Surprise, surprise! The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) held the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) responsible for three supposed “chemical weapons attacks” which took place more than three years ago.
The organization’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT), responsible for identifying the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons, claimed in its first report that SyAAF warplanes conducted three airstrikes with chemical munitions on northern Hama on March 24, 25 and 30 of 2017.
The report reached the following conclusions:
- At approximately 6:00 on 24 March 2017, an Su-22 military airplane belonging to the 50th Brigade of the 22nd Air Division of the Syrian Arab Air Force, departing from Shayrat airbase, dropped an M4000 aerial bomb containing sarin in southern al-Lataminah, affecting at least 16 persons.
- At approximately 15:00 on 25 March 2017, a helicopter of the Syrian Arab Air Force, departing from Hama airbase, dropped a cylinder on the al-Lataminah hospital; the cylinder broke into the hospital through its roof, ruptured, and released chlorine, affecting at least 30 persons.
- At approximately 6:00 on 30 March 2017, an Su-22 military airplane belonging to the 50th Brigade of the 22nd Air Division of the Syrian Arab Air Force, departing from Shayrat airbase, dropped an M4000 aerial bomb containing sarin in southern al-Lataminah, affecting at least 60 persons the report, which was released on April 8 reads.
The IIT claimed that its report relied on relevant Fact Finding Mission (FFM) finding as well as on samples and other material obtained directly by the Technical Secretariat in the territory of Syria.
“[t]he IIT has concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the perpetrators of the use of sarin as a chemical weapon in al-Lataminah on 24 and 30 March 2017, and the use of chlorine as a chemical weapon on 25 March 2017 were individuals belonging to the Syrian Arab Air Force. … Attacks of such a strategic nature would have only taken place on the basis of orders from the higher authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic military command. Even if authority can be delegated, responsibility cannot. … In the end, the IIT was unable to identify any other plausible explanation,” IIT Coordinator, Santiago Oñate-Laborde, said in the report.
The OPCW Technical Secretariat established the IIT two years ago under a Western-backed decision approved by most of the organization’s members.
Despite carrying the first formal accusation against Syrian government forces, the IIT report came as a surprise to no one. The OPCW has been adopting and promoting accusations against the Damascus government for years.
This behavior is especially surprising because earlier the OPCW itself confirmed that Syria destroyed all of its chemical weapons under a deal brokered by Russia in 2013. The organization is yet to confirm how Syria would get Sarin, or even to ask to inspect new facilities in the country as it is allowed to do by the 2013 agreement. This raises serious concerns regarding the real goals of the organization.