A Step Back from the Brink

FILE - This image made from an AP video posted on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 shows shows Syrians in protective suits and gas masks conducting a drill on how to treat casualties of a chemical weapons attack in Aleppo, Syria. The Islamic State group is aggressively pursuing development of chemical weapons, setting up a branch dedicated to research and experiments with the help of scientists from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region, according to Iraqi and U.S. intelligence officials. (AP Photo via AP video, File)


As I wrote yesterday, nobody ever went to war over a downed jet.

There is of course still some risk of escalation, and the ugly mess in Syria will remain ugly and a mess.

For example:

Amid an apparent progression of ISIS’s experimentation with chemical weapons, questions arise over how the group obtains these agents. An ISIS fighter Omar Yilmaz asserted on Tumblr that ISIS had captured its stockpile of chemical weapons from the Assad regime. Although the OPCW declared all regime category weapons destroyed as of August 28, 2014, OPCW inspectors reported finding traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a Syrian regime military research site on May 8, 2015 giving credence to Yilmaz’s claim. Meanwhile, some assert these weapons came from the Muthanna, where the Saddam regime’s “big operation” was mustard gas.

The United States, however, believes ISIS manufactures crude mustard gas weapons in a powder form, according to the BBC on September 11. A US official said the intelligence community believes ISIS has “an active chemical weapons little research cell that they’re working on to try and get better at it.” The November 19 statements that ISIS is “determined to produce chemical weapons” simply reasserts a known reality, which bears greater gravity in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Given the progression of ISIS’s chemical weapon capabilities up to this point, former head of the British International Terrorism Intelligence Team Colonel Richard Kemp realistically states, “I think some of these terrorists recognize that while chemical weapons may or may not cause mass casualties, they would spread enormous panic.”


If you choose to read the whole thing, I can’t recommend highly enough keeping a snifter of brandy at your side — and pouring a double.


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