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ISIS / Caliphate - WMD

It is said that when Abu Bakr al Baghdadi left Camp Bucca, where the worst of the worst were held in Iraq, he threatened his American jailers saying, "I’ll see you in New York." A good story, which may or may not be true.

Should the need arise, Islamic State (aka ISIS/ISIL) could buy a nuclear weapon in Pakistan within 12 months, the group's in-house magazine boasted in a May 2015 article attributed to hostage journalist John Cantlie.

The article talks about a "hypothetical operation" in which the Islamic State uses its "billions of dollars" to buy a nuclear device in Pakistan "through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region." The weapon could then be transported through Libya and Nigeria. The article suggests that "drug shipments from Columbia bound for Europe pass through West Africa, so moving other types of contraband from East to West is just as possible."

The device would land on the south shores of South America and make its way to Mexico, from where "it’s just a quick hop through a smuggling tunnel" to the US. The chilling conclusion is that in the end, "they’re mingling with another 12 million 'illegal' aliens in America with a nuclear bomb in the trunk of their car."

The author admits this is a "far-fetched" scenario, but goes on to say it is far more possible now than it was a year ago. Islamic State, he says, "will be looking to do something big, something that would make any past operation look like a squirrel shoot." Something of the scale could be made possible, according to the article, by an unprecedented condensation of various extreme Islamist groups under the terror organization’s wing.

The article mentions militant groups such as Boko Haram, which recently pledged allegiance to Islamic State. It says there are many Boko followers across the Middle East given confidence by the territorial gains made by the ISIS terrorists: "Nothing on this scale has happened this big or this quick before. Huge swathes of Pakistan, Nigeria, Libya, Yemen and the Sinai Peninsula are all now united under the black flag."

In June 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) reportedly seized control of nuclear material controlled by the Iraqi government at the University of Mosul. On 10 July 2014 the Iraqi government asked for international assistance after Sunni militants from the group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized nuclear material from a university in Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city, which they overran in June. But weapons experts played down any major threat from the seizure. The Iraqi government warned Thursday that the militants had seized up to 40 kilograms of uranium compounds from Mosul University. The speed of the Iraqi military’s retreat from the rebels left many sites unsecured.

The ISIL also entered the al-Muthanna project site located 60 miles north of Baghdad near the town of Samarra where the “remnants of the former [Iraqi] chemical weapons program were kept.” During the 1980s, the site produced hundreds of tons of Sarin, VX, and mustard agents. Aerial bombing during Desert Storm destroyed the research and production facilities at al-Muthanna and ended its ability to produce chemical weapons. The exact contents of the two bunkers that the ISIL entered, however, are not generally known. The lack of control of radioactive materials and former chemical weapons agents in Iraq is a concern, but the requisites to make the stolen materials into a weapon of mass destruction were lacking.

Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa writing 29 August 2014 for foreignpolicy.com ["The Islamic State's Terror Laptop of Doom"] report that the contents of a laptop seized from ISIS "makes clear that its owner is a Tunisian national named Muhammed S. who joined ISIS in Syria and who studied chemistry and physics at two universities in Tunisia's northeast. Even more disturbing is how he planned to use that education: The ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals. "The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge," the document states.The document includes instructions for how to test the weaponized disease safely, before it is used in a terrorist attack. "When the microbe is injected in small mice, the symptoms of the disease should start to appear within 24 hours," the document says.

The laptop also includes a 26-page fatwa, or Islamic ruling, on the usage of weapons of mass destruction. "If Muslims cannot defeat the kafir [unbelievers] in a different way, it is permissible to use weapons of mass destruction," states the fatwa by Saudi jihadi cleric Nasir al-Fahd, who is currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. "Even if it kills all of them and wipes them and their descendants off the face of the Earth."

A Scud missile was photographed 30 June 2013 in the town square of Raqqa, which ISIS had declared the capital of its “caliphate,” and carried ISIS markings and slogans. In order to launch the missile, the terror group would also need maintenance personnel, fuel, a refueling vehicle and skilled operators. Shown on the back of a truck without a launcher, it is likely that the Scud was of Syrian origin. Syria’s government had fired more than 40 Scud-type ballistic missiles at rebel positions in the country’s north in the first two months of 2013, according to intelligence Turkey had gathered from the region.

US officials are investigating reports that Islamic State militants used chlorine gas bombs against Iraqi security forces in their fight to grab more territory. According to various accounts in US and Iraqi media, the militants detonated the gas with homemade bombs, unleashing streams of yellow smoke in an assault on Iraqi police in September 2014 near Balad, just north of Baghdad.

The CIA noted in 2004 that "While the number of individuals involved in the Iraq WMD programs throughout the past thirty years is in the thousands, there is a fairly small subset who may remain of concern today. Precision is impossible, but it is worth noting that one or two individuals with the right skills could make a significant impact in a WMD effort.

