In the very early spring of this year, I gave a lecture to European military personnel interested in the Middle East. It was scarcely a year since Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chlorine gas against the civilian inhabitants of the Damascus suburb of Douma on 7 April 2018, in which 43 people were said to have been killed.
Few present had much doubt that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which represents 193 member states around the world, would soon confirm in a final report that Assad was guilty of a war crime which had been condemned by Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May.
But at the end of my talk, a young Nato officer who specialises in chemical weapons – he was not British – sought me out for a private conversation. “The OPCW are not going to admit all they know,” he said. “They’ve already censored their own documents.”