It is perhaps the least reported media scandal about the least reported international controversy in recent times—the resignation of Tareq Haddad, a well-regarded journalist from Newsweek, a mainstay of the mainstream media.
At issue was what he said regarding the magazine’s refusal to cover the scandal unfolding within the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Evidence has been building for some time that the OPCW cooked the books in its investigation of alleged chemical weapons use in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, 2018. These allegations served as the justification for a subsequent joint U.S.-U.K.-France attack against suspected chemical weapons targets inside Syria, despite the fact that the OPCW had yet to inspect the Douma location, let alone issue a report on its findings.
In an announcement on Twitter, Haddad declared, “I resigned from Newsweek after my attempts to publish newsworthy revelations about the leaked OPCW letterwere refused for no valid reason,” adding, “I have collected evidence of how they [the OPCW] suppressed the story in addition to evidence from another case where info inconvenient to US govt was removed, though it was factually correct.” Haddad further noted that he had been threatened by Newsweek with legal action if he sought to publish his findings elsewhere. Against the Left: A Ro... Best Price: $1.25 Buy New $8.00 (as of 09:22 UTC - Details)
The OPCW’s Douma investigation has been under a cloud of controversy since shortly after its interim report was released to the public in early March 2019. The document was prepared by Ian Henderson, an engineer working for the OPCW. It challenged the conclusions of the inspection team regarding the provenance of two chlorine canisters located at the incident scene, and was leaked to the press.
The document, which the OPCW subsequently declared to be genuine, raised the probability that the canisters had been manually placed at the scene, as opposed to having been dropped by the Syrian Air Force, raising the question as to whether the entire Douma incident had been staged.
Haddad’s story, however, was not about Ian Henderson’s report, but rather a series of new documents, backed up by an inspector-turned-whistleblower known only as “Alex,” that accused the OPCW leadership of ignoring the findings of its own inspectors in favor of a revisionist report prepared by another team of inspectors based out of Turkey. This second group allegedly relied heavily on data and witnesses provided by the Syrian Civil Defense (the “White Helmets”) and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), two ostensibly humanitarian organizations opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Haddad’s new sources emerged after the publication of the OPCW’s final report on the Douma incident in July 2019. That document concluded that chlorine had been used as a weapon at Douma, likely via chlorine canisters dropped from aircraft—making the Syrian government solely responsible and legitimizing the U.S.-led aerial attacks.
The leaked material was verified by interviews to select reporters (possibly including Haddad, who is seeking whistleblower-like protection from Newsweek) by “Alex,” who claims to have been part of the Douma investigation. The narrative that emerges from a cursory examination of this new data is damning—the OPCW suppressed the findings of the investigation team, which concluded that chlorine had not been used as a weapon at Douma. The OPCW management then conspired with the U.S. government to manufacture another report, based on an alternate set of facts, which sustained the notion that the Syrian government had, in fact, used chlorine as a weapon.
The OPCW management has largely ignored the leaks. The current director general, Fernando Arias, defended the work of his organization, declaring, “While some of these diverse views continue to circulate in some public discussion forums, I would like to reiterate that I stand by the independent, professional conclusion [of the investigation].” For its part, Newsweek, through a spokesperson, told a reporter, “The writer [Haddad] pitched a conspiracy theory rather than an idea for objective reporting. Newsweek editors rejected the pitch.”