Russia Isn’t the Only Nation to Assassinate Enemies with Chemical Agents
NOTE: My latest piece on Mike Pompeo’s ascension to the Trump Pantheon as secretary of state is out at Middle East Eye. Give a read and pass it on!
As horrible as Putin’s murder of ex-KGB spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter is (I’ll explain in a second why I used the term “murder”), Russia is not the only nation that uses chemical agents to assassinate its enemies. Israel maintains a robust chemical weapons research facility at Nes Ziona, which produces numerous potential lethal chemical agents on behalf of the Mossad’s Kidon unit, which carries out such assassinations. The research institute was founded by none other than future-Israeli president, Ephraim Katzir. A curious fact is that Israel most infamous spy, Marcus Klingberg, was the deputy director of Nes Ziona, and shared its secrets with the Soviets for years before he was caught, tried in secret, and imprisoned for over a decade.
In 1997, Mossad hit men injected a fatal nerve agent into Khaled Mashal in Jordan. It was only through the alertness of bystanders who pursued the killers and captured them, that Jordan’s King Hussein was able to demand an antidote to save Mashal’s life. In 2008, another Mossad team traveled to Dubai to assassinate Hamas arms dealer, Mahmoud al Mabouh. They used a different chemical agent injected into him. This time they were more “successful” as the only witnesses to the murder were the killers inside his hotel room. However, that killing too boomeranged because the so-called greatest spy agency in the world hadn’t banked on Dubai’s ever-present public surveillance system to track the 27 Israeli agents’ every move. The assassination and subsequent discovery of Israeli abuse of passports by several European countries caused the expulsion of at least two Mossad station chiefs and a noted cool-down in relations with them.
Finally, and perhaps most notoriously, Al Jazeera produced a meticulously researched documentary alleging that Israel prime minister Ariel Sharon plotted the assassination of Yasser Arafat, which eventually led to his death. Clayton Swisher, the producer of the series, found that on some of his clothes large doses of Polonium had been detected. In his new book on the history of Mossad assassinations, Ronen Bergman doesn’t definitely say that Israel killed Arafat. But he does everything but that. He notes that Sharon had a long-term obsession with killing the Palestinian leader, that he boasted to his confidants that he had done so, and that the Israeli cabinet actually voted to approve such an assassination. Anyone reading between the lines will come away with the distinct impression that Sharon was responsible for the poisoning of Arafat.
So while it’s right to be outraged by the horrors perpetrated by Russia’s foreign intelligence services as they go around knocking off Putin’s betes noire, let’s not forget that the Russian dictator’s junior partner in such mayhem is none other than the State of Israel. Not only does Israel have enough WMD to wipe out the entire Middle East many times over, it likely has enough chemical weapons to do the job almost as “well.” Further, this is nothing less than state-sponsored terrorism. Those who use it must be held accountable for their crimes. Otherwise, this will become common practice among state killing agencies, aka intelligence services.
No doubt, the Russian assassinations by nerve agents of Skripal, Alexander Litvinenko and possibly others will inspire the Mossad to loosen its rules of engagement. We may see situations in which its killers don’t want to blow up an enemy agent as they do regularly, but rather to kill him slowly and without leaving a trace. Doing so in countries which don’t have the investigatory resources of the UK would provide a perfect opportunity. Israel’s killers don’t want to be outdone by their Russian counterparts. Mark my words, you can expect it.
Returning to my opening sentence, if you are relieved to know that the two UK poisoning victims were saved from death–don’t be. I read the story of a Soviet scientist who accidentally inhaled the Novichok nerve agent used in Salisbury, in his research lab . The man at first saw vivid hallucinations and then passed out. He received the antidote, but it did not ‘save’ him. For five years following he suffered from severe depression, and then died. Make no mistake, this poison is a death sentence. The victims, even if they survive will face a living hell. That is why it is imperative that Britain exact a severe punishment on Russia for this heinous act. It is why it is absolutely shameful that Donald Trump hasn’t denounced this attack and its perpetrator in no uncertain terms. It is why he is not fit to be president (but that’s another story).
25 thoughts on “Russia Isn’t the Only Nation to Assassinate Enemies with Chemical Agents – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Great article except you are repeating the “Let’s hate Russia” mantra from MSM in the US and Europe. There is zero proof Russia had anything to do with the poisoning, but after reading your article above, there is more possibilities that it was Israel. Thanks for your articles
@ truegreta: This site does not publish fake news, even in comments. If you have any accusation you offer credible proof. The next time you do this will be your last here. As for me, I’d say the word of two national intelligence organizations that Russia poisoned them is good enough for me. What do you have? Nothing.
This is not an invitation to offer speculation and other nonsense conspiracy theories. If you do, you’ll be outa here.
