Where do the interests of democracy lie? Working Group responds to UK minister’s attack on critics of the “Integrity Initiative”

In December 2018 we posted a briefing note on the Integrity Initiative, examining the documents that had appeared online about this ostensibly charitable programme funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). For an online article on the exposure of the Integrity Initiative published on 6 March 2019, Sky Foreign Affairs editor Deborah Haynes interviewed Sir Alan Duncan, Minister of State at the FCO. In response to a question about the Working Group in which she named the four authors of this response, Sir Alan was quoted as saying:

These academics dotted around the UK, whenever there is something pro-Russian, row in behind it in a coordinated way … We should not be taken for a sucker. We should realize what these people are doing together against our interest and against the interests of democracy more widely.

The phrase “whenever there is something” indicates that Sir Alan is referring not just to the December briefing note but to earlier posts from the Working Group, which include briefing notes on alleged chemical attacks in Syria (August 2018) and on the Salisbury poisonings (May 2018).

We provided Haynes with the following response, which she quoted (leaving out the first paragraph and the reference to alleged chemical attacks in Syria in the second paragraph):

  1. As Deborah Haynes’s involvement with the Integrity Initiative is well-documented, we expect her to make a full disclosure of this in her reporting on this semi-covert programme.
  1. The briefing notes that we have written on alleged chemical attacks in Syria and on the Integrity Initiative have been carefully researched and supported in detail by references to original sources. If Sir Alan Duncan or anyone else believes that they can rebut these, we should welcome criticisms that show, with evidence, where we are wrong.
  1. Sir Alan’s assertion that we are working “against the interests of democracy” is beneath contempt. We note that last December in response to a question about the Integrity Initiative from the Shadow Foreign Secretary he misled the House of Commons.

We are encouraged to learn that our posts are drawing the attention of government ministers, and we are grateful to Sir Alan for helping to promote them. We reiterate that if Sir Alan, or any other government minister wishes to respond to these posts, they should prepare a rebuttal that sets out, with direct quotations from what we have written, where we are wrong.

Instead of attempting a rebuttal, Sir Alan has resorted to smears about our allegedly “pro-Russian” activities and an unsubstantiated but menacing assertion that we are working “against the interests of democracy”. As we noted briefly in our original response to Deborah Haynes, it is Sir Alan who has undermined a fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy by misleading the House of Commons (as set in the Annex to this note). The Ministerial Code reiterates long-established practice in stating that:

It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.

Annex

Below we document four recent occasions on which Sir Alan has misled the House of Commons either by an outright falsehood which he failed to correct, or by answers that, without actually stating falsehoods, would mislead anyone who did not check the original sources.

1. Misleading answer to a question from the Shadow Foreign Secretary about FCO funding for the Integrity Initiative programme (12 December 2018)

The Integrity Initiative’s Twitter account had been used to attack the Leader of the Opposition and his staff. In response to an Urgent Question from the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, Duncan stated in the House that FCO funding of the Integrity Initiative:

does not fund any activity within the UK; nor does it fund the management of the integrity initiative’s social media account.

Thornberry responded immediately in the House, and followed up with a letter to Duncan pointing out that the documents showed that domestic UK activities were a stated objective of the Integrity Initiative and that its social media activities were included in the budget submitted to the FCO. We can find no record of Duncan apologizing for misleading the House in this exchange.

2. Misleading answer to a question about use of the FCO’s Russian Language Programme to fund domestic propaganda (10 December 2018)

In our briefing note on the Integrity Initiative, we set out how Duncan’s answer to a parliamentary question had concealed the fact that the initial government funding for the Integrity Initiative, which did not target Russian speakers, had been provided from an FCO-led programme that the government had described to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in July 2017 as having a remit to counter disinformation and provide reliable information in the Russian language. After setting this out in detail, we concluded that “It is difficult to read Duncan’s answer as anything but an attempt to mislead without actually telling a lie.”

3. Misleading answer to a question about the Prime Minister‘s assertion on 16 April 2018 that Russia and Syria had delayed the visit of OPCW inspectors to Douma following the alleged chemical weapon attack (17 September 2018)

On 16 April 2018 the Prime Minister had stated that the OPCW team “is currently being prevented from [visiting Douma] by the regime and the Russians”. In response to a question asking the Prime Minister to provide the evidence for her assertion, Duncan answered:

The team arrived in Damascus on 14 April, following an invitation from Syria which was supported by Russia, but their deployment to Douma was delayed for a week until 21 April. The Director General of the OPCW reported that they had been prevented from deploying to Douma by Russia and Syria, who cited security concerns.

Although the Director-General‘s note on 16 April had stated that “The Syrian and the Russian officials who participated in the preparatory meetings in Damascus have informed the FFM Team that there were still pending security issues to be worked out“, this was clarified in a letter on 18 April and in the Interim Report which made clear that the risk assessment by the Syrian and Russian authorities was “shared by the representative of the United Nations Department of Safety and Security“ who had insisted that a reconnaissance visit should be undertaken before the FFM could deploy to Douma.

Thus even if the Prime Minister’s statement, based on the DG’s statement on 16 April, was made in good faith, Duncan’s answer, given after the later documents had clarified that it was not “the regime and the Russians” that had delayed the team’s deployment, was misleading in its failure to correct the Prime Minister’s statement.

4. Misleading answer to a question about the status of OPCW’s questions on the Barzeh site before it was attacked on 14 April 2018 (13 September 2018)

The Prime Minister had stated on 16 April that 76 of 107 missiles were targeted on the research centre at Barzeh, a surprisingly large number for an undefended target, and at variance with other accounts that most of the missiles were directed against Syrian military airfields. In a question tabled on 10 September 2018, the government was asked whether it had been aware that Barzeh had been inspected by OPCW and reported to be clear of chemical weapons just six months before the attack on 14 April 2018. Duncan’s answer stated that OPCW “continues to report that gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies remain in Syria’s account of its declaration”. A close examination of the timeline, however, shows that the Syrian government had responded promptly to a “non-exhaustive list of questions” from the OPCW Director General on 29 January 2018 and that OPCW had issued an updated list of follow-up questions on April 10th, only four days before the US-led attack. Duncan’s statement, which by omitting the timeline gave the impression that Syria had failed to respond to the concerns raised by OPCW, could reasonably be judged misleading.

 

Posted in disinformation, guest blog, media, political philosophy, propaganda, UK Government, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Integrity: Grasping The Initiative

[Scroll down for links to discussions: latest update 19 March 2019]

This is my first personal blogpost since April. At that time I referred to a ‘coordinated smear campaign’ against anti-war journalists, tweeters and academics, whose number included myself and other members of the SPM Working Group. The portrayal of us as “useful idiots” for some or other official enemy, I suggested, was evidently a strategic communication.

