The Intercept claims that:

Last month, Australia led the way in calling for such an investigation, suggesting that it would raise the issue at the World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, at its meeting this week. “We just want to know what happened so it doesn’t happen again,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference on May 8. Canada, Germany, and Sweden backed the idea. But U.S. meddling sabotaged the effort, and the result is a watered down resolution, backed by the European Union and over 100 countries, calling for an inquiry into the international response to the pandemic. The resolution avoids singling out China, and on Monday Beijing threw its support behind the weakened language. It was adopted on Tuesday, but the world will need to wait for a full investigation.

Does the highlighted sentence have any basis in fact? I'm guessing the US was/isn't happy much with "watered down" call for a (delayed) investigation, but how did US try to "sabotage" the World Health Assembly resolution, if they did anything of the sort?

(I can't easily find out even if the US voted for or against the final wording of that resolution. From VOA, the US [reluctantly] voted for another resolution regarding universal access to Covid-19 therapeutics. I guess the US voted for the investigation resolution too, because CNN says "WHO member states adopted the proposal with no objections".)

1 Answer 1


The full text of your article explains what it means by the US "meddling":

For weeks, President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been claiming without evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic is linked to a lab in Wuhan that researches bat coronaviruses. Their efforts are clearly calculated to distract from Trump’s bungled response to the virus, and, for rational observers, they have tainted the notion that the outbreak began with a lab accident or safety breach.


“An open investigation is absolutely warranted and absolutely essential,” said Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University. A longtime biosafety proponent, Ebright believes that a lab error is “at least as probable” as an entirely natural spillover event. “Unsupported claims by Trump and Pompeo have politicized and polarized the issue and likely have had the effect of making an open investigation less likely.”

This is expanded upon a little by the Guardian. The Morrison government's original position was to gather international support for an "independent review at the right time", notably one that would look at the virus' origins:

The review would look at the outbreak’s emergence, development into a pandemic, the WHO’s and broader international response, and ways to strengthen the world’s collective ability to respond to pandemics.

The Australian government wants the changes to include strengthened inspection powers for the WHO. At the World Health Assembly on 18 May, Australia plans to support an EU-sponsored draft resolution that includes a call for an independent evaluation to review lessons learned.

However, the US release of a dossier which it claims gives weight to the theory that the virus originated in a Wuhan lab, and in particular, the implication by the media that this was prepared as a result of intelligence by the Five Eyes alliance - something which is denied by Australia - gave weight to claims that Australia's intention was to politicise the issue:

Allan Behm, the head of the international and security affairs program at the Australia Institute and a former senior defence official, said those pushing the Wuhan labs story without solid supporting intelligence or evidence were not helping Australia’s call for a properly conducted international review.

“It just doesn’t help Australia in pushing that, any more than fake intelligence on WMD helped the credibility of John Howard in 2003, and I suspect that’s why the government is treading very carefully this time,” Behm said.

These fears were proved to be well-founded, as China ramped up criticism of the proposals, eventually settling for the EU-drafted proposal which notably does not include a review of the origins of the virus. Indeed, a Chinese state media report published after the adoption of the EU proposal characterises the Australian-backed review's intention to include an investigation into the origins of the virus as "specially targeting [a] country based on a presumption of guilt".

So the issue is that Australia wanted to present their calls for an international investigation, which would include a review of the origins of the virus, as open and unbiased. The article's argument is that the US dossier release allowed China to present this position as politically biased from the outset, especially as Australia is a member of Five Eyes. Indeed, Chinese state media called Australia a "US pawn". This, the article argues, led to the scrapping of the part of the investigation which would look at the origins of the virus, as the final language signed up to by China now only calls for a "a stepwise process of impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation […] to review experience gained and lessons learned from the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19, including the effectiveness of the mechanisms at WHO's disposal."

Whether this was an intentional act of sabotage by the US seems very unlikely - I'm certainly not aware of any claims that this was an intentional move to weaken the WHA's resolution - the article makes the argument that this was just an exceptionally ill-timed release of a document which it claims was "calculated to distract from Trump’s bungled response to the virus".

  • I see, I took the Intercept claim too literally rather than considering that the US parallel claims/charges about the origin could have had that effect of discrediting the resolution (whether intended that way or not). May 19, 2020 at 23:42

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