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

5
BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS: THEIR NATURE AND ARMS CONTROL

GRAHAM S. PEARSON

THE term 'biological weapons' is little understood and little appreciated by the public at large. Whilst there is some comprehension of chemical weapons, largely arising from the use of such weapons in the First World War, and the lasting images of incapacitated troops in that war, together with the use by Iraq of chemical weapons against Iran and against its own Kurdish population in the mid-1980s, there is no such general appreciation of biological weapons or biological warfare. All too often, biological warfare conjures up images of uncontrollable epidemics attacking both aggressor and attacked. This is not the case. Although transmissible biological-warfare agents could be selected by an aggressor, there are many agents that are non-transmissible and will affect only the target population, provided the aggressor takes care to deliver the agent in such a way that his forces are not exposed, or are protected, either by immunization of the body by vaccination or by physical protection using respirators. Additionally, by selection of the biological-warfare agent used, the outcome for the attacked population can be incapacitation or death.


INTRODUCTION

The revulsion against the use of chemical weapons in the First World War led to the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which prohibited the use of chemical weapons and was extended to include a ban on the use of biological (bacteriological) weapons: "That the High Contracting Parties, so far as they are not already Parties to Treaties prohibiting such use, accept this prohibition, agree to extend this prohibition to the use of bacterial methods of warfare

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