We now know a lot more about the coordination of that communications strategy, thanks to the recently accessed documents exposing the Institute for Statecraft’s so-called Integrity Initiative (here, here and here).

Numerous points of interest and concern emerge, one of which regards the high profile attack launched at our Working Group on the front page of The Times. Two of its authors, we learn, are named in the newly available documents. They – Deborah Haynes and Dominic Kennedy – have not so far responded to invitations to clarify their association with the “Initiative”.

What we do know from the documents is that a coordinated network was very closely following all public comments on such critical events as the Skripals poisoning in Salisbury, on which SPM produced its first Briefing Note, and the chemical attack in Douma this year, which was the focus of SPM’s second Briefing Note.

The working group’s third Briefing Note will be released soon [update, 21 Dec 2018, it is now published here]. Meanwhile, for anyone wishing to catch up with others’ comments on the “Integrity Initiative”, links to discussions of the issue will be maintained here below.

[Update 22 Dec 2018: currently the full set of II documents is available at https://fdik.org/Integrity_Initiative/]

[Update 4 January 2019, 4th set of II documents released and available, separately and in a single folder, at https://www.cyberguerrilla.org/blog/operation-integrity-initiative-british-informational-war-against-all-part-4/ Also worth noting now is that while there are more than 60 articles on the matter linked below, still practically nothing has been heard from mainstream Western media outlets.]

[Update 23 January 2019: Since starting this post, our tracing of connections between “Integrity Initiative” and many other organisations, individuals, and anonymous operators has proceeded apace (see now 125 links below). At the same time, those of us asking the critical questions have been tracked – especially on Twitter – in seeming attempts to impute nefarious intents or interests in these citizens’ inquiries. This very post of mine appears to be depicted as at the hub of something (in graphs like those reproduced just below). So let me freely declare my interest: it lies in resistance to having the p-please-bob taken by the venal, malicious or stupid; if this resonates with plenty other people, it should really be no surprise. Given, on the other side, such disturbing insouciance about prospects of the war, both hot and cold, our work of awareness raising must continue.]

[Update 25 January 2019: Anonymous release 5th set of Integrity Initiative documents.]

 

Discussions of Institute for Statecraft’s “Integrity Initiative” [175 links as of 19 March 2019]

Integrity Initiative, entry in Everipedia

Tim Hayward, Paul McKeigue, David Miller and Piers Robinson (19 March 2019) Response to Sir Alan Duncan (SPM site) [copy open to comments on this blog]

Kit Klarenberg  (18 March 2019) Integrity Initiative’s Favourite Propagandist Haynes Whitewashes Scandal, Sputnik International

Craig Murray (7 March 2019) Pure: Ten Points I Just Can’t Believe About the Official Skripal Narrative

Kit Knightly (7 March 2019) The MSM just realised the “Integrity Initiative” is a thing, OffGuardian

Deborah Haynes (6 March 2019) ‘Highly likely’ GRU hacked UK institute countering Russian fake news, Sky News

Kit Klarenberg (4 March 2019) Integrity Initiative: The Sinister Chain of Events Leading Up to Salisbury, Sputnik International

Jan Wiklund (1 March 2019) Sweden discusses the Integrity Initiative and other McCarthyist campaigns, Activists for Peace

RT (12 February 2019) Integrity Initiative: New leaks show UK-funded project sought £5.5m for Balkans influence campaign, RT

Michael Welch, Whitney Webb and Patrick Henningsen (11 February 2019) Who Guards the Guardians? “Newsguard”, the “Integrity Initiative” and Other Threats to Independent Media, Global Research News Hour

Mike Robinson (7 February 2019) Beyond Integrity Initiative: The Scale of UKGOV Counter Disinformation, UK Column

Kit Klarenberg (7 February 2019) How Integrity Initiative’s ‘Counterfeit Expert’ Perpetuated Novichok Narrative, Sputnik International

Bjørn Halvorsen (5 February 2019) Integrity Initiative: UK interference in Norway, World Socialist Web Site

RT (5 February 2019) Huge Psy-op in UK? Not interested. British media silent on Integrity Initiative months on, RT

Thomas Scripps (4 February 2019) Britain’s secret propaganda “Integrity Initiative” targets Russia, World Socialist Web Site

Kit Knightly (4 February 2019) “New Knowledge” and the same old same old, offGuardian

Piers Robinson (4 February 2019) The Integrity Initiative, NBC News & Establishment Meddling, Sputnik [podcast]

Nicholas Wilson (3 February 2019) Integrity Initiative – The HSBC Connection, Youtube

Daniel W B Lomas (2 February 2019) Integrity Initiative: where now for the UK’s anti-fake news drive?

Max Shanly and Matt Zarb-Cousin (31 January 2019) No Integrity, No Initiative, Novara Media [podcast]

Integrity Initiative (31 January 2019) German Group Shines New Light On Russian Disinformation

Integrity Initiative Germany (31 January 2019) Three members of German cluster explain their view

Kit Klarenberg (30 January 2019) MisinfoConX: Western Deep State Convenes Anti-Russian ‘Astroturfing’ Event?, Sputnik International

Elizabeth Vos (29 January 2019) ‘Media Bias Fact Check’ Smears WikiLeaks, Supports Western Propaganda Machine, Disobedient Media

Danielle Ryan (29 January 2019) The Integrity Initiative scandal is getting worse — and British media keeps ignoring it, RT

Boyan Tsonev (29 January 2019) La otra cara de la moneda, Publicaciones Global [in Spanish]

Jonathan van Tongeren (29 January 2019) Het Integrity Initiative en de propagandaoorlog tegen Rusland, Novini [in Dutch]

Opinion (29 January 2019) Integrity Initiative’s Site is Down, But It’s Not the End of Disinformation, Sputnik International

Swiss Propaganda Research (28 January 2019) Die Integrität der Wikipedia, Pressenza [in German]

Tom Coburg (28 January 2019) A government-funded destabilisation network is forced to disable its own website, The Canary

John Ferguson (27 January 2019) Secret infowars unit that attacked Jeremy Corbyn and Labour shuts down website, Sunday Mail [@DailyRecord website]

RT (26 January 2019) New Integrity Initiative leak: Make Muslims love NATO, target anti-frackers, plan for nuclear war, RT

Nicholas Wilson (26 January 2019) MSM Hush Up Integrity Initiative Scandal to Protect HSBC Bank, Sputnik International

Gordon Dimmack (26 January 2019) Integrity Initiative: We Run Risk of Living in Dystopian Future, Sputnik International

Paul Robinson (25 January 2019) Bad Statecraft, Irrussianality.

