in a control sample.

The Russian ambassador reported that on 12 March the Foreign Secretary had told him that the nerve agent used against Mr and Ms Skripal had been identified as A-234.   The OPCW report issued on 12 April did not identify the agent but stated that they had confirmed the identification made by the UK and that this identification had been included in the confidential report provided to “States parties”.  On 14 April the Russian Foreign Minister  stated that A-234 had been reported by the Swiss Federal Institute for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection that was one of the four accredited labs used by OPCW to analyse the Salisbury samples.

Based on public reports, a ChemSpider record for A-234 has been created which assigns it the IUPAC name ethyl [(1E)-1-(diethylamino)ethylidene] phosphoramidofluoridate. Its predicted vapour pressure is very low indicating that it is predicted to be non-volatile. No information on its stability is available.   The OPCW director Uzumcu stated in a newspaper interview that the agent “seems to be very persistent,” and “not affected by weather conditions”.  This was confirmed the next day by an OPCW press statement that: “the chemical substance found was of high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions”.  Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was reported to have stated:  “The chemical does not degrade quickly.  You can assume it is not much different now from the day it was distributed”.   No experimental studies of the stability of A-234 have been reported.

 

Who could have produced A-234 in bench-scale quantities?

It is no longer seriously disputed that, as noted in our earlier briefing, any well equipped university lab can synthesize and purify such chemicals at bench scale.  OPCW reported that the agent (presumably A-234) was of high purity with “almost complete absence of impurities”.   This suggests that it was from a batch that had been synthesized for research, rather than for assassination purposes where it would be unnecessary to purify the agent.

Uzumcu stated in an interview with the New York Times that he had been told by UK officials that 50-100 grams of the agent was used.

“For research activities or protection you would need, for instance, five to 10 grams or so, but even in Salisbury it looks like they may have used more than that. Without knowing the exact quantity, I am told it may be 50, 100 grams or so, which goes beyond research activities for protection”

OPCW quickly contradicted this in a statement that “OPCW would not be able to estimate or determine the amount of the nerve agent that was used in Salisbury on 4 March 2018. The quantity should probably be characterized in milligrams”.

 

Who has studied A-234 or similar compounds?

Bench-scale research on the toxicity of agents that might be used in chemical warfare is entirely legitimate under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and does not have to be declared to OPCW.

  • Russia

Since our last briefing note, more material from the investigation of the Kivelidi poisoning has been published by Novaya Gazeta, updating the earlier article published on 22 March.  The second article includes an image of the mass spectrometry profile of the sample recovered from the telephone handset, which matches that submitted by Edgewood to the NIST98 mass spectrometry database.  The Russian experts who commented on the original result appear not to have had access to the mass spectrometry profile of A-234, and to have incorrectly reconstructed the structure from a best guess, based on the mass-charge ratios of the fragments, as something like the GV agent (both agents have molecular mass 224 daltons, and a 58-dalton fragment).   This establishes that Russia had synthesized this compound at bench scale by the mid 1990s, but does not confirm that it was ever developed for military use as alleged by Mirzayanov.

  • US

1997 newspaper article refers to a secret US army intelligence report referring to Russian development of A-232 and its “ethyl analog” A-234, indicating that the designation of these compounds and their structures was known to the US by this time. As noted in our last briefing note, the Edgewood lab submitted a mass spectrometry profile for A-234 to the public database NIST98, which was current from 1998 to 2001.

patent application submitted by a US government lab in 2008 mentions “Novichoks”, but examination shows that the structures given for these compounds were the dihaloformaldoxime structures previously published as supposed “Novichoks”, not the phosphoramidofluoridates published by Mirzayanov later in 2008.   This does not indicate that the applicants were studying these compounds – most likely they included them to make their patent as broad as possible.

  • Iran and Czechia

study from Iran published in 2016 reported synthesis for research purposes of a compound similar to A-234, differing from it only by the presence of methyl instead of ethyl groups.  In an interview with Czech television, President Zeman stated that in November 2017 the related compound designated A-230 was studied at the Brno Military Research Institute.

