Status Brief

Developmental Milestones/Developments to Date:

Current Assessment/State of the Field:




Benjamin, Georges C. “Chemical and Biological Terrorism: Planning for the WorstPhysician Executive Volume 26 Issue 1. 80. January/February 2000.

  1. Chemical or biological terrorism is the use of pathogenic microbes or toxins derived from plants, animals, microbes, or chemical agents to achieve terror.” – page 80
  2. ”Chemical and biological weapons, like nuclear weapons, are categorized as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) because of the high number of potential victims that can result from their use.” – page 80 *
  3. ”While any chemical can be weaponized, the chemical agents traditionally of concern fall into four categories: nerve agents like sarin, which create an anticholinergic-like syndrome; vesicants like mustard gas, that cause a blistering or burn-like syndrome; cyanide, which interrupts aerobic metabolism; and riot control agents such as mace, which generally cause incapacitation.” – page 80
  4. ”Biological agents act like chemical agents but have a slower onset of action. Agents of concern include Ricin.” – page 81
  5. ”The ideal bioweapon is hard to detect from the usual microbial flora, has person-to-person spread, and is easy to aerosolize. There are two groups of organisms of public health concern: those that cause a high morbidity or a high mortality.” – page 81
  6. ”Examples of high morbidity organisms include salmonella, cholera, or E. coli. The number of highly toxic organisms is fortunately quite low and includes anthrax, smallpox, and the viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers, plague, brucellosis, and tularemia.” – page 81
  7. “Clues that biological terrorist events have occurred include an unexplained increase in respiratory cases or deaths, or dead and dying animals. Epidemiological clues include diseases with the wrong mode of transmission, which occur in an inappropriate geographic distribution or infect a new or novel population.” – page 81
  8. “Components of a biological/chemical terrorism disaster plan: plan how to identify the threat; develop an effective public health disease surveillance system; link the public health system and the traditional medical care delivery system; develop command and control systems; determine hospital bed availability; define disease containment, isolation, and quarantine procedures; plan how to obtain extra life support equipment such as respirators; plan how to train clinical staff to identify high-risk unusual diseases; ensure non-clinical staff are trained on the management of suspicious packages and mail; identify experts; plan simple handling and transport; plan how to communicate high risk information; manage medical examiner cases; and maintain a crime scene.” – page 81
  9. ”Effective disease control strategies such as case finding, decontamination, prophylaxis and vaccination, and quarantine must be defined.” – page 82

Chemical, WMD, Bioterrorism, Public Health, Military, Sarin, Japan, Ricin, E. coli, Cholera, Salmonella, Anthrax, Smallpox, Hemorrhagic fever, Plague, Brucellosis, Tularemia, Prophylaxis, Vaccination, Quarantine


Seto, Yasuo.The Sarin Gas Attack in Japan and the Related Forensic Investigation.Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. 14. June 2001

  1. ”Lethal nerve gas attacks in the city of Matsumoto in 1994, and in the Tokyo subway system in 1995, led to the deaths of 19 people, as well as to a large number of injuries.” – page 14
  2. ”Aum Shinrikyo was established by Shoko Asahara, and it disseminated a unique doctrine that taught that one could kill another human being who continues to commit evil deeds, and is thus destined to go to hell. After failing to win support in the 1989 general election, the cult transformed itself into a terrorist group that produced arms in toxic gases.” – page 14
  3. ”While expanding its influence in Japan, Aum also set up branch offices overseas in the United States, Germany, and Sri Lanka.” – page 14
  4. ”Two days after the Sarin incident in Tokyo, a simultaneous raid of Aum facilities was launched by 2,500 police in connection with the imprisonment of a notary public manager who had died while being detained.” – page 15
  5. ”Using established forensic toxicological techniques, it was found that during the Matsumoto incident, Sarin gas was sprayed to murder the local court judges, but nearby residents also became exposed to the toxins.” – page 16
  6. ”In the Tokyo subway Sarin incident, the cult decided to use Sarin in trains on three subway station lines, all of which stop at Kasumigaseki station near the Matsumoto Police Department. The perpetrators boarded the subway trains with plastic bags containing Sarin, and released the gas by prodding the bags open with the metal tips of umbrellas.” – pages 16, 17

Chemical, Bioterrorism, Sarin, Japan, Law Enforcement, Organizations/Groups, WMD


Davis, Jim, “The Looming Biological Warfare StormAir & Space Power Journal, Volume 17, Issue 1. 57. Spring 2003.

