The battles in Iraq, Syria and Kurdistan have taken yet an even more sinister and evil turn as the Islamic State starts to target Iraqi Army units with chemical weapons in the form of chlorine. Detailed reporting is difficult, but some claim up to 300 Iraqi Army soldiers are casualties from these attacks. Three attacks north of Baghdad have been reported in the last two weeks and there were yet more claims of chlorine use against innocent civilians in Syria on Monday, October 6. Chlorine is a choking agent which when combined with body fluids creates Hydrochloric Acid which burns lungs and in high doses causes death through asphyxiation. Chlorine attacks have created terror and suffering in Syria and in some cases has broken the morale and the will of the people to oppose the Syrian regime.
IS has seen how effective chemical weapons–and specifically chlorine–have been in Syria to break the morale of civilians and rebels, and is no doubt trying to replicate this effect in Iraq and possibly Kurdistan. Though chlorine is not very toxic as far as chemical weapons (CW) go, to an untrained and unequipped population it can be devastating, as seen in Syria. It would appear that the Iraqi Army is not at this time fully equipped and trained to deal with this threat. However, as I and the UK charity Syria Relief have shown in Syria, some basic training, equipment and techniques can go a long way to mitigate this threat. The simple World War I technique of urinating into a cloth or bandage and using it as an improvised respirator is very effective against chlorine as the urine neutralizes the chlorine. I have taught this technique to Syrian doctors and medics and I understand they have used it and it has saved lives. A similar program would also help the armies and civilian populations of Iraq and Kurdistan.
To learn more about the UK charity Syira Relief which provides basic CBRN defense equipment and training, visit: www.syriarelief.org.uk.