Dirk Pohlmann (25 January 2019) Marieluise Beck und staatliche Desinformation der “Integrity Initiative”,

Joaquin Flores (25 January 2019) Anonymous Hackers Reveal: Ukraine Is Preparing For A 100 Year War With Russia, Fort Russ News

Integrity Initiative (25 January 2019) Kremlin campaign against Institute for Statecraft, Medium

Russia Today (25 January 2019) Was weiß die Bundesregierung über britische Einflussoperation “Integrity Initiative” in Deutschland?, RT Deutsch [in German, text and video]

Anonymous (25 January 2019) Documents from Integrity Initiative, Part 5

RT (25 January 2019) Integrity Initiative löscht Webseite bis zur Untersuchung des “Daten-Diebstahls”, RT Deutsch [in German]

Florian Rötzer (24 January 2019) Integrity Initiative taucht ab, Telepolis [in German]

Kevin Collier (23 January 2019) It Looks Like Russian Hackers Are Still At It In 2019, Buzzfeed [This is more about the alleged Russian hacking of its documents than Integrity Initiative itself.]

Jürgen Cain Külbel (23 January 2019) Aufgedeckt: Verbindung zwischen BILD und der britischen Geheimoperation “Integrity Initiative”, RT Deutsch [in German]

Matthew J.L. Ehret (23 January 2019) The Integrity Initiative And The British Roots Of The Deep State, Veterans Today

Patrick Armstrong (23 January 2019) Integrity Initiative: Big Brother’s Minions – or Flim-Flam Artists? Strategic Culture

Russia Today (23 January 2019) UK-funded psyop outfit Integrity Initiative locks Twitter account after wiping content from website, RT

Karl-Jürgen Müller (23 January 2019) Wie Krieg in Europa vorbereitet wird: Integrity Initiative, Aachener Vertrag u. a. m., Sputnik Deutschland [in German]

Kit Klarenberg (22 January 2019) Running Scared? Integrity Initiative ‘Temporarily’ Shuts Down Website, Sputnik International

RT (22 January 2019) Integrity Initiative wipes website pending probe into ‘theft’ of disturbing leaked data, RT

James Bruce (19 January 2019) The Gaslighting Initiative

Tara MacCormack (19 January 2019) Interview: West’s Demonization of Russia Spawns Global Internet Censorship, Sputnik International [text and podcast]

Moon of Alabama (19 January 2019) Coincidence? – Chief Nurse Of British Army Was First To Arrive At Novichoked Skripal Scene

Gordon Dimmack (19 January 2019) PropOrNot using Integrity Initiative data to smear independent journalists

Lucy Morgan-Edwards (18 January 2019) Anti Russia & anti-Corbyn lies – funded by Foreign Office and MI6

Kit Klarenberg (18 January 2019) Close Associate: The Integrity Initiative’s Intimate Connections to ‘RussiaGate’, Sputnik News

Armin Siebert (17 January 2019) Facebook sponsert antirussische „Integrity Initiative” mit 100.000 Pfund, Sputnik Deutschland [in German]

Kseniya Kirillova (17 January 2019) Russian attack on the Integrity Initiative: what makes the Mafia different from the police, EuroMaidan Press [a defence of II]

James O’Neill (16 January 2019) Disbelief, Magic Realism and Doublethink Alive and Well in 2018, offGuardian

RT Deutsch (16 January 2019) Integrity Initiative in Norwegen: Öffentlichkeit zu “weich” gegenüber Russland, [in German]

Exopolitik (16 January 2019) IntegrityInitiative ➤ Psychologische Kriegsführung ist im vollen Gange!

Elizabeth Vos (15 January 2019) Integrity Initiative And Affiliates Behind Multiple Attacks On Disobedient Media, Disobedient Media.

Barbara Boyd (15 January 2019) Exposed: The British Are Running A Coup Operation Against The President Of The United States…Again, American Intelligence Media

Armin Siebert (14 January 2019) Politologe zu “Integrity Initiative”: “Skandal mit politischer Dimension”, Sputnik [in German]

Binoy Kampmark (14 January 2019) Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the “Integrity Initiative”, Global Research

Russia Today (14 January 2019) Bellingcat activist fails to ban blogger who exposed his ties to UK propaganda outfit on Twitter, RT

Russia Today (14 January 2019) Integrity Initiative faces setback in Norway: Public ‘skepticism’ of US hinders anti-Russia infowar, RT

Russia Today (14 January 2019) Bellingcat activist fails to ban blogger who exposed his ties to UK propaganda outfit on Twitter, RT

Jasmin Kosubek (13 January 2019) Integrity Initiative: Manipulation auf Regierungsebene, Der Fehlende Part

John Ferguson (13 January 2019) American ‘weapons of mass destruction’ spook’s linked to Fife-based infowars unit, Sunday Mail @Daily Record

John Helmer (13 January 2019) Operation Integrity Initiative — British Intelligence Celebrates A Century Of Russia Lies And Self-Deception

Simon Rite (13 January 2019) Integrity Initiative: By all means smear & attack, but at least be honest about it, RT

Tord Björk (12 January 2019) How Integrity Initiative and Atlantic Council is exposed in Norway, steigan.no

MoVimento 5 Stelle Europa (12 January 2019) Vogliamo la verità: Giornalisti italiani pagati per creare fake news?, Il Blog Delle Stelle [in Italian]

Ben Swann (11 January 2019) UK’s “Integrity Initiative” and How It is Actually a Propaganda Machine, RT

Jens Berger (11 January 2019) Streitfall: Militärische Forschung an deutschen Unis, NachDenkSeiten [in German]

Russia Today (10 January 2019) Wissenschaftler: “Integrity Initiative” Teil britischer Geheimoperationen im In- und Ausland, RT Deutsch [in German

Russia Insight (10 January 2019) BREAKING! The Integrity Initiative, UK Govt Funded Anti-Russia PsyOp, Was Behind The Skripals Case?

