(A weekly digest from the internet on chemical and biological warfare issues. Emphasis is on incidents and perspectives, but inclusion of an item does not equal endorsement or agreement with the contents. This issue covers items collected between 13 – 19 March 2017.)
Chemical warfare in Iraq
- Iraq says there is no evidence of ISIS chemical attack in Mosul (Rudaw, 12 March 2017): Iraq has “no evidence” that ISIS had used chemical weapons in Mosul, the country’s ambassador to the United Nations Mohamed Ali Alhakim told reporters on Friday. Alhakim made the remarks as the UN Security Council was briefed on the situation of Mosul behind the closed doors.
- VIDEO: ISIS chemical attack hits Iraqi forces (GEOPOLMonitor Staff, 14 March 2017): A mortar believed to be fired by ISIS landed near a Rudaw news agency team embedded with Iraqi forces in Mosul, causing severe respiratory problems among the advancing Iraqi soldiers and media.
- Doctors ‘100 percent sure’ chemical weapons used near Mosul (Chad Garland, 15 March 2017): The incident followed allegations earlier this month that Islamic State fighters turned chemical weapons on civilians in the battle for Mosul, now in its fifth month. The United Nations has said it would be a war crime, if confirmed, but Iraq’s U.N. ambassador said last week there is no evidence to support the allegations. Medical workers, however, say they’ve seen and treated the evidence — the symptoms of about a dozen civilian patients.
- Russian Foreign Ministry reiterates IS systematically uses chemical weapons in Mosul (Tass, 16 March 2017): The use of chemical weapons by the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq’s Mosul has already become of a systematic character, Russian Foreign Ministry’s official spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday.
Chemical warfare in Syria
- Bashar al-Assad says relations between Syria and China are ‘on the rise’ (Adam Taylor, 12 March 2017): In an interview with the private Chinese broadcaster Phoenix Television that aired this weekend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad offered a warm description of his government’s ties with Beijing — a relationship that he said was going to be “on the rise” because China was “a real friend” that could be relied upon.
- For Russian TV, Syria isn’t just a foreign country — it’s a parallel universe (Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, 13 March 2017): With the world relapsing into old rivalries, disinformation is emerging as the continuation of war by other means. Propaganda has always been used by authoritarian states to control populations at home — but technological advances are allowing them to also neutralize enemies abroad. None has been more aggressive and resourceful in this regard than Russia. And nowhere has this weaponized information been more lethal than in its coverage of Syria — vividly exemplified by RT, the Kremlin’s international broadcaster.
- Iran should pressure Syria to stop chemical attacks (Tara Sepehri Far, 15 March, 2017): Iran owes it to Iranian victims like Saadi to stand up for justice and support of the international ban on these horrific weapons.
- Is The U.S. Using White Phosphorus In Iraq? (Gilad Shiloach, 12 March 2017): ISIS has claimed that U.S. forces attacked residential areas in Mosul and killed dozens of civilians using the incendiary weapon. The allegation is raising concerns among human rights groups which say the application of the incendiary material against civilians may constitute a war crime.
Assassination of Kim Jong-Nam
- U.N. Official Demands Inquiry Into Kim Jong-nam’s Death (Rick Gladstone, 13 March 2017): The United Nations investigator of human rights violations in North Korea inserted himself on Monday into the mystery over the assassination of the North Korean leader’s half brother, calling for an independent inquiry and possible protection of “other persons from targeted killings.”
- DNA Confirms Assassination Victim Was Half Brother of Kim Jong-un, Malaysia Says (Russell Goldman, 15 March 2017): The Malaysian authorities sought to definitively put to rest a nagging question about the brazen assassination of a man in Kuala Lumpur’s international airport last month: They said he was indeed Kim Jong-nam, estranged half brother of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, because they had DNA confirmation from a relative.
- Malaysia: Kim Jong Nam’s identity confirmed with child’s DNA (Eileen Ng, 15 March 2017): Malaysian police were able to confirm the identity of Kim Jong Nam, who was killed last month at Kuala Lumpur’s airport, using a DNA sample from one of his children, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Wednesday.
- Malaysia to talk with N. Korea over Kim murder row: PM (Henrietta Strickland, 18 March 2017): Malaysia’s prime minister on March 8 ruled out severing ties with North Korea and said his government would seek to negotiate a way out of a rapidly escalating diplomatic row over the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam.
- The toxic mystery behind Kim Jong-Nam’s assassination (AFP News, 19 March 2017): More than a month after Kim Jong-Nam was murdered in Kuala Lumpur, experts are struggling to make sense of Malaysia’s findings that the lethal nerve agent VX was used to kill him without apparent harm to anyone else.