  1. ”Until very recently, the lack of focus on this subject (biological warfare) has resulted in a lack of appropriate funding and accountability.” – page 58
  2. ”Unless we focus appropriate dollars and develop a coherent national plant to prepare for and prevent such actions, the United States will likely suffer an enormous economic loss that could even lead to our demise as a superpower.” – page 58
  3. ”A belief in one or more of at least six false assumptions or myths helps explain why individuals, including senior civilian and military leaders, do not believe that a mass-casualty biological warfare (BW) attack will occur.” – page 58
  4. ”Myth one: there never really has been a significant BW attack” – page 58
  5. ”Even before the fall 2001 anthrax terrorism in the United States, incidents of BW and bioterrorism have occurred on multiple occasions.” – page 58
  6. ”Today, more countries have active biological warfare programs than at any other time in history, which increases the likelihood that BW will be used again in the future.” – page 58
  7. ”Myth two: The United States has never been attacked by a BW agent” – page 59
  8. ”Myth three” you have to be extremely intelligent, highly educated, and well-funded to grow, weaponized, and deploy a BW agent” – page 59
  9. ”Dr. Tara O’Toole, deputy director for the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at Johns Hopkins University, believes we have probably crossed over the threshold from ‘too difficult’ to accomplish to ‘doable by a determined individual or group’” – page 59
  10. “Much of the technical information is readily available on the internet, in libraries, and through mail order channels that provide ‘how-to’ manuals.” – page 59
  11. ”Myth four: biological warfare must be too difficult because it has failed when it has been tried” – page 59
  12. ”Myth five: there are moral restraints that have kept and will keep BW agents from being used” – page 60
  13. ”Morality can be marshaled as a reason both to limit BW use and to advocate mass killings – depending on the decision maker’s values and perspectives” – page 60
  14. ”Myth six: the long incubation period required for BW agents before onset of symptoms makes BW useless to users” – page 60
  15. ”There have already been multiple BW attacks, and to a savvy weaponeer, the incubation period can be used as an advantage rather than a disadvantage.” – page 60
  16. ”There are two primary motivations that might drive an adversary to attack the United States with a BW agent. The first motivation is to gradually ‘erode US influence’ as a world superpower. The second is categorized as ‘revenge or hate’” – page 61
  17. ”The author believes that there are three most likely BW scenarios the United States and its allies might face in the future: an agroterrorist event against the United States, a BW attack on United States and allied troops in the Middle East, and/or a bioterrorist attack against a large population center in the United States or an allied state.” – page 61
  18. ”Such myths continue to inhibit the adequate funding of US and allied biodefense” – page 66

Military, Anthrax, Plague, Smallpox, Tularemia, Sarin, Japan, Iraq, Iran, Nonproliferation, WMD


Atlas, Ronald, “National Security and the LabMedical Laboratory Observer, Volume 35, Issue 9. 52. September 2003.

  1. ”The aftermath of anthrax attacks following the horrific 9/11 events increased fear that terrorists could acquire deadly pathogens from legitimate U.S. laboratories, which led to a series of laws and regulations directly impacting clinical microbiology laboratories.” – page 52
  2. ”Enhancement of clinical and public health laboratories is key to the nation’s biodefense capabilities, so the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop protocols for diagnostic laboratories to recognize and handle major biothreat agents.” – page 52
  3. ”Since clinical labs have been the sources of the agents used in prior acts of bioterrorism or biocrimes, (e.g., the 1989 use of salmonella by the Rajneesh cult in Dalles, OR), they must exercise appropriate oversight as to who is given access to any pathogen which can be misused to cause harm.” – page 52
  4. ”Clinical labs wishing to retain select agents as clinical specimens or reference standards must meet all of the registration requirements of the Biopreparedness Act, including imposing strict biosecurity procedures and obtaining Department of Justice clearance for all individuals with access to the select agents.” – page 52
  5. ”The CDC and USDA must maintain accurate tracking of the acquisition, transfer and possession of these select agents, and must establish safeguards and biosecurity procedures to be followed by institutions possessing select agents.” – page 52
  6. ”The FBI is responsible for conducting security risk assessments of individuals seeking access to listed agents and toxins, and individuals or entities seeking to register under the Act.” – page 52
  7. ”The Biopreparedness Act, a new regulatory burden, should have minimal impact. The greatest impact is likely to be on the labs in the western United States where plague, tularemia, and coccidioidomycoses occur.” – page 52

