Stench of hypocrisy: British ‘war on terror’ & strategic ties with radical Islam – By John Wight (RT)

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
 
Stench of hypocrisy: British 'war on terror' & strategic ties with radical Islam
Britain’s strategic relationship with radical Islam goes back decades and continues to this day.

There is no more foul a stench than the stench of hypocrisy, and there is no more foul a hypocrisy than the British government painting Bashar al-Assad as a monster when in truth he and the Syrian people have been grappling with a twin-headed monster in the shape of Salafi-jihadi terror and Western imperialism. Both are committed to destroying Syria as an independent, non-sectarian state, and both are inextricably linked.

Author and journalist Mark Curtis charts in detail the contours of this history in his book ‘Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam’:

British governments, both Labour and Conservative, have, in pursuing the so-called ‘national interest’ abroad, colluded for decades with radical Islamic forces, including terrorist organizations. They have connived with them, worked alongside them and sometimes trained and financed them, in order to promote specific foreign policy objectives. Governments have done so in often desperate attempts to maintain Britain’s global power in the face of increasing weakness in key regions of the world, being unable to unilaterally impose their will and lacking other local allies. Thus the story is intimately related to that of Britain’s imperial decline and the attempt to maintain influence in the world.

As far back as the First World War, when the Middle East began to assume strategic importance in the capitals of Western imperial and colonial powers, the British ruling class went out of its way to identify and recruit loyal local proxies in pursuit of its regional objectives. Britain’s relationship with the Arab tribal chief, Ibn Saud, who would go on to establish Saudi Arabia in the early 1930s, began in 1915 with the Darin Pact, demarcating the territory then controlled by Saud as a British protectorate.

The following year, the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans erupted. Begun and inspired by Saud’s fierce rival, Sharif Hussein, head of the Hashemite Arab tribe, the revolt was heavily bankrolled and supported by the British – a period immortalized in the exploits of British military agent T E Lawrence, known to the world as Lawrence of Arabia.

But whereas Sharif Hussein was a follower of orthodox Sunni Islam, Ibn Saud adhered to the radical doctrine of Wahhabism, which Winston Churchill was moved to describe as “bloodthirsty” and “intolerant.” Regardless, when it came to its imperial interests there was no tiger upon whose back the British ruling class was not willing to ride during this period, and which, as events have proved, it has not been willing to ride since.

The most egregious example of this policy, one that continues to have ramifications today, was the support provided by the UK to the Afghan mujahideen in the late 1970s and 1980s. The insurgency’s objective was the overthrow of Kabul’s secular and left-leaning government, whose crime in the eyes of the Islamist insurgency’s US and UK sponsors was that it had embraced the social and economic model of Moscow rather than Washington during the first Cold War. 

British support for the mujahideen, married to the huge support provided by Washington, was indispensable in the eventual success of these self-styled ‘holy warriors’ in taking control of a country that had embraced modernity and turning it into a failed state mired in religious oppression, brutality, backwardness and poverty.

Mark Curtis again:

Britain, along with the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, covertly supported the resistance to defeat the Soviet occupation of the country. Military, financial and diplomatic backing was given to Islamist forces which, while forcing a Soviet withdrawal, soon organized themselves into terrorist networks ready to strike Western targets.

While Washington’s primary role in channeling military and financial support to the Afghan mujahideen, known as Operation Cyclone, may until have succeeded in overshadowing London’s role in this dirty war, declassified British government cabinet papers which were made public in 2010 and reported in the UK media make grim reading.

They reveal that three weeks after Soviet forces arrived in Afghanistan at the request of the Afghan government in Kabul, struggling to deal with an insurgency that had broken out in the countryside, the Thatcher government was planning to supply military aid to the “Islamic resistance.” A confidential government memo provides a chilling insight into the insanity that passed for official policy: “We trust the Western leaders are prepared for the enormous beneficial possibilities that could just possibly open up if the Afghan rebellion were to succeed.

It will be recalled that out of the ensuing collapse of Afghanistan emerged the Taliban, under whose rule the country was turned into a vast militant jihadist school and training camp. Many of the most notorious Islamist terrorists began their careers there, fighting the Soviets and then later broadening out their activities to other parts of the region and wider world. In this regard, Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda loom large.

Other notorious names from the world of Salafi-jihadism for whom Afghanistan proved indispensable include the Jordanian Abu al-Zarqawi, who founded Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) during the US-UK occupation, an organization that would over time morph into ISIS.

Abdelhakim Belhaj and other Libyan Islamists cut their jihadist teeth in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Returning to Libya, they formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in the eastern city of Benghazi. Though the group may have been disbanded in 2010, having failed to topple Gaddafi despite repeated attempts to assassinate the Libyan leader with, it’s been claimed, the support of Britain’s MI6, former members of the LIFG, including Belhaj, were important actors in the 2011 Libyan uprising.

By way of a reminder, the uprising in Libya started in Benghazi and would not have succeeded without the air support it received from NATO. Britain’s then prime minister, David Cameron, was key in pushing for that air support and the sanction of the UN under the auspices of Security Council Resolution 1973. Though protecting civilians was central in wording of this UNSC resolution, it was shamefully distorted to justify regime change, culminating in Gaddafi’s murder by the ‘rebels.’

Staying with the LIFG, in the wake of the Manchester suicide-bomb attack in May 2017, which left 23 people dead and 500 injured, the fact that the bomber, a young Libyan by the name of Salman Abedi, was the son of a former member of the LIFG, did not receive anything like the media attention it should have at the time.

