CBS will air an episode of 60 Minutes Sunday in which current CIA Director John Brennan confirms what many have feared — ISIS is using chemical weapons in its quest to establish a caliphate in the Middle East.
“We have a number of instances where ISIL has used chemical munitions on the battlefield,” Brennan told CBS, later adding, “There are reports that ISIS has access to chemical precursors and munitions that they can use.”
Brennan additionally confirmed ISIS has the capability to export those munitions to the West.
“I think there’s always the potential for that,” Brennan said. “This is why it’s so important to cut off the various transportation routes and smuggling routes that they have used.”
Brennan’s comments correspond with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s testimony earlier this week. Clapper stated, “ISIL has also used toxic chemicals in Iraq and Syria, including the blister agent sulfur mustard.”
Clapper claimed it was the first time any group has used chemical weapons to kill since a Japanese cult killed subway riders in Tokyo in 1995.
President Bashar al-Assad has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons against militants and, as some had accused, on his own people. Presumably to prove his innocence, al-Assad surrendered all of his chemical weapon stockpile to be destroyed after a chemical weapon was used outside Damascus earlier on in the conflict, drawing the scorn of the international community.
Al-Assad may have surrendered his country’s stockpile of chemical weapons but, as Brennan and Clapper have confirmed, ISIS has not surrendered its supply.
When George W. Bush was president, he accused then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. After the second gulf war against Iraq, those weapons had not been immediately located, leaving many to speculate — and even some to conclude — they never existed.
However, a 2014 U.S. News and World Reports article written by Lamont Calucci, claimed Bush’s fears — that a group like ISIS would use chemical weapons — had already become a reality. Long before Brennan and Clapper would admit it, Calucci wrote,
It is now considered quite possible that the Islamic State group has used chemical weapons at least four times, primarily chlorine gas. (Chlorine gas was first used in 1915 during World War I. Like the other poisons of that war, it was seen as so horrific that no great power has used them against another since.) There has been one attack north of Baghdad in Balad, two attacks against the defenders of Kobani and a fourth in the Saqlawiyah region, again, close to Baghdad. There are reports of other incidents as well.
Now questions remains as to how long the Obama administration has known ISIS was using chemical weapons and why now, at the end of the Obama era, are these facts being confirmed.