A post from Bellingcat on 22nd January says that recent sanctions cases demonstrated that organisations within Syria have been attempting to purchase large quantities of isopropyl alcohol, also known as propan-2-ol, 2-propanol and isopropanol.  EU sanctions have controlled the traffic in the product since 2013.  You cannot make Sarin without isopropyl alcohol. Sarin is created by combining isopropyl alcohol with the chemical methylphosphonic difluoride.  DF is an exotic chemical with no legitimate uses other than making Sarin. It is the result of a multiple-step, difficult, unsafe, and complex set of chemical engineering processes.  The post explains how DF is produced.  It explains that you can create nerve agents by combining some other alcohols with DF; but you do not get Sarin.  Adding ethyl alcohol to DF yields Ethyl Sarin, for example, which is far less toxic than Sarin and has a flash point that makes its use problematic in military weapon systems.  It says that the overall point is that isopropyl alcohol cannot be substituted with any other alcohol if the end product is Sarin, and that, in Syria, the end product has been Sarin.  In many parts of the world, isopropyl alcohol is widely available in pharmacies or as a cleaning product, it says.  However, the widely available commercial products are diluted (usually in water) and/or contain large numbers of impurities. If you are producing Sarin you want to have very pure isopropyl alcohol.  One response to the post points out that isopropyl alcohol is needed in a multiplicity of products in healthcare (rubbing alcohol, hand sanitisers, disinfecting pads ), cleaning (household and industrial), medicines and cosmetics.

Author: raytodd2017

Chartered Legal Executive and former senior manager with Isle of Man Customs and Excise, where I was (amongst other things) Sanctions Officer (for UN/EU sanctions), Export Licensing Officer and Manager of the Legal-Library & Collectorate Support Section

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