The Suspected Syrian Chemical Attacks: What Now?

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The Bulletin asked an array of chemical weapons and national security experts to assess the situation in Syria and suggest ways in which the United States and the international community might proceed, in light of what would—if proven true—be the most extensive use of chemical weapons in the Syrian uprising and a major breach of international law. 

Margaret E. Kosal, assistant professor, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs:

Chemical weapons are not an artifact of history. If no other lesson is to be taken from the allegations of use of chemical weapons in Syria, that one should be. Too often over the last decade, the national security community has perpetuated the treatment of chemical weapons—whether state-based or terrorist use—as a lesser danger than the threat from biological or nuclear agents. And sometimes, the chemical threat is practically dismissed outright, as has happened across too much of the United States government. For example, the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, a bipartisan US congressional endeavor, did not even consider chemical weapons in its final report in 2008; that report focused solely on nuclear and biological weaponry. Perhaps the greatest irony is that the commission’sreport predicted that “unless the world community acts decisively and with great urgency, it is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.” Well, it seems their prediction was correct in its timing. But the attack doesn’t appear to have been made by terrorists. And the agent used wasn’t biological or nuclear.

Additional Information


Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy (CISTP)

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Margaret E. Kosal, Syria
  • Created By: Ava Roth
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Oct 7, 2013 - 9:36am
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 10:26pm