Protests in Iran have steadily escalated in the two months since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died of injuries police inflicted on her ethic for wearing an “inappropriate” headscarf. Now the matter is reaching a critical stage as the security forces deploy heavy weapons and helicopters. Some 40 people have been killed in the past week alone, according to the United Nations. Now there is a wave of allegations that the security forces are using nerve gas against their own people.
claims have sprung up in social media and are copied several timesshow them videos of what they see green smoke blowing towards demonstrators in the Kurdish area of Javanrod, or photos of ammunitionThe viral messages describe these as crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide and call on the world to help.
Iranians have bad memories of nerve agents. During the Iran–Iraq War of 1980, the forces of Saddam Hussein’s regime attempted to compensate for their enemy’s superiority in manpower by using chemical weapons, publicly warning Iran that “for every noxious vermin there is an insecticide”. capable of destroying it regardless of their number and whatever Iraq has[es] This destructive insecticide. When Iranian troops captured the city of Halabja in 1988, the Iraqis bombarded it with a mixture of mustard gas and nerve agents, killing more than 3,000 people.
However, this case is very different. Dan Caszetta, a chemical weapons expert and Associate Fellow at the British defense think tank RUSI, has been bombarded with requests from Iran to help identify the mysterious “nerve warts” involved. It’s pretty obvious to him that there isn’t.
“Importantly, there is no evidence of ‘nervous tia’ in these recent incidents,” Caszetta told me. “All sightings are easily attributable to known smoke munitions and riot control munitions.”
There is no green nerve agent (it is usually invisible). Caszetta says the video shows smoke indicating green powers. he also points a tweet Claiming to show a “prohibited chemical weapon” with a cartridge clearly labeled as CS gas, a riot control agent internationally authorized for police use.
“It’s literally ‘Look! It’s an elephant!’ If it is clearly and distinctly a cow-like landscape,” says Caszetta.
Caszetta says that while the regime is using CS gas (technically a chemical weapon not allowed in combat) and green smoke to disperse protests, these have nothing to do with nerve gas.
“Green HC smoke grenades are smelly and unpleasant, but a dramatic ploy to create mass panic,” says Caszetta.
Some tweets discuss the chemical composition of the green smoke produced by standard military colored smoke grenades, used, for example, to mark a helicopter landing site so that it can be seen from the air. Some green smoke grenades are also marketed for crowd control purposes. The smoke contains hexachloroethane (HC), which can be toxic but cannot be described as a nerve agent.
“The medical care for this green smoke is largely ‘put the person in clean air and they will get better on their own,'” Caszetta. notes in a tweet“People with severe respiratory distress may benefit from oxygen,” he added.
In fact, the medical side is one of the aspects of misinformation that worries Caszetta the most. Nerve gases are usually treated with atropine, which is highly toxic in itself, but can save the life of someone with nerve poisoning. Giving atropine to someone who has not been exposed to the nerve agent can be fatal.
“It’s going to kill someone,” says Caszetta.
This is not his only concern. the second is that exaggeration harms the cause; Making patently false claims about the regime’s actions is likely to cast doubt on other valid claims. In a situation where security forces have already killed so many people, no one should be answerable to the government.
Another problem is that the more false claims are spread, the harder it is for analysts like Cazetta to identify real events. It makes it difficult to monitor non-proliferation and ensure compliance with international agreements on chemical weapons.
The situation in Iran is serious and people are dying. But the nerve agent claim is merely a distraction from more important issues and, as Caszetta says, “quite misguided.”