Security forces driven off by large crowd, small explosion
The UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) continues to prevent chemical inspectors from entering Douma for their investigation, citing safety concerns. They have offered no timetable for when the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspectors will be allowed in.
The OPCW inspectors did not visit Monday, and there were a lot of allegations exchanged as to why. Though British officials blamed Russia for the delay, it is now clear that the UNDSS is driving the scheduling.
The UNDSS team visited two sites in Douma, but fled both times. In the first case, they claimed there was a large crowd there, and they were concerned about safety. At the second site there was a report of an explosion nearby, and claimed to have come under small arms fire by some unknown faction. No UN workers were injured, though one Syrian was said to have sustained light injuries working in a security capacity.
The OPCW inspectors are supposed to look into an alleged chemical weapons attack earlier this month. There is no public proof that the 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. 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.
Now it’s still not clear if the OPCW will ever be allowed in, with the Russian UN Ambassador expressing annoyance at new Security Council attempts to determine responsibility for the attack. Ambassador Nebenzia noted this was “futile” since the US, Britain, and France already attacked Syria in the first place.
The security pretext is pretty flimsy though. Despite all the UNDSS security concerns, media groups seem to have no problem getting into Douma safely. One of the most egregious examples is a CNN reporter in Douma, handling and even sniffing supposed evidence.
This only adds to questions. Can CNN really infiltrate Douma and “investigate” in such a haphazard way while the OPCW can’t even get on site? Moreover, would a CNN reporter really sniff garments she believed were covered in chemical weapons on air?
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. The US suggestion was based on the fact that Russian military police visited the site. The visit, however, was done days ago, and Russia said it was meant to deter the West from attacking Douma and destroying evidence.
Russia also wanted inspectors into the site from day one, which is not true of the United States or its allies. A Russian proposal for such an investigation was voted down at the UN Security Council, and the US-led coalition attacked multiple sites in Syria before the investigation could discredit them.
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.
Indeed, there is growing speculation that this UNDSS effort to block the inspectors is a relatively transparent effort to prevent the investigation happening now.