As the year comes to a conclusion, ISIL and the use of asymmetric weapons to create terror and inertia appears to have no boundaries as the attack on Iraqi city of Hīt on Christmas Day–with chlorine-filled rockets–clearly shows. On a recent trip to brief and advise Iraqi Security Forces in Baghdad on the threats and mitigations from ISIL using chemical and biological weapons to defeat the Iraqi and Peshmerga forces, the real scale and type of the threat became even more evident to me. The Daily Mirror reported on “scorpion” bombs already apparently used against Northern Iraqi villages to effectively terrorize civilians. (Scorpion bombs are literally projectiles filled with live scorpions, a weapon first used in this region around the time of Christ.) I also learned of Iraqi fears that ISIL will try to introduce Bubonic Plague to the refugee camps in Iraq–camps that contain millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. I explained to the Iraqis that though Bubonic Plague–aka ‘the Black Death’–killed up to 100 million people in the Middle Ages it would cause minimal casualties today as long as there is a ready supply of antibiotics which are highly effective against the plague.
So what next? Assad has upped his use of chlorine gas against ISIL to good effect in Syria and this will not go unnoticed by them [ISIL]. Assad appears to use chemical weapons as a last ditch effort to stave off defeat as he did at Ghouta in Aug 13 and he did at Deir Ezzor on Dec 14. In my opinion ISIL will replicate this tactic as they get more squeezed in Iraq by Coalition efforts. They have a plentiful supply of chlorine and already apparently using it on a small scale by filling mortar bombs with a few litres to good effect. And now in Anbar with rockets filled with significant amounts of chlorine on Christmas Day –this is a significantly worrying development. However all these chemical and biological asymmetric threats potentially have very little physical threat, but create a huge psychological threat. My aim has been and is to try to inform the innocent civilians of Syria and Iraq that this is the case–to explain that this particular ‘No boundaries’ approach from ISIL must fail to produce the terror and inertia they [ISIL] seek. The psychological terror can be averted through basic training and advice to civilians – so I hope this column will be Tweeted and copied as widely as possible across Iraq and Syria.