Public Health, Lab Security, Anthrax, Salmonella, Tularemia, Plague, CDC, Bioterrorism, Biodefense, Biosecurity


Yan, HollySyria Chemical weapon potential: What is it, and what are the health risks?” December 7, 2012. CNN. Last checked April 15, 2013.

  1. “The government insists it would never use chemical weapons on its own people. But world leaders say Syria’s desperation could lead to even more tragedy in the war-torn country.”
  2. “Military analysts believe Syria may have one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world. Specifically, the supply could include sarin, mustard and VX gases. U.S. intelligence indicates Syria has mixed chemical compounds needed to make sarin — a deadly agent that can quickly kill thousands.”
  3. “Sarin gas is an odorless nerve agent that can cause convulsions, paralysis and respiratory failure. Nerve agents are the most toxic and rapidly acting of the known chemical warfare agents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
  4. “VX is another nerve agent that can be lethal when inhaled. It can also be dispersed in a liquid form; even a few small drops on the skin can lead to the same effects as sarin gas.”
  5. “Mustard gas — also known as sulfur mustard — leaves chemical burns on the skin, eyes and even the lungs when inhaled. It was commonly used in World War I. While mustard gas can be fatal, it also can disable victims and can cause cancer or permanent blindness.”
  6. “Syria could deliver chemical agents through a variety of ammunition, such as bombs dropped from aircraft, Scud surface-to-surface missiles, artillery shells or rockets, according to Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.”
  7. “‘The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable,’ Obama said this week. ‘And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences, and you will be held accountable.’”

Bioterrorism, Syria, WMD, Sarin


Deutsch, Anthony “‘Evidence’ of Syria chemical weapons use not up to U.N. standard” April 26, 2013. Reuters – Yahoo News. Last checked April 30, 2013.

  1. “Assertions of chemical weapon use in Syria by Western and Israeli officials citing photos, sporadic shelling and traces of toxins do not meet the standard of proof needed for a U.N. team of experts waiting to gather their own field evidence.”
  2. “That type of evidence, needed to show definitively if banned chemicals were found, has not been presented by governments and intelligence agencies accusing Syria of using chemical weapons against insurgents.”
  3. “With Syria blocking the U.N. mission, it is unlikely they will gain that type of access any time soon.”
  4. “The White House on Thursday said the U.S. intelligence community has assessed with varying degrees of confidence that the chemical agent sarin was used by forces allied with President Bashar al-Assad. But it noted that ‘the chain of custody is not clear.’”
  5. “The Israeli military this week suggested Syrian forces used sarin and showed reporters pictures of a body with symptoms indicating the nerve gas was the cause of death.”
  6. “Sarin is a fast-acting nerve agent that was originally developed in 1938 in Germany as a pesticide. It is a clear, colorless, tasteless and odorless liquid that can evaporate quickly into a gas and spread into the environment, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because it evaporates so quickly, sarin presents an immediate but short-lived threat.”
  7. “A team of 15 experts, put together in response to a request from the U.N. Secretary General to investigate the claims, has been on standby in Cyprus for nearly three weeks.”

Bioterrorism, Syria, WMD, Sarin


Burch, JonathonTurkey steps up chemical weapons tests on Syria casualties” May 9, 2013. Reuters. Last Checked May 9, 2013.