Manchester, England is home to the largest Libyan community in Britain, and there is strong evidence to suggest that when the Libyan uprising broke out MI6 facilitated the ability of Libyan Islamists in Britain to travel to Libya to participate in the fighting. Among them was Salman Abedi, who it is thought received military training in the country before being allowed to return to the UK thereafter.

This brings us on to Syria and, as with Libya, the question of how so many British Muslims have been able to travel from the UK to Syria via Turkey to take part in the anti-Assad insurgency since 2011? It also brings into sharp focus a policy that has veered between the ludicrous and the reckless.

Emblematic of the former was ex-prime minister David Cameron’s claim, which he made during a 2015 Commons debate over whether the Royal Air Force should engage in air strikes against ISIS in Syria, that fighting as part of the Syrian were 70,000 moderates.

As for the recklessness of Britain’s actions in Syria, look no further than the country’s recent participation in the illegal missile strikes that were carried out in conjunction with the US and France, justified on the basis of as yet unproven allegations that Syrian government forces had carried out a chemical weapons attack on Douma, just outside Damascus. The only beneficiaries of such actions by the Western powers are Salafi-jihadist groups such as ISIS (whom it was later reported took advantage of the missile strike to mount a short-lived offensive), Al-Nusra and Jaysh al-Islam.

The latter of those groups, Jaysh al-Islam, is a Saudi proxy. It was the dominant group in Douma and throughout Eastern Ghouta until the district’s liberation by the Syrian Army and its allies with Russian support.

Given the deep and longstanding ties between London and Riyadh; given the fact, reported towards the end of 2017, that British military personnel were embedded in a training role with Saudi forces in Yemen; given the news that a British special forces sergeant was killed in northern Syria at the end of March this year while embedded with the Kurds, revealing for the first time that British troops were operating in the country on the ground – given all that, the question of who else British special forces and military personnel may be embedded with in Syria is legitimate.

In the context of the British state’s long and sordid history when it comes to riding the back of radical Islam in pursuit of its strategic objectives, readers will doubtless draw their own conclusions.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Lavrov: Swiss lab says ‘BZ toxin’ used in Salisbury, not produced in Russia, was in US & UK service – By RT

Lavrov: Swiss lab says ‘BZ toxin’ used in Salisbury, not produced in Russia, was in US & UK service
The substance used on Sergei Skripal was an agent called BZ, according to Swiss state Spiez lab, the Russian foreign minister said. The toxin was never produced in Russia, but was in service in the US, UK, and other NATO states.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with an incapacitating toxin known as 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate or BZ, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, citing the results of the examination conducted by a Swiss chemical lab that worked with the samples that London handed over to the Organisation for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The Swiss center sent the results to the OPCW. However, the UN chemical watchdog limited itself only to confirming the formula of the substance used to poison the Skripals in its final report without mentioning anything about the other facts presented in the Swiss document, the Russian foreign minister added. He went on to say that Moscow would ask the OPCW about its decision to not include any other information provided by the Swiss in its report.

Lavrov said that the Swiss center that assessed the samples is actually the Spiez Laboratory. This facility is a Swiss state research center controlled by the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection and, ultimately, by the country’s defense minister. The lab is also an internationally recognized center of excellence in the field of the nuclear, biological, and chemical protection and is one of the five centers permanently authorized by the OPCW.

The Russian foreign minister said that London refused to answer dozens of “very specific” questions asked by Moscow about the Salisbury case, as well as to provide any substantial evidence that could shed light on the incident. Instead, the UK accused Russia of failing to answer its own questions, he said, adding that, in fact, London did not ask any questions but wanted Moscow to admit that it was responsible for the delivery of the chemical agent to the UK.

The scandal erupted in early March, when former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found in critical condition in the town of Salisbury. Top UK officials almost immediately pinned the blame on Russia.

Moscow believes that the entire Skripal case lacks transparency and that the UK is in fact not interested in an independent inquiry. “We get the impression that the British government is deliberately pursuing the policy of destroying all possible evidence, classifying all remaining materials and making a transparent investigation impossible,” the Russian ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, said during a press conference on Friday.

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The lies of the imperialist powers over the Skripal affair are unravelling-Robert Stevens (World Socialist Web Site) (SOTT)

Skripal meme

© imgflip.com

On September 1, 1939, German radio announced the outbreak of the Second World War by reporting Adolf Hitler’s speech to the Reichstag, in which the dictator said, “This night for the first time Polish regular soldiers fired on our own territory. We have been returning the fire since 5:45 A.M. Henceforth, bomb will be met with bomb.”

Under the direction of Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, the invasion of Poland was portrayed as an act of self-defence.

A similar resort to lying and demonization has been carried out by the British, American and several European governments around the March 4 poisoning in Salisbury, England of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

It is now beyond any reasonable doubt that the claims of the Conservative government of Theresa May charging Russia with responsibility for the poisoning of the Skripals are fabrications.

On Tuesday, Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of the UK’s chemical weapons facility, the Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, told Sky News that scientists had “not verified the precise source” of the material used in the attack in Salisbury on March 4. Aitkenhead’s statement came on the eve of the convening at Moscow’s request of the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at The Hague, which would have exposed the UK government’s case. But this resort to damage control only underscores the monstrous hoax perpetrated by the British and American governments and their European allies.

May told parliament on March 12 that Porton Down was “absolutely categorical” that the “nerve agent” used on the Skripals had come from Russia. “Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at Porton Down,” she said, “the government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible” for an “attempted murder” on British soil.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle on March 20 that “the people from Porton Down” were “absolutely categorical” that the source of the nerve agent used against the Skripals was Russia. “I asked the guy myself,” he said, “and he said ‘there’s no doubt.'”