  • Other labs

The director of Porton Down has declined to comment on whether Porton Down has stocks of A-234 for research purposes. The OPCW labs that identified A-234 in the specimens from Salisbury were most likely matching it against a mass spectrometry profile in OPCW’s Central Analytical Database.

 

What is known of the toxicity of A-234?

No data on the toxicity of A-234 are available in the public domain.  The printout of the entry in the NIST 98 database appears to cross-reference an entry in the database RTECS (Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances)but no entry for this compound now exists in RTECS.

 

Why was the structure of A-234 revealed?

The structure of A-234 was revealed in a book by Vil S Mirzayanov in 2008, some 13 years after he had emigrated to the US with the story of a secret programme to develop chemical weapons of a class named “Novichoks”. During 2008-2009 the US government, with an active part for the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was encouraging the development of a separatist movement in Tatarstan.  As part of this, Mirzayanov was declared head of a Tatar government-in-exile in December 2008.    The publication of his book may thus have been part of an effort to build up Mirzayanov’s status as a dissident.  His role in this operation may explain why subsequent discussion of his book by OPCW delegates was closely monitored (and discouraged)by the US State Department.   Mirzayanov’s involvement in this operation undermines his credibility as an independent whistleblower.

 

When and where were the Skripals exposed to A-234?

A summary of the different versions on which journalists were apparently briefed by security sources was given by the Russian embassy:-

– The Skripals could be sprayed with poison by attackers in the street (Daily Mail, 6 March, source: “Anti-terror police”).

– The nerve agent could be planted in one of the personal items in Yulia Skripal’s suitcase before she left Moscow for London. According to this theory the toxin was impregnated in an item of clothing or cosmetics or else in a gift that was opened in the house of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, meaning Yulia Skripal was deliberately targeted to get at her father (The Telegraph, 15 March, source: “Senior sources in the intelligence agencies”).

– The nerve agent could be planted in the air conditioner of the car of Skripals (Daily Mail, 19 March, source: “Security expert Philip Ingram”).

– The Skripals could be poisoned through buckwheat that Yulia Skripal had asked her friend to buy and bring for her father, because she had forgotten to pick up the grocery gifts herself (The Sun, 1 April, source: “British investigators”).

On 28 March the police announced that “at this point in our investigation, we believe the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent from their front door”.  

Although it is possible that a nerve agent could be prepared in a formulation that would be absorbed only slowly through the skin, it is implausible that two individuals exposed through contact with the front door would have received doses that caused them to collapse suddenly and so nearly simultaneously that neither had time to call for help, at least three hours later.   It is more likely that they were attacked shortly before they were found collapsed on the park bench.

 

Sergei Skripal’s link with Orbis: possible motive for murder

In the first few days after the poisoning there were media reports that Sergei Skripal had been in regular contact with his MI6 handler,  whose Linked-In profile had stated that he was a consultant for Orbis Business Intelligence.  It appears that this  profile was deleted by March 7, and a Defence and Security Media Advisory Notice was issued to caution journalists against disclosing the identity of this consultant.  However at Skripal’s trial in 2007 his MI6 handler had been identified as Pablo Miller, and the link between Skripal and Miller had been described in detail by Russian opposition media on 6 March.

This link between Skripal and Orbis may be relevant to the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, the founder of Orbis, containing derogatory information on Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.  This dossier had been used by the FBI to apply for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court order authorizing surveillance of Trump’s campaign.  By early 2018 the unravelling of this story was creating serious difficulties for Steele and for those he had worked with.  These difficulties included a referral for criminal investigation by two US Senators, a libel case in the US against the publisher of the dossier which had led to a court ruling that Steele should be questioned in an English court, and a libel case in England against Orbis and Steele.   It is not difficult to postulate a situation in which the potential for damage to US-UK relations could have provided a motive for actors on both sides of the Atlantic to ensure that Sergei Skripal would not be available to give evidence.

