UN Team’s Security Concerns Keep Inspectors Out of Douma

Still No Timetable for Getting Inspectors to Sites

Chemical weapons inspectors still remain unable to enter the Syrian town of Douma. Once anticipated to visit the site of an alleged April 7 attack on Monday, inspectors have been repeatedly delayed by a UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) team refusing to clear the visit as safe.

Originally, there were many allegations exchanged as to why the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was delayed. Britain blamed Russia, initially, though the OPCW has since clarified it is holding off purely on the UNDSS’ say-so.

On a Wednesday visit, the UNDSS visited two Douma sites, but fled both times. They complained the first site was too crowded, and they were concerned about safety. There was a shooting incident at the second site, though the only casualty was a Syrian hired as extra security.

Either way, claims about security appear to be overstated. The Syrian government managed to facilitate a visit by CBS reporters days ago without incident. Many media groups seem to have no problem getting into Douma safely.

There have been numerious media attempts to turn conjecture into fact. One of the most egregious examples of war propaganda is a CNN reporter in Douma, handling and even sniffing supposed evidence.

There is no public proof that the April 7 strike took place, and a mounting amount of doubt that it didn’t, driven by inquiries from Robert Fisk. Residents within Douma have also expressed doubts about the strike.

OAN investigators weren’t able to confirm any evidence of a chemical weapons attack on Douma, either. To the extent that investigations are happening, they suggest there was no chemical strike.

Clearly, Douma was attacked by Syrian forces on that day, and the day prior. Those strikes, however,  were insisted by the Syrian government to be purely conventional strikes. There is little to suggest anything else, beyond claims from the White Helmets, and Western nations claiming to have secret proof.

Syria and Russia have both denied from the start that the attack took place, and they have believed the OPCW visit would reveal the truth. Russia in particular was pushing for an investigation to take place before any rash action against Syria. Ultimately, US-led attacks on Syria happened Friday night.

The US seems to have been anticipating the OPCW probe not going their way, and is already accusing Syria and Russia of plotting to tamper with the site. There’s no evidence of tampering of any kind. Despite this, Western officials complain the UNDSS delays are making tampering easier. Moreover, those same officials warn “time is of the essence” for the OPCW to be able to review evidence, since the bodies of those slain in Douma are mostly buried.

Yet it was Western officials who led the UN Security Council to reject a Russian proposal for an investigation in the first place. The US-led coalition attacked multiple sites in Syria before the investigation could happen.

Since the US, Britain, and France already attacked Syria, they have little reason to want the OPCW visit to be successful. They clearly weren’t interested in getting the facts before the strike, and facts that don’t support their narrative could be very embarrassing.

Speculation is only growing that the UNDSS delays are an effort to block the OPCW long enough that a conclusion that the chemical attack never took place could be contested on the grounds that they waited too long.

Russia and Syria have both been pushing for the investigation from the start, and guaranteed security for them. They’ve further deployed Russian military police to the site to deter Western strikes from targeting Douma itself and destroying evidence.The UNDSS expressed concern at the lack of Syrian government control on the ground, though this can’t be helped, as it’s part of the terms of the ceasefire in Douma that Syrian troops stay out.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.