Reports have been emerging from both sides of the ongoing Syrian civil war of the alleged use of chemical weaponry. President Obama has gone on record to call this a “game changer” as far as his administration’s involvement in the conflict. Warranted or not, the United Nations Security Council has launched a probe into the allegations at the bequest of the Syrian government, who is eager to have a neutral third party substantiate their claims of innocence. The United States government’s official role in evaluating these developments has been extremely limited due to the embassy being closed down in 2011 and the ambassador leaving the country. That being said, it is fairly certain that the Syrian government has one of the largest stockpiles of biological weapons in the world, ranging from XV to the fearsome mustard and sarin gasses, last used in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq conflict to devastating effect. Numerous reports from the international intelligence community have shown al-Assad’s regime to have been rapidly moving stockpiles between various military installations, likely to ensure their physical security. It has been feared that if the opposition gains access to these weapons, they will inevitably fall into the hands of al Qaeda militants who have been linked to the rebels. Chemical weapons were used by Saddam Hussein’s forces to carry out a genocidal campaign against the Kurds during the late ’80s, where nearly 200,000 innocent lives were systematically eliminated as shown below.
Effects of chemical warfare in 1980s Iraq
(sincerest apologies in advance to anyone who may find the images unsettling; however they are necessary to demonstrate the scope of the issue)