So politically devastating is the exposure of Britain’s lies that yesterday the Foreign Office deleted a text it sent out on March 22 declaring that the “analysis by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down made clear that this was a military-grade novichok nerve agent produced in Russia.”

Skripal UK foreign office tweet

Based on this lie, and without asking for any proof other than the word of May and Johnson, the United States, 14 European Union member states, Ukraine, Canada, Australia and three other allies between them expelled more than 100 Russian diplomatic personnel. The NATO military alliance followed suit, expelling seven Russian staff to send “a clear and very strong message that there was a cost to Russia’s reckless actions.”

Every one of these states knew from the outset that the allegations against Russia were a fraud. Even though Britain’s supposed case against Russia has fallen apart, this has had no impact on the backing it has received from its imperialist allies.

The emergency session of the OPCW called at Russia’s request received no answers to the serious questions Moscow insisted Britain had to address. Instead, the UK’s representative said Russia could not take part in a joint investigation with Britain into the Skripal affair, as it was “a likely perpetrator.” This was given unqualified backing by an EU spokesperson, who demanded that Russia respond to the UK’s “legitimate questions” about its alleged continued production of novichoks.

No less implicated in this criminal affair is the corporate media, especially the New York Times, which has spent the past month disseminating the raw propaganda issued by London and Washington and baying for Moscow’s punishment.

At no point did the Times raise a single question about the reliability of the claims of the May government. And now its response to the refutation of the lies is to ignore and bury Aitkenhead’s statement.

The role of the corporate media in the Skripal provocation confirms the political purpose of the hysterical campaign it has been leading against “fake news,” and its insistence that social media be regulated, restricted and monitored.

After the Skripal affair, is any more proof required that nothing the officially sanctioned media publishes or broadcasts can be taken at face value?

It denounces any questioning of the imperialist narrative as “fake news,” while it carries out its function of publishing false and lying reports.

As Leon Trotsky wrote 80 years ago, the lie is the ideological cement of social and political reaction. The World Socialist Web Site is an indispensable and powerful tool of the working class in combating the lies of the imperialist powers and their state-controlled propaganda machines.

In January, the World Socialist Web Site issued an open letter to socialist, anti-war, left-wing and progressive websites, organizations and activists calling for the formation of an international coalition to fight Internet censorship. Recent events attest to the importance of this critical initiative.

Comment: Don’t miss: British Government’s Chemical Attack Narrative Falls Apart – Boris Johnson Lied About Russia

Worthless Poison, Dead Pets, Deleted Tweets & Other Nonsense in the Skripal Case – By Sputnik

© AP Photo/ Thierry Charlier
Opinion

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Alleged Poisoning Attack on Russian Ex-Spy Skripal in UK (195)
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New details revealed this week in the inquiry into the UK poisoning of a Russian ex-spy haven’t clarified the situation, but did undermine London’s claims of Russian culpability, while highlighting the folly of the British media’s speculation-driven reporting. Sputnik recalls the four most absurd details the world learned about the case this week.

Miracle Healing

Definitely the biggest sensation in the Skripal story this week was the confirmation that both Yulia and her father are no longer in critical condition and making good progress in their recovery.

News of their improving condition must be especially surprising to the UK’s chemical weapons experts, and to Prime Minister May and Foreign Secretary Johnson, who claimed following the attack that the Skripals were struck by a powerful Russian military-grade nerve agent which leaves little chance of survival.

British and US media described the nerve agent as “the most deadly ever made.” A New York Times piece from March 13 shocked readers with the headline “The Nerve Agent Too Deadly to Use, Until Someone Did,” accompanied by an image of a scowling Foreign Minister Lavrov against the backdrop of a Russian flag.

Screenshot of the NYT story.
Screenshot of the NYT story.

But the improvement to the Skripals’ condition has forced these same media to backtrack, and to ask the uncomfortable question of how exactly the ex-spy and his daughter could possible survive such a deadly attack. The Washington Post was the most blunt, asking “why aren’t the Skripals dead?” Medical and toxicology experts told the newspaper and other media that the pair’s “miraculous” recovery came down to the fantastic medical care they received at Salisbury Hospital.

 
1 / 3
Washington Post story asking the tough questions.

Russian officials unanimously welcomed the news of the Skripals’ improving condition, but joined in asking just how all this was possible if, as London claims, this was all a “‘military-grade state-sponsored’ assassination attempt” by Russia.

Three Real Victims: The Skripals’ Pets

Another scandalous moment in the Skripal case came late in the week, and involved the family’s pets – a cat named Nash van Drake and two guinea pigs. Officials told UK media that the cat was taken to the military lab at Porton Down, put down and cremated. As for the guinea pigs, they were left in Sergei Skripal’s home long enough to starve to death.

News of the pets’ death prompted animal rights activists to charge British police with animal cruelty.

Back in Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova suggested it was highly suspicious that the Skripal’s cat, who “could have become an important piece of evidence in the chemical poisoning case,” were not only starved to death and put down, but cremated as well. The Russian Embassy in the UK echoed this sentiment.

Embarrassing Tweets

London’s case against Russia suffered another blow this week, after an admission by Porton Down defense lab chief Gary Aitkenhead that experts could not actually trace its origin. The scientist’s remarks prompted the Foreign office to delete a tweet which said point-blank that the nerve agent came from Russia, and led British opposition lawmakers to attack Boris Johnson, who adamantly claimed that Porton Down had given him rock-solid evidence of Russian involvement.

