The mainstream media headlines are touting that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) report, which was published at noon today, confirms the government’s claim that the substance that poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal and a police officer in Salisbury ‘is Novichok’.
However, the report itself – or rather, the executive summary that is all the OPCW has published – does not name the chemical.
In a carefully-worded passage, the summary goes no further than to “confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to [its] identity”:
But what were those findings?
The Porton Down analysis
Boris Johnson and other government spokespeople have routinely referred to it as Novichok, but the only official description of the chemical by the scientists who analysed it to have been published so far is found in the court application submitted to gain legal permission to take the blood samples analysed by the OPCW.
And that description is far less emphatic:
If this is the ‘findings of the United Kingdom’, then the public knows nothing more than what it did.
Significantly, the OPCW summary makes no mention of any identification of the source of the chemical – which suggests that the OPCW was also only able to replicate the admitted finding of the Porton Down chemical weapons research facility: that no source could be identified.
This means that the main effect of the OPCW’s findings is to reinforce the dishonesty of the lie told by Boris Johnson when he claimed that Porton Down had told him ‘categorically’ that the source of the poison was Russia.
Porton Down admitted it had not identified a source – and in its carefully-worded summary, the OPCW has just confirmed it could only replicate Porton Down’s findings.
In less diplomatic language, the world’s official watchdog for chemical weapon use just agreed that Boris Johnson lied.
The ‘MSM’ are making much of the ‘high purity’ of the compound, suggesting that this confirms it could only come from a ‘state actor’ and repeating the claim that only state actors could produce the chemical.
But a senior professor of organic chemistry at one of the world’s leading universities has already said that making Novichok compounds is “simple as hell” and any number of commercial laboratories for hazardous substances around the world could do so safely:
Commercial laboratories capable of synthesising a ‘simple as hell’ chemical to a high degree of purity are not exactly unknown – so the idea that this means it must be a state facility anywhere, let alone one in Russia, is a fiction.
The OPCW’s full report, which the summary says names the specific chemical identified, will be circulated to all ‘States Parties’, which includes Russia – so the exact findings may become public at some point.
But the specificity of the identification has not been made clear. If it’s as vague as that given to a court by Porton Down – which the ‘confirm the findings‘ wording suggests it might be – then we are all little further forward.
Except, apparently, in knowing that the OPCW also thinks Boris Johnson lied to us about Porton Down identifying the source of the chemical from its analysis.
Now the question is: what actions will the government take based on his lie?
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