The Islamic State’s Acquisition and Use of Chemical Weapons

von Simeon Dukić

Assessing Past and Potential Threats

Policy Forum No. 2 and 3 are one article of two parts. Policy Forum No. 2 (Part I) assesses the threat posed by the possibility that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS) could obtain and use chemical weapons (CW). It first reviews the salafi-jihadi doctrine of the group and argues that no ideological obstacles prevent it from obtaining and using unconventional weapons. It then examines IS’s current status and concludes that despite the group’s loss of territory and the collapse of its quasi-state structure, it still poses a significant threat to the security of the Middle East/Gulf. Finally, the Policy Forum analyzes the capabilities and intentions of IS to seek, develop and use chemical weapons on the territory of Syria and Iraq. It contends that has the intentions but its capabilities are very limited to developing crude CW. Policy Forum No. 3 (Part II) a continuation of Policy Forum No. 2, examines the CW attacks that the IS allegedly carried out in Syria and Iraq. It argues that there is sufficient evidence that the group has developed a rudimentary chemical weapons capability and has used sulfur mustard in Syria. The article also contextualizes the threat posed by the Islamic State’s CW capability by comparing it to the threat posed by other state and non-state actors’ deployment of this category of weapons. The Policy Forum then evaluates the future threat posed by the Islamic State’s use of CW in and outside the Middle East.

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