by Alex GORKA | 17.03.2018
The world held its breath watching the British government rant and rave. The threats were truly scary and the ultimatum was grim enough to give one goosebumps. Finally it all boiled down to the expulsion of 23 diplomats, threats to freeze suspicious bank accounts, the suspension of some bilateral contacts, a revoked invitation for the Russian FM to visit the UK, and the cancellation of plans by senior officials and members of the royal family to travel to see the World Cup games.
Diplomatic relations will not be severed. Russia was not added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, as the PM had threatened to do. Instead, the British government announced some rather symbolic retaliation measures, some of which are nothing more than compliance with the Criminal Finances Act that has been in effect since 2017.
All in all, it’s much ado about nothing. No trade wars. RT can continue broadcasting. The relationship has taken a hit, but far less than what had been anticipated. The question is — why did London stop short of full-blown row with Moscow?
Voices were heard calling for a detailed investigation before any final conclusions were reached. Labor Leader Jeremy Corbyn said the UK needed “a robust dialogue with Russia on all the issues” and warned against cutting off ties. He came under harsh criticism in Parliament, although the only thing Mr. Corbyn wanted was some evidence to go on before pointing the finger at Moscow. He just wondered why the government had not made a formal request for information in accordance with Article 9, clause 2 of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)? He got an emotional response, but nobody explained why the procedures described in the convention had not been invoked.
And what if Mr. Skripal pulls through and offers quite a different story? What if new witnesses appear whose testimony moves the investigation in a different direction?
The UK evidently does not want to go the whole nine yards to uncover the truth. It prefers to make accusations first and launch a halfhearted investigation second.
There is a very important fact that has been almost completely ignored by the British media. Where did the poisoning take place? Yes, we know, the name of that sleepy town is Salisbury. That’s where Mr. Skripal lives. On March 16, Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that the UK would spend 48 million pounds ($67 million) on a new chemical-warfare defense center. It will be built at Porton Down, a military research laboratory that has manufactured the nerve agents VX and sarin.
Where do you think that lab is located? Right, less than eight miles from Mr. Skipal’s home in Salisbury. Vladimir Pasechnik, a senior Soviet expert on biological warfare, who defected to the UK in 1989, worked there. He died in 2001. Russia again? Not a chance. Where he lived was no secret and he had worked there quietly for so many years. It’s the research he did at the Porton Down laboratory that was kept under lock and key. He quit the laboratory in 2000 to set up a business of his own. Since he was no longer working for the government, he was in a position to reveal awkward information. You never know about the people involved in hush-hush activities, and the timing of the events could be a coincidence. But it might not be.
The UK officially ceased all activities associated with nerve gas development in 1989 but scandalous stories about Porton Down have been leaked much more recently. The people who worked in the facility were dying under the most suspicious circumstances. In 2010, the Daily Mail published a very interesting report about these mysterious deaths — all related to the development of nerve agents — which was a fact that had been kept under wraps before. Porton Down featured prominently in all those stories. Wouldn’t this be a good time to remember those in connection with Mr. Skripal’s poisoning?
And another question pops up. Why is the UK refusing to give Russia the samples of the deadly substance known as Novichok that it says was used to poison the former spy? Isn’t it because the real poison was not Novichok but some other agent developed at Porton Down? Could be. You never know. This guess would at least explain the refusal.
Nothing can be said for certain but it’s only natural to look at what we know and make guesses. That’s what analysts are for. Maybe this scenario wasn’t what happened, but there is nothing to rule it out.
After all, Mr. Skripal and his daughter got immediate emergency medical assistance. It arrived at once. Intelligence services? Who knows, but the victims were injected with an unknown substance almost immediately. Someone had known in advance that they’d need help. This is an undeniable fact. Another coincidence? Aren’t there too many of them?
Anyway, the work to determine exactly what substance poisoned Mr. Skripal and his daughter was done nowhere else but Porton Down. Wasn’t it amazing how quickly they were able to say with absolute certainty that the nerve agent was Russian-produced Novichok? They are unbelievably talented people because normally that takes some time.
What next? The UK does not want to go it alone. It has raised the issue in the UN. It has approached NATO. The Skripal case will be added to the agenda at the March 22–23 EU summit and even the talks on Brexit.