Anders Romelsjö (10 January 2019) Swedish responses to Integrity Initiative and Atlantic Council, Global Politics

Jens Berger (9 January 2019) Integrity Initiative – NATO-Propaganda auch in Deutschland, NachDenkSeiten, [podcast, in German]

James Ball (9 January 2019) When free societies copy Russian media tactics, there’s only one winner, The Guardian [this rare mainstream piece is by a journalist named in Integrity Initiative documents]

Armin Siebert (9 January 2019) “Integrity Initiative“ – Kopf der deutsche Zelle meldet sich zu Wort, Sputnik [in German]

RT America (9 January 2019) BOMBSHELL: British meddling, “smearing crap” out of Americans, RT

Kit Klarenberg (9 January 2019) How Integrity Initiative’s German Cluster Aims to End Berlin’s Ties with Moscow, Sputnik International

Chris Williamson MP (9 January 2019) On New Integrity Initiative Revelations, RT

Moon of Alabama (9 January 2019) Stuff To Read: Integrity Initiative, Skripal, Kaspersky …

Russia Today (9 January 2019) ‘America must rebuild understanding of Russia’: How Integrity Initiative drafted US for new Cold War, RT

Max Blumenthal and Mark Ames (8 January 2019) New Documents Reveal a Covert British Military-Intelligence Smear Machine Meddling In American Politics, Grayzone

Russia Today (8 January 2019) ‘They made a mess & are fighting fires’: UK academic says Integrity Initiative fatally hurt by leaks, RT

David Miller (8 January 2019) Interviewed on Skripal Case: Released Docs Pointing at Direction We Need to Investigate, Sputnik International

Robert Stevens (7 January 2019) UK Integrity Initiative heavily involved in Skripal affair, World Socialist Web Site

NachDenkSeiten (7 January 2019) Der Zweck und die Absicht von Integrity Initiative ist eine Propagandaoperation, NachDenkSeiten [in German]

Kit Klarenberg (7 January 2019) Damaging Ties: Why Germany is the Integrity Initiative’s ‘Most Important Target’, Sputnik International

Kit Klarenberg (7 January 2019) The Integrity Initiative: The Spread of Propaganda & A Look Back at the #Skripal Saga, Stranahan, Sputnik Radio

Armin Siebert (7 January 2019) “Integrity Initiative“: Antirussische Beeinflussungskampagne in ganz Europa geplant, Sputnik [in German[

Russia Today (7 January 2019) Use Hollywood films to counter China & Russia: Integrity Initiative psyop plan exposed in new leaks, RT

Jan Wiklund (6 January 2019) Integrity Initiative links from 36 countries and some Atlantic Council links

21Wire (5 January 2019) How the Integrity Initiative Spun the West’s Improbable Skripal Narrative, 21st Century Wire

Moon of Alabama (4 January 2019) ‘Integrity Initiative’ – New Documents From Shady NGO Released [This is a brief piece on the new release, but it has encouraged readers’ comments, a number of which make for interesting reading]

Kit Klarenberg (4 January 2019) Shock Files: What Role Did Integrity Initiative Play in Sergei Skripal Affair?, Sputnik International

Russia Today (4 January 2019) ‘Operation Iris’ & more: New documents tie Integrity Initiative to spin of Skripal affair, RT 

Anonymous (4 January 2019) Documents of the “Integrity Initiative” Part 4 

Kit Klarenberg (3 January 2019) Integrity Initiative: How Media Promote Military Intelligence Propagandist Nimmo, Sputnik International

Jimmy Dore (2 January 2019) British Spy Found Inside Bernie Sanders Campaign, The Jimmy Dore Show

Chris Williamson MP (2 January 2019) The chilling manipulations of the Institute for Statecraft are straight out of the cold war playbook, Morning Star Online

Piers Robinson (2 January 2019) Speaking about Integrity Initiative, Fault Lines

Alex Christoforou and Alexander Mercouris (31 December 2018) UK gov. funded ‘think tanks’ to smear Jeremy Corbyn and spread anti-Russian propaganda, The Duran [Video]

Mohamed Elmaazi (30 December 2018) Temple of Covert Propaganda (Part 1), Around the Empire

Alexandra Bader (30 December 2018) Integrity Initiative: Mit allen Mitteln gegen Russland, CeiberWeiber [in German]

Beastrabban blog (30 December 2018) Private Eye on the Integrity Initiative and Its Links to American Intelligence

Aaron Maté (28 December 2018) New Studies Show Pundits Are Wrong About Russian Social-Media Involvement in US Politics, The Nation

Mark Curtis (28 December 2018) Twitter and the smearing of Corbyn and Assange: A research note on the “Integrity Initiative”, Mark Curtis: British foreign policy declassified

Free West Media Staff (28 December 2018) UK info war against Russia targets young children, Free West Media

Derek Royden (28 December 2018) The new Agitprop? The Integrity Initiative exposed, Nation of Change

Mark Hodgetts (27 December 2018) Disturbing Questions About the Independence of Mainstream Media

David Miller, with Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton (26 December 2018) Inside the Integrity Initiative, the UK gov’s information war on the public, Moderate Rebels

Constanze Kurz (25 December 2018) Der hausgemachte Desinformationsskandal, Frankfurter Allgemeine [in German]

Russia Today (24 December 2018) Why is paid Integrity Initiative hitman Ben Nimmo still used as ‘independent’ expert by MSM? RT Question More

Johanna Ross and Kit Klarenberg (24 December 2018) UK academics unveil report on Integrity Initiative as Sunday Times attacks Sputnik journalists, Radio Sputnik

Chris Donnelly (Director of Institute for Statecraft and its “Integrity Initiative”) On Disinformation, Youtube video

The Bulgarian Times (23 December 2018) The British Integrity Initiative as an attempt to enforce global censorship, The Bulgarian Times [in Bulgarian]

John Pilger (22 December 2018) A Look Back at 2018, Look Forward to 2019, Going Underground, RT

Paul McKeigue, David Miller, Jake Mason, Piers Robinson (21 December 2018) Briefing note on the Integrity Initiative, Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media [readers’ comments on the Briefing Note are posted here]

Jens Berger (20 December 2018) Die Infokrieger im Dienste ihrer Majestät, NachDenkSeiten [in German]

Alan MacLeod (19 December 2018) The Integrity Initiative in Context, Conversation with Slava Zilber

Russia Today (19 December 2018) ‘Striking images to help public relate’: UK Integrity Initiative’s post-Skripal psyop leaked, RT

Mark Galleotti (19 December 2018) The Integrity Initiative and Me (and Jeremy Corbyn), In Moscow’s Shadows

David Jamieson (19 December 2018) State-backed Integrity Initiative confirms meeting with Herald journalist for Scotland briefing, CommonSpace

Margaret Kimberley (19 December 2018) Freedom Rider: UK and US PSYOP Collusion, Black Agenda Report

Piers Robinson (19 December 2018) Interview: There’s desire to ramp up public perception of Russia being a threat in the international system, Radio Sputnik 

South Front (19 December 2018) British Foreign Secretary Confirms Integrity Initiative Documents, Blames Russia For Everything, South Front

RT (19 December 2018) Do it CIA style: UK-funded ‘Integrity Initiative’ planned to infiltrate European media, leaks reveal, RT News

Piers Robinson (18 December 2018) On the emerging Integrity Initiative scandal, Fault Lines

Kit Klarenberg (18 December 2018) Integrity Initiative: The Times Meets Ukrainian Kidnappers, Propaganda Follows, Sputnik

South Front (17 December 2018) Hackers Uncover More Documents Throwing Light On British Propaganda Campaign Against Russia, South Front

Johanna Ross with Kit Klarenberg (17 December 2018) Anonymous leaks 3rd batch of Integrity Initiative documents, Radio Sputnik

