ISIS Grabs Saddam's Old Chemical Weapons Site

US officials say it's useless by now

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 19, 2014 7:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – The facility outside Baghdad where Saddam Hussein cooked up his chemical weapons is now in the hands of extremists trying to take over the country, reports the Wall Street Journal. The good news is that the al-Muthanna facility has been mothballed for so long that US officials don't think militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will be able to make any use of it. The takeaway quote from a State Department spokesperson: "We do not believe that the complex contains CW materials of military value and it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to safely move the materials." (Saddam is believed to have made sarin, mustard gas, and other poisons there during his war with Iran in the 1980s.)

The UK Telegraph talks to an expert of its own with a similar take, along with a sliver of worry: “It is doubtful that ISIS have the expertise to use a fully functioning chemical munition, but there are materials on site that could be used in an improvised explosive device,” he says. "We have seen that ISIS has used chemicals in explosions in Iraq before and has carried out experiments in Syria.” US officials tell the Journal that remaining chemical weapons stocks are sealed in bunkers at the site and would be useless even if accessed. Still, one Pentagon official says the US might have tried to remove them had it known the Iraqi government would so swiftly lose control. The site is about 45 miles northwest of Baghdad. (President Obama, meanwhile, is sending 300 military advisers to the country.)

In this June 17 photo, ISIS militants arrive at the country’s largest oil refinery in Beiji.
In this June 17 photo, ISIS militants arrive at the country’s largest oil refinery in Beiji.   (AP Photo via militant video)
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