Saturday, November 21, 2015

If It's Good Enough for Al-Assad It's Good Enough for ISIL

"Terrorism hit France not because of what it is doing in Iraq and Syria ... but for what it is."
"We know that there could also be a risk of chemical or biological weapons."
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls

"They now have complete freedom to select locations for their labs and production sites and have a wide range of experts, both civilians and military, to aid them."
Senior Iraqi intelligence official 

"[ISIL] is working very seriously to reach production of chemical weapons, particularly nerve gas."
"That would threaten not just Iraq but the whole world."
Hakim al-Zamili, head, Iraqi parliament's security and defence committee

"Even a few competent scientists and engineers, given the right motivation and a few material resources, can produce hazardous industrial and weapons-specific chemicals in limited quantities."
Retired Lt.-Gen.Richard Zahner, top U.S. military intelligence officer, Iraq 2005-06
The prospect of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant using weapons of mass destruction such as deadly chemicals in their bombs is indeed a frightful prospect. The devastating effects of such attacks have been well enough documented. There was opportunity to do so in Syria when Alawite Shiite President Bashar al Assad saw fit to unleash chemical weapons on his own Sunni Syrian civilians living in Damascus suburbs, suspecting them of supporting the Syrian rebels.

AP Photo via AP video, File
AP Photo via AP video, File   This image made from an AP video posted on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 shows a student wearing a gas mask and protective suit during a session on reacting to a chemical weapons attack, in Aleppo, Syria.
 
This so horrified the international community that they cheered that American President Obama had warned the Syrian regime of the consequences should he even imagine using chemical weapons. And then they jeered when, at the behest of Vladimir Putin, appealing to Barack Obama's humanitarian love of peace, the prospect of military intervention was set aside and the U.S. satisfied itself with orchestrating the removal of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.

At least some of them. Syrian has since used chlorine gas to great effect, along with the destructively shattering effect of barrel bombs. Taken together, the metal shrapnel exploding out of the barrel bombs and augmented by chlorine gas makes for a quite effective combination. No one seems to notice much of that any more, since it's become such a common occurrence, urgent to Syrians, passing by the notice of the U.S. which takes more care now in the issuing of 'red lines'.

This file image made from video broadcast on Syrian State Television on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, purports to show a chemical weapons expert taking samples at a chemical weapons plant at an unknown location in Syria.
Syrian State Television via AP video, File   This file image made from video broadcast on Syrian State Television on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, purports to show a chemical weapons expert taking samples at a chemical weapons plant at an unknown location in Syria. 
 
So the horror of it; ISIL in possession of and planning to use chemical weapons. As  it happens, the Syrian regime has been responsible for more Syrian deaths by far than has Islamic State; both are equally reprehensible killing machines. The great tide of humanity that has gushed out of Syria living in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, let alone the hundreds of thousands surging into Europe, represent far more people fleeing the regime than they do in fear of ISIL.

Of course, ISIL now threatens Europe, and that's a fish of a different kettle. Aside from the fact that the jihadis are a threat of immense proportions anywhere they target, and their target area is rapidly increasing as Islamist terrorists in Africa and South Asia increasingly join Daesh, the very thought of launching chemical attacks along with suicide attacks is daunting.

As though Kurds and Yazidis don't have enough to think about, Kurdish forces in northern Iraq this year were hit by mortar shells which preliminary tests conducted by the U.S. appear to show traces of the chemical agent sulphur mustard. This has Iraqi authorities concerned that the use of such chemicals and gases could be expanded; particularly if they're seen to be successful.

The Iraqi military distributed gas masks to their troops deployed west and east of Baghdad over the summer, with a senior official in Salahuddin province claiming that 25 percent of the troops deployed there were also issued with gas masks. Russia has provided the Iraqi military with 1,000 protective suits against chemical attacks, according to Hakim al-Zamili.

Evidently ISIL has set up a branch for the specific purpose of developing chemical weapons. Chemical experts from abroad have responded to ISIL's request for assistance. Even an Iraqi expert who once worked for Saddam Hussein is reputed to have joined ISIL in their quest to develop effective and efficient chemical weaponry. Experts from Chechnya and southeast Asia have also responded.

Research laboratories, according to experts and materials from Iraq have been moved to "secured locations" inside Syria. And while the Syrian government denied and continues to deny it has and is making use of chemical weapons, it's likely that if ISIL is asked point-blank they will agree that yes, this is just what they're doing, and what about it?

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