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OPCW Confirms Mustard Gas Attack in Northern Syria — 6 Months After Russia Submitted Evidence

For the western-controlled OPCW, not all Syrian chemical attacks are equal

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

As Sergey Lavrov very eloquently pointed out last month, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has a very odd work ethic. 

The OPCW responded almost immediately to the alleged April 4 chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun in Syria's Idlib province. And within two weeks, the organization produced "incontrovertible laboratory results concluding exposure to Sarin".

<figcaption>OPCW needs more time when they're not investigating Assad...</figcaption>
OPCW needs more time when they're not investigating Assad...

At the time, Moscow expressed amazement at how quickly the OPCW was able to reach such a conclusion — considering that numerous reports submitted months ago by Russia and Syria were collecting dust. 

But it looks like even the brave investigators at the OPCW can't drag their feet forever. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed "satisfaction" after the OPCW finally confirmed that mustard gas had been used against civilians on September 16 in Ma'arat Umm Hawsh, a village in northern Aleppo Governorate, northwestern Syria. 

According to the most recent update issued by the OPCW:

The [Fact Finding Mission] has also continued its work to investigate the allegations of use of chemical weapons at Um-Housh on around 15 and 16 September 2016, as requested by the Syrian Arab Republic in a letter dated 29 November 2016. Based on the interviews carried out by the FFM and the documents and other related materials reviewed, as well as the results of blood sample analyses, the FFM can confirm that the two female casualties reported to have been involved in the incident in Um-Housh were exposed to sulfur mustard. The report on this incident will be submitted for the consideration of States Parties in the coming days, and will also be forwarded to the [Joint Investigative Mechanism].

In other words: After Russia and Syria submitted their evidence, it took the OPCW nearly 6 months to confirm that civilians had been attacked with chemical weapons. Why the wait? 

According to TASS, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Saturday that "the conclusions we had made along with our Syrian counterparts that terrorists used sulfur mustard in the populated locality of Maarat Umm-Hawsh have been fully confirmed at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). We state this with satisfaction."

The most likely culprit of this attack is Islamic State, but northern Syria is home to a variety of terrorist outfits. 

However, the Kurds seem certain that ISIS was behind the attack:

Strange, isn't it? The OPCW works around-the-clock when the Syrian government is blamed for a chemical attack. But when Russia submits evidence of an attack — it takes 6 months for the fabled organization to even acknowledge it. 

As a fun end note, Russia is still waiting to hear back from the OPCW about reports of chemical weapons used by the "moderate" rebels in Aleppo.

The evidence was submitted more than four months ago. 

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