  1. “Turkey is stepping up chemical weapons tests on casualties arriving from Syria’s civil war to help ensure the perpetrators of any such attacks are held accountable, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday.”
  2. “The United States has said it views any use of chemical weapons in Syria as a “red line”, hinting this could lead to some form of foreign intervention. But chastened by the false intelligence that was used to justify the 2003 war in Iraq, Washington says it wants proof before taking any action.”
  3. “Some Turkish newspapers said the forensic institute carrying out the tests had found traces of ricin, a highly toxic substance which can be used as a chemical warfare agent. But Davutoglu said it was too soon to draw conclusions.”
  4. “The latest blood samples were taken from some 12 people from the Syrian province of Idlib who arrived at a border gate in Reyhanli in Turkey’s Hatay province with breathing difficulties, raising fears they had been victims of a chemical attack.”
  5. “Britain said on Thursday it believed it was “very likely” that the Syrian government had used chemical arms but that it had “no evidence to date” that the rebels had done so.”
  6. “Last week a U.N. war crimes investigator said testimony from Syrian casualties and medical staff indicated that rebels had used the banned nerve agent sarin, although other investigators later played down those suggestions.”

Syria, Bioterrorism, Sarin, WMD


DeYoung, Karen & Gearan, AnneU.S. to scale up military support for Syrian rebels” June 14, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked September 6, 2013.

  1. “The United States has concluded that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in its fight against opposition forces, and President Obama has authorized direct U.S. military support to the rebels, the White House said Thursday.”
  2. “U.S. intelligence had determined with ‘high certainty’ that Syrian government forces have ‘used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year.’ Intelligence agencies estimate that 100 to 150 people have died as a result of chemical weapons use.”
  3. “Obama said last year that confirmation of chemical weapons use would cross a “red line” for the United States.”
  4. “Syria will be at the top of the agenda when Obama meets with leaders of the Group of Eight industrial nations, including Russia, in Northern Ireland next week. Russia, Assad’s primary arms supplier and diplomatic backer, has blocked harsher international action against him at the United Nations.”
  5. “The Obama administration has provided more than $515 million in humanitarian and nonlethal military assistance to the Syrian opposition, including food and medicine. This week, the United Nations put the death toll in the conflict, which is in its third year, at more than 90,000. Millions have been displaced inside the country, and more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees are in neighboring countries.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation


Gearan, AnneU.N. to visit site of alleged Syrian chemical attack” August 26, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked September 4, 2013.

  1. “Syria will allow weapons inspectors to visit the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians, the United Nations said Sunday, but the Obama administration said the offer of access is too little too late.”
  2. “Top lawmakers said the time has come for a U.S. military response, one of the options under review by a White House feeling new pressure to act on President Obama’s declaration that any use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for the United States.”
  3. “…Relief group Doctors Without Borders estimates that 355 people were killed and more than 3,600 were injured by a suspected nerve agent last week. If confirmed, it would be the worst chemical weapons attack since Saddam Hussein gassed more than 3,000 people in an Iraqi Kurdish village 25 years ago.”
  4. “Obama ‘discussed possible responses’ with French President Franois Hollande on Sunday, the White House said. France’s foreign minister said last week that the suspected gas attack should be met with force.”
  5. “Adding urgency to the international deliberations, Jabhat al-Nusra, an opposition group in Syria that the United States deems a terrorist organization, said Sunday that the attack gives a green light for rebels to respond in kind.”
  6. “The U.N. team, led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, will begin on-site work Monday and focus on “ascertaining the facts of the 21 August incident as its highest priority,” the United Nations said.”
  7. “Syria is known to possess mustard gas and internationally banned nerve agents such as sarin.”
  8. “Russia, Syria’s most powerful foreign patron, joined the U.N. call for an investigation last week. Russia also suggested that the rebels were at fault and on Sunday warned against U.S. military action or the “tragic mistake” of jumping to conclusions.”
  9. “‘The fact that an attack has taken place is not going to be hard to establish; the hard part is going to be assessing blame,’ said Gary Samore, who until recently was the Obama administration’s top adviser on arms control and weapons of mass destruction.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation


Lynch, Colum & DeYoung, KarenU.S. efforts to build legal case for strikes run into questions” August 29, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked September 5, 2013.

