The Clandestine Building of Libya's Chemical Weapons Factory: A Study in International Collusion

By Thomas C. Wiegele | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

The purpose of this study is to develop an understanding of how a third world nation could engage in a decade-long effort to clandestinely extract chemicals and chemical processing equipment from an international system that was presumably predisposed to halting the proliferation of chemical weapons capabilities. From around 1980 through 1989, Libya succeeded in acquiring the necessary ingredients to construct an elaborate chemical weapons production facility within its borders. This was done in spite of the strong opposition of several nations, including one of the superpowers, the United States. Libya's successful quest was supported by several of her Middle Eastern neighbors, although the primary physical assistance came from high technology industrialized powers that willingly allowed their products to be assembled into a facility to produce chemical weapons. In this, firms of the Federal Republic of Germany became the major suppliers. The main body of this study focuses on the many details of Libya's success in this effort in which conventional wisdom might easily have predicted a failure.

A major aim of the study is to provide for a broad spectrum of specialists information about the operational anatomy of a case of chemical weapons proliferation. This information should be of particular importance to foreign policy decision makers and their staffs, who have the political responsibility to deal with questions relating to the spread of chemical weapons. The work is also addressed to political scientists and students of science and technology policy, who often deal with the uncomfortable issue of chemical weaponry. These latter individuals produce the literature on chemical weapons proliferation that is at times utilized by the policymaking community. A detailed examination of this important case will throw considerable light on general questions of chemical weapons.

When I first became interested in the Libyan effort, I viewed it as a case of successful antiproliferation. The United States publicly raised the issue of the Libyan chemical weapons factory. That issue

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