Mohamed Elmaazi and Max Blumenthal (17 December 2018) Inside the Temple of Covert Propaganda: The Integrity Initiative and the UK’s Scandalous Information War, Grayzone

Edward Lucas (17 December 2018) Don’t swallow Labour’s claims of ‘black ops’, The Times [making a case in favour of the II, behind a paywall]

Ian Shilling (17 December 2018) The #Russiagate Hoax and the “Integrity Initiative” to Gaslight the public with more “Russia Threat” lies, Investment Watch

David Scott (16 December 2018) Half a League Onwards: A glimpse of the policy protocols of the Integrity Initiative, UK Column

Mail Opinion (16 December 2018) Minister’s flimsy defence of infowars attack on Jeremy Corbyn as embarrassing as Tory leadership farce, Daily Record

John Ferguson (16 December 2018) Tory minister ‘misled Parliament’ over Government-funded infowars attack on Jeremy Corbyn, Daily Record

David Scott (15 December 2018) Integrity Initiative: Ministry of Defence Parliamentary answer now in doubt, UK Column

Moon of Alabama (15 December 2018) The ‘Integrity Initiative’ – A Military Intelligence Operation, Disguised As Charity, To Create The “Russian Threat”

Ally Tibbitt (15 December 2015) Scottish charity at centre of ‘propaganda’ row probed by regulator, The Ferret

David Miller (14 December 2018) interviewed by George Galloway, Mother of All Talk Shows, Talk Radio [item from 23 minutes; interview from 27 minutes.]

Kit Klarenberg (14 December 2018) Integrity Initiative: Spanish Cluster Misled UK Parliament Over Assange, Russia, Sputnik

Anonymous (14 December 2018) The documents of ‘Integrity Initiative’, Part 3 

Moon of Alabama (14 December 2018) Newly Released ‘Integrity Intitiative’ Papers Include Proposal For Large Disinformation Campaigns

Craig Murray (13 December 2018) British Security Service Infiltration, the Integrity Initiative and the Institute for Statecraft

Kit Klarenberg (13 December 2018) Integrity Initiative: Foreign Office Funded, Staffed by Spies, Housed by MI5? Sputnik

Emily Thornberry (12 December 2018) Letter to Alan Duncan, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

David Miller (12 December 2018) (Interview:) Integrity Initiative Operations Are ‘Outrageous in Democratic System’, Sputnik News

George Galloway (12 December 2018) A very British coup: The spies who went out to the cold – by George Galloway, RT [Yes, Russia Today. Where is the Western media coverage?]

UK Parliament (12 December 2018) Institute for Statecraft: Integrity Initiative, Hansard

Stephen Daisley (11 December 2018) The deep state needs to step up its campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, Spectator Blog [defending II]

South Front (10 December 2018) British Anti-Russian Propaganda Network Is Now Used To Target Jeremy Corbyn And Labour Party, South Front

David Scott (10 December 2018) Integrity Initiative: Just how well connected are the “Gateside Three”? UK Column

Aaron Bastani (10 December 2018) Undermining Democracy, Not Defending It: The ‘Integrity Initiative’ is Everything That’s Wrong With British Foreign Policy, Novara Media

James Landale (10 December 2018) Russia hack ‘bid to discredit’ UK anti-disinformation campaign – Foreign Office, BBC [Note the perspective adopted in this piece. See also how the report was edited to shift the perspective (courtesy News Sniffer)]

Emily Thornberry (9 December 2018) Response to reported government funded attacks on the Labour Party, Labour Party

John Ferguson (9 December 2018) Secret Scottish-based office led infowars attack on Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, The Daily Record

Conrad Landin (9 December 2018) Researcher at government-funded think tank behind fake news story that Kremlin aided Corbyn’s rise, Morning Star

Ben Gelblum (9 December 2018) Labour demand government explains £2m taxpayers’ cash funding infowars unit which smeared Corbyn and Labour, The London Economic

Alejandro López (6 December 2018) Hackers reveal British government’s interference in Spanish politics, World Socialist Web Site

David Scott (5 December 2018) Integrity Initiative: Follow the money, UK Column

Mike Robinson (2 December 2018) Integrity Initiative: A Look Into the Deep State? UK Column

John Ferguson (2 December 2018) Derelict Scottish mill is shadowy hub in UK’s fight against Putin’s propaganda machine, Daily Record

Anonymous (29 November 2018) Documents of “Integrity Initiative” Part 2, live link at SPM site

Chris Williamson MP (28 November 2018) UK Government ‘Black Propaganda’ and Scrapping Universal Credit, Going Underground, RT (video)

David Miller (26 November 2018) The Integrity Initiative is a British state-funded propaganda operation, Radio Sputnik podcast

Integrity Initiative (26 November 2018) Statement on Russian media publication of hacked II documents 

Paul Robinson (25 November 2018) Lack of Integrity, Irrussianality.

Moon of Alabama (24 November 2018) British Government Runs Secret Anti-Russian Smear Campaigns

South Front (23 November 2018) Documents Confirm: UK Is Engaged In Large-Scale Secret Propaganda War Against Russia, South Front

Anonymous (5 November 2018) Documents of ‘Integrity Initiative’, Part 1

 

Prequel: older sources on Integrity Initiative and Institute for Statecraft

15 August 2018 Chris Donnelly, Director Of The Institute Of Statecraft, Exclusive Interview with CEO Radio Sangam Qaisar Mahmood

 

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Posted in conspiracy theory, constitutional politics, disinformation, inter-media, journalism, media, propaganda, Russia, UK Government, Uncategorized, war | 40 Comments

US Withdrawal from Syria: Postponing the Inevitable, By Peter Ford

Peter Ford, former British Ambassador to Bahrain (1999–2003) and Syria (2003–2006), offers the following assessment.

US Withdrawal from Syria: Postponing the Inevitable

Peter Ford

At the start of the year the horizon seems to be dominated by the issue of the possible withdrawal of US troops. In reality however the more important action is elsewhere.

US withdrawal: on or not?

Every day that passes seems to bring fresh evidence that Trump’s decision is being walked back. But appearances can be misleading.

Trump’s ultra-hawkish National Security Adviser, John Bolton, is touring the Middle East apparently setting new conditions for the withdrawal with every stop he makes. We are currently told that the troops will not leave until the remnants of ISIS are mopped up, until there is certainty they cannot remerge, until Erdogan promises not to slaughter the Kurds, and until Israel’s security is absolutely assured.