  1. “As the United States and its allies weigh limited military strikes against Syria, their lawyers have been exploring a range of legal frameworks for any operation, including propositions that members of the international community have the right to use force to protect civilians or to deter a rogue nation from using chemical weapons.”
  2. “But the Obama administration’s efforts to build a legal case are encountering skepticism from U.N. officials and other experts, including former Republican and Democratic State Department lawyers, who argue that the use of force against the Syrian regime, absent a U.N. Security Council resolution, would be illegal.”
  3. “Kaye and other legal scholars say the U.N. Charter explicitly prohibits the use of force against other U.N. members, except in self-defense against an imminent threat or in an operation authorized by the 15-nation Security Council.”
  4. “Although Britain said Wednesday that it would seek a Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Syria, the prospects for approval appear dim, given firm opposition from veto-wielding members Russia and China.”
  5. “Although it would be a stretch to argue that Syria’s use of chemical weapons, if proven, constitutes a threat to the United States, the administration is also studying the possibility that U.S. force could be used in support of Syria’s neighbors, including American allies Jordan and Turkey, if those governments invoke the right to self-defense against Syria.”
  6. “The United States and its allies have frequently undertaken military actions without Security Council approval. In 1999, the Clinton administration led a NATO air war in Kosovo. About four years later, the George W. Bush administration invaded Iraq without an explicit authorization from the U.N. Security Council.”
  7. “Lawyers in both Republican and Democratic administrations have been concerned that a doctrine of humanitarian intervention could set a bad precedent that would be more likely to be used by other countries like Russia and China or some African countries, which could invoke the principle of “humanitarian intervention” in attacking their enemies.”
  8. “Both the Kosovo operation and the 2011 air assault in Libya, in which the United States participated, were launched with consensus within NATO. The alliance’s ambassadors have met to discuss the Syria situation. But the possibility of NATO intervention, which must begin with a request from a member nation under threat, has not yet been raised.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation


Faiola, AnthonyWestern powers face skepticism at home over military action” August 29, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked September 5, 2013.

  1. “Tepid domestic support in Parliament for fast action forced Cameron’s government to back down from a planned vote Thursday that would have effectively paved the way for the immediate use of military force. Instead, the prime minister compromised with critics who thought that London was acting too hastily, promising to offer a watered-down measure Thursday that called for a second vote before strikes would be undertaken.”
  2. “They also cited the chance that a strike could heighten violence in the region and drag allies into a more protracted operation, and lingering concerns that a blow against Assad’s government could strengthen extremist groups fighting within the Syrian opposition.”
  3. “Nations that have long resisted Western intervention in Syria, including Russia and Iran, were reasserting their opposition, saying the drumbeat was preempting the inspectors’ work. Any military action, they insisted, would only escalate violence in the region.”
  4. “On Wednesday, Devlet Bahceli, leader of Turkey’s opposition Nationalist Movement Party, called the push for action war-mongering. Without more details from the inspectors as well as U.N. backing, he told the Milliyet newspaper, any strikes would be a violation of international law and would not be moral.”
  5. “In Britain, public skepticism appeared significantly greater. A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times taken after the alleged chemical attack showed that 50 percent of those asked were opposed to British missiles being fired into Syria, with only 25 percent supporting such a move and 25 percent offering no opinion.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation


Editorial BoardThe risk of doing nothing” September 1, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked September 5, 2013.

  1. “A perception has been growing over the past week that President Obama has worked himself into a jam on Syria policy.”
  2. “Possibly the largest constraint Mr. Obama is encountering as he contemplates military action in Syria stems from the intelligence blunder that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Bush administration, like the Clinton administration before it and the governments of all its major allies, was convinced that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. Most Americans, including this page, were convinced, too.”
  3. “It is no surprise, and it is not a bad thing, that this time around people are demanding more evidence than they otherwise might.”
  4. “The president repeatedly has told the American people that the era of war was ending, that the United States could concentrate on nation-building at home and that it had no vital interests in Syria as that nation collapsed into civil war and began to endanger its neighbors. Americans, and U.S. allies, too, naturally would want some explanation of why all that may have changed.”
  5. “This time around, the United States may have few but the French on its side. A president who has stressed commitment to international law is faced with going it nearly alone and certainly without the U.N. Security Council, where Syria’s abettors Russia and China stand in the way.”
  6. “If Mr. Obama chooses to fire missiles at Syria, people will die, including some civilians, and unpredictable consequences will follow. There had better be good reason.”
  7. “If the United States does not ensure that Syria faces consequences for crossing the line, no one will, and the U.S. response should be strong enough to prevent Mr. Assad from committing further atrocities.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation


Rucker, Philip & Englund, WillObama seeks to rally global support” September 4, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked September 5, 2013.

