National Security & Defense

Will Obama Allow ISIS to Have Chemical Weapons, Too?

The president has not been tough enough in trying to eradicate them.

It has been well documented that the Assad regime in Syria used chemical weapons against its own people before and after the agreement in which it promised to give them up. President Obama famously proclaimed a “red line” that was never solid, resulting in the Assad regime’s engaging in the use of these weapons with impunity.

In an effort not to be outdone by their enemy, ISIS — the terrorist organization that was allowed to transform into an insurgent rogue regime notorious for beheading, torture, rape, and mass killing — has now one-upped itself by using chemical weapons as well. The American national-security nightmare was always a terrorist organization possessing and using weapons of mass destruction. Some on the left postulated that not even terrorist groups would be bold enough to do so, since the Western powers would surely react with swift and decisive action. The admittedly small example of ISIS’s unabashedly using chemical weapons suggests that the United States cannot be spurred to real action even in the face of such horrendous crimes.

ISIS appears to have used chemical weapons, specifically chlorine gas, between five and ten times in the past year against the Iraqis and Kurds. The largest number of casualties, as reported by Iraqi News, came in a September 2014 attack that killed over 300 Iraqi soldiers. This chlorine gas is made by ISIS, probably by the chemical-weapons experts of the former Saddam Hussein regime and those they taught. One indication of this was the January killing by an airstrike of Salih Jasim al-Sabawi, a.k.a. Abu Malik, who was a chemical-weapons engineer for Saddam Hussein.

ISIS has been able to obtain chlorine from attacks against water-treatment facilities, where chlorine is used as a disinfectant. Australian foreign minister Julia Bishop says she believes that ISIS is attempting to create more-lethal chemical weapons and better delivery systems. U.S. secretary of state John Kerry expresses concern but seems more unnerved by the inability to verify each claim of use than by the use itself. Naturally, the issue has turned on whether ISIS or an affiliated group could use such weapons against the West.

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The fear is not mere conjecture. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, retired head of chemical and biological weapons for the British army and NATO, has written about the possibility of ISIS terrorists’ attempting a chemical-weapon attack inside the U.K., either in the subway or at a sporting event. He stated, “Virtually every foreign jihadi who returns to the U.S. or U.K. will have been exposed to training of this sort and will have a reasonable idea on how to use chlorine and other toxic chemicals as a terror weapon.” He worryingly predicted that such an attack in Great Britain was “highly likely.” This month, ISIS has enhanced its chemical-weapons ability by attacking Kurdish forces with chemical mortar shells, a delivery method it was not known to have used before.

Finally, we must circle back to the Assad regime and its treachery over the possession and use of chemical weapons after the world touted Russian-inspired diplomacy to make them chemical-free. A credible fear exists that whatever stockpiles Assad has kept or manufactured will eventually fall into the hands of ISIS.

#related#The tragedy of Syria and Iraq is the single greatest foreign-policy blunder of the Obama administration. We now stand at the very edge of a cliff, unimaginable even a few years ago: An insurgent terrorist state, one level worse than a rogue regime such as Iran or North Korea, is poised to escalate and enhance its abilities to manufacture and use weapons of mass destruction. It is doing so with defiance and glee.

What more does ISIS have to do before it proves to the United States and the West that it must be destroyed on a quick timetable? What further atrocity can be conjured up? Can anyone name a single action taken by ISIS that the Nazi or Soviet system did not commit? Do we really need to wait for a chemical attack in the London tube or a shopping center in Minneapolis before we finally recognize this threat? Yet Western politicians are engaged in the very same kind of appeasement with ISIS as was practiced with the Nazis. It defies God’s laws, logic, reason, and self-interest. If there has ever been a policy that should unite the Western democratic electorates behind strong American leadership, this is it, and the time is now.

—  Lamont Colucci has experience as a diplomat with the U.S. Department of State and is an associate professor of politics and government at Ripon College.

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