[comment deleted: Once again, read my response to Paranam Kid. We’re simply not going where you want to go.]
Anatoly Kuntsevich was most likely assassinated by Mossad for dealing in chemical agents and/or knowledge with Syria.
“No doubt, the Russian assassinations by nerve agents of Skripal, Alexander Litvinenko and possibly others will inspire the Mossad to loosen its rules of engagement.”
Whatever Mossad’s rules of engagement might be, I’d like to see a report of someone being punished for exceeding them, I doubt that has ever happened.
It’s reasonable to speculate that ‘Israel did it’ based on the history of Israeli use of chemical agents in assassinations. HOWEVER, there would need to be some indication of motive. There is nothing written on Sergei Skripal that I can see via Google to indicate any action in his past that would be a motive for an Israeli assassination.
Equally, it seems odd that the Russian government would bother to assassinate a has been spy. If they were keen to kill him they had plenty of opportunity when he was in jail in Russia.
You can’t pick novichok up at the hardware store.
The former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, who visited the site at Nukus, said it had been dismantled with US help. He is among those advocating scepticism about the UK placing blame on Russia.
In a blog post, he wrote: “The same people who assured you Saddam Hussein had WMDs now assure you Russian ‘novichok’ nerve agents are being wielded by Vladimir Putin to attack people on British soil.”
All up, it seems more likely to me that Sergei Skripal was assassinated by someone or a group who were directly impacted in some way by his activities using material that was smuggled out of Shikhany at some point.
That said, this is a very serious matter as it indicates that chemical weapons that should have been destroyed still exist. And Russia needs to get with the program and rule that out or they will be seen a guilty, like it or not. The Russian bravado is totally unacceptable.
Skripin and Litvinenko did not kill anyone or command organizations that did.
As for truegreta saying it was probably Israel, this shows the mindset of those who blame the Jewish state for everything. Israel had no motive. And the chemical agent used is known to be produced in Russia.
@ Thomas Holloway: We don’t know what either one of them did or didn’t do. No doubt, they were loyal spies in their time and did what they were told.
But the point is that if you want to punish someone for a crime you try, convict and imprison them. Once you free them you have no right to pursue and kill them. Only dictatorships like Russia do this. Well, Israel does this too, so what does that make it?
What about the US?
Why do you have huge fleet of drones in Afghanistan and Syria? Aerial photography?
@ Ariel Koren: Your comment is off topic. Next, you make a typical hasbara mistake: first of all, you attempt to divert from the subject at hand (Hasbara 101.45). An old trick. Second, you believe that because I criticize Israel I don’t criticize other nations, including my own (I do). Third of all, who do you think taught the U.S. to kill from the skies with drones? You did, of course. So that brings it back around to you, I’m afraid. Always you…
Ah Richard you are one step ahead of everyone else knowing it was definitely Russia at work in Salisbury. Such certainty in the absence of proof of Russian involvement, in the absence of any confirmation of what agent may have been used and without bothering yourself about possible motive.
From what I have read the agent, whatever it was, was at his house. What was it doing there? The policeman who went to the house is in Hosp but the para medic who gave mouth to mouth is ok.
You are usually cautious but sometimes you let your wishful thinking colour your judgement.
[comment deleted: for the fourth time, I have no interest in baseless speculation about who poisoned Skripal, as virtually every credible, expert source in the world says who did it & agrees who did it.]
Richard, excellent article about Israel’s activities in the field of chemical attacks against individuals. It is good to bring this to the fore.
Nevertheless, at the risk of unleashing your fury against me too, I still insist on taking issue with the way you come down on Truegreta like a ton of bricks, and I do not think you are justified in doing so. I will back this up with proper arguments.
Nerve agents, including Sarin and VX, are manufactured by the British Government in Porton Down, just 8 miles from where Sergei Skripal was attacked. The existence of these chemical agents was disclosed in 1992. Russia joined the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction in 1997. It has since (unlike the U.S.) destroyed all left over stocks from the Soviet Union’s chemical weapon program (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/27/world/europe/russia-putin-chemical-weapons.html). It does not produce chemical weapons anymore
These agents and their formulas are not an exclusively Russian knowledge or product: one of the key manufacturing sites was the Soviet State Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology (GosNIIOKhT) in Nukus, Uzbekistan. Small, experimental batches of the weapons may have been tested on the nearby Ustyurt plateau. It may also have been tested in a research centre in Krasnoarmeysk near Moscow. Since its independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has been working with the government of the United States to dismantle and decontaminate the sites where the Novichok agents and other chemical weapons were tested and developed.