Yasenevo, Saratov, The Kremlin Basement?

Even after Porton Down lab admitted that it could not trace the chemical agent’s origin, some media continued to claim they knew the location of the “covert Russian lab” used to create it. The Sun cited unnamed ‘security sources’ who said that the poison came from an SRV foreign intelligence service lab in the Moscow district of Yasenevo. The Times, meanwhile, insisted that it was made in a lab in the town of Shikhany, Saratov, about 730 km southeast of Moscow.

The guessing game came to an end Friday after Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons representative Mikhail Babich issued a statement which said that chemical weapons were never produced or stored at the Shikhany research facility.

Altogether, the details revealed this week about the Skripal case have not only severely undermined London’s claims about Russian involvement, but led the public in the UK and many Western countries to ask just what exactly happened in Salisbury on March 4.

‘Theater of absurd’: Russian envoy shows UK version of Skripal case ‘falls apart’ (VIDEO) – By RT

© Niklas Halle'n

 
 
Russia’s UN envoy described the UK’s attempt, without evidence, to pin the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter on Moscow as “theater of absurd”, in his address updating the UNSC on the scandal.

The extraordinary meeting was requested by Moscow, following the announcement made by the secretive British Porton Down chemical laboratory, that it had not established that the nerve agent used to poison the Skripals was of Russian origin.

The top British officials explicitly cited the Porton Down laboratory when pinning the blame on Moscow, so following this revelation their theory started to fall apart, said Vasily Nebenzia, noting that the UK’s secret agencies rushed to help the government, producing new claims based on some “intelligence data.”

“I don’t even know how to comment on this. It’s some sort of the theater of absurd. You couldn’t have come up with better fake story?” Nebenzia asked.

The diplomat asked a series of questions pointing to inconsistencies of the UK’s narrative.

“Why did we have to wait eight years and [then] decided to [attack the Skripals] two weeks before the elections and several weeks before the world cup? Why did we release him from the country in the first place? Why do that in extremely public and dangerous fashion,” Nebenzia wondered.

The fact that the victims of the nerve agent, which is believed to be among the deadliest, managed to survive the attack has also raised serious questions, Nebenzia said. It could be explained only if an antidote had been administered to them immediately after the exposure. British officials, however, insisted that no antidote was used, since none existed in the first place. The Skripals managed to walk around for four hours after the exposure, according to the version by the British authorities, yet the police officer who found them lost consciousness immediately. 

There are also different versions of how the poison was delivered, leaked and speculated in the British media.  

“There are so many versions in wake of the lack of facts and evidence. House of Skripal, the door knob, flowers, buckwheat, or, in fact, the bay leaf?” Nebenzia said.

As the cornerstone allegation that the nerve agent originated from Russia turned out to be without merit, the whole narrative fell apart, Nebenzia said. Arguments that the Novichok nerve agent family originates from Russia, and therefore it was Moscow to blame do not hold water either, the diplomat added.

“We want to state urbi et orbi, Novichok is not copyrighted by Russia,” he stressed.

While the British authorities try to make fun of different theories expressed by Russia-based experts and media, Nebenzia said, Moscow does not have any version of the events due to glaring lack of facts available. 

The Russian diplomat stated that the level of intellectual justification used by the UK authorities, namely by the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, “does not invoke even a smile.”

“Boris Johnson, who constantly proclaims his Russophile [nature], produces an absurd, to use the nicest word I can, absurd and immoral premise that the incident was necessary for Moscow to bring the people together before the [presidential] elections,” Nebenzia stated.

“His comparison of Russia’s Football World Cup with the Berlin Olympics of 1936 was equally immoral,” he continued, adding that unlike the Soviet Union, a large British delegation took part in those Games.

UK envoy Karen Pierce stood by her government’s firm belief that there is “no plausible alternative explanation” and that that Russia was “highly likely” behind the Salisbury incident. She called it part of a “wider pattern of irresponsible Russian behavior” and accused Moscow of constant “aggression” over the recent years.

“Russia seeks to undermine the international institutions which have kept us safe since the end of the Second World War,” Pierce said.

The two envoys also resorted to literary references in sparring with each other, with Nebenzia illustrating the British position by quoting the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, who demanded “sentence first, verdict afterwards.”

Pierce retorted that another quote from the same book, about “believing six impossible things before breakfast,” suited her Russian colleague better, though it matched her own government’s case built on assertions and rhetoric.

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The Skripal case and UK’s flagrant misuse of ‘intelligence’ – By Alexander Mercouris The Duran(Sott)

MI6 headquarters  Britian spies

© Laurie Nevay/Wikipedia
The SIS Building or MI6 Building at Vauxhall Cross houses the headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, MI6), the United Kingdom’s foreign intelligence agency.

As the Novichok ‘evidence’ collapses, the criminal investigation into the Skripal attack has become corrupted

The events of the last few days in the Skripal case provide an object lesson of why in criminal investigations the rules of due process should always be adhered to. The reason the British now find themselves in difficulties is because they have not adhered to them.

This despite the fact that – as they all too often like to remind us – it was the British themselves who largely created them.

The single biggest unexplained mystery about the Skripal case is why it attracted so much attention so quickly.

Within hours of Sergey and Yulia Skripal being found passed out on a bench the British media were feverishly speculating that they had been poisoned by Russia.

This despite the fact that no information at that point existed which warranted such speculation, and despite pleas for the investigation to be allowed to take its course from the police and from the government minister responsible for the police, Home Secretary Amber Rudd (who has ever since been conspicuously silent about the whole affair).