  1. “At the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, the strife in Syria and uncertainty about Obama’s plans are likely to overshadow an agenda focused on economic issues. Privately, Obama will try to persuade world leaders to support U.S.-led action in Syria – putting him at odds with the summit’s host, Russian President Vladimir Putin, a key ally of the Syrian regime who will press his case against strikes.”
  2. “Obama is planning to meet with French President Francois Hollande and Chinese President Xi Jinping , U.S. officials said. Experts said it will be difficult for him to gain support on Syria as long as the scope of possible strikes or whether Congress will authorize them remains uncertain.”
  3. “Obama will begin his overseas trip Wednesday in Stockholm, where he intends to highlight trade alliances, global development and climate change. He is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and King Carl XVI Gustaf and eat dinner with leaders from Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation


Rucker, Philip & Englund, WillIn Stockholm, Obama presses his case on Syria” September 5, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked September 6, 2013.

  1. “President Obama took his campaign for a punitive military strike against Syria overseas on Wednesday, declaring that ‘the international community cannot be silent’ and that its credibility is on the line as his request for congressional approval of such action moved ahead in the Senate.”
  2. “But Obama faced fresh resistance from Russia, Syria’s stalwart patron, as President Vladimir Putin asserted that the West’s case against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with respect to his regime’s alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians is “absurd” and does not stand up to scrutiny.”
  3. “‘I didn’t set a red line,’ he told reporters. ‘The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons is abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use, even when countries are engaged in war. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty.’”
  4. “Obama and his administration have said Assad is directly responsible for the alleged sarin gas attack on civilians in the suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21. But Putin said Syria poses no threat to the United States.”
  5. “Putin also said he finds it unlikely that Assad would risk international repercussions by using long-banned chemical weapons to kill men, women and children.”
  6. “Russia has blocked proposals for U.N. Security Council action against Syria. In the AP interview, Putin warned the United States against launching a unilateral strike and said Russia is developing a plan of action in case it does so without U.N. approval, although he declined to cite specifics.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation


Warrick, JobyU.S. urgers Syria to provide access to nuclear sites” September 13, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked September 17, 2013.

  1. “The Obama administration urged Syria on Thursday to come clean about its past nuclear research as well as its chemical arsenal, accusing President Bashar al-Assad of blocking access to facilities linked to a Syrian nuclear reactor destroyed by Israel in 2007.”
  2. “The top U.S. diplomat to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Syria’s two-year-old civil war was no excuse for its failure to answer questions about its alleged nuclear program, which Western intelligence officials believe was on a path toward making nuclear weapons.”
  3. “The three facilities have long been a focal point of an IAEA investigation into the size and scope of Syria’s nuclear program, which is believed to have been halted by the 2007 Israeli air raid dubbed Operation Orchard. The presumed cornerstone of the program was the plutonium reactor built with North Korean help on the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria’s eastern desert.”
  4. “A report Thursday by independent nuclear researchers said ancillary facilities built to support the Syrian reactor could still contain uranium and other material of potential value to terrorist groups or black-market profiteers.”
  5. “The report acknowledged that any uranium fuel remaining in Syria is not weapons-grade and could not be used in nuclear bombs without further processing. While Syria’s thousands of chemical weapons remain a higher priority, its nuclear assets ‘deserve significant attention,’ the study said.”
  6. “The collapse of government control over parts of Syria has brought new urgency to long-standing questions about the security of Syria’s remaining nuclear assets. In February, Islamist rebel militias swept through the town of Deir al-Zour and posted videos of gun-toting fighters clambering over the site where the reactor had stood. The Marj as-Sultan region also has seen fighting between rebels and government forces in recent weeks.”
  7. “‘If the United Nations Security Council places Syria’s stocks of chemical weapons under international control, it should also address Syria’s undeclared nuclear assets,’ the ISIS study said. ‘The goal should be to verifiably determine that the undeclared program and its assets are fully understood, rendered harmless, and dismantled.’”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation


Shea, Dana, “Chemical Weapons: A Summary Report of Characteristics and Effects.” CRS Report for Congress. September 13, 2013.

