Iraq Under Siege: Islamist Militants Capture Chemical Weapons Facility
Islamist militants received another gain on Friday: Iraqi insurgents seized a former chemical weapons facility that once belonged to the Saddam Hussein regime. Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant took control of the facility after staging rebel assaults throughout the northern region of Iraq for over a week. According to The Washington Post, the chemical weapons facility, located about 36 miles north of Baghdad, still contains chemical munitions. However, they are reportedly unusable.
"We do not believe that the complex contains CW [chemical weapons] materials of military value and it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to safely move the materials," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Although the chemical weapons facility — once the top-producing chemical munitions facility in Iraq — was bombed extensively during the Persian Gulf War, a 2007 report from the CIA stated that chemical munitions are still stored there. According to the report, the most dangerous weapons were declared to the United Nations and are sealed in bunkers. However, the types of chemical munitions are unconfirmed.
State officials added to The Wall Street Journal that the ISIS militants won't be able to create any dangerous weapons from the leftover material.
As the ISIS militants continue to push on toward Baghdad, the White House is considering possible offensive actions to protect Iraqi and Syrian citizens. During a recent meeting with his National Security Council, President Obama reportedly discussed the possibility of an airstrike, as well as training tactics for Syrian rebel forces. However, the president has insisted that he will not be putting U.S. troops on the ground.
"We do not have the ability to simply solve this problem by sending in tens of thousands of troops and committing the kinds of blood and treasure that has already been expended in Iraq," Obama told reporters Thursday.
However, up to 300 military advisers are being deployed to Iraq to help train and assist Iraqi forces, as well as provide extra protection for the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Earlier this week, it was reported that most embassy staff will stay in Baghdad, though some are being relocated to consulates in Jordan and more neutral Iraq regions.