It is certainly true that crushing those ISIS remnants could take some time, and as for ensuring that ISIS can never re-form that is a recipe for a never-ending US presence. The US allies, the Kurdish-dominated SDF, are currently retreating from parts of Eastern Deir Ez Zor because they are meeting hostility from Arab villagers, who resent the abduction of their young men and even children into the ranks of the SDF. While the departure of the sprinkling of 2000 US troops will hardly leave a vacuum as far as the fight against ISIS is concerned the departure of the SDF from certain areas certainly will. Only the government’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA) could enter these Arab areas, and that is precisely what some clan leaders are calling for (calls ignored of course by our media).

Extracting assurances from Erdogan is also likely to prove difficult, especially if (like Bolton, no doubt) you will perhaps not strain every sinew to extract them. Erdogan however has already said that he will have no need to invade if the Syrian Army interposes itself in a 40 mile deep buffer zone. To guard against this possibility of receiving yes for an answer Ambassador James Jeffrey, presidential envoy for Syria, is being despatched to talk to the Kurds and deter them from pacting with Assad and the Russians.

The irony here is that it is the very presence of the US (and UK) forces which prevents the US conditions for withdrawal being met. While the US refuses to cooperate with the Syrian Army and Russia in fighting ISIS the holy warriors will always have somewhere to hide. And while the US keeps promising protection to the Kurds, and the Kurds believe them, then the YPG will go on infuriating the Turks and the Turkish threat will not go away.

But will the Kurds believe Jeffrey? Will they put their entire existence at the mercy of Trump’s whims and a frayed US tripwire? It seems not, at least to judge by reports that Kurdish negotiations with Damascus and the Russians are well advanced.

In this game for the prize of Kurdish affections Damascus holds most of the cards. To begin with the Kurds have never fought or wanted to fight the SAA and never wanted independence. They do want a measure of autonomy which they would like to see guaranteed in a new federal constitution. Damascus will have difficulty swallowing that, not least because other restive areas like the South might also want autonomy. Assad will probably reckon that he can clinch a deal with a few concessions rather than a federal constitution: use of Kurdish language in schools, incorporation of the peshmerga into the SAA. He can afford to sit on his hands indefinitely: the small US presence in the remote Syrian Far East is no existential strategic threat to him, while the endless lingering will be a constant embarrassment to Trump. Most crucially of all, the Kurds know now, if they hadn’t realised it before, that one day the US tripwire will indeed be removed and they will get no deal at all from Damascus if they do not strike one now.

We can expect to see bluster, smoke screens, reversals and and posturing on all sides in the coming days but ultimately it must be considered likely that at some point the Kurds, when they judge that no more concessions can be extracted from Assad, could ask the US to leave. Ah! That would upend everything. Actually they won’t even need to ask. All they have to do is conclude a deal. Then it will be game, set and match to Assad and the Russians. The real issue may soon become how to save American face and here we can expect to see some adroit Russian diplomacy. There is already talk of drafting UAE and Egyptian forces into Manbij, the key town under Turkish threat.

Before we reach that point however we must address two loose ends. Firstly Trump’s statement, when he was under fire and needed an excuse, that the Turks were going to deal with ISIS. This idea is a total nonsense but Bolton on the Turkey leg of his tour must go through the motions of exploring it with Erdogan. He will be told that for Turkish troops to cross over a hundred miles of hostile Kurdish territory to deal with ISIS in Deir Ez Zor Turkey would need the support of more US resources than are in the area already. Turkish generals are horrified at the idea. It will be quietly dropped. Anyway the preferred plan is for the US forces with the SDF to use all this new time at their disposal to do the necessary (except that, as mentioned, the SDF is something of a broken reed).

Secondly, and this is even more absurd, Bolton says the US is not going to withdraw its ‘a couple hundred’ troops from the ‘key’ Al Tanf enclave which straddles the Syrian/Jordanian/Iraqi borders, because of its strategic position blocking completion of the fabled ‘land bridge’ which we are told links Iran with Syria and Lebanon. It is quite simply grotesque that anyone with pretentions to being a strategist can appear seriously to believe this and that the media dutifully regurgitate the US talking points on it without question. While it is true that Al Tanf has been an important crossing point, all we are talking about here is bit of inconvenience. There are other crossing points a few miles to the North East. Anyway Iran airlifts most of its supplies to Damascus and Beirut and wouldn’t dream of ferrying sensitive equipment through Iraqi territory, pullulating with US troops and agents. Don’t they have maps in the Pentagon? It can perhaps be most charitably assumed that the Al Tanf gambit is part of the face-saving which has to be done, this time to be able to claim that the US has ensured that Iran will not become more ‘entrenched’ (what does this much bandied about word mean? They never tell us) and Israel’s concerns are not being overlooked.

Assad will not care less if the US wants to stay on in Al Tanf. The only settlement is the Ar Rukban encampment housing about 60,000 displaced persons, many of them ISIS and their families who fled from Raqqa. The US troops do not dare enter this encampment. Assad will be perfectly happy for the US to keep holding this tar baby and can lambast the US for blatant breach of international law, because after ISIS is gone the last vestige of any legal excuse for the US presence will also be gone. (Bolton tells us that the US constitution is basis enough, so now we know.)

Syria comes in from the cold

Meanwhile Syria’s rapprochement with much of the Arab world has proceeded apace. The President of Sudan visited. The UAE reopened its embassy. Bahrain says it will follow. Flights to Tunisia have resumed. It seems likely that Assad will be invited to the Arab Summit in March in Beirut and Syria will be readmitted to the Arab League. Italy is said to be close to reopening its embassy. The British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has sourly accepted that Assad is going to remain President ‘for a while’. Although reports that the British Embassy are being refurbished may turn out to be a false dawn, the day can surely not be far off when the UK informs Damascus that it proposes to reopen. However the issue will not be what concessions Syria must make to receive this favour but rather what concessions the UK must make if it is not be even more totally excluded from the diplomacy around the Syrian question than it is already. The Syrians would be remiss not to require a lifting of sanctions as a minimum.

The economic war

The most important aspect of these rapprochements is the economic one. Syria’s immense battle ahead is economic recovery. The gains on the battlefield may be eroded if the government fails to get the country on its feet again. The problems seem never ending. One small example: 84,000 children are fatherless, the offspring resulting from rapes and forced temporary marriages by jihadis.

The Western media gleefully reckons that Syria needs $400 billion for reconstruction. The Western powers currently set their faces against contributing anything to this and indeed seek to push Syria deeper into the mire with punitive sanctions. A surer way of creating the conditions for a resurgence of ISIS could hardly be imagined.

Hence the importance of rapprochement with the Gulf countries. While Trump’s claim that Saudi would pay for recovery was probably another of Trump’s mis-statements, it is not fanciful to imagine the big Gulf development funds – the Saudi, Kuwaiti and Arab Development Funds, and some of the UAE funds – providing enough to make a good start. Syria in any case could not absorb huge amounts to begin with. Not least it would generate massive inflation.

