U.N. Sources: Mustard Gas Used in Syria
Mustard gas has been used in Syria, U.N. weapons experts have concluded for the first time. It is still not clear, however, who was responsible for unleashing the poisonous gas.
An official from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) told AFP the gas was used in Marea, in northern Aleppo province, on August 21. Syrian opposition forces trying to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad were reported to be fighting Islamic State militants in the area around that time.
“It is the first time that we have confirmed the use of mustard gas in Syria,” the OPCW source told the news agency, asking not to be named. “We have determined the facts, but we have not determined who was responsible.”
The source added that the OPCW’s 192 member states have received a confidential report detailing the use of the gas, which was banned internationally in 1925 following its use in World War I. The U.N. body’s annual conference is scheduled for the end of November in The Hague.
Pentagon Spent $2 Million per Fighter: Report
The Pentagon’s failed program to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State cost about $2 million per fighter, according to USA Today.
The newspaper concluded, following interviews and obtaining spending figures, that the U.S. Defense Department had spent $384 million by the time it called an end to the program last month.
“Of the 180 Syrians vetted, trained and equipped, 145 fighters remain in the program. Of those, 95 are in Syria today,” the newspaper reported.
The Pentagon had originally said it aimed to train 3,000 New Syrian Forces fighters this year at a cost of $500 million, and 5,000 annually thereafter to battle ISIS.
However, the Pentagon disputed the $2 million figure per trainee, saying the actual cost was closer to $30,000. The “vast majority” of the funds paid for weapons, equipment and ammunition, some of which is still in storage, a spokesperson said.
Bombing Targets Clerics on Lebanese Border
A bomb killed several clerics meeting in a town on the Lebanese–Syrian border, Lebanese security officials and state media said.
Security officials reported 10 people were killed or wounded when the bomb exploded in Arsal, near the office of the Qalamoun Clerics Association, known for actively assisting Syrian refugees.
The state-run National News Agency added that the bomb was placed on a motorcycle that blew up outside the association’s office. It said the toll was five dead and six wounded, and that the head of the group, Syrian cleric Osman Mansour, was among those killed.
Arsal is home to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. Fighters from the Islamic State and the Nusra Front briefly seized the town last year and the Qalamoun Scholars Association tried to mediate for the release of the captured Lebanese troops.
- Foreign Affairs: The Not-So-Great Game in Syria
- The Atlantic: A Syria-First Strategy for Defeating ISIS
- VOX: How Syria Ghettoized the Military to Keep It Loyal
- NewStatesman: Things in Syria Are Getting Worse
- The World Post: Syria’s Two-Body Problem
Top image: A crew member of the Danish warship Esbern Snare enters a decontamination shower wearing a gas mask during drills at sea between Cyprus and Syria on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. Two cargo ships and their warship escorts set sail at waters near Syria where they waited for orders to head to the Syrian port of Latakia to pick up more than 1,000 tons of chemical agents to be removed and destroyed. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)