Chemical Games

The successful assault on the northern city of Tal Afar brought the prospect of chemical warfare in Iraq to the fore. Two al Qaeda linked groups claimed to have conducted successful attacks using chemical weapons last week. The Army of the Victorious Sect stated they attacked the Interior Ministry with rockets equipped with chemical weapons, while the Islamic Army of Iraq also took credit for firing a chemical mortar round. No proof of a successful chemical attack was found nor were any unusual injuries reported.

Shortly after the purported attacks, an al Qaeda linked web forum praised the attacks and discussed the prospects of the terrorist group being in possession of chemical weapons. The discussion shifted to al Qaeda’s capabilities, and their future plans; “The author questions if events in Tal Afar provoked the use of chemical weapons, and then asks if al Qaeda in Iraq is preparing such weapon for use outside of Iraq, possibly against “underground railways in America.” Members respond that al Qaeda in Iraq has always possessed such capabilities ”

Al Qaeda subsequently denied any involvement, and also distanced itself from The Army of the Victorious Sect.

While it is clear the two reported incidents are false, a curious find turned up in Tal Afar. Col. McMaster reports on the discovery made by U.S. troops when conducting door-to-door searches:

In terms of specialized weapons, some crude attempts, I think, in the western part of the city. We’ve been able to put this picture together now. The enemy had rigged a lot of buildings for destruction, and they wanted to time the destruction of these buildings with the entry of our forces. In one of these buildings the enemy had big barrels of chemicals that had explosives implanted in the chemicals, wires running around, and the whole house was rigged for demolition.

Around this house a lot of families were living. Our soldiers were conducting an area reconnaissance operation. They went into this house. Immediately their eyes began burning, their throat began burning, so they withdrew out of the house immediately and then we conducted reconnaissance with some chemical protective gear and with a remote reconnaissance capability into the house and we could tell that the thing was rigged with chemicals.

 And on the sort of jihadist and extremist websites, they’ve been saying, you know, that coalition forces are using chemical weapons. I think what they had hoped to do was detonate this building, kill innocent civilians in this neighborhood and then blame it on coalition forces. But we preempted their ability to do that by evacuating the civilians from that building 

We found some manuals that describe how they could make sort of these kind of chemical dirty bombs and so forth. But, you know, if the enemy had the capability to use it, I mean, this enemy is absolutely unscrupulous and I have no doubt that they would use it against innocent civilians and armed forces. So all the more important reason to make sure they don’t have a place to develop these kind of plans, to conduct this kind of training. And that’s, I think, one of the greatest success of this operation, is the safe haven is gone for them.

AQdog.jpgAl Qaeda has been very interested in augmenting their arsenal with chemical and biological weapons. After Afghanistan fell to U.S. forces, a treasure trove of data on al Qaeda’s programs was discovered, including video tapes of experiments on animals.

There are also two well documented cases of attempted attacks, both were uncovered beforehand – a ricin attack against France and Britain, and a chemical attack against Jordan. The foiled attack on Jordan could have killed thousands of people. Zarqawi was implicated in both plots, and al Qaeda’s WMD mastermind Abu Khabab was involved with the ricin plot. The find in Tal Afar should come as no shock, as al Qaeda has been attempting to create, obtain and use these weapons for quite some time.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • Lorenzo says:

    What will Cindy do?
    I believe George W. needs to have that second meeting with Cindy! Yes, he should admit that all of his plans to stop the terrorists have uncovered many more than expected and plead for her assistance.
    Cindy, we ask you for all of us, would you please go to Iraq to stand outside Al Zarqawi’s roving compound to speak with him? Tell lil Al to first remove his gas mask and say he didn’t have to kill your son, and that GW says we will leave Iraq if he does first. Cindy, please tell the rest of those boys in al Qaeda they must go home as well!
    If you do this for all of us in America Cindy, then we promise to elect you as our next president in 2008, until then, stop trying to play as our Commander in chief.