 

The UK government’s position

This was summarized in a letter from the National Security Adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill to the NATO Secretary-General on 13 April 2018.   Sedwill’s letter made several assertions that were substantiated only by “intelligence”:

  • By 1993, when Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, it is likely that some Novichoks had passed acceptance testing, allowing their use by the Russian military
  • Russia further developed some Novichoks after ratifying the convention
  • During the 2000s, Russia commenced a programme to test means of delivering chemical warfare agents and to train personnel from special units in the use of these weapons. This programme subsequently included investigation of ways of delivering nerve agents, including by application to door handles. 
  • In the mid-2000s, President Putin was closely involved in the Russian chemical weapons programme
  • Within the last decade Russia has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks

Appearing before the House of Commons Defence Committee on 1 May, Sedwill (11:39) extolled the government’s reaction to the Salisbury incident as “an example of the Fusion Doctrine in practice”.  The Fusion Doctrine brings other government departments under the National Security Council with “the introduction of senior officials as senior responsible owners to deliver each of the NSC’s priorities”.

Sedwill’s involvement in the preparation of the now widely discredited dossier ‘Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, released in September 2002, calls into question his credibility in making these uncorroborated assertions.   The UK government’s case as set out by Sedwill is based on asserting that “only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and motive for the attack on the Skripals”.  Each of these points is open to serious criticism:-

  • Technical means: it is not seriously disputed that A-234 can be produced at bench scale in any organic chemistry lab.
  • Operational experience: it is alleged that Russia has a track record of state-sponsored assassination, but this does not support the assertion that only Russia has the operational experience for such an assassination. On the contrary, the failure of the assassination attempt, against two unprotected individuals, suggests that the perpetrators lacked the operational experience and competence that one would expect of state-directed assassins.
  • Motive: no other attempted assassinations of defectors from Russian intelligence services have been recorded. If the Russian state had decided to begin assassinating these defectors, it is unlikely that they would have chosen to start in March 2018, just before the presidential election and three months before the FIFA World Cup.   However, as noted above, it is possible to identify motives for other actors to silence Sergei Skripal at this time.

Acknowledgements

We thank Professor Rudy Richardson of the University of Michigan for advice on the toxicology of nerve agents. 

Source: Briefing Note: Update on the Salisbury poisonings | Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media


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Syrian boy in ‘chemical attack’ video says it was staged – the UK bombed his country because of a lie

Liar: Theresa May is not being straight with you about her reasons for ordering air strikes on Syria.

It seems clear, now, that Theresa May ordered British forces to bomb parts of Syria because of a lie, perpetrated via the social media and hearsay.

She has claimed repeatedly that the UK had to act to discourage the use of chemical weapons, after seeing shocking footage of children being treated at the hospital in Douma, allegedly for the effects of chemical weapons.

But then journalist Robert Fisk reported back from Douma, and his report was damning – of Theresa May:

https://youtu.be/JNcqBileaHU

Embarrassingly for Channel 4 News, presenter Cathy Newman tried to describe his report as “hearsay” in an interview with Labour MP Chris Williamson.

Mr Williamson was putting forward the view that Parliament should have debated the evidence available before any military action had been ordered – saying the evidence was too flimsy:

Now we have further evidence that he was right and Mrs May was wrong.

Hassan Diab – the seven-year-old boy who was seen in the original video that purported to show the effects of a chemical attack – has been interviewed by TV reporters and said it was a lie. No chemical attack took place. See for yourself:

Is he lying? Is his father? Is it propaganda for the Syrian government? These are all possibilities.

But the lack of evidence of chemical attack tells its own story. Reporters visited the sites of the UK/US/French bombings and found no evidence whatsoever of chemical weapons or their ingredients. Douma now shows no evidence of chemical attack.

Contrast that with Salisbury, where it has been claimed that it will take weeks to decontaminate the town after a highly localised (alleged) attack on just two people (with a third as collateral damage).

Put these together and it is clear that – at the very least – Mrs May’s decision to attack Syria was premature. At the worst, it was completely unnecessary.

So, what was her real reason for an unprovoked assault on another sovereign nation?


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Philip May had a financial interest in bombing Syria – claim

Suspicion: Did Theresa May use the air strikes on Syria to deliver a huge profit to her husband Philip?

Opponents of the Conservative government have spent years looking for a conflict of interest between Theresa May and her husband Philip’s work. It seems we may have found one at last.