The Russiagate scandal in the US appears to be dying down. The Skripal case, as well as the furor raised over the events in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, will breathe new life into the ongoing, well-orchestrated attacks on Moscow.
These days the divided West faces many challenges. Just look at the divisions threatening NATO and the EU. There is nothing better than an external enemy, even an imaginary one, to keep the West united and led by the US. That’s where Russia comes in. We may never know who is to blame for the attempt on Mr. Skripal’s life — it’s not important for those who are leading the anti-Russia campaign. No opportunity to pour more fuel on the fire of anti-Russia sentiments should be passed up. The British government seems up to the task.
The US Warns Damascus over the Use of Deadly Substances: Blaming Others for One’s Own Sins
Arkady SAVITSKY | 18.03.2018
On March 12, US Permanent Representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, announced at a Security Council meeting that the US will take action on its own if that organization fails to establish a cease-fire and end the chemical attacks and suffering of civilians as it pushes for a new 30-day truce in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta. She forces the circulation of a new draft resolution, in view of the failure of the previous one. In a nutshell, the US has adopted a “do what I tell you or else” approach. Sounds sound like an ultimatum! The UK expressed its readiness to join the US. So did France.
Washington blames Russia, Syria, and Iran for ignoring a 30-day cease-fire mandated by the UN last month. Defense Secretary James Mattis declared that the US is concerned over the reports of chlorine-gas use by Syria’s government. CIA director Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated for secretary of state, stated that President Donald Trump will not turn a blind eye to chemical attacks.
It should be noted that Syrian rebels have used chemical weapons (CW) before. This fact has been established by UN investigators. In 2017, the use of toxic agents by rebels was acknowledged by the US State Department. But the US is denying any possibility that the rebels might have staged a provocation in Eastern Ghouta, just as the Russian General Staff had warned. Just a few days ago the Syrian army found a CW lab in that area.
Nikki Hailey’s statement prompted a warning from Moscow that it will take measures to protect the lives of its servicemen and strike back if need be. On March 13, the Chief of Russia’s General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, alleged that the militants were preparing a provocation in Syria that would use chemical agents, intended to justify a massive US strike on Syria’s military sites and troops.
So, the US is adopting a “J’accuse” tone, threatening the use of force with no evidence to support its CW accusations while pointing its finger at Syria’s government, blaming it for firing on the fighters of Al-Nusra, the group excluded from the cease-fire agreements. But it’s Russia, not the US, who enforced five-hour daily breaks in the fighting to enable the evacuation of civilians and the injured from the embattled areas, allowing some deliveries of humanitarian aid.
Now — about the US concern over civilians suffering from chemical attacks. Here we go again: the pot calling the kettle black.
Exactly one year ago, US officials had to confirm that they had used depleted uranium (DU) on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. DU is a bit of a gray area, as no international agreement explicitly bans it. In 2012, the UN General Assembly tried to adopt a resolution restricting its use. The move was supported by 155 states. Twenty-seven states abstained, and only four voted against it. Of course, the US was among those four, not the 155. In 2014, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report on depleted-uranium munitions. The paper concluded that direct contact with DU could “result in exposures of radiological significance.”
The US-led coalition used white phosphorus, a potentially lethal substance, in populated areas during its operations in Iraq and Syria. One of those places was Mosul — the second largest Iraqi city. This fact was confirmed by high-ranking commanders on the field amidst rising criticism. The substance was used during the operation to push the Islamic State (IS) out of the Syrian city of Raqqa — the unofficial IS capital. American cluster bombs have been used in Yemen. The US Defense Department says it won’t give up cluster munitions because they have a legitimate use in military operations. Field commanders are authorized to use them at their discretion. While America is concerned over chemical attacks in Eastern Ghouta, the world is concerned over America’s use of deadly substances in Iraq and Syria that have resulted in civilian casualties.
The US-led coalition wants the rebels to stay in the embattled area — the only springboard from which to strike Damascus. It also wants to demonstrate to the Arab countries its own allegiance to the principle of “responsibility to protect,” while painting those who are backing Syria, such as Russia, as evildoers. It’s part of the current campaign to make Russia look like a rogue state. The clamor over its support of Syria’s offensive in Eastern Ghouta has been timed to coincide with the British accusations of Moscow’s complicity in the “spy poisoning scandal.” These are links in one and the same chain.