Non-Conventional-Weapons Proliferation in the Middle East: Tackling the Spread of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Capabilities

By Efraim Karsh; Martin S. Navias et al. | Go to book overview

CIA estimate was that one hundred tons of chemical agents had been produced and stockpiled at the Rabta facility before cleaning-up operations, 'perhaps in preparation for the long- awaited public opening of the facility to demonstrate its alleged function of producing legitimate pharmaceuticals'.


CONCLUSION

Chemical-warfare weapons have been in the Middle East for many decades now. Their military significance there has not been substantial, except possibly--though not yet demonstrably--under the special circumstances that characterized the final years of the Iran-Iraq War. However, self-interested issue-creation in the West on the theme of chemical proliferation has enhanced the political significance of chemical-warfare weapons in the Middle East. This factor, amplified by trends of a technological nature (such as the spread of guided-missile technologies), may conceivably carry chemical-warfare armament forward into an altogether greater salience upon regional security. In that event, armed forces in the region may become compelled to adapt themselves more closely to the various special military potentials which chemical- warfare armament possesses.

But such assimilation would run counter to the experience of past possessors of chemical-warfare weapons, such as the United Kingdom and France. After some initial enthusiasm, these states became content in the end to abandon chemical-warfare weapons, evidently concluding that the military potential of the weapons was insufficient to justify the opportunity and other costs of the adaptation needed to be able to exploit them.

In the particular security environment of the Middle East, that historical experience might or might not repeat itself. If, to take the pessimistic view, it does not, the chemical-warfare weapons themselves would probably not become especially threatening or destabilizing, for they would certainly induce greater attention to antichemical protection. The real danger would lie rather in the

____________________
mustard-gas factory at 5 tons/day and that of the sarin/GF factory at 2.5 tons/day; see Chemical Weapons Convention Bulletin, 13 (Sept. 1991), 11. It is instructive to recall that the former US sarin factory, at Rocky Mountain Arsenal near Denver, had a capacity of about 100 tons/day, while the capacity of the German mustard-gas factory at Gendorf during the Second World War was some 130 tons/day.

-97-

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