One year ago, on August 21, 2013, the Assad Regime poured up to 1000KGs of the deadly nerve agent Sarin onto the civilian population of the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, reputedly killing up to 1,500 people including many women and children. This outrageous act appeared to cross President Obama’s red line and led to an amazing sequence of events, ending, in some people’s thoughts, with the destruction of Assad’s ‘declared’ chemical weapon stockpile–completed this week. This was in itself an incredible international effort led by Nobel Peace Winners, the OPCW, and enabled by Russia and US, at least giving hope that these superpowers could work together in the future to secure global conflicts. This cooperation might be needed more than ever now with the exponential rise of ISIS, the greatest threat to the international community.
There was credible reporting around this time of some of the stockpile moving over the border back into Iraq, presumably orchestrated by ISIS. The meteoric rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq might have been aided by the lack of kinetic activity over the Ghouta massacre, and how absurd that both Assad and Obama are now conducting air strikes against them [ISIS]. The beheading of James Foley by ISIS this week has highlighted the ruthless brutality of this group, and their apparent ‘no boundaries’ approach to terror in their desire to create the Islamic Caliphate. ISIS experimented with chemical weapons (CW) in Syria and it was no great surprise to those of us immersed in this type of WMD that they would aim for and succeed in capturing the Al Muthana Stockpile housing Saddam’s remaining chemical weapons. True, most of the CW is well beyond its sell by date, but as we’ve seen in Syria you don’t need grade ‘A’ CW to have an effect. Allied to this, ISIS also acquired some Uranium from Mosul University, which couldn’t be fashioned into a nuclear device but could be an effective ‘dirty’ bomb. Would ISIS use its chemical weapons and Uranium to achieve their aims or to prevent defeat? I don’t suppose they would hesitate for a second, in Iraq, Syria or even the US and UK mainland.