Another point: the Telegraph newspaper claims it has obtained information that the poisoned spy was a close confidant of Christopher Steel, the British ex-spy who compiled the so-called “Trump dossier.” https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/07/poisoned-russian-spy-sergei-skripal-close-consultant-linked/
So, here are some questions that need to be answered (http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/03/theresa-mays-45-minutes-claim.html):
• Novichok agents are claimed to be up to 10 times as toxic as VX. One drop of VX can kill a person. If the Skripals were poisoned with such an highly effective agent how come they are still alive? A professional would have made sure the dose would be strong enough to kill the victims immediately, which, considering the toxicity of the stuff should not be be too difficult.
• The Soviet Union, not Russia, developed such agents. The main work was done in Uzbekistan. The U.S. helped to dismantle the laboratory. The US would therefore be very interested in the formulae and production methods, and acquired them from Uzbekistan. What proves that Russia produced the material the Skripals were attacked with?
• Russia is likely able to re-produce such agents but so are many, many other countries.
• If Russia sees “some defectors” as legitimate targets why does it not immediately kill them? Skripal was living openly in the UK since 2010. Why would Russia kill him at all and why now?
• Why does the UK refuse to furnish a sample or other tangible evidence?
• If someone is run-over by a BMW is it “highly likely” that the German government is responsible for it?
Finally, you state to Truegreta “the word of two national intelligence organizations that Russia poisoned them is good enough for me. Coming from someone like you, who questions things, esp. from government organisations, I find that a most curious statement indeed. Remember the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the basis of the word of US intelligence organisations that Saddam had WMD, with Tony Blair going 1 step further in claiming Saddam could hit the UK in 45 minutes?
I personally have not made up my mind whether Russia is behind the chemical attack, and frankly i don’t give a damn in the sense that it is a criminal act like other criminal acts carried out by the US, UK, Israel, and others. What I have made up my mind about is that there is a hysterical anti-Russia mindset in the Western MSM, and the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” is put upside down where Russia is concerned: “guilty until proven innocent”. I am NOT suggesting that you engage in the anti-Russia hysteria, but your reply to Truegreta is over the top for suggesting that maybe Israel did it, esp. since you published this article about Israel’s activities in this field. Similarly, I have pointed out that, apart from Russia, Uzbekistan or the US could have done it, it is a possibility.
Everything is speculative at this stage, even for the UK, even for your intelligence organisations. If it weren’t speculative, why don’t they furnish the proof, as requested by Russia? In other words, how can you state categorically that Russia did it? And why are others not allowed to speculate/voice a possible explanation?
@Paranam Kid: As I’ve said here in the face of Putin fans displeasure, I’m not going to get into debates in which Putin or Russia’s depredations are defended, justified, explained or parried. Simply not gonna do it. I urge you not to post any further comments either in this thread or anywhere here defending Putin. I’m not going to get into such a debate and don’t want others to do so either.
The information in your comment is incorrect. There is only one site in Russsia which is where novichok is made. It is no longer made anywhere other than this site. Update your claims: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/14/nerve-agent-novichok-produced-russia-site-expert
To make the bald claim that Russia doesn’t produce nerve agents anymore is ridiculous. No one except a Russia apologist would make such a claim with a straight face.
They were not immediately killed because novichok operates at a much slower rate when absorbed through the skin as happened here, where the poison was smeared on their door handle.
There are no other countries known in the world which produce novichok. It was even named in Russian by Russians.
I’m uninterested in questions about why the victims were killed. Putin is a killer. Killing is his forte. He kills for his own reasons. I’m not privy to all of them. I don’t need to be. For answers to your question I suggest you consult Putin’s psychiatrist. Of course he has none, but he definitely needs a forensic psychiatrist to diagnose his psychopathology.
What a stupid hypothetical. If a BMW driven by a German intelligence agent working on behalf of the German government murdered somemeone, then yes Germany would be responsibble.
That’s imprecise. I question everything. Am skeptical about everything. But unlike you, I am willing to trust sources once I examine them and try to determine their level of credibility. Unlike you, I’m willing to study Putin’s record and learn from his past crimes regarding ones that he commits now or in future. Putting all this together, yes I trust the British government’s word. Nor is Tony Blair or George Bush or Dick CHeney offering these assessments. It is Theresa May and MI6 who, in this, case I trust.
That is the truest statement in your whole comment.
Again, there is no evidence that Israel has ever developed or used novichok (it has of course used other agents in assassinations, but that’s a different matter). Therefore her claim & your defense of it is lame.
No, it’s not. THe British police and intelligence agencies have actual evidence, unlike you. And based on that evidence, they’ve made determinations. Not based on speculation. But on evidence.
As for proving to Russia that it was the source of this disaster, that’s a ridiculous notion. When Britain wants to do so it will present the evidence to the world before the UN or some similar body deliberating on how to punish Russia for this crime against humanity.
