Intelligence is a complex subject, one reason why it’s never wise to rubbish an intelligence expert’s conclusions ungraciously. The expert will often turn out to be right and you may end up with egg on your face!
Intelligence experts often disagree of course, and can revise their opinions. An intelligence expert however usually stands a better chance of getting it right than a rank amateur. There were one or two frankly churlish responses to my last article, on Salisbury.
It now turns out that when the Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland examined samples of the Salisbury nerve agent, at the request of OPCW, they weren’t Novichok at all. They were in fact BZ, an hallucinogen developed here and in America. Boomps-a-daisy.
A tiny amount of Novichok was mixed in, but as the Russian government have been quick to point out, Novichok once mixed is unstable and would not have lasted the 14 days it took for the samples to reach Switzerland. Somebody, somewhere (Porton Down?) added some Novichok for good measure. As Downing Street’s case that Russia was responsible fell apart they needed a distraction, badly.
On April 6th Syrian forces renewed their offensive against Jaysh al-Islam terrorists in Douma, a suburb of Damascus. President Assad is winning the Syrian Civil War, big time. On the following day, at 1300 and 1630 Zulu (GMT), there were two reported chemical weapons attacks on Douma. These were immediately blamed on the Syrian government.
No one in Whitehall or Washington deigned to suggest a motive for such a bizarre move, not least at a time when President Assad’s Russian backers were under international pressure following the false accusation of Russian involvement in the Salisbury Incident. For all his faults, President Assad is a rational actor. His human rights record isn’t brilliant, indeed it’s on a par with Iran’s, but he’s not stupid.
What’s more, there were no overheads of the alleged attack. What do I mean by overheads? The alleged delivery systems were helicopters. The presence of helicopters over the target area would have been identified by satellite reconnaissance. Weather conditions were good – they often are over Syria.
Damascus has had heavy satellite coverage since the start of the civil war. Remember that a satellite does not have to be overhead the target area in order to capture imagery. A bird could be several hundred miles off track and still get useful oblique imagery, not least of a target the size of a helicopter. You would get electro-optical, radar and infra-red returns. There is no such thing as a stealth helicopter!
The US Navy also had at least one Arleigh Burke class destroyer within radar range. The Arleigh Burkes are equipped with a superb, phased-array radar system with the ability to detect targets at long range. Had there been helicopters overhead Douma at the material times the US Navy would have captured and recorded relevant radar returns.
It was noticeable that US Defense Secretary James Mattis was adopting a much more cautious approach than either President Trump or Theresa May, and no wonder. I have no doubt that those nice people the Defense Intelligence Agency, into whom I have bumped from time to time over the years, were telling him that there were no helicopters overhead Douma at either 1300Z or 1630Z on 7th April. So no chemical weapons attack then.
Any doubt was removed by the crudely faked photos knocked out by the White Helmets. If a real attack had taken place you wouldn’t need fake photos, indeed you’d have some real photos to offer.
The lack of precautions taken by the medical staff treating the victims was also noticeable. No way were they dealing with the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack. No doubt some chlorine had been distributed, but it was distributed on the ground, for effect. The victims weren’t victims of the Syrian government but of its opponents.
The same thing happened at Khan Shaykhun in April last year. Once again the White Helmets were implicated in helping to set up a false flag allegation against Assad. That attack was actually carried out by a NATO ally, Turkey.
The Russian government knew perfectly well that Assad wasn’t responsible. They also have good radar, and military advisers in Damascus. The MSM went ballistic when Major-General Igor Konashenkov blamed Britain for the attack, but the general wasn’t that far off the mark. The attack was undoubtedly coordinated from London, which partly bankrolls the White Helmets. General Konashenkov would have had access to the communications intercepts between London and Syria.
Where the general went wrong however, with respect, was in attributing the blame to the British government. Obviously Theresa May didn’t order a chemical weapons attack on Douma. She may be a Remainer, but she’s not a war criminal. The tasking almost certainly came from GO2, the German intelligence operation in London. You may have heard of it by another name – Ian Fleming, who was an active intelligence officer until his murder by German intelligence (the DVD, of which GO2 is a part) in 1964, used ‘O2’ as the inspiration for his fictional ‘Double O section’. It was a case of art imitating life. The villain in Moonraker (named after a German double agent in British Naval Intelligence tracked by Fleming before the war) wasn’t German for nothing.
Albeit in ignorance (she’s easily taken in, with respect) Theresa May sanctioned an armed attack upon a sovereign nation with whom we are not at war, on a false pretext. Furthermore the chemical weapons attack used as the pretext was in fact organised from London and a para-terrorist organisation funded in part by the Department for International Development was involved. To add to Theresa May’s woes President Putin has the transcripts. Whoops.
The PM will have to go. She will stay on as a caretaker whilst the Tory Party elects a new leader, who presumably would be a genuine Brexiteer, such as that nice man Jacob Rees-Mogg.