Last October we covered an underreported story that claimed ISIS had possession of chemical weapons including the potent, sulfur-based mustard gas. The Pentagon denied then confirmed that ISIS had not gained access to the allegedly destroyed stockpiles of chemical weapons from Bashar Assad’s regime, which brought up a frightening possibility: ISIS has learned how to develop such weapons on its own.
“There are reports that ISIS has access to chemical precursors and munitions that they can use,” said CIA director John Brennan on 60 Minutes. “We have a number of instances where ISIL has used chemical munitions on the battlefield.” The terrorist group by very definition should not be expected to adhere to international standards when it comes to lethal weapons.
Just one drop of mustard gas can cause burns on anyone standing within a 10-meter radius. To put this into perspective, less than 50 gallons of mustard gas dropped into a football stadium could wound 80,000, disfigure 20,000, and kill 4,000. Still, the Obama Administration ignored this threat.
“I think ISIL does eventually want to find its mark here,” warns Brennan. “I’m expecting them to try to put in place the operatives, the material, whatever else that they need to do, in order to incite people to carry out these attacks…I believe that their attempts are inevitable, I don’t necessarily think their successes are.”
Just this week, the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) finally confirmed that ISIS used mustard gas during a conflict in Iraq last August. The fighting took place near Erbil, Iraq and resulted in the wounding and sickening of nearly 40 Kurdish soldiers.
The OPCW also confirmed that ISIS used mustard gas in Syria last year. More recent reports confirm that two shells launched by ISIS at Kurdish soldiers this month contained some sort of chemical substance – possibly chlorine gas. The unidentified gas sickened some 30 Kurdish soldiers before being blown away by the wind.
“I’m pretty convinced that the mustard [gas] ISIS is using in Iraq is made by them in Mosul,” said chemical warfare expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon. “They have all the precursors at hand from the oil industry and all the experts at hand to do it.”
Others cling to the idea that ISIS seized chemical weapons from a hidden cache in Syria. “If Syria has indeed given up its chemical weapons to the international community, it is only the part that has been declared to the OPCW and the declaration was obviously incomplete,” said an anonymous diplomat.