CATF Reports Apr. 25, 2016, 2:17pm


As ISIS started to lose ground under mounting pressure on the battlefield, the use of chlorine and mustard gas in their attacks has been registered with increasing frequency. The Kurdish regional government has issued an urgent request for additional equipment to the U.S. and European powers, stressing that the 65,000 Kurdish Peshmerga troops battling ISIS on the frontline are dramatically underequipped against chemical weapons, and currently have 6,000 masks only.

Apparently, the U.S. had promised 5,000 additional masks few months ago, but U.S. officials are unclear about the details and the reasons behind the delayed shipment. Not only was the shipment processed through the highly unstable central government in Baghdad as protocol prescribes, diverging opinions on strategic priorities may have interfered as well. The spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq Col. Steven Warren declared last month that chemical weapons are not a high threat compared to the range of atrocities perpetrated by ISIS, a claim that delegates of the Kurdish Regional Government in Washington strongly disagree with. Kurdish leaders fear in particular large scale chemical weapons attacks during the offensive to retake Mosul, which the U.S. will back with $415 million to support Kurdish Peshmerga and 217 additional U.S. advisors on the ground. Hopefully Mosul will prove the Peshmerga wrong and the U.S. strategy against ISIS not as myopic as it is widely feared to be.

 

From Foreign Policy:

“We are very concerned about ISIS using chemical weapons,” Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the representative for the Kurdish Regional Government in Washington, told Foreign Policy.

“They’re using them with increasing frequency, and increasing sophistication,” she said. The rising number of attacks represents “a clear warning that they intend to use them in the fight to liberate Mosul.” […]

In its chemical weapons assaults with mortars and rockets, the group [ISIS] has used mustard gas, a yellowish vapor that can form potentially lethal blisters on the skin and lungs, and chlorine, another chemical that induces choking. The international body that oversees the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), helped the Iraqi government confirm that mustard gas has been used in some previous attacks in northern Iraq and has offered to help Baghdad document and verify the latest chemical assaults.

“The OPCW has taken serious note of these disturbing reports against the background of confirmed use of chemical weapons in Iraq. Any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent and a violation of universally accepted international norms,” the organization’s director-general, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümc, said in a statement last month.

Although outside governments, rights organizations, and the OPCW have closely monitored reports of chemical weapons attacks and voiced concern, U.S. and Western officials have not heavily focused on the issue in public statements.” […]

“Burning a pilot inside a cage. That leaves an image. But if somebody has blistered and reddened skin, it just doesn’t have the same psychological effect,” said John Gilbert, a retired U.S. Air Force military intelligence officer and a chemical weapons expert with the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.”

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