Other allegations of CBW use
- One false anthrax report in South Roxana equals 6 busy officers, 1 irritated chief (Amanda St. Amand, 16 March 2017): The South Roxana Police Department arrested Marcus Rose, 20, on Wednesday for disorderly conduct for falsely reporting a crime.
- Sudan: Elevation to OPCW’s governing body a slap in the face for victims of chemical attacks (Amnesty International, 17 March 2017): Sudan’s appointment to the vice-chairmanship of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) despite credible evidence that it used chemical agents against the population in the Jebel Mara region of Darfur is a slap in the face for victims, said Amnesty International today.
- SPLM-N slams Sudan election as OPCW deputy-chairman (Sudan Tribune, 17 March 2017): Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has condemned Sudan’s election as a Vice Chairman of the Executive Council of the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Sudan has been unanimously elected to the post of deputy chairman by the African group at the international organisation.
- Khartoum regime elected as Vice Chair of Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons: What it signifies (Eric Reeves, 18 March 2017): International cynicism and expediency is now growing by leaps and bounds in the wake of Obama administration decision (January 13, 2017) to lift sanctions on the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime in Khartoum. Perhaps most striking in recent days: with the help of the Africa bloc at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Khartoum has been elected as Vice Chair of Executive Council.
- U.S. Navy Film Reveals Crazy Cold War Chemical Weapons Plans (Joseph Trevithick, 12 March 2017): During the early years of the Cold War, the Pentagon heavily prepared to use — and defend against — new and improved poison and germ weapons.
- Kazakhstan’s delegation takes part in 84th Session of the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in Hague (AKIPRESS.COM, 11 March 2017): On March 7, 2017, the 84-Session of the Executive Council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) started its work in The Hague. The Kazakh delegation is headed by Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the OPCW Magzhan Ilyassov.
- Russia May Completely Destroy Chemical Weapons This Year (Sputnik, 13 March 2017): Russia may complete the destruction of all its chemical weapons stockpiles this year, presidential envoy to the Volga Federal District, chairman of the State Commission on Chemical Disarmament Mikhail Babich said Monday.
- Did North Korea’s Use of VX Nerve Agent Violate International Law? (Benjamin Haas, 17 March 2017): On February 13, Kim Jong-nam—the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un—was killed at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Because VX nerve agent is listed as a Schedule 1 chemical under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), it’s reasonable to ask whether chemical weapons treaties can be leveraged against DPRK, and if not, what other international law mechanisms might be available.
- DARPA Wants To Create A ‘Soldier Cell’ To Fight Biological Weapon Attacks (Terrell Jermaine Starr and Jalopnik, 12 March 2017): There really is no remedy against a biological weapon attack, but Johns Hopkins University researchers hope the four-year, $US5.7 ($8) million grant DARPA recently awarded them will change that. The aim is for the researchers to create a bio-control system able to deploy single-cell fighters that will hunt down specific pathogens and destroy their lethality.
- Plague – What Will Be The Next One? (Steve Schow, 9 March 2017): The antibiotic chloramphenicol (Chloromycetin) was isolated from a culture of Streptomyces venezuelae in 1947. As one of the most important broad spectrum antibiotics ever discovered, chloramphenicol would never even see the light of day in our modern era of drug invention, because its potentially severe side effects can kill the patient.
- The Black Death: How Rats, Fleas and Germs Almost Wiped Out Europe (Kyle Mizokami, 11 March 2017): More than six centuries ago, disaster struck the people of Europe. A deadly plague, traveling west along trade routes from Central Asia, struck the continent with such force it wiped out entire villages and killed as many as twenty-five million people. The “Black Death,” as it was called, not only depopulated Europe but set the stage for profound societal change.
- The Next Plague Part 2: 1940 – New Infections Arrive, But From Where? (Steve Schow, 13 March 2017): Estimations of emerging infectious diseases between 1940 and 2004, suggest 335 such entities appeared in that period, or about five emerging infectious disease events per year.
- Soligenix: A Key Player in the Biodefense Space (Grant Zeng, 13 March 2017): Soligenix will present results from its ricin toxin vaccine (RiVax™) development program on March 15 at the Society of Toxicology 56th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD.
- Biodefense Market : Opportunities, Growth Drivers & Detailed Analyses Of Industry Trends By 2022 (Press release, 14 March 2017): The Biodefense research report features in-depth analysis of the global market with a focus on factors that influence the market, such as drivers, restraints, and key trends.
- Emergent Confirms $100M BARDA Contract for Anthrax Vaccine Stockpiling (Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, 17 March 2017): Emergent BioSolutions signed a 2-year, $100 million contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to supply its BioThrax® (anthrax vaccine adsorbed) vaccine for the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile. The BARDA contract is separate from Emergent’s $911 million, 29.4 million dose follow-on contract for BioThrax with the CDC, which the firm announced in December.