Stimson in the News

Stimson Center’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Project is cited at Officer.com

in Program

While chemical and biological weapons are considered weapons of mass destruction (U.N. Resolution 687) and their use banned by international law (Chemical Weapons Convention, 1993), they are nevertheless a present threat. A United Nations report released September 16 confirmed that rockets loaded with sarin gas were used in the Syrian civil war August 21 against civilians in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. The U.N. called the attack a war crime, but stopped short of saying who was responsible. The United States, however, places blame on forces loyal to the ruling regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Over 1,400 civilians died in the attack, including over 400 children.
An attack by terrorists using chemical agents is generally considered to have a low-probability, due to the difficulty of manufacturing, storing, and delivering the agents. According to the Stimson Center’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Project, it would take 18 years for a basement-sized operation to produce the more than two tons of sarin gas that the Pentagon estimates would be necessary to kill 10,000 people, assuming the sarin was even manufactured correctly.
Still, prudence demands readiness. The potential consequences of a biochemical attack are sufficient to justify appropriate first responder preparation and response protocols, particularly since there is concern that terrorists could just steal an existing stockpile and avoid the bother of making it themselves. It is feared that al-Qaeda groups fighting in Syria, for instance, could exploit Syrian government instability and seize the Syrian chemical agent stockpile.
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