Idlib

The Idlib issue, presently on hold, gets worse rather than better. Hayat Tahrir Ash Sham (HTS), the group everyone (except Qatar) considers terrorists, have fought and displaced other armed groups from a string of towns, some in the buffer zone which the Turks were supposed to have cleansed of the most radical groups. The groups in Idlib mount regular forays or artillery attacks into government-controlled areas, attracting air raids in retaliation.

Lest we forget

Within two days of each other John Bolton and Jeremy Hunt publicly reminded Syria that it must not run away with the idea that it could get away with more chemical attacks now that it seems to be in the ascendant. This seems to be the last lingering hope of all those who can never have too much Western military intervention in Syria, that an incident can be manufactured to justify heavy bombing. Unfortunately for them, the Syrians and Russians appear to be a step ahead: only the Russians seem to be doing any bombing. While a compliant media would dutifully echo possible Pentagon claims that any planes or helicopters were Syrian rather than Russian, or that black is white, this tactic does make that a tad more difficult.

Posted in guest blog, Russia, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war | 25 Comments

Briefing Note on the Integrity Initiative: comments and discussion

This page is for public comments and discussion relating to the Briefing Note on the Integrity Initiative, by Paul McKeigue, David Miller, Jake Mason, Piers Robinson, for the Working Group on Syria Propaganda and Media.

The Briefing Note is work in progress, and the Working Group can be contacted at piers.robinson@sheffield.ac.uk.  For further information about the Working Group visit http://syriapropagandamedia.org/

Read the full Briefing Note.

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Chemical Weapons In Syria? BBC Panorama Relies On Questionable Research

This is a press release issued by the Global Network for Syria (Corresponding author Baroness Cox <carolinecox1@outlook.com>)

A joint investigation by BBC Panorama and BBC Arabic claimed to show how chemical weapons have been used by the Syrian Government as part of a deliberate military strategy. Yet there are serious concerns over the investigation’s reliance on ‘broadly impartial’ sources — who are not named — and consequently the reliability of the report’s findings.

The Panorama programme is called ‘Syria’s Chemical War’ and was first broadcast on Monday 15 October on BBC One at 20:30.

Members of the Global Network for Syria have issued the following response:

“Yesterday’s BBC Panorama programme was notable for its omissions. It was not clear, for example, whether evidence backing the claims of 106 uses of chemical weapons came from Syrian rebel sources. Given that sources are not named, the BBC may be relying on evidence from groups that are widely regarded as favourable to the opposition, such as the White Helmets, the Syrian American Medical Society, or the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations.

“The investigation ignored the interim findings of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on the Douma incident, which contradict the BBC’s conclusions. The OPCW found no evidence of the use of prohibited weapons in Douma and did not rule out that chlorine cylinders found at the site may have been planted.

“The programme showed former OPCW staff saying that not all of Asad’s stocks destroyed under OPCW supervision were necessarily accounted for. It neglected to point out, however, that the OPCW reported in 2014 that it had been unable to visit two sites where chemical weapons were stored and that both these sites were in rebel-held territory deemed unsafe for inspectors to visit.

“The programme also claimed to detect a pattern of Asad using chemical weapons in the final stages of sieges. But the report did not address questions raised by numerous military experts who ask why Syrian Government Forces, which were already winning the war, would deploy chemical weapons of limited usefulness, risking severe reprisals by the US-led Coalition.

“There are further concerns regarding the lack of reference to Islamist fighters, who have used chlorine canisters as part of their “resistance”, and who have butchered not just Christians and Alawites but also hundreds of the civilians living under their control, as documented by the UN.

“The war in Syria is complex, with many different layers to the conflict. It is crucial that any future investigation includes historical and geopolitical context, objective analysis, transparency about sources, and, at the very least, an acknowledgement that there are different points of view.”

Peter Ford, former British Ambassador to Syria
Dr Tim Anderson, University of Sydney
Lord Carey of Clifton
Baroness Cox
Lord Gordon of Strathblane
Dr Michael Langrish, former Bishop of Exeter
Lord Stoddart of Swindon

Contact: carolinecox1@outlook.com

GNS

Posted in BBC, chemical weapons, disinformation, guest blog, journalism, media, OPCW, Syria, Syrian opposition, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | 10 Comments

Idlib: Lull before the hurricane – by Peter Ford

 

This article is posted on behalf of Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria.

It appears that the Russians have pressed the pause button on their plans for an offensive alongside the Syrian government to retake Idlib. By the time they return to play mode the martial music may have changed.

New US policies for Syria

Without fanfare the US has just reformulated its position to create the conditions for it to launch devastating strikes on Syria no longer just on the pretext of alleged use of chemical weapons but on any ‘humanitarian’ pretext the US sees fit. In an interview with the Washington Post on 6 September, James Jeffrey, the hawkish new Special Envoy for Syria fresh from the neocon incubator of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, did not mince words:

“We’ve started using new language,” Jeffrey said, referring to previous warnings against the use of chemical weapons. Now, he said, the United States will not tolerate “an attack. Period.”

“Any offensive is to us objectionable as a reckless escalation” he said. “You add to that, if you use chemical weapons, or create refu¬gee flows or attack innocent civilians.”

Jeffrey’s remarks were little noticed because he was that day announcing something else more immediately striking: a ‘new’ policy on Syria involving cancellation of Trump’s announced departure of US troops before the end of 2018 and instatement of a plan to stay on indefinitely until achievement of the twin goals of removing all trace of the Iranian presence in Syria and installation of a Syrian government which would meet US conditions – conditions which President Asad would by Jeffrey’s own admission not be likely to meet.

The headlines naturally focussed on this latest Washington folly – do they think Iran will up sticks as long as there is a single US soldier on Syrian soil, or that there is Syrian Mandela waiting in the wings? – and the importance of the remarks about Idlib was missed. Yet those words may be about to bring the world to the brink of global war.

New doctrine for US intervention

What Jeffreys was saying was quite clear. That with or without alleged use of chemical weapons, a sudden exodus of frightened civilians from a part of Idlib, use of the fabled ‘barrel bombs’, or launch of a major offensive will be taken by the US as a trigger for drastic and probably sustained bombing aimed at bringing the government of Syria to its knees.

Until now successive US administrations have been careful to draw the red line for intervention in Syria at use of chemical weapons, presumably on the grounds that there is universal agreement and international law to the effect that use of prohibited weapons is taboo. WMD after all were the casus belli for Iraq, even if it turned out to be false. Now suddenly we have a new, broader and consequently more dangerous doctrine.

