Chemical weapons 101: Six facts about sarin and Syria’s stockpile

Bashar Assad almost certainly crossed a 'red line' by using sarin or some other chemical weapon against his own people, President Obama said in April. The casualty toll from the latest suspected use suggests sarin henceforth will be associated with Syria and Mr. Assad. 

4. When has sarin been used as a chemical weapon?

A decade before Tokyo’s Subway Sarin Incident, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein used sarin against Iranian forces in the Iran-Iraq war – and in 1988 as part of the cocktail of chemical weapons he unleashed against the Kurdish population of Halabja in northern Iraq. About 5,000 people were killed.

In 2004, Iraqi insurgents fired a shell containing precursors for sarin against a US military convoy. Two US soldiers were treated for symptoms of sarin exposure, but the exploded shell released only a small amount of sarin, perhaps because the chemicals were old or simply because the chemicals failed to mix inside the spinning shell as intended.

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