Consider this:

“Philip May [husband of UK prime minister Theresa] now works as an investment relationship manager for the Capital Group. [His job] has opened the powerful couple up to suggestions of conflicted interests.

“The Syrian air strikes are a perfect example of how companies can profit from acts of war. It is clear that Philip May has an influence on the final decisions which the UK Prime Minister takes, so is it appropriate for him to work for a company which has now profited from UK military action?

“Currently, Capital Group owns around 10.39 percent of Lockheed Martin [the American global aerospace, defence, security, and advanced technologies company]. So, while UK Prime Minister Theresa May supports Trump and Macron’s military action in Syria, she is also helping her husband’s investment firm to make a killing.

“The Syria air strikes that took place on 14th April, 2018 saw the debut of a new type of cruise missile developed by the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

“The JASSM was produced at a Lockheed Martin plant in Troy, Alabama, and has a low radar cross-section that makes it difficult to detect. The air-launched cruise missile is designed to penetrate as far as 200 miles into enemy territory. The extended version, which destroyed the Barzah Research and Development Center located in the greater Damascus area, can fly more than 500 miles.

“With each JASSM costing over a million dollars, Lockheed Martin will make a tidy profit. Their investors, including Capital Group, will make a fortune, in part due to of one of their employees partners launching legally questionable air strikes, without the permission of the UK Parliament.”

What do you think?


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New evidence has cast doubt on Theresa May’s Syria claims *WHILE SHE WAS MAKING THEM*

Theresa May: Protesting too much?

If Theresa May thinks we’ll swallow unquestioningly her “statement” on the air strikes she ordered last Friday, she must think we were all born yesterday.

We all know the justification by now, right? The claim is that the town of Douma, in Syria, was attacked by government forces using chemical weapons. These have been banned across the world for a century and the US, UK and France launched air strikes against facilities believed to be involved in the manufacture of chemical weapons for humanitarian reasons – to discourage any further use of such weapons. The strikes were said to be tightly targeted, focused on this single objective.

That was the substance of Mrs May’s speech. But it has been seriously undermined already.

She said: “On Saturday 7 April, up to 75 people, including young children, were killed in a horrific attack in Douma, with as many as 500 further casualties. All indications are that this was a chemical weapons attack. UK medical and scientific experts have analysed open-source reports [she means social media posts], images and video footage from the incident and concluded that the victims were exposed to a toxic chemical. That is corroborated by first-hand accounts from NGOs and aid workers, while the World Health Organisation received reports that hundreds of patients arrived at Syrian health facilities on Saturday night with ‘signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals’.”

But as she was participating in a Parliamentary debate on the air strikes, journalist Robert Fisk published a claim that the casualties in the Douma attack were treated for dust inhalation – and not for a chemical gas attack. Listen:

You can also read the Independent article.

“We needed to intervene rapidly to alleviate further indiscriminate humanitarian suffering,” said Mrs May. “It was not just morally right but legally right to take military action, together with our closest allies.

“We have published the legal basis for this action. It required three conditions to be met. First, there must be convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief. Secondly, it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved. Thirdly, the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering, and must be strictly limited in time and in scope to this aim.”

We have already seen that claims of convincing evidence may have been exaggerated – and in any case, claims that action on a humanitarian basis is legal have been disputed. As the use of chemical weapons is now in doubt, the second condition is also unmet – people are still being killed in Syria. Thirdly – well, we’ll come to that.

“This was a limited, targeted and effective strike that would significantly degrade Syrian chemical weapons capabilities and deter their future use, and with clear boundaries that expressly sought to avoid escalation and did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

“As a result, the co-ordinated actions of the US, UK and France were successfully and specifically targeted at three sites. Contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition said at the weekend, these were not “empty buildings”. The first was the Barzeh branch of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre in northern Damascus. This was a centre for the research and development of Syria’s chemical and biological programme. It was hit by 57 American TLAMs and 19 American JASSMs.”

In that case, if chemical weapons were present – or just the ingredients for them – they would have been spread out over a wide area by the explosions. There has been no report of any such contamination.

