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The Washington Post reported while I was in flight to Nashville this afternoon that American troops discoverd over 1500 gallons of chemicals believed to be intended to attack US and Iraqi forces by Islamist terrorists. The warehouse in Mosul had eleven different kinds of precursor agents and appears to have only recently been stocked:
Combined, the chemicals would yield an agent capable of "lingering hazards" for those exposed to it, Boylan said. The likely targets would have been "coalition and Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilians," in part owing to the difficulty anyone deploying the chemicals would have had in keeping the agents from spreading out over a wide area, he said.
Military officials did not immediately identify either the precursors or the agent they could have produced. "We don't want to speculate on any possibilities until our analysis is complete," Col. Henry Franke, a nuclear, biological and chemical defense officer, was quoted as saying in a military statement.
Investigators still were trying to determine which group was responsible for the alleged lab and whether the expertise came from foreign fighters or members of Saddam Hussein's former security apparatus, the military said.
No one believes at this point that the chemicals predate the fall of Saddam. That would mean that the chemicals made it into Mosul either by bringing them out of Syria or from a safe storage area in Northern Iraq. Either of those two scenarios could point back to pre-invasion Iraq as the source of the chemicals themselves, however; the former scenario only adds the possibility that Bashar Assad has lost his mind.
The size of this find makes it a significant development, both for the insurgency as it stands now and the sourcing of these chemical components. We may have some radical rethinking to do about the nature of not just the terrorists in Iraq, but also the war narrative that said Saddam had no WMD available for his use.
UPDATE: Welcome, Eschaton readers ... who apparently can't read when I wrote that no one believes this weapons cache predates the fall of Saddam. Apparently the same people who keep posting comments think that 1500 gallons of chemical-weapons precursors can simply pop up out of nowhere, however. Is it so hard to figure out that either they likely came from Syria or from a hidden cache somewhere in Northern Iraq -- and to understand the implications of either scenario? They can't exactly fly them in from the Home Depot in Ankara, folks. Neither the Zarqawi terrorists nor the Ba'athist remnant insurgents have that kind of protection for the extended lines of communications necessary to get them into Mosul from Saudi Arabia or Jordan or Iran.
UPDATE II: The Counterterrorism Blog has more, including a recap of some applicable testimony from Charles Duelfer.Sphere It View blog reactions
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