Within three days of Sergey and Yulia Skripal being found on passed out on a bench – and before any information linking the incident to Russia had become publicly available – the British government’s COBRA committee was meeting – a fact which caused me incredulity – during which a highly revealing article in The Times of London has now revealed it was already agreed that Russia was “almost certainly” responsible.

A Whitehall source added: “We knew pretty much by the time of the first Cobra [the emergency co-ordination briefing that took place the same week] that it was overwhelmingly likely to come from Russia.”

(bold italics added)

“It” of course refers to the chemical agent which poisoned Sergey and Yulia Skripal, with the clear implication that by the date of the first COBRA meeting on 7th March 2018 – three days after Sergey and Yulia Skripal were found in the bench – “it” had already been identified as a Novichok “of a type developed by Russia”.

If what this article says is true – and despite the fact that the article is full tendentious reporting (of which more below) on this one point I am inclined to believe what it says – then that must mean either (1) that Porton Down is highly familiar with the properties of Novichok agents if it can identify the agent used so quickly; or (2) the British authorities already had “other” information before Porton Down completed its analysis which caused them to think that Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned with a chemical agent “of a type developed by Russia”.

If it was the first then note that Porton Down took no more than three days to identify the poison as a Novichok despite the fact (1) that Novichok agents are not in general use and are supposed to be very rare and there is no known instance of their having been used before (it seems that contrary to previous reports the Kivelidi murder in 1995 in Russia did not involve use of a Novichok); and (2) that confirming Porton Down’s analysis that the poison is a Novichok is taking the OPCW’s experts two weeks.

If it was the second, and the COBRA committee came to its view on 7th March 2018 that Russia was ‘almost certainly responsible’ before Porton Down had identified the poison, then the last few weeks have been an exercise in smoke-and-mirrors, with the British authorities pretending that the reason for their belief in Russian responsibility was that the poison used was a Novichok, whereas in reality they came to that belief for some entirely different reason.

If so then that might partially why Porton Down and the French scientists were able to identify the chemical agent so quickly.

They were able to identify the poison as a Novichok by the weekend prior to Theresa May’s statement to the House of Commons on Monday 12th March 2018 because they were told in advance what to look for.

I do not know which of these alternatives is true. However, for what it’s worth, I believe it is the second because it is the one which makes most sense in light of the known facts.

That this is the likeliest explanation of what happened finds support from The Times of London article which I cited earlier. It contains this highly revealing claim

Security services believe that they have pinpointed the location of the covert Russian laboratory that manufactured the weapons-grade nerve agent used in Salisbury, The Times has learnt.

Ministers and security officials were able to identify the source using scientific analysis and intelligence in the days after the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal a month ago, according to security sources.

Britain knew about the existence of the facility where the novichok poison was made before the attack on March 4, it is understood……

Security sources do not claim 100 per cent certainty but the source has insisted that they have a high degree of confidence in the location. They also believe that the Russians conducted tests to see whether novichok could be used for assassinations.

The disclosure is the latest part of Britain’s intelligence case against Russia, which has been undermined this week by a series of blunders.

(bold italics added)

In other words the entire British case against Russia derives not from identification of the poison as a Novichok but from information about the supposed existence of a ‘secret laboratory’ making Novichok in Russia which British intelligence had obtained – or thinks it had obtained – before the attack took place.

That the British case against Russia is intelligence based and is not based on the fact that the poison used was (allegedly) a Novichok is further shown by one case of manipulation of language and one case of crude editing in some of the things which have been said.

The example of manipulation of language is the constant British harping on the fact that the Novichok allegedly used in the attack is “military grade”.

I am not a chemist or a chemical weapons expert but I cannot see how it is possibly to say such a thing given that no military – not even the Russian military – has apparently ever stockpiled Novichok agents for use as a military weapon. How can one say therefore that any particular sample of Novichok is “military grade” if no military has ever stockpiled or used it?

As for the example of editing, it is one which I admit I previously overlooked but which was noticed by the invaluable Craig Murray, whose commentary on the Skripal case has been nothing short of outstanding.

The editing is of what was said by Porton Down chief executive Gary Aitkenhead. Since it was Craig Murray who noticed it rather than discuss it myself I will link and quote to what Craig Murray has to say about it

It is in this final statement that, in a desperate last minute attempt to implicate Russia, Aitkenhead states that making this nerve agent required

“extremely sophisticated methods to create, something probably only within the capabilities of a state actor.”

Very strangely, Sky News only give the briefest clip of the interview on this article on their website reporting it. And the report is highly tendentious: for example it states

However, he confirmed the substance required “extremely sophisticated methods to create, something only in the capabilities of a state actor”.

Deleting the “probably” is a piece of utterly tendentious journalism by Sky’s Paul Kelso.

I did not notice that the key word “probably” had been deleted from what Aitkenhead had said, and as a result my previous article wrongly quoted his words, saying them not as he had said them but as they had been wrongly edited.

It turns out that even what Aitkenhead actually said – that the Novichok agent would have required “extremely sophisticated methods to create, something probably only within the capabilities of a state actor” is almost certainly wrong.

Here is what Craig Murray has to say about that

Motorola sales agent Gary Aitkenhead – inexplicably since January, Chief Executive of Porton Down chemical weapons establishment – said in his Sky interview that “probably” only a state actor could create the nerve agent. That is to admit the possibility that a non state actor could. David Collum, Professor of Organo-Chemistry at Cornell University, infinitely more qualified than a Motorola salesman, has stated that his senior students could do it. Professor Collum tweeted me this morning.

novichok tweet

© Dave Collum/Twitter

The key point in his tweet is, of course “if asked”. The state and corporate media has not asked Prof. Collum nor any of the Professors of Organic Chemistry in the UK. There simply is no basic investigative journalism happening around this case.

