News Release

New Assessments from Leading Scientist Accuse OPCW Leadership of Rigging on Alleged Syrian Chemical Weapons Attacks Used to Justify U.S. Bombings


Today is publishing several detailed analyses of claims by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. These assessments are by Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. The OPCW reports are about alleged chemical weapons attacks by Syria. Those alleged attacks were used to justify bombings of Syria by the U.S., Britain and France.

On Tuesday, the Institute for Public Accuracy released an initial assessment by Postol of recently-revealed documents from the OPCW. Postol stated that these engineering assessments, which he regards at highly professional, and which were notably not made public until recently, show that the alleged April 7, 2018 chemical weapons attacks in Douma “were staged.” These ostensible attacks were used as a justification by the U.S., Britain and France to bomb Syria on April 14, 2018.

Through Tuesday, calls — especially on social media — escalated for there to be media reporting on the recently-revealed OPCW document, as well as Postol’s initial assessment. Then, late Tuesday afternoon, the State Department issued a statement claiming that Syria might use chemical weapons, leading instead to a series of media stories echoing the State Department’s alleged concerns, i.e., New York Times: “U.S. Says Assad May Be Using Chemical Weapons in Syria Again.”

Today, Postol charges that the recently revealed OPCW engineering assessment, which is dated Feb. 27, 2019 — and which Postol describes as highly competent — runs counter to the document the OPCW presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, just a few days later. Said Postol of the document presented by the OPCW: “It contradicts the rigorous engineering assessment — it doesn’t just exclude it as I’d initially thought.” He pointed to several problematic portions of the March 1 document, including sections 2.13, 2.14, 2.15 and 2.17. He also notes a series of technical red flags between the two documents, including the engineering assessment referring to “supposed experts” on page two.

Also today, the Institute for Public Accuracy is releasing a letter Postol sent to the German Foreign Ministry on April 15, 2019, when Germany held the presidency of the UN Security Council.

Postol warned of “misleading information and conclusions” by the OPCW regarding the alleged chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017. This alleged attack was used to justify the first Trump administration bombing targeting the Syrian government, on April 6, 2017. Much reporting on this attack was glowing, such as “63 Hours: From Chemical Attack to Trump’s Strike in Syria” from Michael D. Shear and Michael Gordon at the New York Times.

Postol also provided the three supporting documents, which is making public today; see below.

In his overview letter, Postol stated the reports “contain inaccurate descriptions of primary evidence from satellite imagery, photographs and videos cited by the OPCW. They also cite conclusions and analysis based on physics and phenomenology that are not based on sound scientific principles and show little evidence of real expertise on munitions, explosive effects, and delivery mechanisms. The misleading information and conclusions from these reports led to a pointless exchange of vetoes between Russia and the United States in the UN Security Council on Nov 6, 2017. In addition, the erroneous findings in these reports pose a serious long-term threat to the credibility of the UN and its investigative agencies as enforcers of international law.”

Postol summarizes his supporting documents:

“The first of the three documents is a scientific manuscript titled Computational Forensic Analysis for the Chemical Weapons Attacks at Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017. This manuscript has been accepted for publication by Science and Global Security, a refereed science-based journal published out of Princeton University. The paper has seven authors all of whom are established scientists plus it has been refereed under the supervision of the editors of the journal. The manuscript reports supercomputer calculations that show that the OPCW finding is incorrect that a crater at Khan Sheikhoun was produced by the kinetic impact of a bomb that was the source of a sarin release. The crater was instead produced by the explosion of an improvised artillery rocket warhead. …

The second document attached to this letter is an annotated and highlighted version of the letter of 26 October 2017 transmitted by the Leadership Panel of the OPCW to the UN Security Council. …

“The third critical document is an Attachment to the annotated and highlighted version of the letter of 26 October 2017. The attachment is titled Forensic Evidence Cited by the OPCW that Contradict Its Reported Analysis and Conclusions henceforth referred to as The Attachment.”

Postol noted in his assessment on Tuesday: “I will have a much more detailed summary of the engineering report later this week. For now, it suffices to say that the UN OPCW engineering report is completely different from the UN OPCW report on Khan Sheikhoun, which is distinguished by numerous claims about explosive effects that could only have been made by technically illiterate individuals. In very sharp contrast, the voices that come through the engineering report are those of highly knowledgeable and sophisticated experts.

“A second issue that is raised by the character of the OPCW engineering report on Douma is that it is entirely unmentioned in the report that went to the UN Security Council. This omission is very serious, as the findings of that report are critical to the process of determining attribution. There is absolutely no reason to justify the omission of the engineering report in the OPCW account to the UN Security Council as its policy implications are of extreme importance.”