The Toxic Chemical Cloud’s Disruptive Military Significance

Thursday, Oct. 20 on the fourth day of the offensive to retake Mosul, ISIS loosed a toxic cloud made up of a deadly cocktail of sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide combined with residue from burning oil wells, from the Mishraq Chemical plant and sulphur mine. Nine people were killed in the vicinity of the poisonous attack and around 1,000 needed medical treatment.
The US, Iraqi and Kurdish troops in the front lines of Mosul, 30km to the north, were directed to put on gas masks. Yet, although this order affected tens of thousands of troops, including 5,000 US military personnel, surprisingly, no photos of soldiers wearing gas masks appeared in the media.
They were not released for fear that worldwide panic, especially in the Middle East, would be stirred up by graphic evidence of ISIS’ capability to wage chemical warfare inside or outside Iraq.
debkafile’s military sources report that up until Wednesday, five days later, the toxic cloud was still on the move and had reached up to 40km south of Mosul, largely over uninhabited terrain. However, if local winds change direction and turn east over the coming weekend, as predicted by weather forecasters, the poisonous fumes could reach Irbil, the autonomous Kurdish region’s capital, 60km away.
So ISIS fired with both barrels at the Kurdish fighters at the forefront of the Mosul campaign. – first by suicide bombers in Kirkuk, then by an poisonous cloud heading ominously toward their capital city.
Smaller than Mosul, Irbil is a town of around a million inhabitants. It is the seat of KRG governing institutions as well as the US, British, German and French diplomatic missions and the intelligence headquarters of Western and Middle East powers, including Iran.
If the chemical cloud starts floating toward Irbil, the KRG capital – or part of it – will have to be evacuated. No one in Washington, Baghdad or the Kurdish region had foreseen this eventuality in the prior planning for the Mosul offensive.
If this happens, US-led coalition forces may find themselves saddled not only with the chaos of a million civilians caught in or fleeting from the Moslem battle, but another million evacuees from deadly chemical gases in Irbil.
As for the Mishraq Chemical plant, DEBKA Weekly’s military sources report that ISIS has an active chemical weapons program that is run by Saddam Hussein’s internationally recruited former scientists and experts. They are manufacturing mustard gas agents and have hundreds if not thousands of chlorine IEDS and an almost bottomless supply of chlorine for charging mortar shells.
The diversity of the ISIS terror arsenal is as scary as its ruthless application.

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