That the entire British case against Russia depends on intelligence is further shown by a further strange development in the case today.

This is that the British authorities are now apparently claiming that the fact that the poison which was used to poison Sergey and Yulia Skripal was supposedly found on Sergey Skripal’s door knob is the ‘smoking gun’ which points to Russia.

Whether that is so or not – and I share Craig Murray’s deep skepticism about this – the alleged presence of the poison on the door knob cannot be the reason why on 7th March 2018 the British government’s COBRA committee had already come to the conclusion that the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal “was almost certainly” the work of Russia.

That is because the theory that Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned when they came into contact with the poison on the door knob only appeared several weeks after 7th March 2018.

All the evidence points to fact that the ‘intelligence’ the British government used to come to the conclusion – reached within hours of Sergey and Yulia Skripal being found passed out on a bench – that the attack on them had been carried out by Russia must have come from a human source.

If the British authorities really do possess what they believe to be a Russian assassin’s manual (see Craig Murray again) then that all but confirms it. How else would such a manual have come into their hands?

If that human source really was able to identify the particular poison used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal in advance, then that suggests a very well informed source indeed.

That might be because the source does have genuine access to secret information about a top secret Russian assassination programme, in which case the Russian authorities will by now almost certainly know who that source is.

However given the complete absence of any other evidence of a top secret Russian assassination programme I must say I doubt this (as I have discussed elsewhere, the Litvinenko case does not provide such evidence).

The alternative – which of course is what many people believe – is that this whole affair is a provocation, staged by someone who then tipped the British off that Novichok – a poison of “a type developed by Russia” but which can in fact easily be made elsewhere (see above) – had been used, whilst misleading the British by giving them a trail of false leads which appeared to point towards Russia.

The claim that the fact that traces of the poison were found on the door knob is the ‘smoking gun’ which points to Russia to my mind rather supports this second theory.

If this claim was made before the poison was found on the door knob it suggests that the source knew in advance that it was there, which would tend to implicate the source in the attack.

If the source provided the information about the alleged ‘assassin’s manual’ after reports appeared in the British media about the poison being found on the door knob – which by the way is what I suspect – then that strongly suggests that the source is adapting its information to the changing news, which suggests manipulation of the intelligence in order to implicate Russia.

Whatever the case the fact that Novichok was probably used to poison Sergey and Yulia Skripal (we will only know with any measure of certainty when the OPCW reports its tests) is not proof that Russia was involved.

The British have got themselves into a total mess by pretending that it is.

They would have avoided getting into this mess – and avoided being manipulated by whoever is giving them ‘secret’ information, if that is what is happening – if they had instead done what their law and traditions dictate they should have done, which is allowed the criminal investigation to take its course.

It bears repeating that at this stage no suspect has been identified in the case and even the theory that Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by touching Sergey Skripal’s door knob is pure conjecture.

Once again – as in the Litvinenko case and the Russiagate scandal – the course of a criminal investigation has been corrupted by the misuse of ‘intelligence’.

See Also:

British Government’s Chemical Attack Narrative Falls Apart – Boris Johnson Lied About Russia – ByNiall Bradley (Sott.net)

boris johnson pinocchio

Boris has really done it this time hasn’t he.

In a blockbuster twist to the Skripal sage, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and his British Foreign & Commonwealth Office has been caught lying to the whole world.

After almost a month of baseless claims and slurs – broadcast in media globally – about Russian involvement in the attempted murder of retired spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the British government is now backpedaling faster than a Tour de France video on rewind.

In its previous iteration, the British government’s argument hinged on the Porton Down chemical weapons facility having positively identified the alleged murder weapon, ‘Novichok’, as being Russian in origin. But now the most that the chief military scientist at Porton Down will say is that a they have identified a “military-grade nerve agent” of unknown origin.

This time it’s Russia’s turn to call an emergency UN Security Council meeting, and Britain’s turn to field awkward questions.

The latest development today is that Yulia Skripal is awake and doing ‘fine’, as is her father. Russian media have published a recording of a phone conversation she had with a relative in Russia. I won’t even ask how they got ahold of that, but more concerning is the following question this raises: how on Earth can the Skripals be doing ‘fine’ if they were exposed to a lethal nerve agent that is classed as a chemical weapon of mass destruction?

The British government says it sent its ‘bestest proof’ to fellow anglophonic countries – The US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – the ‘Five Eyes’ that form the core of the Western Order, while everyone else in NATO-stan received just the ‘basic package’ of ‘believe us, this is for realz’.

Despite being on just a ‘need-to-know’ basis, all but a handful of the quislings in NATO-stan fell into line by booting at least one Russian diplomat. Of the few countries that have not yet done so, Bulgaria is apparently considering it, while the US gauleiter in ambassador to Slovenia has warned his host country that its failure to toe the part line “surprised him“, that the Slovenian government “ought to have expelled Russian diplomats,” and that “Slovenians must decide where their interests lie; with the democratic free West, or the Russian model of society.”

Freedom and democracy has never tasted so… bitter.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had this to say:

“Rest assured, we will respond. The reason is that no one would like to tolerate such obnoxiousness and we won’t either. When one or two diplomats are asked to leave this or that country, with apologies being whispered into our ears, we know for certain that this is a result of colossal pressure and colossal blackmail, which is Washington’s chief instrument in the international scene.”

