ISIS Step Up Psychological Campaign with Mustard Agent Attack on Peshmerga
This week the German Government confirmed what I have been saying for over 12 months – that ISIL are using chemical weapons against Coalition Forces – in this case the Peshmerga of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Pentagon sources overnight have confirmed that this is most likely the deadly Mustard Agent.
Julie Bishop, the Australian Foreign Minister, expressed her view that ISIS is capable of building chemical weapons in a speech last month to an anti-chemical weapons group. She said, ‘Apart from some crude and small scale endeavors, the conventional wisdom has been that the terrorist intention to acquire and weaponise chemical agents has been aspirational. The use of chlorine by Daesh (ISIS), and its recruitment of highly technically trained professionals, including from the west, have revealed far more serious efforts in chemical weapons development.’
Minister Bishop is the first senior politician in a major western power to express so clearly and unequivocally the concern that ISIS now have the desire to develop chemical weapons for use on the battlefields of Iraq, and Syria, and perhaps beyond…it is most likely that this is an extension of the highly successful ISIS Psychological Warfare campaign against Coalition forces and the International Community.
ISIS have seen how effective chemical weapons have been in Syria. They have pretty much kept Assad in power since his near ‘fall’ in August 2013, and ISIS have been on the receiving end of chlorine barrel bombs in Deir Ezzor in December 2014 which led to their local tactical defeat. It is the ultimate terror weapon, and not unsurprising that they crave it; as they have imbued the people of Iraq with so much terror that in some places, hitherto, they face little resistance, but not the Peshmerga, who have been steadfast in their resistance.
However, even given this so called expertise, they will not any time soon be able to produce deadly nerve agents like Sarin or VX, or fashion their much vaunted Uranium in Mosul into any kind of viable nuclear device. They will, however, continue to terrorize their attackers in Iraq and Syria with the very much less toxic, but highly effective, improvised chemical weapons such as chlorine and no doubt Mustard Agent as I expect they have more of it.
The real significance to draw from the German and US Governments’ comments is that ISIS do have a chemical weapons programme, albeit primitive, they are training many Jihadists to make and plant improvised chemical bombs, and some of these people will find their way back to their home countries where they may continue the ISIS fight; as we’ve seen with the Lee Rigby murder in London, the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris and many more.
What and where next? ISIS aim to create terror and inertia globally in order to further their efforts to establish their Caliphate and very evidently nothing is off limits…But vigilance and effective mitigation strategies, put in place now, can provide resilience to these threats to the capital cities of the world, and stiffen the resolve of those who oppose this terror.
Hamish de Bretton Gordon is a former commanding officer of the UK’s CBRN Regiment and now works in a security related industry.