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Monday, May 17, 2004

Sarin attack?

The BBC has the latest news about the "nerve gas bomb" that "exploded" in Iraq a few days ago.

I put "nerve gas bomb" in quotation marks because it was a binary shell containing two components of Sarin. The agents were designed to combine in flight. Absent the combination, the individual agents are relatively harmless.

I put "exploded" in quotation marks because the conventional explosive agents rigged to the device detonated, but the Sarin elements did not disperse. Two soldiers were treated for minor exposure.

While this could signal something important -- whether the presence of WMD in Iraq or the escation of war by the insurgents -- the BBC quotes a coalition official who does not think it amounts to much:
However, a senior coalition source has told the BBC the round does not signal the discovery of weapons of mass destruction or the escalation of insurgent activity.

He said the round dated back to the Iran-Iraq war and coalition officials were not sure whether the fighters even knew what it contained.
Iraq used Sarin against Iran during their war in the 1980s, and had the capability to produce large quantites as the UN discovered after the war. But the arsenal and production facilities were apparently destroyed in the 1990s under UN oversight.

As one talking military head said on MSNBC earlier today, explosives from WW II are still occasionally found across Europe. This may not mean much of anything.

If the insurgents have some more of these old warheads, however, the US has now told them what they have. Thus, I suppose it is possible that they might figure out a way to launch and activate the Sarin.

Let's hope not.

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