Speaking of blackmail, what is the French connection in the Skripal saga? When the Russian government formally presented its British counterpart with a list of 14 basic questions about what the heck is going on, nine of them made specific reference to what we can only assume is Russian knowledge of France’s involvement in this dirty business:

3. On what grounds was France involved in technical cooperation in the investigation of the incident, in which Russian citizens were injured?

4. Did the UK notify the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) of France’s involvement in the investigation of the Salisbury incident?

5. What does France have to do with the incident, involving two Russian citizens in the UK?

6. What rules of UK procedural legislation allow for the involvement of a foreign state in an internal investigation?

7. What evidence was handed over to France to be studied and for the investigation to be conducted?

8. Were the French experts present during the sampling of biomaterial from Sergei and Yulia Skripal?

9. Was the study of biomaterials from Sergei and Yulia Skripal conducted by the French experts and, if so, in which specific laboratories?

10. Does the UK have the materials involved in the investigation carried out by France?

11. Have the results of the French investigation been presented to the OPCW Technical Secretariat?

Et toi, Francois?

Between this fiasco and the revelation that Cambridge Analytica is in fact a British military intelligence spin-off, centuries of meddling in everyone else’s affairs may finally be catching up with the Brits.

In the meantime, responsible, psychologically intact adults are gathered in Russia for the annual Moscow Conference on International Security, an increasingly well-attended and welcome non-Western alternative to the annual NATO love-fest that is the Munich Security Conference.

Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service told the Moscow conference yesterday that the sordid Salisbury affair was a “grotesque provocation rudely staged by the British and US intelligence agencies.”

And that’s the plain truth.

Niall Bradley (Profile)

Niall Bradley has a background in political science and media consulting, and has been an editor and contributing writer at SOTT.net for 8 years. His articles are cross-posted on his personal blog, NiallBradley.net. Niall is co-host of the ‘Behind the Headlines’ radio show on the Sott Radio Network and co-authored Manufactured Terror: The Boston Marathon Bombings, Sandy Hook, Aurora Shooting and Other False-Flag Terror Attacks with Joe Quinn.

Britain behaving like ‘mafia state’ in Skripal case – OSCE ex-VP Willy Wimmer – By RT

 
 
The UK is exploiting European solidarity and behaving like a ‘mafia state’ by pushing forward warmongering accusations and excluding Russia from the Skripal poisoning probe, the former vice-president of OSCE assembly told RT.

Britain’s behavior in the Skripal poisoning scandal is “a major danger to international peace,” believes Willy Wimmer, who held the vp position with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) assembly from 1994 to 2000, and who had previously served as state secretary to Germany’s defense minister.

“I think we would call this state a mafia state because it is against all European and international rules and regulations how the British government has behaved in a criminal case with regard to another country,” Wimmer told RT.

The UK has a history of pressing forward warmongering rhetoric, Wimmer said, recalling Britain’s decision to go to war in Iraq. “We, as Europeans, have an experience with the British. We only have to look back to Tony Blair. They lie from one war into the next one.” The long awaited Chilcot report, published in 2016, offered a damning critique of Blair, stating that he deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by the Iraqi regime and had relied on “flawed” intelligence.

“And that is why I think as long as the British don’t behave in a proper, legal, international way, I think we all should believe that this is another British lie, at least to go for war against Russia,” Wimmer added.

The former OSCE assembly vice-president said the EU’s position of standing in solidarity with the UK was standard allied behavior but warned the bloc might think twice before doing so again in the future.

“If a country asks for solidarity and for support, it is given by the others because otherwise you can’t run certain organizations like EU or NATO. What the British are doing – the government of Theresa May is exploiting this will of solidarity, which is a basic foundation of the European Union and NATO.”

“This is a blow to the European solidarity and this is a blow to the European Union as well as NATO. They will never do it again.”

READ MORE: UK Foreign Office denies claiming nerve agent from Russia, despite tweet and Boris Johnson interview

The European Union previously rushed to stand by UK’s ‘belief’ that Moscow was ‘likely’ behind the Salisbury attack on March 4, despite the failure by experts at the British chemical weapons laboratory at Porton Down to link the samples of the nerve agent to Russia.

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Public Demands Resignation of Boris Johnson Over Skripal Nerve Agent Lies – By Sputnik (SOTT)

Boris-Johnson

The revelations of top British military scientists have thrown the social media into an uproar as it became apparent that new statements cast doubt on earlier claims made by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson regarding the alleged nerve gas attack in Salisbury.

Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down in England, told Sky News that while the scientists managed to identify the chemical used in the Skripal poisoning case as a “military-grade nerve agent,” they were unable to determine its “precise source.”

About two weeks earlier, however, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson insisted during an interview with Deutsche Welle that Porton Down scientists were “absolutely categorical: when they allegedly assured him that “there’s no doubt” that the chemical came from Russia.

Many social media users were nonplussed by this development, voicing their concerns via Twitter and calling on Johnson to be held accountable.

Skripal case: belief in Russia’s guilt looks to be based not on evidence but on a guess – By Alexander Mercouris ( The Duran )

British authorities admit have no proof poison made in Russia; entire case against Russia based on a classified assessment

On the eve of the meeting of the OPCW’s executive council – convened by Russia and scheduled for tomorrow – we have had a highly revealing succession of statements about the Skripal case from the British authorities.

The one which is attracting the most attention is the admission by Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, that whilst British scientists are able to confirm that the poison used in the attack and Sergey and Yulia Skripal was a ‘military grade’ Novichok type substance (the Russian authorities say the British have told them it is A-234), they cannot confirm that it was produced in Russia.

