Throughout this unrelenting spate of recent Middle Eastern conflicts, the specter of chemical weapons have spurred the drawing of red lines and the sending of arms. For ISIS, its bloody advance across Iraq and Syria was cause enough to inspire American airstrikes as well as the arming of opposition forces, but now the radical Sunni Islamist group is also being accused of committing attacks using chemical weapons.
According to Iraqi officials, an Islamic State attack in September caused 11 Iraqi policemen in the town of Dhuluiya to seek treatment for symptoms consistent with chlorine gas poisoning. The Washington Post noted that this was the first confirmed use of chemical weapons by ISIS, adding that Iraq's Defense Ministry accounts of the events fit and that doctors declared the officers' symptoms resembled those of chlorine poisoning.
Iraqi officials also claim that ISIS used chlorine gas in two other attacks, though corroborating details of those incidents have not been released. Fortunately for the officers, the gas did not cause any fatalities. Qandeel Khalil, Dhuluiya's chief of police, told The Wall Street Journal, “Luckily, the effect of the chlorine was not that strong.”
Speaking of the three Iraqi accusations, National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey told The New York Times: "We are aware of the reports but cannot confirm details and are seeking additional information. The use of chlorine as a chemical weapon is an abhorrent act. These recent allegations underscore the importance of our work to eliminate chemical weapons in this volatile region.”
If confirmed, these attacks would be the first chemical weapons attacks in Iraq in several years. At the State Department on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that while the reports won't necessarily shift America's policy vis-à-vis ISIS, “it obviously can affect tactical decisions within that strategy.”