Friday, August 14, 2015

ISIS Has Chemical Weapons

I saw a couple stories today that report ISIS using chemical weapons against Kurdish forces. The first is a report from Reuters, stating:
The United States believes Islamic State militants likely used mustard agent in an attack on Kurdish forces in Iraq earlier this week, the first indication the militant group has obtained a banned chemical weapon, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. 
"We have credible information that the agent used in the attack was mustard," a senior U.S. official told the Journal. 
Islamic State could have obtained the mustard agent in Syria, whose government admitted to having large quantities of the blistering agent in 2013, when it agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal, the newspaper reported. 
"That makes the most sense," the Journal quoted a senior U.S. official as saying about the possibility that Islamic State obtained the mustard agent in Syria. 
Islamic State could also have obtained the mustard agent in Iraq, the Journal reported.
The other is " ISIS Uses Chemical Weapons Against Kurds" at PJMedia, which, relying on other sources, reports that not only has ISIS used mustard gas, but ISIS had used chlorine gas (perhaps an unsuccessful attempt to produce mustard gas?) earlier this year to attack Kurdish forces, and had (last year) seized a chemical weapons factory in Iraq (more of those "mythical" WMDs) with stockpiles of rockets and sarin nerve gas.

That ISIS has chemical weapons should be a game changer in the way we react to ISIS. However, the United States is in a conundrum regarding ISIS, mostly due to our poor leadership at the very top levels. Because Iran now has de facto control of the non-Kurdish Iraqi militias (the only effective fighting forces in Iraq), any military action we take against ISIS will directly or indirectly assist Iran with obtaining and consolidating its power over northern Iraq and Syria. The only way to offset Iran would be to strengthen the Kurds, which will alienate the Turks. The Turks do not currently have any desire to fight ISIS, but even if they could be brought in to fight ISIS, they would use the opportunity to attack the Kurds, and probably make a deal with Iran to slice up Syria, which leaves us in the position we wanted to avoid in the first place: strengthening Iran's position in Iraq and Syria.

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