The Development of a Critical International Situation
This chapter discusses the unfolding of a critical international situation that approached becoming a crisis in the Middle East region. It ultimately involved individual nation states both in the Middle East and elsewhere, international organizations, international conferences, individual business firms in several nations, and above all, the threat of war. After beginning with the chemical weapons context during the late 1980s, the chapter moves on to examine U.S. sensitivity to the spread of chemical weapons. As a counterpoint to American policy, the Libyan orientation to the United States is briefly examined. All of these topics are preliminary to the main body of the chapter, which focuses on the details of confrontations between the United States, Libya, and the international community regarding the discovery of what was charged to be a Libyan chemical weapons production facility.
In the three years preceding the December 1987 U.S. charge that Libya was building a chemical weapons factory, relatively little attention was paid to chemical weapons. For the most part, the attention of military establishments and arms control bodies was focused on nuclear weapons and, to a lesser but still significant extent, on conventional forces. This orientation was reflected in the formal speeches and statements in which heads of state and other officials addressed arms control questions. It is probably safe to say that chemical weapons represented an isolated afterthought when the statesmen of the world discussed military questions.
This was true in spite of the fact that there had been some use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq War. Indeed, a United Nations appraisal team had concluded that Iraq had been using