As I wrote, I urge you to drop this. If you don’t or can’t, my patience with this subject is exceedingly thin.
Thank you for your expansive comments, Richard, they are most useful as they give me a more detailed indication of your thinking. I will make 1 final address about this subject, and it is likely to be my final address on this site.
1st of all you misread the sense of my comment: it was not to defend Putin at all. Putin is a ruthless killer, we agree on that, though not more so than any US president & his neocon team, or the UK PMs, or the genocidal Ziofascist thugs running the show in Israel, to name but a few glaring examples.
What I take issue with is the incessant, senseless Russia-bashing that is going on in the West. You happily engage in that too, trusting in the Skripal case the intelligence agencies “evidence” that you have not seen, even though those same agencies made the case to invade Iraq in 2003 because they had “evidence” Saddam possessed WMDs. Colin Powell even showed the UN a small vial with a chemical powder to “prove” it. You still trusting those guys is your business, but don’t try to impose that on me.
Leaving the Skripal case aside, my bottom line is that I do not accept to be told by anybody what my views should be, nor do I accept not to challenge or criticise the views of anybody, and that includes the boss/website owner, esp. if that person thinks he knows what he is talking about when that is patently not always the case.
This is your site and you have the right to demand whatever you want, so you can block me from commenting, that really does not bother me. I like your articles about Israel, but I do not like the way you reply to some commenters, and I don’t even include myself among them. Your problem is that you do not accept to be challenged, thinking that everything you state is right & the only way to see things.
@ Paranam Kid: Most of the faulty claims about Iraq were not a product of either British or U.S. intelligence. By and large, both agencies knew the truth. It was the politicians (Bush, Cheney, Blair) who created their own reality. In large part the intelligence agencies disagreed with them. There were a few exceptions. But largely they knew the truth.
Further, it is one thing to make false claims about Iraq. Quite another to make false claims about tragedies besetting your own country. I find it completely unreasonable to believe that MI6 and Theresa May would concoct a plot to blame Russia out of thin air. It would be as if someone claimed that the 9/11 attackers weren’t affiliated with al Qaeda, but rather with Israel or Iran or Russia or North Korea. It’s simply preposterous (as are those on both sides who created conspiracy theories that Israel or Iran were responsible for 9/11).
I frankly don’t care how you feel about how I address commenters here. The rules I’ve created were created because they were needed. Just as a single example: I insist that comments be on topic. Yours was very far off topic. The subject of my post was NOT whether Russia was to blame or not for the UK assassinations. It was Israel’s own role in assassinations using chemical agents. That’s why I insist commenters stay on topic. There are thousands of commenters here who’ve attempted, unwittingly or not, to divert attention to issues that not only don’t interest me, but which distract from the subject & mission of this blog.
As for the rules, everyone follows them or they don’t stay. You may, if you choose continue to comment in other threads. But do not post another comment in this thread.
About an hour ago:
Technical note – Litvinenko was killed with polonium-210, not a nerve agent.
@ lepxii: Of course, you’re right. Thanks for the correction.
[comment deleted: As I said to Paranam Kid, I’m completely uninterested in debates which deflect blame from the true killers, Russia. If you want to spin theories blaming Israel, the CIA or Mary Poppins, go somewhere else. NOT HERE. Not to mention that your comment is OFF-TOPIC.]
‘…So while it’s right to be outraged by the horrors perpetrated by Russia’s foreign intelligence services as they go around knocking off Putin’s betes noire, let’s not forget that the Russian dictator’s junior partner in such mayhem is none other than the State of Israel…’
The club has other members. North Korea comes to mind, and to be fair, the Islamic Republic of Iran did this sort of thing immediately after it came to power.
Great minds think alike, I suppose.
Richard you neglected to mention the Israeli cargo plane that crashed in Amsterdam — it contained all the necessary chemicals to make the weapons…
[Comment deleted: apparently you didn’t believe it when I told commenters to stop this off- topic nonsense. Not to mention that you’re repeating arguments I and the media have already debunked.
In the article you linked …
“I read the story of a Soviet scientist who accidentally inhaled the Novichok nerve agent …”
There is mentioned a Soviet expert on military use of nerve agents:
They [Mirzayanov and Fyodorov] said the program was directed by Viktor Petronin, head of the institute, with oversight by Gen. Anatoly Kuntsevich, who was vice commander of Soviet chemical forces and is now an adviser to President Boris N. Yeltsin on biological and chemical disarmament.
Vil Mirzayanov, the developer of Novichok was free to leave Russia in 1996 and moved to the U.S. and is alive today.
The military in bold face encountered an untimely death on his way to Moscow returning from Syria. It’s alleged he was murdered by the Mossad.
Had not realized quite how bad this kind of poisoning is. It combines assassination with years of torture.