Saturday, September 24, 2016

Chemical attack in Iraq

By Jim Emerson, staff writer
This week, ISIS launched a mustard gasrocket against U.S. forces in an un-populated area near the Qayyara West base in Iraq.  The U.S. military is in the region preparing an airfield ahead of Iraq's offensive to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State.   The rocked carrying the chemical agent landed within hundreds of meters. The poor condition of the warhead posed no threat to personnel in the area.
The U.S. military is testing fragments and a small sample of a suspicious "tar-like, black, oily" substance from the scene.  The first examination initially tested positive for mustard gas but then tested negative in a subsequent inspection.  Further tests have been conducted. 
Sulfur mustard, commonly but erroneously known as mustard gas, is a cytotoxic and vesicant chemical warfare agent with the ability to form large blisters on the exposed skin and in the lungs. Related chemical compounds with similar chemical structure and similar properties form a class of compounds known collectively as sulfur mustards or mustard agents. Mustard gas is a chemical warfare agent developed during World War I for the Imperial German Army in 1916. Pure sulfur mustards are colorless, viscous liquids at room temperature. When used in impure form, such as in warfare agents, they are usually yellow-brown in color and have an odor resembling mustard plants, garlic or horseradish, hence the name.
The U.S. military has been conducting airstrikes to take out Islamic State's chemical weapons stores which had remained from Iraq’s “nonexistent” chemical weapons program. What ISIS lacks are the facilities and the technical skill to produce and maintain their chemical weapons cache. The weapon used against the Americans was ineffective because of poor maintenance. Apparently, the Islamic state isn’t afraid to use weapons of mass destruction. What is unknown is how much and what kind of chemical weapons they have imported from Syria. 
Last Thursday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford believed that the shell fired at Qayyara West was indeed a chemical weapon.  He told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "We assess it to be a sulfur mustard blister agent." It was the first official confirmation of the attack. The U.S. have observed ISIS attacks against Iraqi troops, Kurdish forces and Syrian soldiers but this is the first time there was a known attack against U.S. forces.

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