Quite the opposite, it seems. I accept that the link runs to a report by Russia Today, so perhaps you’d prefer a report by CBS News – the US media outlet. Both make it clear that reporters saw no evidence of harmful chemicals – just anti-venom for snakebites (as reported on This Site previously). We now see that Barzeh was the planned base for the OPCW inspectors, who would have taken up residence there on April 15. Well, it’s rubble now. Who benefits from that?

“The second site was the Him Shinsar chemical weapons bunkers, 15 miles west of the city of Homs, which contained both a chemical weapons equipment and storage facility and an important command post. These were successfully hit by seven French SCALP cruise missiles.

“The third site was the Him Shinsar chemical weapons storage site and former missile base, which is now a military facility. This was assessed to be a location of Syrian sarin and precursor production equipment, whose destruction would degrade Syria’s ability to deliver sarin in the future. This was hit by nine US TLAMs, five naval and two SCALP cruise missiles from France and eight Storm Shadow missiles launched by our four RAF Tornado GR4s. Very careful scientific analysis was used to determine where best to target these missiles to maximise the destruction of stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks to the surrounding area. The facility that we targeted is located some distance from any known population centres, reducing yet further any such risk of civilian casualties.”

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, in his response to the statement, pointed out that OPCW inspectors had given both Barzeh and the Him Shinsar facilities a clean bill of health in November 2017.

He said: “In relation to the air strikes against the Barzeh and Him Shinsar facilities, the Prime Minister will be aware that the OPCW carried out inspections on both those facilities in 2017 and concluded that ‘the inspection team did not observe any activities inconsistent with obligations’ under the chemical weapons convention.”

Mention of the OPCW brings us to further questions about the intelligence Mrs May has used:

The new questions are:

  1. If we knew where [Syrian president Bashar al] Assad was stashing his chemical weapons, why did we wait for him to use them again?
  2. If we just bombed chemical weapons factories in Syria, why was the existence of these factories never reported before – to the UN, the OPCW or the public?
  3. Why did the bombing commence before the OPCW had concluded their chemical weapons investigation?

In this context, it was bizarre to hear Mrs May saying that she supports the OPCW investigation, after having blown up the investigators’ base: “”e support strongly the work of the OPCW fact-finding mission that is currently in Damascus.”

She went on to say that she decided to act ahead of any results because the OPCW would not be able to attach blame, due to a Russian veto on a UN resolution to establish such a mechanism. She said: “Even if the OPCW team is able to visit Douma to gather information to make that assessment… it cannot attribute responsibility.

She continued: “Even if we had the OPCW’s findings and a mechanism to attribute, for as long as Russia continued to veto the UN Security Council would still not be able to act.”

So Mrs May hid evidence that Syria was developing chemical weapons from the OPCW, supported a military operation that bombed the OPCW’s planned base of operations, and would have taken part in air strikes no matter what report the OPCW investigators would have given. That doesn’t seem very supportive to me! 

Mrs May denied acting on the orders of US President Donald Trump: “It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in Syria and to uphold and defend the global consensus that these weapons should not be used, for we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised—within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.”

“On the streets of the UK or elsewhere”. She had to mention the alleged chemical attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, you see. It is as though that incident was staged in order to soften up the British public to the idea of military action on the pretext of preventing the use of such weaponry. Isn’t it?

Mrs May later added: “Last Thursday’s report from the OPCW has confirmed our findings that it was indeed a Novichok in Salisbury… While of a much lower order of magnitude, the use of a nerve agent on the streets of Salisbury is part of a pattern of disregard for the global norms that prohibit the use of chemical weapons.”

The problem is, the lab that tested the Salisbury substance for the OPCW found that it was BZ – a chemical agent apparently used by the UK and the US.

And there is no evidence of chemical weapons at Barzeh, and both that facility and those at Him Shinsar were cleared by the OPCW five months ago.

Without actual evidence of chemical weapons, it is impossible for Mrs May to justify these activities. And she has no evidence.

Mrs May continued: “Why did we not recall Parliament? The speed with which we acted was essential in co-operating with our partners to alleviate further humanitarian suffering and to maintain the vital security of our operations.”

