Anatomy of a Russian Chemical Weapons Lab Lie
If Moscow wants its Syrian allies to skirt the blame for chemical attacks, they’re going to have to come up with some better evidence than a few beakers and boilers in a dingy basement.
Russia and Syria say the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria was all a rebel-staged fake— and promise that they’ve got the evidence to prove it. But one of the pieces of evidence they say shows a secret rebel chemical weapons lab shows nothing of the sort, experts say.
At the center of the claim is a building in Al-Shifuniya, in East Ghouta where the Syrian military says it found “a chemical warehouse used to manufacture chemical weapons against the Syrian Army” and a “research lab for experiments” run by the Islamist militant group Jaish al Islam in mid-March. The allegation tracked with an uptick in Russian claims about a rebel chemical weapons “false flag” in the making shortly after the Trump administration was considering military options to respond to the Assad regime’s alleged use of chlorine gas in early 2018—including an alleged February 25 chlorine attack on Al-Shifuniya itself.
Since Syrian state TV ran videos of the facility, Russia’s state-backed media outlet RT has amplified the story, calling the Al-Shifuniya site “a well-equipped chemical laboratory run by Saudi-backed Islamist terrorists” and the left-leaning Salon columnist Patrick Lawrence has cited the piece approvingly.
Russia’s defense ministry even seized on the facility and included it as evidence in a briefing denying Russian complicity in the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal—without directly tying to lab to the attack in Salisbury, England. “After liberating an array of local communities in Eastern Ghouta, Syrian government forces located a clandestine workshop for the production of chemical munitions,” a Russian …read more