Thu, 30 Jul 2020Novichok still kills.
The world's slowest acting nerve agent, sprayed on a front door handle in a dead-end street in Salisbury, England, in the early afternoon of March 4, 2018, has just resulted in the career termination of Sir Alex Younger (lead image, right), chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). The announcement was issued on Wednesday afternoon by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London.
Younger has been replaced at MI6 by Richard Moore, currently a third-ranking official of the Foreign Office, an ex-Ambassador to Turkey; an ex-MI6 agent; and a Harvard graduate.
That March day in Salisbury, when Sir Mark Sedwill (lead image, left) was in charge at the Cabinet Office and the National Security Advisor's post, and Younger running MI6, was the greatest day for their faction of British policy towards Russia, Enemy Number One. It might have been their greatest humiliation when Sergei Skripal, one of their double agent recruits from Russian military intelligence, tried to do a runner for Moscow in a GRU exfiltration operation. Had that succeeded, Skripal would have been exposed as a triple agent, escaping with a treasure trove of secrets of British chemical warfare preparations at Porton Down, plus fresh MI6 identities and operations. Instead, Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal, were paralysed by a British nerve agent, and then confined, first in hospital and at a secret location ever since.
It was, as the Duke of Wellington once said of his last battle with Napoleon at Waterloo, "a damned nice thing - the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life."
The Sedwill-Younger narrative of what happened on the day; the British prosecution case against two GRU agents for the Novichok attack; and the ongoing inquest into the cause of Dawn Sturgess's death remain at risk of exposure. To reduce that risk and move on to a new policy towards Russia and other enemies, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his chief advisor Dominic Cummings have now forced Sedwill and Younger into retirement, concealing the purge and their purpose.
Sedwill went to the chopper first. On June 30 it was reported here that "Younger, Sedwill's old classmate at St. Andrews University, has now been in the secret intelligence service post for six years; that's longer than any of his predecessors for the past half-century. If Younger follows Sedwill out the door, the cranny between the plots will be a little wider."
The plotting between Johnson and Cummings on one side, Sedwill, Younger and their deep state allies on the other (including their Washington friends), was about personal power first. Fighting the enemy came second. The publication on July 21 of the parliamentary committee report on Russia was the last hurrah of the losers.
Younger and his men had attempted to replace themselves with one of their own. Johnson tried to replace him with an old school chum. They neutralized each other, leaving as the compromise middle-runner, Richard Moore (right) His fluency in Turkish and partiality for Turkish rugs, jugs and Cypriot territory were carefully cultivated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Moore has recorded his endorsement of Erdogan's policies, including his Syrian military operations, in his Twitter feed. The Turks have also been favoured by Sedwill for his staff at Whitehall.
According to the NATO correspondent for the Financial Times, "the 57-year-old secured the post in a closely-fought race against an internal SIS candidate". She also claimed there had been a wider purge: "Mr Moore's appointment comes three months after Ken McCallum took over from Andrew Parker as the director-general of MI5, the UK's domestic security service. The changes at the top of MI5 and MI6 were delayed to ensure stability in the run-up to Brexit. Earlier this week Lindy Cameron, an international development official specialising in post-conflict reconstruction, was named as head of the National Cyber Security Centre, part of Britain's signals intelligence agency GCHQ."
The Telegraph had earlier been reporting that MI5 and MI6 "expected their successors to come from within their organisations".
The Financial Times, like the rest of the London press, has now announced that between Sedwill, Younger and Moore, there was no poisoned door handle, no brain damage, nothing has changed. "Mark Sedwill, cabinet secretary and national security adviser, said the new chief's experience and leadership in the intelligence field would prove 'vital' in pursuing national interests and protecting the UK from emerging threats from abroad. 'I'm confident Richard will be an excellent chief, who will embody the values of the service and act as a fine role model to SIS staff,' Sir Mark said."
The MI6 representative at the BBC, Mark Urban, who has promoted Younger's role in the Skripal case in television documentaries, a book, and newspaper interviews, has said nothing on his removal.
Mark Urban (left) in a public interview with Sir John Scarlett (right), MI6 chief between 2004 and 2009. Urban's interviews with Younger have been reported in Urban's book on the Skripal case, but not photo-illustrated.Instead, the BBC's national security reporter managed only a fatuity: "Richard Moore's CV - which includes operational time in MI6 at the start of his career, then as an ambassador and finally in the corridors of power - is likely what helped secure him the job".
The Guardian, another press outlet for the Skripal fabrication, reported there had been a fight over replacing Younger between an internal SIS officer and "Tom Hurd, a senior Home Office official responsible for security and counter terrorism, who is also a son of former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Douglas Hurd, and a school contemporary of the prime minister [Boris Johnson]." The newspaper raised its warning flag for Moore. MI6 had gone soft on Russia, it said, by "failing to examine whether there was Russian interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum." "The new chief arrives at a time when MI6 is under pressure to refocus its efforts to targeting hostile states - China and Russia."