We have established that it wasn’t. Blowing up facilities that have nothing to do with chemical weapons will not alleviate humanitarian suffering (actually, what does that even mean? She was trying to say she was acting on humanitarian principles but mangled the English language instead).

“This was a limited, targeted strike on a legal basis that has been used before.”

And falsely used in this instance.

“And it was a decision that required the evaluation of intelligence and information, much of which was of a nature that could not be shared with Parliament.”

But it could have been shared with other members of the Privy Council, like Mr Corbyn. Clearly it was not, which casts it into doubt.

The best that can be said of Mrs May’s statement is that it is unconvincing.

We have an eyewitness account that the alleged victims of a chemical attack in Douma were in fact under treatment for dust inhalation, there is no evidence that chemical weapons were manufactured or stored at the sites the UK, US and France bombed last weekend (and claims that a Russian chemical weapon was used on the Skripals have been contradicted), so there was no justification for the military action.

On the other hand, Mrs May’s keenness to ascribe the Salisbury poisoning to Russia without evidence, her support for a military adventure that stymied OPCW inspectors, her withholding of evidence – or inability to supply it – from the same organisation – all these elements seem very suspicious indeed.

As this situation is ongoing, further information is likely to become available and I stand ready to be corrected if Mrs May is vindicated.

At the moment, she seems a weak leader, desperately trying to manufacture some popularity – and failing.


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If you think there is anything legal about the air strikes in Syria, think again

Liar: Theresa May is not being straight with you about her reasons for ordering air strikes on Syria.

The case against the legality of the air strikes Theresa May ordered in Syria is growing.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres made a carefully-worded statement on the strikes that could not hide his opinion.

“There’s an obligation, particularly when dealing with matters of peace and security, to act consistently with the Charter of the United Nations and with international law in general,” he stated, implying that the United States, the UK and France had not.

“The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. I call on the members of the Security Council to unite and exercise that responsibility.” The United States, the UK and France are all members of the security council, along with Russia – which supports the Syrian government. The demand for all four nations to put away their bullets and bombs and find a peaceful solution could not be clearer.

UK Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn used much plainer language. In a letter to Mrs May, he wrote:

“I believe the action was legally questionable, and this morning the UN Secretary General has said as much, reiterating that all countries must act in line with the UN Charter.

“You assured me that the Attorney General had given clear legal advice approving the action. I would therefore be grateful if you would publish this advice in full today.”

He also stated: “As I said I believe that Parliament should have been consulted and voted on the matter. The UK Prime Minister is accountable to Parliament, not to the whims of a US President.”

Mrs May has yet to respond – although some others have spoken up for her:

Here’s the appropriate response – from Mail columnist Peter Hitchens, who is doing good work on this matter:

Tory daftie James Cleverly weighed in:

But it turns out he was a lightweight:

What exactly did Theresa May hit, anyway? The Barzah Scientific Research facility, that had a clean bill of health from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) last November…

https://twitter.com/realDougBell/status/985201824843124736

… and an empty snake venom antidote factory, it seems.

Theresa May spent £1.6 million on those strikes.

Ah. So there was a reason to bomb the anti-venom factory – but only if the Tory government has been up to no good. Why would Theresa May want to sabotage the OPCW inspection? What could they find that the Tories would want to hide?

Is it possible that the Russians were right when they predictedfake chemical weapons attack in Syria, that would be used to justify air strikes on that country?

If so – and circumstantial evidence suggests an investigation would be appropriate – then I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that very little of this entire affair is legal.


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Is there a covert motive behind the Skripal poisonings and the Syria air strike? Here’s the evidence

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman meets Boris Johnson: What did they discuss?

Craig Murray makes a couple of very interesting points here.

Why was a Saudi prince visiting London, Washington and Paris just as the row over the Skripal poisoning was kicking off, and before the air strikes on Syria were called?

How did Russia know that a chemical attack would take place in Syria – fake or real – and that it would be used as the reason for an air strike?

And why would the Syrian government attack Douma with chemical weapons, the day before it was due to be handed over to the Syrian government?