  • Rookie says:

    Please, guys, stop mentioning the bitch in the ditch already. She’s mentally insane, as the majority of the people belonging to the extreme left group out there. Activists as a profession.
    And the ideea that everyone is entitled to have ANY opinion is dead wrong. Depends if that opinion does not incite to violence, hate, extermination of political enemy, attacks to private property, and so on, and so on.
    If not, let’s bring KKK back to have daily conferences, put every member of ACLU to death chamber, shoot michaelmoore in the stomach (hey, it’s an opinion, no? they want to storm White House for a change),… So, accepting any opinion as a right degraded from initial intention to allow now the mentally ill people and terrorists to express themself in public.
    Please, again: stop give attention to this bitch, this is all purpose of their activism. Attention.
    Back on topic, every country has large stockpiles of chemical weapons. Even if it’s an international ban on them, I don’t think that old stockpiles were destroyed, and I think the chemicals are still dangerous after long periods. I have some limited military training, and I know that some of chemical weapons are available in large quantites and quite effective, since WW1 even.
    My question is, why Al Quaeda did not manage to buy until now such kind of weapons? Maybe because it’s not as large and well organized as MSM wants us to think? Just all tiny groups from the past are agreed to claim all their attacks in the name of Al Quaeda, so they give impression of a big master plan?
    The greatest danger I see now, even for developments in Iraq, is Gaza. It’s obvious that Hamas will take control and offer a safe heaven to all terrorists in the world. I give PA “authority” one month, two at most until they will be eliminated… A large scale attack on Israel to provoke a military answer will inflame all Middle East.
    What US will do then?

  • Don Cox says:

    The “big barrels of chemicals” are most likely to be common industrial chemicals such as sulphuric or hydrochloric acid, or caustic soda, or inflammable solvents such as paint thinners. These are all easy to get hold of.
    Any of these has a nasty effect if sprayed hot over an area, but they are not as sinister as nerve gases. They are the kind of stuff that gets spilt in motorway accidents, following which the road is closed and men in protective suits mop up.

  • Lorenzo says:

    Rookie’ we hold them accountable!

  • It is my belief the AQ goons are doing it all for propaganda effect. They see some troops coming to a building, they blow it up they video the soldiers and then they pan to civvies gagging and coughting. They then claim our forces are deplying poison gas. Al-Jazeera ANDAl-Pazeera (aka the AP) then broadcast this film to the world and without any investigation or skepticism on their part repeat the terrorist charges & video.
    In fact the terrorists are already claiming we are using poison gas. The only difference is civvy walks near a unexploded rigged building and gets affected by the poison.

  • Rookie says:

    Some Mehdi army leaders in Basra arrested:
    Release coming in 5..4..3..2..1..

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    “Release coming in 5..4..3..2..1..”
    Hostile Casualties in Basrah are the same as AlAnbar in Sept. . I don’t think the Brits are going to let this slide.

  • Justin Capone says:

    Time does a massive hit piece on the Iraq War. I love how they pretend Zarqawi isn’t a part of this and that the war is already lost. This is pathetic, they are asking us to give up insurgent operations in Anbar.
    Saddam’s Revenge
    The secret history of U.S. mistakes, misjudgments and intelligence failures that let the Iraqi dictator and his allies launch an insurgency now ripping Iraq apart
    In fact, some Iraq experts in the U.S. intelligence community have come to the conclusion that Iraqis’ courageous recent steps toward democracy-the elections in January and the writing of a constitution that empowers the religious Shi’ites and the Kurds (though it is resoundingly opposed by the Sunnis)-have left the country in a more precarious position. “The big conversation in our shop these days,” says a military-intelligence officer, “is whether it would be a good thing if the new constitution is voted down [in the public referendum] next month.”
    Iraq experts in the intelligence community believe that the proposed constitution, which creates autonomous regions for the Kurds and Shi’ites in the oil-rich north and south, could heighten the chances of an outright civil war. “A lot of us who have followed this thing have come to the conclusion that the Sunnis are the wolves-the real warriors-and the religious Shi’ites are the sheep,” says an intelligence officer. “The Sunnis have the power to maintain this violence indefinitely.”
    Another hot debate in the intelligence community is whether to make a major change in the counterinsurgency strategy-to stop the aggressive sweeps through insurgent-riddled areas, like the recent offensive in Tall ‘Afar, and try to concentrate troops and resources with the aim of improving security and living conditions in population centers like Baghdad. “We’ve taken Samarra four times, and we’ve lost it four times,” says an intelligence officer. “We need a new strategy.”
    But the Pentagon leadership is unlikely to support a strategy that concedes broad swaths of territory to the enemy. In fact, none of the intelligence officers who spoke with TIME or their ranking superiors could provide a plausible road map toward stability in Iraq. It is quite possible that the occupation of Iraq was an unwise proposition from the start, as many U.S. allies in the region warned before the invasion. Yet, despite their gloom, every one of the officers favors continuing-indeed, augmenting-the war effort. If the U.S. leaves, they say, the chaos in central Iraq could threaten the stability of the entire Middle East. And al-Qaeda operatives like al-Zarqawi could have a relatively safe base of operations in the Sunni triangle. “We have never taken this operation seriously enough,” says a retired senior military official with experience in Iraq. “We have never provided enough troops. We have never provided enough equipment, or the right kind of equipment. We have never worked the intelligence part of the war in a serious, sustained fashion. We have failed the Iraqi people, and we have failed our troops.”,8816,1106254,00.html

  • Time wouldn’t know a plausible plan for stability if it bit them on the…. That’s a cliche? Oh yeah, it is. Well you know what I mean!

