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Stock Image. Published by Routledge , New Condition: New. Save for Later. About this Item Brand new book, sourced directly from publisher. Dispatch time is working days from our warehouse. Book will be sent in robust, secure packaging to ensure it reaches you securely. But if Osama bin Ladin and his lieutenants had been interested in employing crude chemical, biological and radiological materials in small scale attacks, there is little doubt they could have done so by now. However, events have shown that the al Qaeda leadership does not choose weapons based on how easy they are to acquire and use, be they conventional or unconventional weapons.

They choose them based on the best means of destroying the specific targets that they have in mind.


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Al Qaeda's reasoning thus runs counter to analytic convention that equates the ease of acquisition of chemical, biological or radiological weapons with an increasing likelihood of terrorist use -- i. In fact, it is the opposite: If perpetrating a large- scale attack serves as al Qaeda's motivation for possessing WMD, not deterrence value, then the greatest threat is posed by the most effective and simple means of mass destruction, whether these means consist of nuclear, biological, or other forms of asymmetric weapons.

Disarmament Diplomacy: The Challenge of Biological Weapons:

Al Qaeda opted to pursue a highly complex and artfully choreographed plot to strike multiple targets requiring the simultaneous hijacking of several jumbo passenger aircraft, because using airplanes as weapons offered the best means of attacking the targets they intended to destroy. Yet, WMD terrorism skeptics abound, and for understandable reasons. There is widespread suspicion in America and abroad that WMD terrorism is another phony threat being hyped for political purposes, and to stoke fears among the public.

The case that the WMD terrorism threat is real bears no association with the Iraqi intelligence failure whatsoever, in terms of the reliability of the sources of intelligence, the quality of the information that has been collected, and the weight of the evidence that lies at the heart of our understanding of the threat. If anything, the biases in WMD terrorism analysis tilt towards treating the absence of information as an absence of threat; this could become a vulnerability in the defenses, considering the very real possibility that there may be a terrorist plot in motion that has not been found.

On the other side of the spectrum, even for the most ardent believers in the threat posed by WMD terrorism, it must be acknowledged that much of the rhetoric expressed by the top levels of the group might be just that: mere saber rattling in an increasingly desperate bid to remain relevant, to frighten their enemies, and to rally their followers with promises of powerful weapons that will reverse their losses on the battlefield.

It is also possible that al Qaeda may be engaging in a classic deception ruse, hoping to misdirect their foe with fears of mass destruction, in order to preserve the element of surprise for the fulfillment of their true intentions. There may be kernels of truth in each of these reasons as to why the world has not yet witnessed a terrorist WMD attack, which is at least a mild surprise, considering all that has come to pass since However, for purposes of making a clear-headed assessment of the threat, it may be useful to separate al Qaeda's WMD activity into two streams, one consisting of the strategic programs managed under the direct supervision and management of the al Qaeda core leadership, and the other consisting of tactical chemical, biological and radiological weapons development that was decentralized and pursued autonomously in various locations around the world as part of the "global jihad.

Fortunately, there is a body of historical information that provides a useful starting point for such an inquiry. Hopefully, an examination of WMD-associated information that is pertinent, but no longer sensitive, can help bridge the gaps in perceptions between the diehard believers and skeptics as to the true nature of the problem and the threat it may pose, not just in an al Qaeda context today, but in the future as WMD terrorism takes on new forms involving new actors.

In June , the US government issued a warning that there was a high probability of an al Qaeda WMD attack sometime in the next two years. This report represented a high water mark in concerns related to al Qaeda's WMD planning going back to the founding of the group. Why didn't an attack happen in the next two years?

Was the threat hyped for political purposes?

Was the intelligence assessment wrong? Or, was the threat neutralized? Some perspective into why the report was issued can be gleaned by examining some of the evidence that was available to US and international policymakers by the summer of concerning roughly fifteen years of al Qaeda's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Presenting this chronology will hopefully allow the reader to develop a better feel for the threat posed by al Qaeda's interest in WMD at that time, and use it as a basis to help determine whether the WMD terrorism threat is real.

Journal Article - Journal of Risk Research. Some believe the physical and psychological damage inflicted by weaponized chemicals during World War I built a sense of taboo around these weapons in Europe, but such a taboo clearly did not extend to the extensive use of gas chambers throughout the Holocaust or the repeated use of chemical weapons in the Middle East in the lates and in recent years. In part, the CW taboo is undermined by many actors, both state and non-state, that lack understanding or have bad information on CW use, their effects, and the impacts on the system or that see such threats as unimportant.

Further, the growing impunity surrounding chemical weapons—the ability to use them without severe internal or external penalty—is fostered by the lack of political, moral, or societal costs associated with their use. Traditionally, the presence of costly, industrial-scale military CW programs—such as those possessed by the United States and Russia prior to joining the CWC and used extensively by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War and against the Kurds of Iraq—animated the international system and drove international efforts to ban and eliminate these weapons. Today, with the glaring exception of North Korea, industrial-scale, battlefield- oriented CW programs have largely vanished and with them much of the prospect of large-scale, state-on-state chemical warfare.

Such scenarios greatly complicate the system of restraint by challenging legal verification approaches given the small quantities needed; complicating deterrence with low use thresholds; increasing the perception of benefit or utility of such weapons to users; and eroding societal or moral costs associated with these weapons. The majority of modern state and non-state CW programs do not require the production-scale facilities or large bulk quantities of agents or precursors of the past.

Advances in chemical science and engineering are also rapidly expanding relevant chemicals and compounds outside of the CW control regime.