The State Department has not yet favoured the American public, Congress or anyone else with an explanation or justification for the change, but we can speculate. Can it be, for example, that US policy makers realise that when the next alleged use of chemical weapons occurs in Syria, as surely it will, it will be more difficult to sell intervention to the public than the first two times because the game has now been rumbled? Not only has the idea that the White Helmets might not be all they seem entered the bloodstream of media discourse, but the OPCW inspectors, able for once after Douma actually to visit a crime site, failed to find any proof of use of prohibited weapons. Add to that those pesky Russians unhelpfully telling the world exactly how and where the White Helmets were going to stage their next Oscar-winning performances. So why bother with all that rigmarole over chemical weapons when Western opinion is already sufficiently primed to accept any intervention whatever as long as it is somehow ‘humanitarian’ and doing down the evil Russians?

Responsibility to Protect

Step up ‘Responsibility to Protect’, the innocuous-sounding UN-approved doctrine beloved of interventionists of both Left and Right. Never mind that most legal scholars utterly reject the notion that this doctrine legalises armed aggression other than with Security Council approval or in self-defence. Was it not effectively invoked in the British government’s legal position statement provided at the time of the post-Douma strikes? (The US administration, knowing their audience, never bothered to provide any legal justification whatever.)

Slight snag: although the British government have preemptively sought with their legal statement to give themselves cover to commit acts of war on a whim, and without recourse to Parliament, as long as it can be dressed up as humanitarian, nevertheless there might be considerable disquiet in Parliament and possibly even among service chiefs were the government to appear to be about to launch strikes alongside the US had there not been even the appearance of a chemical weapons incident. For this reason it is likely that the British government will attempt to persuade the US not to give up just yet on chlorine.

Is it this new amplified threat – of strikes whether or not Asad obliges or appears to oblige with suicidal use of chlorine – which has given the Russians reasons to call off the dogs, pro tem at least? Probably not, because the Russians were taking it as read that fake chemical attacks were coming anyway. They will take note however that the US has just effectively lowered the bar on its own next heavy intervention in Syria and will not be deterred by any blowing of the gaff.

For those who naively but sincerely believed that if Asad laid off the chlorine he would not get bombed the world has suddenly become a lot more dangerous. For realists however the new doctrine merely removes a hypocrisy, or rather introduces an inflexion into the hypocrisy, whereby the itch felt by those salivating at the prospect of striking Syria, Russia and Iran can be masked as a humanitarian concern which goes beyond abhorrence of chemical weapons.

 

john-ford-two

 

Posted in chemical weapons, guest blog, Russia, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war | 8 Comments

Statement on impending US, UK and French military intervention in Syria

The following is the text of a statement issued 30 August 2018 by The Global Network for Syria. It is posted here on the Network’s behalf. The signatories and contact details follow the statement. 

We, members of the Global Network for Syria, are deeply alarmed by recent statements by Western governments and officials threatening the government of Syria with military intervention, and by media reports of actions taken by parties in Syria and by Western agencies in advance of such intervention. In a joint statement issued on 21 August the governments of the US, the UK and France said that ‘we reaffirm our shared resolve to preventing [sic] the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and for [sic] holding them accountable for any such use… As we have demonstrated, we will respond appropriately to any further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime’. The three governments justify this threat with reference to ‘reports of a military offensive by the Syrian regime against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Idlib’. On 22 August, Mr John Bolton, US National Security Adviser, was reported by Bloomberg to have said that the US was prepared to respond with greater force than it has used in Syria before. These threats need to be seen in the context of the following reports and considerations. Reports have appeared of activity by the White Helmets group, or militants posing as White Helmets, consistent with an intention to stage a ‘false flag’ chemical incident in order to provoke Western intervention. These activities have reportedly included the transfer of eight canisters of chlorine to a village near Jisr Al Shughur, an area under the control of Hayat Tahrir Ash Sham, an affiliate of the terrorist group Al Nusra. Some reports refer to the involvement of British individuals and the Olive security company. Other reports indicate a build-up of US naval forces in the Gulf and of land forces in areas of Iraq adjoining the Syrian border. We therefore urge the US, UK and French governments to consider the following points before embarking on any military intervention:

 In the cases of three of the previous incidents cited in the 21 August statement (Ltamenah, Khan Sheykhoun, Saraqib) OPCW inspectors were not able to secure from the militants who controlled these areas security guarantees to enable them to visit the sites, yet still based their findings on evidence provided by militants.

 In the case of Douma, also cited, the interim report of OPCW inspectors dated 6 July based on a visit to the site concluded that no evidence was found of the use of chemical weapons and that evidence for the use of chlorine as a weapon was inconclusive.

 Western governments themselves acknowledge that Idlib is controlled by radical Islamist extremists. The British government in its statement on 20 August justified its curtailment of aid programmes in Idlib on the grounds that conditions had become too difficult.

 Any action by the Syrian government would not be directed at harming civilians, but at removing these radical elements.

 Any military intervention without a mandate from the United Nations would be illegal.

 Any military intervention would risk confrontation with a nuclear armed co- member of the Security Council, as well as with the Islamic Republic of Iran, with consequent ramifications for regional as well as global security.

 There is no plan in place to contain chaos in the event of sudden government collapse in Syria, such as might occur in the contingency of command and control centres being targeted. Heavy military intervention could result in the recrudescence of terrorist groups, genocide against the Alawite, Christian, Druze, Ismaili, Shiite and Armenian communities, and a tsunami of refugees into neighbouring countries and Europe.

In the event of an incident involving the use of prohibited weapons – prior to taking any decision on military intervention – we urge the US, UK and French governments:

 To provide detailed and substantive evidence to prove that any apparent incident could not have been staged by a party wishing to bring Western powers into the conflict on their side.

 To conduct emergency consultations with their respective legislative institutions to request an urgent mission by the OPCW to the site of any apparent incident and give time for this mission to be carried out.

 To call on the government of Turkey, which has military observation posts in Idlib, to facilitate, in the event of an incident, an urgent mission by the OPCW to the jihadi-controlled area, along with observers from Russia to ensure impartiality.

We further call on the tripartite powers to join Turkish and Russian efforts to head off confrontation between the Syrian government forces and the militants opposing them by separating the most radical organisations such as Hayat Tahrir Ash Sham and Hurras Ad Deen from the rest, eliminating them, and facilitating negotiations between the Syrian government and elements willing to negotiate.

Dr Tim Anderson, University of Sydney

Lord Carey of Clifton, Crossbench Member of the House of Lords and former Archbishop of Canterbury

The Baroness Cox, Crossbench Member of the House of Lords

Peter Ford, British Ambassador to Syria 2003-06

Dr Michael Langrish, former Bishop of Exeter Lord Stoddart of Swindon, Independent Labour Member of the House of Lords 30 August 2018

 

For inquiries contact Peter Ford

07910727317; peterford14@yahoo.com

GNS

Posted in chemical weapons, guest blog, Syria, UK Government, Uncategorized, war, White Helmets | Leave a comment