  • Rookie says:

    Soldier’s Dad,
    Hope you’re right, but it seems to me that in Basra the Brits are turning a blind eye to the Iranian-sponsored Shia militia. They act now as follow-up of recent British casualties in the area.
    I think Steven Vincent pointed to this also, before he was murdered. Of course there were some acts of revenge against former Baath members, but also were reports of Christian students (girls) being shot, and I’m not aware of a clear message from British forces in order to interdict such behaviour.

  • The Honest Liberal says:

    We on the left control the media. This is no secret.
    The reason we on the left chose the make Cindy Sheehan a national issue is that, as the mother of a fallen soldier, it is easy to use her to say many anti-American things, while deflecting all criticism against someone who has suffered such a loss.
    We found Cindy Sheehan and cultivated her into a national issue to humiliate Bush, much like Abu Ghraib and the Guantanamo Qu’ran. This is one more victory in our quest to weaken America.
    We liberals are succeeding.
    The next thing we will use to humiliate America : the milestone of 2000 troop deaths. That will be reached in a month or two, and we liberals we use that to maximum effect to demoralize America.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    The British definition of “Peace Keeping” is somewhat more narrow than the US definition. There is a semi-functioning police force in Basrah, and relagating things to the “This is an Iraqi Internal Problem” is pretty common.
    IMHO The fundamental problem with Sammarra is that is has a pretty good sized population of former upper level(not top) bureaucrats that have found themselves unhappily unemployed(permanently). They are more than happy to “facilitate” violence, but actually catching them is about as difficult as catching organized crime bosses.
    At some point, as Iraqi policing gets better, the price of paying someone to place an IED or fire off a mortar will rise significantly. The violence in Sammara is economically based, rather than idealogically based. As long as it costs $5 to have a mortar fired off, they will continue.

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Another area that has to be given thought to in the Iraqi context is the “definition of a civil war”
    Every major city in the world has some version of “Jets vs Sharks”,”Crips vs Blood” street rivalry crap.
    Is the Mahdi Army a street gang or a militia?
    Given that a significant portion of the fighters caught in Tal Afar were in the 15-17 year old age group, are they a terrorist organization or a street gang?
    Given the propensity of the press to call everything a “Major” something or other, real measurement rather than words without definition are important.
    Should a mortar, fired into a field, hitting and damaging nothing be called a “Terrorist Attack” or useful hijinx. (I have friends that are real fans of making acetalyne bombs(fill a balloon with acetalyne, and light the string on fire) on the 4th of July. They shake the windows, can be heard for miles, and hurt no one). Are these terrorist attacks?

  • The Honest Liberal says:

    Hmm.. I can see it now. The US military goes in and kills some of their opponents in Tal Afar.
    A camera crew gets some exclusive footage : lo and behold, we liberals now have footage of what appears to be American troops killing 15 year olds in cold blood.
    I can see it now – this will allow us to humiliate America far more than Abu Ghraib ever did.
    This, couple with the milestone of 2000 US troop deaths, will probably be the final nails in the coffin. We liberals will use our power in the media to fully destroy America’s will to fight, and thus America will have to withdraw, utterly humiliated.
    You pro-Americans actually think that simply doing well in the battlefield matters. As far as the propaganda war, we liberals have won so easily, that it was hardly a challenge. 40% approval and dropping…..

  • Soldier's Dad says:

    Honest Liberal,
    You just don’t get the Karl Rove School of Hanging.
    It’s called “give a fool enough rope, he will hang himself”. 🙂

  • hamidreza says:

    disHonest ilLiberal, The best you could do so far is obtain footage of an adult terrorist that was said to be dead, but then moved and was perceived to be sneaking an attack, and who then got re-shot – in Fallujah last November.
    How do you plan to get footage of American troops killing 15 year olds in cold blood? You have failed miserably finding such footage, despite your incessant efforts.

