Talk:British involvement in Syria

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British MI6 operation

moved from Category talk:Chemical Weapons#British MI6 operation --CE (talk) 01:40, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

Government scientists at Porton Down are examining a soil sample smuggled out of Syria after a suspected nerve gas attack on rebels in the country's civil war. The sample was obtained in a covert mission involving MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service. Experts at the Ministry of Defence's chemical research establishment in Wiltshire are testing the soil for traces of sarin nerve agent. Syrian rebels claim that they have been attacked with chemical weapons by the Assad regime's forces but have failed to produce any proof. US defence officials are trying to gather evidence and the UN has announced its own investigation into the alleged chemical attack near Aleppo on Tuesday.

Note that this report, and the accompanying photo, imply that the samples are from the Khan-al-Assal attack on 19 March. Later press reports and government statements imply that the samples are from Uteybah near Damascus, where (after the first reports from Khan-al-Assal attack indicated a rebel attack on a Syrian army post) the opposition alleged a CW attack on rebel positions on the same day as the Khan-al-Assal attack Pmr9 (talk) 21:19, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

I did not know British agents were operating in Syria:

Forensic evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria has been found for the first time in a soil sample smuggled out of the country in a secret British operation.
Defence sources, who declined to be named, said yesterday that conclusive proof that “some kind of chemical weapon” had been fired in Syria had been established by scientists at the Ministry of Defence’s chemical and biological research establishment at Porton Down in Wiltshire.
The discovery, which had not been made public, will put pressure on the United States to consider punitive action against President Assad. The White House warned in December...
The tests at Porton Down reportedly concluded that the chemical traces were from a weapon rather than gas sometimes used by the Syrian security forces to put down protests.
The UK Ministry of Defense has claimed that chemical weapons were used in the Syrian conflict. Forensic evidence was collected after scientists analyzed soil smuggled out of the country in a secret British operation, the Times reported.
The sample was reportedly extracted from a neighborhood on the outskirts of Damascus in March by MI6 agents operating within Syria, the Australian reported at the time.
UK says that chemical weapons were used in the Syrian conflict, after scientists analyzed soil smuggled out of the country.
The sample, said to be taken from a neighborhood on the outskirts of Damascus, was delivered to the UK Ministry of Defense’s chemical and biological research establishment at Porton Down in Wiltshire, where it was identified as containing traces of “some kind of chemical weapon.”

-- Petri Krohn (talk) 04:42, 14 April 2013 (UTC)

Excellent, Petri, thanks! Was not up to getting up to speed on this yet, this list helps. Porton Down and British spies snagging dirt were reported before, after Khan Al-Assal (March 19). There, no CW, just "super-power tear gas," they speculated, prior to completing the testing. Because otherwise, it looked like rebel chlorine ... Here, they scientifically and cautiously cannot say what chemical/molecules and stuff. Not for sure Sarin. But definitely a regime-type chemical, probably. Of course. The sample is from near Porton Down, I suspect. Maybe Watership Down, and it's rabbit poison. --Caustic Logic (talk) 14:05, 14 April 2013 (UTC)

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon's role in collecting samples for MI6

In a comment on the SicSemperTyrannis blog, David Habakkuk, a retired television producer and historian of intelligence services, reveals an interesting discovery:-

"Also of interest are contributions to the ‘Brown Moses Blog’ by a former British Army CBRN expert called Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon. From his entry on the ‘Military Speakers’ website, and other material, it seems likely that he was instrumental in providing ‘environmental’ samples from incidents prior to Ghouta in which sarin was used to Porton Down. This has quite large implications. (See"

It's clear that Bretton-Gordon (HBG) had a key role in the MI6 operation to collect samples for Porton Down that was reported in the Times and Telegraph during April 2013.

Another comment in the same thread by Martin Jerrett is of interest:-

"H de B Gordon, you mentioned, is more open and has been funded by UK government since 2012 at least to develop a network of people in Syria to work on collecting samples among other tasks. "

Jerrett is an Arabic speaker who has had a string of short-term jobs with UK NGOs working in the Arab world. In 2012 he was coordinator of the Syria Development Network funded by the Asfari Foundation (also funds the Syria Campaign), so he's likely to know HBG professionally and is simply repeating in good faith what HBG has told him. The accounts filed at UK Companies House by HBG's now defunct start-up companies (SecureBio founded in 2011, SecureBio Forensics founded in 2012) support Jerrett's statement that some entity was funding HBG "since 2012 at least", but indicate that the source of this funding was concealed behind nominee directors who made "loans" that were never repaid. If this was MI6, they were remarkably prescient in anticipating before any reports of alleged CW use in Syria that they would need to "develop a network of people in Syria to work on collecting samples".

In another comment on the same thread DH notes a comment by HBG on the Brown Moses site that makes clear he was present with Ian Pannell at the site of the alleged chemical attack in Saraqeb (29 April), reported on the BBC on 16 May.

I covered the Sarin attack with the BBC’s Ian Pannell and concluded without doubt, that the Regime was responsible, and we didn’t have any detailed chemical analysis kit with us.

But the BBC report presents HBG as an independent expert who was not at the scene. Readers of Robert Stuart's blog will be familiar with the evidence of fabrication in Ian Pannell's reporting of the alleged napalm attack in Urm-al-Kabra on 26 August for the BBC. His report was first broadcast on 29 August during the House of Commons debate, but too late to shift the vote

So this ties the MI6 operation in 2013 with a funding scheme that began a year earlier, and with a related infowar operation involving the BBC. It's clear from the press reports and HBG's statements that he provided Porton Down with environmental samples within a few days of the Khan-al-Assal sarin attack on 19 March 2013. These were at first described as being from Khan-al-Assal, but later as being from the alleged attack in Uteybah on the same day. Some time around mid-May 2013 someone seems to have realized that the chemical profile of the environmental samples (which the Russians reported as kitchen sarin with no stabilizers) would give the game away. Subsequent government statements refer to physiological samples (which can establish sarin exposure but don't reveal anything about how it was made). Pmr9 (talk) 00:30, 9 January 2017 (UTC)