Chemical Inspectors Again Visit Syria’s Douma, Collect More Samples

New samples were collected at a separate site in town

Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) made a second visit to the Syrian town of Douma on Wednesday, collecting addition samples from a previously uninvited site. The OPCW first entered Douma last Friday, collecting samples at sites of an alleged April 7 chemical attack.

Officials still have not said when the results of the samples will be available. It took an entire week for the OPCW to get to Douma the first time, as the UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) blocked them, citing security concerns.

Despite the OPCW being kept out all week, Western journalists from several outlets managed to visit without issue. CBS and AFP reporters managed to get to Douma readily, while CNN bizarrely got a reporter into the sites to inspect, and sniff, evidence.

The US, Britain, and France all seem to anticipate the OPCW probe not going their way. Each made claims over the course of the last week that Syrians and Russians were “tampering” with the site. They also claimed the Russians were responsible for the delays to the OPCW.

That was never true. The OPCW confirmed that the only obstacle to visiting Douma over the past week was the UNDSS. Experts are also dismissing the tampering claims, saying there is no reason to think that evidence even could be removed if a chemical attack at any of the sites happened.

And there are plenty of reasons to doubt it didn’t. A number of reporters visiting Douma found locals dismissing the claims. It is entirely possible the death toll was the result of conventional airstrikes, and no chemicals were used.

In the meantime, spurious claims about what happened continue to circulate, including media claims the OPCW is looking for “nerve agents,” even though no official has ever even alleged that any such thing was used.

Since the US, France, and Britain already attacked Syria on April 13 over the Douma allegations, they are probably not looking forward to the results. Anything that challenges their allegations is likely to be dismissed as in some way flawed, or indicative of a coverup, despite experts saying such a coverup would be physically impossible.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.