  • leaddog2 says:

    Actually, we also use guns to shoot Liberal fruitcakes too, you know!

  • JackAssFestival says:

    The Honest Liberal is a fraud. Come ‘on guys, do you think there is a such a thing as a “honest liberal”?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Honest Liberal,
    You are not adding anything of value to the threads, and your schtickt is tiring. Discuss the issues. Consider yourself warned.
    Don’t feed the trolls and do not threaten people here. Consider yourself warned as well.
    This is to everyone else I have missed over the past couple of weeks.
    These threads have gone far too off topic and at times become too personal, and it needs to stop. I have not done a good job policing the comments here. Don’t make me have to work on this, as it detracts from my time to write. It will make me angry if I need to divert time away from researching and writing.

  • Justin Capone says:

    The media has been going all out blowing up Z-man of late.
    Using enemy body counts as a benchmark, the U.S. military claimed gains against Abu Musab Zarqawi’s foreign-led fighters
    But by many standards, including increasingly high death tolls in insurgent strikes, Zarqawi’s group, al Qaeda in Iraq, could claim to be the side that’s gaining after 2 years of war. August was the third-deadliest month of the war for U.S. troops.
    Zarqawi’s guerrillas this spring and summer showed themselves to be capable of mounting waves of suicide bombings and car bombings that could kill scores at a time and paralyze the Iraqi capital.
    The same morning, scores of al Qaeda fighters streamed into the streets of Ramadi, taking up positions with new automatic weapons. Witnesses said one group of insurgents proudly displayed a new rocket launcher that put U.S. armored vehicles in the glowing red beam of its targeting laser.
    The fact that American forces still attack entire cities and towns in the west is a sign of how much territory remains out of U.S. and Iraqi government control, said Dulaimi, a member of the Zarqawi-allied Ansar al-Sunna Army.
    “I can say that the legend of the undefeated U.S. Army is gone, owing to our rockets and mines, which are separating them from it day after day,” Dulaimi said in a telephone interview. “If they bet that time will be the way to end the resistance, they are wrong, because we are stronger since a year ago or maybe more.”
    Jeffrey White, said insurgents have fought U.S.-led forces to a stalemate at least in Anbar province, northern Babil province and some other areas.
    For Zarqawi’s purposes, U.S. claims of denying insurgents a lasting haven probably mean little, Cordesman said. “Being fluid, dynamic, scattered, broken out into cells seems to be the way any effective insurgency wins, or certainly endures,” he said.

  • The Honest Liberal says:

    In response to Justin Capone’s article,
    You see? We liberals who control the media can shape public perception easily. If we say Zarqawi is winning, most people will believe it.
    It this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy with our involvment. Hence the approval of the war is at just 40%.

  • Rookie says:

    From wp article posted above, more blowing up:
    “Using enemy body counts as a benchmark”
    So now this is wrong? media is doing this every day, at the end of their articles, only is not terrorist’s body count…
    “Dulaimi said in a telephone interview”
    Interview with whom? Telephone calls are the easiest to intercept… besides, that “journalist” have some answers to give…
    “Journalists” continue their holy war against truth, by putting Coalition military operations against armed terrorists on the level with terrorists actions by jihadis against Iraqis civilians, or summary executions of captured Iraqis soldiers (they are POW, Ellen, remember? where is media outrage?)
    Btw, some extra information related to this executions of Iraqi soldiers? I mean, this guys are rounded up one by one from their houses, or captured in ambush? If it’s the last, how can they surrender without a fight, after so many cases of POW extermination? They were unarmed, asleep… I cannot figured out – those are trained soldiers or what!?!?

  • Lorenzo says:

    that when Time Mag posts an article on this war, JOE KLEIN will be the snake inside the lamb(basting) skin. He is the worst of the worst when it comes to leftist-speak!!!!!!!!!
    Go ahead and do your own search on this pro al Qaeda master.

  • GJ says:

    Time is Now quoting intelligence sources. I thought those sources were inept.
    As far as disHonest Liberal, I don’t even read his posts anymore, just pass right over them.
    I noticed there’s a show coming up on the Military Channel, “Kiowa down”, about a rescue in Tal Afar that turned into 4 hour battle. Would this be about what happened there recently. The’ve had some pretty good programs in the past, and I’m wanting to see it, on Sep 26th.

  • You won’t see any of this stuff to justify why we are there in the MSM or at list spin it that way.

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