ISIS chemical attacks may reveal pattern: Pentagon
It appears that the WMD genie is completely out of the bottle in the Syrian civil war. The Pentagon is almost certain that the Islamic State employed mustard gas in a battle against Kurds in both Syria and Iraq. And they believe at least one other similar attack indicates that a pattern is developing that may mean a major escalation in the war.
The reports are fueling concerns that ISIS has acquired an arsenal of banned chemicals that could escalate fighting in the region.
“It could be a pattern,” a senior U.S. official with knowledge of the intelligence told The Wall Street Journal.
U.S. agencies have believed that the Islamic State aspired to obtain chemical weapons, such as mustard gas, but officials said it was premature to immediately connect the three attacks because the agents involved in the Iraq incidents were still in the process of being analyzed.
Officials told the journal the agencies confirmed through tests that mustard gas was used in northern Syria in July, making it the first known attack by ISIS using banned weapons.
Pentagon officials believe the terror group used chemical weapons against Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq Wednesday, Fox News learned. One official who had seen the latest intelligence reports from the region told Fox News Thursday that the victims had “blisters” that matched the symptoms of other victims of mustard gas.
U.S. intelligence agencies are still trying to determine the origin of the chemicals used in the attacks. A U.S. official tells Fox News the mustard agent was "homemade" and not from Syria.
Senior officials told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that ISIS may have obtained the mustard gas in Syria, whose Damascus government admitted to having large stockpiles of the chemical when it agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal in 2013. However, some of the intelligence community doesn't think ISIS has a large chemical weapons cache.
According to the Journal, U.S. intelligence officials believed ISIS had seized a small amount of mustard gas prior to Wednesday's reported attack, though that assessment had not been made public. Now, the paper reports, officials fear that ISIS could discover more hidden caches of chemical weapons elsewhere in Syria as troops loyal to Bashar Assad lose ground in the country's bloody civil war.
Kurdish leaders said on Friday that ISIS had fired 45 mortars carrying chemical warheads, according to the website of a Peshmerga spokesman, Secretary-General Jabar Yawar.
Chlorine is the poor man's WMD because it's easy to use as a weapon . But mustard gas, while not hard to make, requires at least a minimum of laboratory facilities to mix and weaponize the substance. This would argue against ISIS making their own.
If they fired mortars of mustard gas, that means they either have a sophisticated armaments industry or they found a cache of President Assad's chemical weapons that he failed to turn over to the UN. Don't tell President Obama, though. He may decide to create another "red line."
With both ISIS and the peshmerga operating in areas populated by civilians, the death toll in some of these attacks promises to be horrific. One more reason to keep America out of this quagmire.