In a rare display of candor, CIA Director John Brennan said in a 60 Minutes interview to be aired Sunday that he believes the Islamic State not only has access to chemical weapons, but may be interested in smuggling those weapons to Europe for more attacks.
The ISIS weapons development team has the ability to make chlorine and mustard gas, Brennan said in the interview.
A web of sophisticated smuggling networks makes the issue much more pressing, as it’s possible ISIS may choose to disperse some of those weapons to western countries or other targets, like Israel.
“I think there’s always a potential for that,” Brennan admitted. “That’s why it’s important to cut off the various smuggling and transportation routes they use.” Brennan said that U.S. intelligence is gaining as much information on the ground as possible to contribute to ISIS’ destruction.
Just two days ago, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress, “ISIL has also used toxic chemicals in Iraq and Syria, including the blister agent sulfur mustard.”
The European Parliament issued a December report warning member states in the European Union to prepare for the possibility of an ISIS-orchestrated chemical weapons attack. The report confirmed that European authorities nab 150 cases of toxic smuggling a year.
Various other authorities in the past have argued that ISIS is heavily involved in chemical weapons.
The BBC reported in September that the Islamic State had deployed chemical weapons, namely mustard gas, on at least four separate occasions.
“They’re using mustard,” an anonymous U.S. intelligence official told the BBC. “We know they are.” While mustard gas is not hard to produce, it’s still unclear whether ISIS will be successful in making more complex chemical weapons like nerve agents. According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, chlorine, mustard and sarin are being used in the conflict in Syria, but it’s not clear by whom. Brennan has only confirmed that ISIS has employed mustard and chlorine gas.
The Associated Press reported in November that U.S. and Iraqi intelligence officials believe ISIS is setting up a chemical weapons development branch, drawing on local scientists in Iraq and Syria. At the time, U.S. intelligence officials stated that ISIS had used mustard gas against Kurds in Iraq. This was determined through an analysis of mortars. In response, Iraq has equipped its forces with gas masks, and Russia has also provided 1,000 protective suits to Iraqi troops.
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