What do you think?

March 4 2018 Sergei and Yulia Skripal are attacked with a nerve agent in Salisbury

March 6 2018 Boris Johnson blames Russia and calls Russia “a malign force”

March 7 2018 Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia arrives in London for an official visit

March 13 2018 Valeri Gerasimov, Russian Chief of General Staff, states that Russia has intelligence a fake chemical attack is planned against civilians in Syria as a pretext for US bombing of Damascus, and that Russia will respond militarily.

March 19 2018 Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia arrives in Washington for an official visit

April 8 2018 Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia arrives in Paris for an official visit

April 8 2018 Saudi funded jihadist groups Jaysh al Islam and Tahrir al-Sham and UK funded jihadist “rescue group” The White Helmets claim a chemical weapons attack occurred in their enclave of Douma the previous day – just before its agreed handover to the Syrian army – and blame the Syrian government.

April 11 2018 Saudi Arabia pledges support for attack on Syria

April 14 2018 US/UK/French attack on Syria begins.

This attack on Syria is, beyond doubt, a huge success for the machinations of Mohammed Bin Salman. Please do read my post of 8 March which sets out the background to his agenda, and I believe is essential to why we find our nations in military action again today. Despite the fact the vast majority of the people do not want this.

Source: Just Who’s Pulling the Strings? – Craig Murray


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Never mind Theresa May’s refusal to accept foreign refugees in 2016 – what about her attitude to foreigners in general?

This is what Theresa May wants to do with foreigners – get rid of them or send them to prison.

Let’s be honest – Theresa May is a xenophobe.

Look at her record and it’s easy to conclude that she didn’t order airstrikes because she wanted to help the poor displaced Syrian children – she did it to kill foreigners.

Yes, it’s right to remind Mrs May that she voted to turn away asylum-seekers in 2016.

But let’s remind ourselves of her 2013 decision to flood London with advertising vans telling illegal immigrants to “Go home”.

It was a decision that prompted Mrs May’s fellow racists to report innocent British citizens to the immigration authorities, on the flimsiest of grounds.

Theresa May gave an impassioned speech defending her decision to launch airstrikes against Syria co-ordinated alongside the US and France.

May drew upon traumatic accounts of the country’s ongoing devastation in order to reinstate the point that Syrian residents are in severe danger.

We have seen the harrowing images of men, women and children lying dead with foam in their mouths.

These were innocent families who, at the time this chemical weapon was unleashed, were seeking underground shelter in basements.

Syria is currently in the midst of a Civil War described as one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time. According to WorldVision, the conflict has left 13 million Syrian citizens in need of assistance; more than 5.6 million have fled the country in search of asylum, whereas a further 6.1 million have been internally displaced. Half of these affected victims are thought to be children.

In 2016, thousands of these minors travelled unaccompanied to Europe in search of aid. When they arrived, MPs took a vote on whether or not to accept them.

At the time, Theresa May, alongside 293 other MPs, voted against accepting them.

Source: People are reminding Theresa May about her refusal to accept child refugees in 2016 | indy100


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Labour leads in opinion poll taken before Syria air strikes. The NEXT poll result should show how badly Theresa May has screwed up

Was this the reason Theresa May joined Donald Trump’s hugely ill-advised and provocative air strike against alleged chemical weapons sites in Syria? To give herself the proverbial “Falklands bounce” – an improved rating due to a successful overseas military operation – in the polls?

If so, she may be in for a huge surprise.

The latest poll, collected on April 11-12 and released yesterday (April 14) shows that, after weeks in which the Conservative Party’s puppet press has done all it can to rubbish the reputation of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Mrs May was in serious trouble. Labour had gained the lead – and this was in a poll by ComRes, a company whose methodology is notoriously weighted against Labour (in comparison with the other pollsters).

The lead was only one per cent – well within the margin for error. But consider Susan’s comment, below:

We all know what happened at the general election, too – Labour’s share of the national vote increased by around 10 per cent, crushing the Conservatives’ slender majority at a time when Theresa May thought she would gain a crushing victory. So ComRes seemed to have made a huge mistake in its weightings – the assumptions it made about who would vote and how.