"UN sanctions and intrusive UNSCOM inspections dampened the Regime’s ability to retain its WMD expertise. During the course of the 1990s, staffs were directed to civilian enterprises. Concomitantly, attrition through emigration, retirement and natural processes occurred.

"UN inspectors identified approximately 3,500 former WMD-associated individuals in Iraq prior to OIF based on Iraqi declarations of WMD-associated personnel. However, according to an NMD official interviewed after the war, this list included many non-WMD personnel to confuse the inspectors. By way of reference, in 2002, the Intelligence Community identified approximately 1,000 personnel believed associated with the Regime’s WMD-related activities.

"While the danger remains that hostile foreign governments, terrorists or insurgents may seek Iraqi expertise, the subset of individuals who possess the unique WMD skills of proliferation concern is numerically small. However, because a single individual can advance certain WMD activities, it remains an important concern."

In December 2003 the US government announced a Short-term Program to Support the redirection of former Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) scientists, technicians and engineers to civilian employment and discourage emigration of this community from Iraq. The short-term program is intended to jump-start this process through the creation of the Iraqi International Center for Science and Industry (IICSI). IT proposed a series of "quick-start" projects designed to serve as building blocks for the long-term Program; rapidly raise awareness among Iraqi WMD personnel of the Program as a preferable alternative to leaving the country in search of suitable employment; and engage the target audience of former WMD personnel with critical qualifications and skills, who, if they were to emigrate, could significantly advance the WMD programs of other states or terrorists.

Since 2004, DOE began working to identify, contact, and find employment for Iraqi scientists in peaceful joint research and development projects. DOE’s efforts were undertaken at the request of State, which has overall responsibility for coordinating nonproliferation activities and scientist assistance efforts in Iraq. DOE and State coordinate their activities through regular meetings and correspondence, participation in weekly teleconferences, interagency proposal review meetings, and coordination on strategic planning and upcoming events.

Through May 2007, DOE had spent about $2.7 million to support its activities in Iraq. DOE had approved 29 projects, the majority of which are administered by Sandia National Laboratories. These include projects on radon exposure, radionuclides in the Baghdad watershed, and the development of salt tolerant wheat strains. However, owing to the uncertain security situation in Iraq, DOE and national laboratory officials told us that these are short-term projects. Sandia National Laboratory officials acknowledged that most of the projects DOE is funding in Iraq have no commercialization potential.

An alleged policy plan of the Islamic State outlines some imaginative, if unrealistic, plots of the would-be terrorist state, including bribing Russia with access to oilfields in exchange for nuclear technology, and digging a canal across the UAE. The document reported by Britain’s Sunday Times in October 2014 is alleged to have been written by Abdullah Ahmed Meshedani, a member of the highly secretive six-man war cabinet of the terrorist group. It was supposedly captured by Iraqi special forces during a March raid on the home of a senior Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) member and said to have been confirmed as authentic by Western security officials.

The 70-point plan provides an insight into the grandiose, if somewhat far-fetched, "strategy" aimed at undermining Shiites in the Arab world and Iran as that branch of Islam’s powerhouse nation. One of the goals listed in the documents is to offer Russia access to oilfields in Iraq’s Anbar province in exchange for Moscow severing ties with Tehran and sharing secret nuclear technology known to Iran with the IS. The bribe is also meant to convince the Russian government to stop supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and ally with Sunni states of the Arab Gulf in their confrontation with Iran and Syria.

A security source familiar with the document told the newspaper, “Nothing shocks Western governments these days in relation to ISIS and its fanatical aspirations. ... We’ve known and feared for some time that they want to obtain chemical and nuclear weapons… So when you place their future aspirations against their current achievements, this document which purports to be the group’s manifesto does stop and make you think.”

Islamic State is believed to have seized enough radioactive material to build a large “dirty” bomb, according to Australian intelligence reports. NATO expressed concerned about the supplies, according to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. According to Australian intelligence reports cited by The Independent in June 2015, ISIS militants possess radioactive material, mostly stolen from government facilities, enough to build a large and devastating dirty bomb – a conventional explosive that is meant to disperse radioactive material over a large area.

At the Australia Group meeting, Bishop spoke about fears that ISIS is weaponizing poisonous gases such as chlorine. "The use of chlorine by Daesh [the Arabic term for IS], and its recruitment of highly technically trained professionals, including from the west, have revealed far more serious efforts in chemical weapons development," she said at the time.

"Daesh is likely to have amongst its tens of thousands of recruits the technical expertise necessary to further refine precursor materials and build chemical weapons,” Bishop added, stating that the rise of militant groups such as ISIS is “one of the gravest security threats we face today.”

