Opinion
Author`s name Giovanni Giacalone

The death of James Le Mesurier

The death of former British intelligence officer turned humanitarian activist, James Le Mesurier, still raises many questions among the international and intelligence communities. The co-founder of the controversial "White-Helmets" (also known as Syrian Civil Defense) was found dead on November 11th near his apartment in central Istanbul's Beyoğlu neighbourhood at around 4.30am. Turkish media reports said he was found with fractures to his head and legs and appeared to have fallen from a balcony. Two days later the Turkish authorities revealed that none of the acquired elements could lead to a homicide-hypothesis.

The dynamics of the accident recall the one of Ashraf Marwan, the Egyptian double agent who worked for Egypt and Israel during the Yom Kippur war and who was found dead on June 27th 2007 after falling from the balcony of his fifth-floor apartment in London.

On April 29th 2014 another "accident" occurred in Cairo when 31-year old Egyptian journalist and  civil rights activist Bassem Sabry fell from the balcony of a Giza apartment complex, dying on the spot.  A series of deaths that add up to previous other cases occurred in the 1970's such as the ones regarding Egyptian ambassador to Britain, General Leithy Nassif, who also fell from a balcony in London and the case of Ali Shafik, an alleged arms dealer and secretary in the office of former Egyptian Vice President Abdel Hakim Amer.

Even though these cases all differ in context, time period and location, they still have a common denominator, the mysterious fall from the balcony which somehow appears as a sinister place where an accident is very likely to occur.

Regarding Le Mesurier's profile and activity, his long experience within the British intelligence and the private intelligence sector is clear and proven, with tasks such as re-integrating the UCK within civil defense roles in the new-born Kosovo. After leaving the army in June of 2000, Le Mesurier covered several roles in the private security sector in the West Bank, in Gaza, Amman and Baghdad (where he took an advisor role at the Embassy of the United States).

From 2005 to 2012 Le Mesurier worked for the British headquartered Olive Group (later merged into the U.S. Constellis Group) and for Good Harbor Consulting, led by Richard A. Clarke, formerly National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism under U.S. Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

From 2012 to 2014 Le Mesurier worked for the UAE-based ARK (Analysis, Research and Knowledge) with the objective of legitimating economic, political and social aspirations of conflict-affected communities. In 2013 the British officer started a cooperation with the Turkish NGO "AKUT Search and Rescue" in order to train non-governmental Syrian civil defense teams on Turkish soil.

As explained by The Guardian, Le Mesurier was convinced that the conventional models of stabiliZation runt by big-budget contractors in the region were dysfunctional, and that the only viable path to recovery was through empowering and engaging local communities.

In 2014 Le Mesurier set up Mayday Rescue, a no-profit group registered in the Netherlands, with offices in Turkey, Jordan and UAE, specialized in training and assisting volunteer emergency first responders in areas of conflict, instability, and natural disasters. The new-born company formed and trained the well-known and initially cited "White Helmets", a group of first-responders who rush to the scenes of bombings to save lives.

The White-Helmets have been strongly criticized by Syrian, Russian, Chinese and Iranian media and institutions, often accused of working as a proxy for anti-Assad forces based in the West and to be an asset of the US and the UK. One interesting element is that the group was also banned from Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria.

One particularly suspicious aspect pointed out is the fact that the White Helmets operated exclusively in the Syrian areas controlled by rebels and Qaedist groups. Additionally, the rescue group was accused by Russia and the Assad government of staging chemical attacks such as the one in Douma (April 7th 2018).

Even though a conspicuous part of the Western media defined such accusation as "Russian-orchestrated fake news", it is interesting to notice how even Western news sites and papers such as the British left-wing Morning Star exposed the issue related to orchestrated chemical attacks:

"At least 40 members of pseudo-humanitarian group the White Helmets have admitted to staging chemical attacks in Syria, according to a new study by a Russian think tank. Spokesman Maxim Grigoriev unveiled the results of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy's research, which purported to show the group had faked attacks to provoke a reaction against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad".

The real role of the White Helmets will probably never be revealed and the issue will always remain a matter of dispute between the two sides. Additionally, it cannot be ruled out that the group might have had a double objective, without denying the humanitarian side. After all this is an era where wars and intelligence operations are frequently carried out by the so-called proxies.

As to the death of James Le Mesurier, it will very likely go down in history as an "accident". The man simply fell from the balcony of his apartment in a central area of Istanbul where he was known to the locals as an English teacher and a very kind and courteous person, no doubt about that.