And the methodology hasn’t changed, as far as we know.

Meaning: Labour may have an absolutely enormous lead.

And it was into this atmosphere that Mrs May launched her attempt to become a military hero by allying herself with Donald Trump – an attempt that has backfired against her. For example, here’s a criticism of her decision to support the bombing of chemical weapons facilities:

That is an excellent point.

https://twitter.com/xugla/status/985081502710009856

So in fact, if there were any chemical weapons in these places, Mrs May’s decision is likely to have spread them across Syria.

What a fool. Even if she hasn’t spread chemical weapons across a country, she has harmed ordinary people – and they won’t forget who did it.

Mrs May has tried to justify herself with statements protesting the accuracy of the air strikes, and the legitimacy of the action:

But we know better:

https://twitter.com/xugla/status/985245651360518144

Mrs May took a decision not to recall Parliament early from its Easter recess and have a debate on whether to support Mr Trump’s plan for air strikes. In fact, we know that she deliberately chose to join the military action before Parliament could debate the matter – and now she is getting a verbal pasting for it:

Disgust is the only sane response – but Douglas Henshall (yes, as far as I know, the actor) went further:

He won’t be alone in that, after this weekend.

So let’s look forward to the first polls taken after this weekend; they may have huge ramifications for the future of the UK – and the rest of the world.


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POLL: Theresa May has taken us to war. What should she do now?

Warmonger: Theresa May.

The opprobrium is all over the Internet – not least from Russia.

Here’s what President Putin has to say about the premature air strikes ordered by Donald Trump and enacted by the US military and his lackeys Theresa May in the UK and Emmanuel Macron in France:

“On April 14, the United States, supported by its allies, launched an airstrike against military and civilian targets in the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Already you’re probably thinking, “Civilian targets?” Well…

https://twitter.com/arturaskerelis/status/984968539604955137

“Just as one year ago, when the Shayrat Airbase in Syria came under attack, the US used as a pretext a staged chemical attack against civilians, this time in Douma, a Damascus suburb. Having visited the site of the would-be chemical attack, Russian military experts did not find any traces of chlorine or any other toxic agent. Not a single local resident was able to confirm that a chemical attack had actually taken place.

“The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons dispatched its experts to Syria in order to investigate all the circumstances. However, in a sign of cynical disdain, a group of Western countries decided to take military action without waiting for the results of the investigation.”

This is accurate, it grieves me to report:

Ah,  but there was! It was vitally important for Mrs May to bypass democracy:

Why the desperation for airstrikes, in any case? A former head of the UK armed forces was interviewed by Sky News – but isn’t it convenient that he was cut off when he started straying from the officially-approved story?

“Through its actions, the US makes the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria even worse and brings suffering to civilians. In fact, the US panders to the terrorists who have been tormenting the Syrian people for seven years, leading to a wave of refugees fleeing this country and the region.”

Yes – half a million dead and 10 million displaced. Many have become refugees, but Theresa May didn’t want them in the UK!

“Russia will convene an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the aggressive actions by the US and its allies.”

That is an astonishingly restrained response.

It is possible that Mr Putin expects public opinion to bear against the Western leaders who ordered the air strikes and – apparently – killed more innocent people. There’s certainly no shortage of disapproval! Here’s a representative sample:

https://twitter.com/ToryFibs/status/985014372895481856

UK Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has rightly savaged Mrs May’s “legally questionable” decision in which she “trailed after Donald Trump”.

He said: “Bombs won’t save lives or bring about peace,” adding that the strikes risked further escalation of the conflict in Syria and – crucially – “makes real accountability for war crimes and use of chemical weapons less, not more likely.

“Britain should be playing a leadership role to bring about a ceasefire in the conflict, not taking instructions from Washington and putting British military personnel in harm’s way.

“The Government should do whatever possible to push Russia and the United States to agree to an independent UN-led investigation of last weekend’s horrific chemical weapons attack so that those responsible can be held to account.”

He said: “Theresa May should have sought parliamentary approval, not trailed after Donald Trump.”

We are left with one burning question:


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