The US is investigating an alleged chemical attack by Islamic State against Kurdish militia in northern Iraq. Washington reportedly suggests the jihadists used mustard gas, while the Kurds believe it was chlorine. Kurdish officials said their peshmerga forces were attacked with chemical weapons near the town of Makhmour, some 40 miles southwest of Erbil, on 11 August 2015. The German Defense Ministry, which is training the Kurds, said about 60 peshmerga fighters suffered injuries consistent with chemical weapons exposure during a battle with the Islamic State group.

The allegations of chemical arms use by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) are taken very seriously, Alistair Baskey, the White House’s National Security Council spokesman, said. “We continue to monitor these reports closely, and would further stress that any use of chemicals or biological material as a weapon is completely inconsistent with international standards and norms regarding such capabilities,” Baskey stressed.

An official with the global chemical weapons watchdog said 05 November 2015 that experts had concluded that mustard gas was used in fighting in the Syrian town of Marea in August 2015. The official from the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said it had not yet been determined who used the poison. But for several months, the group had suspected Islamic State of possessing chemical weapons.

A US Defense Department spokesman said 20 November 2015 that, at least for now, there is "no confirmable nor actionable information" regarding the terror group's pursuit of a chemical or biological weapons program. "We have always been concerned about ISIL's interest and intent to acquire any kind of chemical, biological or radiological weapons capability," said Major James Brindle. "We are continuing to investigate all these allegations very closely and to be proactive about the threat from chemical weapons or other similar threats."

Islamic State militants managed to steal chemical weapons from underground storage facilities in Libya that were not properly guarded and the gas has already been used, a cousin of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi told RT Arabic in an exclusive interview 19 December 2015. “ISIS has managed to find some of the secret underground storage facilities, still holding chemical weapons, hidden in the desert. Unfortunately, they weren’t properly guarded,” said Ahmed Gaddafi Al-Dam, a cousin of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader who was killed in 2011.

According to Al-Dam, the stolen gas was then trafficked to the northern part of the country and sold. “There are two known cases of this chemical agent being stolen. I know this from my sources in Tripoli. In the first case, seven drums of sarin were stolen, and in the second, I think it was five.”

The international chemical weapons watchdog said 05 January 2016 it found traces of the sarin gas which the Syrian government said had been used by militants. The Syrian government has said the militants deployed chemical weapons in 11 instances. The announcement followed an investigation carried out by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at the request of Damascus.

The results published in a monthly report on Syria said the mission had found indications that some people in the country had been exposed to chemical weapons. "In one instance, analysis of some blood samples indicates that individuals were at some point exposed to sarin (a deadly type of gas used in chemical weapons) or a sarin-like substance," said Ahmet Uzumcu, the head of the OPCW. Uzumcu, however, said further investigation would be necessary to determine when or under what circumstances such exposure might have occurred.

The Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group has used chemical weapons in its attacks and is capable of making small quantities of chlorine and mustard gas, according to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director. "We have a number of instances where ISIL has used chemical munitions on the battlefield," John Brennan, the CIA Director told CBS News in an interview reported on 11 February 2016.

The network quoted Brennan as saying the CIA believes that the Takfiri group has the ability to make small amounts of mustard or chlorine gas for weapons. "There are reports that ISIL has access to chemical precursors and munitions that they can use," Brennan said.

He also warned of the possibility that the terrorist group could seek to export the weapons to the West for financial gain. "I think there's always the potential for that. This is why it's so important to cut off the various transportation routes and smuggling routes that they have used," he said.

Islamic State fighters fired rockets loaded with mustard gas, also known as sulfur mustard, into a town north of Baghdad late 08 March 2016 and the next day. Iraqi and Kurdish officials said dozens of civilians were injured by the attack on Taza Khurmatu, a town whose residents are mostly Shi'ite Muslim ethnic Turkmen. "The rockets spread a garlicky smell and caused nausea and vomiting," according to Soran Jalal, head of Taza Khurmatu's civil defense office. Investigators confirmed the weapons carried mustard gas.

A key Islamic State operative captured by American forces in February 2016 was transferred to Iraqi custody, after providing the U.S.-led coalition with valuable information about the militant group's chemical weapons capabilities. On 10 March 2016 Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook referred to Sleiman Daoud Al-Bakkar, aka Abu Daoud, as Islamic State's "emir of chemical and traditional weapons manufacturing." Cook said the suspect revealed details on IS chemical weapons facilities and production, as well as the people involved. "The information has resulted in multiple coalition airstrikes that have disrupted and degraded ISIL's ability to produce chemical weapons and will continue to inform our operations in the future," Cook said, using another acronym for Islamic State.

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Page last modified: 11-03-2016 15:51:36 ZULU