We were able to identify it as novichok, to identify that it was military-grade nerve agent.

We have not identified the precise source, but we have provided the scientific info to Government who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions you have come to…..

It is our job to provide the scientific evidence of what this particular nerve agent is, we identified that it is from this particular family and that it is a military grade, but it is not our job to say where it was manufactured.

(bold italics added)

Gary Aitkenhead did however go on to say that the poison used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal would have required “extremely sophisticated methods to create, something only in the capabilities of a state actor”.

Gary Aitkenhead refused to say whether or not Porton Down had ever produced any of the poison used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.  However he categorically denied that the poison could have come from Porton Down

There is no way anything like that could have come from us or left the four walls of our facility

Before proceeding further, I should say that I expect that some people are going to seize on Gary Aitkenhead’s denial that the poison could have escaped from Porton Down as an admission that there are stocks of the poison in Porton Down.

That would be a logical fallacy.  A denial of one thing – that the poison came from Porton Down – should never be treated as an admission of something else – in this case that Porton Down possesses stocks of the poison.

I say this as someone who thinks it ‘highly likely’ (to borrow a phrase) that Porton Down does possess stocks of the poison.

In any event, we now have clarity on one important point.  The scientific evidence does not prove that the poison which was used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal came from Russia.

I expect that this is also the opinion of the French experts the British authorities consulted – if it were not I would expect Gary Aitkenhead to have said so – and of the OPCW’s experts.

The current position in the case can therefore be summed up as follows

(1) the British scientific evidence is that Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by a Novichok type chemical agent (probably A-234) but does not extend to this agent having been made in Russia;

(2) the British police have not yet named a suspect in the case;

(3) there are various theories about how Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned.  Sputnik has summed some of them.  It appears that the latest theory – that the poison was smeared on the door of Sergey Skripal’s house – is running into problems, and may be wrong.

(4) though Gary Aitkenhead says that the British have no knowledge of any antidote in a case of poisoning by the chemical used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal, the British authorities have said that Yulia Skripal is now recovering, which suggests either that her contact with the poison was very slight, or that the potency of the poison has been greatly exaggerated.

Theresa May on 14th March 2018 said that Russia was ‘culpable’ of the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.  Previously, on 12th March 2018 she said that it was ‘highly likely’ that Russia was responsible for the attack.  Since the EU Council meeting of 22nd March 2018 the British government together with the EU have reverted to Theresa May’s original 12th March 2018 position that it was ‘highly likely’ that Russia was responsible for the attack.

Gary Aitkenhead’s comments taken by themselves in my opinion make it impossible even to say that Russia was ‘highly likely’ to have carried out the attack.

His claim that only a state possesses the resources to have made the poison is not evidence against Russia given that various other states are known to have the means to produce the poison and may actually have done so.

Besides I understand that this claim is disputed by other scientists, who however – unlike Gary Aitkenhead – have not been involved in identifying the poison.

We are left therefore with our old friends, the British government and the British intelligence agencies who have secretly ‘assessed’ on the basis of ‘other’ evidence which since it is classified they will never show us that Russia made and possesses the poison which was used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.

That we are dealing not with hard fact of the sort that can be produced in court to prove a case, but with a classified ‘assessment’ the basis of which will always be secret, is confirmed by the British Foreign Office, whose spokesman is reported to have said the following

We have been clear from the very beginning that our world leading experts at Porton Down identified the substance used in Salisbury as a Novichok, a military grade nerve agent.

This is only one part of the intelligence picture.

As the Prime Minister has set out in a number of statements to the Commons since 12 March, this includes our knowledge that within the last decade, Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents – probably for assassination – and as part of this programme has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks.

Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views former intelligence officers as targets.

It is our assessment that Russia was responsible for this brazen and reckless act and, as the international community agrees, there is no other plausible explanation

(bold italics added)

That this is so has also been confirmed by Porton Down

It is not, and has never been, our responsibility to confirm the source of the agent.

This chemical identity of the nerve agent is one of four factors [NB: what were the other three – AM] used by the Government to attribute the use of chemical weapons in Salisbury to Russia.

The Government’s assessment has been clear from the start. Our chemical analysis is a key part of the Government’s assessment, and this has not changed

(bold italics added)

The word ‘assessment’ may sound impressive, but it is essentially no more than a pretentious word for a surmise or at best an analysis.  As such – like any other surmise or analysis – it can be wrong.

The famous 6th January 2017 ODNI Assessment – one of the foundation documents of the Russiagate scandal – contains a lengthy discussion of what an ‘assessment’ is.  It contains these now famous words

Estimative language consists of two elements: judgments about the likelihood of developments or events occurring and levels of confidence in the sources and analytic reasoning supporting the judgments.  Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.  Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents. 

(bold italics added)

If the British government thinks it knows that Russia carried out the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal – which is all that an ‘assessment’ implies – that is one thing.

However a criminal investigation by the British police into the attack is supposed to be underway.

The British government has preempted that investigation by making public claims of Russian state responsibility on the basis of an ‘assessment’ the grounds for which can never be shown to a defendant, and which therefore cannot be produced in court.

I cannot see how that can do anything else other than undermine the whole investigation process, and prejudice the conduct of any future trial.

Perhaps that is a matter of indifference to most people.  It is not to me.

As for the famous formula that it is ‘highly likely’ that Russia is responsible for the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal, I do not see how that is sustainable any longer.

The most that can be said is that the British government thinks that Russia is responsible, about which however it may be wrong.

Perhaps all those countries that expelled Russia’s diplomats on the strength of a British guess should now be inviting them back?

The Duran
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