In the summer of 2014, as his followers were ravaging the cities of northern Iraq, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi convened a secret meeting with a weapons expert whose unusual skills the terrorist chief was anxious to acquire.
His guest was a small man, barely above 5 feet tall, and he had only recently been freed from a years-long stint in U.S. and Iraqi prisons. But before that, Salih al-Sabawi had been an Iraqi official of some renown: a Russian-trained engineer who had once helped President Saddam Hussein build his extensive arsenal of chemical weapons.
Baghdadi had summoned Sabawi, 52, to offer him a job. If supplied with the right equipment and resources, could he produce the same weapons for the Islamic State? Sabawi’s reply, according to a later intelligence report about the meeting, was yes. He could do that and more.