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Over million new chemical substances have been created since the establishment of the CWC Schedules of Chemicals, growing by about 15, substances per day. Finally, diffuse procurement networks facilitate the ability to identify and deceive suppliers, especially with the growth of e-commerce options.

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In addition to new technology, there are new and emerging agents, as well as old agents being used in new ways. Many such chemical agents—chlorine and other TICs, fentanyls and other deadly pharmaceutically-base agents PBAs , and Novichoks—are not fully included on the CWC schedules and can be transferred and used in ways that challenge or elude traditional verification and controls.


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  • For example, chlorine is too ubiquitous to control, and a significant number of actual and potential CW agents, like fentanyls, lie outside of the CWC schedules. Following the Skripal attack, some Novichoks formulations were added to Schedule 1, but it is not clear if and how precursors to these agents can be regulated. In addition, PBAs, such as fentanyls, are a growing concern because they are easily produced, acquired, and weaponized and can be highly lethal.

    Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and, in drug-trafficking operations, is frequently mixed with heroin and cocaine or made into counterfeit pills. In August , a three-state drug bust seized 30 kilograms of fentanyl—enough to kill roughly 14 million people. Today, international efforts to prevent CW proliferation and use take place in an information warzone. The growing accessibility, maturation, and diffusion of online platforms and digital tools have democratized information but also contributed to easy manipulation and misuse, undermining credible and authoritative sources of information.

    While the CW system of restraint benefits greatly from a robust verification system, such verification-based arms control generally requires an ability to establish agreed facts and trust authoritative sources of information, including sensitive national information often from intelligence sources.

    2018 National Strategy for Countering WMD Terrorism

    Verification without an ability to validate and trust factual information is virtually impossible. Syria, Russia, and state and non-state supporters have been particularly successful in their systematic attack of authoritative information and institutions. While awareness of the disinformation challenge is growing, there is little consensus on the best ways to counter it; detailed, tit-for-tat responses often simply give more ammunition, while infrequent responses leave a vacuum to be filled.

    Open-source intelligence OSINT analysts working independently or within NGOs, international governmental organizations, or other entities are rapidly expanding and increasingly sophisticated. OSINT analysts use techniques that were previously confined to intelligence or law enforcement communities working within classified information networks. OSINT products have substantially increased response time, public awareness, transparency, and accountability. However, with this rapid growth, efforts to protect and validate sources of analysis have struggled to keep up.

    The arms control arena has reaped many benefits of OSINT analysis in monitoring and verification procedures, as the OPCW, IAEA, national governments, NGOs, and private citizens have increasingly benefitted from this independent, publicly available information over the last two decades. Credible analysis outside of national governmental controls can provide greater access, transparency, and independence, especially in terms of matters of compliance.

    However, this environment also enables the production and spread of counter-truth phenomena—sometimes called alternative facts—as hostile actors may seek to manipulate and attack the data, tools, and techniques used by OSINT analysts in hopes of degrading the reliability of OSINT work or manipulating outcomes. Without an ability to hold violators accountable, neither threats nor rules can sustain a dissuasive power.

    National authorities and law enforcement provide vital accountability mechanisms, but recent investigations and prosecutions have shown mixed results. In Japan, Aum Shinrikyo members responsible for a CW terrorist attack in were ultimately convicted and given the death penalty, but the decades-long process reduced deterrent value. The two captured perpetrators avoided prosecution or received a token sentence, a strong indication of political and diplomatic interference. In the United Kingdom, exceptional police work and emergency response minimized injury and led to rapid attribution and identification of perpetrators in the Novichok nerve agent Skripal attacks, but arrests and prosecution seem unlikely after perpetrators fled the country and their identities were revealed.

    Internationally, the establishment of the Investigative and Identification Team IIT by CWC states parties demonstrated that the norm against CW use remains of value and is worthy of political investment, even in the face of costly obstructive efforts by Russia and its allies. Efforts to ensure that information is shared with the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism, a UN initiative to investigate and prosecute crimes in Syria since , will help to ensure that evidence is protected, and that investigative information can support future legal recourse for victims.

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    Following the establishment and entry into force of the CWC, the limited pre-existing knowledge and expertise about chemical weapons in much of the Global South declined precipitously. Even these national investments have declined steadily over time, resulting in a widespread lack of technical expertise in these countries.

    Arms control and nonproliferation experts have similarly shifted focus away from chemical weapons, both at the national level and across much of the nongovernmental space. Given the priority of nuclear nonproliferation, most countries place their limited arms control expertise in Geneva or Vienna, leaving representation at the OPCW at The Hague in the hands of their bilateral embassies. This lack of expertise also heightens the vulnerability of these countries to the growing challenge of disinformation, information warfare, and conspiracy theories, which seek to sow doubt and mistrust in institutions and leaders.

    North Korea is one of four remaining countries yet to accede to the CWC and is believed to have the largest active CW stockpile in the world. It is also generally believed to be the only state that continues to value chemical weapons as a tool for battlefield war-fighting in state-on-state conflict. It possesses the ability to threaten Seoul and its large vulnerable civilian population with chemical weapons from long-range artillery along the Kaesong Heights. North Korea possesses a wide range of blistering, blood, nerve, and choking agents and delivery systems, including artillery munitions, aerial vehicles, and ballistic missiles.

    Crisis, war, or diplomatic breakthrough could all produce urgent requirements to inspect, monitor, secure, remove, or destroy all or parts of the DPRK CW program.


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