  1. ”Military planners generally organize chemical agents, such as chemical weapons and toxic industrial chemicals, into four groups: nerve agents (such as sarin and VX), blister agents (such as mustard gas), choking agents (such as chlorine and phosgene), and blood agents”
  2. ”Chemicals categorized as nerve agents disrupt normal functioning of the nervous system. They do not occur naturally, rather, they are manmade compounds that require manufacture and isolation for high purity and toxicity.” – page 2
  3. ”Nerve agents are extremely dangerous and can enter the body through the lungs or by skin contact.” – page 3
  4. ”Chemicals categorized as blister agents, also known as vesicants, cause painful blistering of the skin. Such blistering is not generally lethal.” – page 4
  5. ”Blister agents can enter the body by inhalation or contact with the skin or eyes. Some agents can penetrate through normal clothing material, causing burns even in cloth-covered areas” – page 4
  6. ”Chemicals categorized as choking agents act on the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing and, potentially, permanent lung damage. Choking agents are general gases, have marked odors, and may color the surrounding air.” – page 5
  7. “Choking agents injure their victims through inhalation and have a comparatively mild effect on the skin.” – page 6
  8. “Chemicals categorized as blood agents interfere with oxygen utilization at the cellular level. Some, such as hydrogen cyanide, are very volatile gases, while others, such as cyanide salts, are odorless solids.” – page 7
  9. “Blood agents act through inhalation or ingestion and impair cellular oxygen use.” – page 7
  10. “Handheld detectors, such as the Chemical Agent Monitor (CAM), are able to detect some chemical agents, namely mustard agents and nerve agents. Automatic sampling devices, such as the Automatic Chemical Agent Detector/Alarm (ACADA), are also employed to provide automated, constant atmospheric sampling.” – page 10

Chemical, WMD, Chemical Surveillance, Military, Sarin


DeYoung, Karen & Lynch, ColumU.N. team finds ‘clear’ evidence of sarin attack” September 17, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked September 20, 2013.

  1. “U.N. inspectors found ‘clear and convincing evidence’ that large quantities of the nerve gas sarin were used last month in Syria, the first confirmation by an internationally recognized team of experts that a chemical weapons attack took place.”
  2. “The inspection report, presented to the U.N. Security Council on Monday, does not assess blame for the attack. But underlying evidence included in the report, including the trajectory of poison-filled rockets, was cited by the United States and its Western allies as proof of the Syrian government’s responsibility.”
  3. “Eighty-five percent of the blood samples tested positive for sarin. A majority of the environmental samples confirmed the use of sarin. A majority of the rockets or rocket fragments recovered were found to be carrying sarin.”
  4. “Syria and Russia still say the Aug. 21 attack in the suburbs of Damascus was perpetrated by rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”
  5. “Inspection of Syria’s estimated 1,000 metric tons of poison material would begin in November, with destruction to take place next year.”
  6. “Also Monday, President Obama signed an order waiving arms-control restrictions on the export of protective equipment and the provision of training to Syria. The action allows the shipment of U.S. gear to the OPCW for use in Syria, and permits equipment and training to be provided to nongovernmental organizations working with Syrian civilians and to approved rebel groups to shield themselves against any further chemical attacks.”
  7. “The U.S.-Russian road map also calls for a Security Council resolution that would punish Syria if it did not comply with the agreement.”
  8. “The agreement specifically refers to a resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which includes a provision on the use of force. But diplomats from Security Council member nations, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the closed-door discussions, said the resolution would more likely be governed by a different provision authorizing measures short of military action.”
  9. “The diplomats referred to a Chapter 7 paragraph that suggests steps that include ‘complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, and the severance of diplomatic relations.’”
  10. “Sarin was identified in the majority of the fragments, as well as in environmental and biomedical samples, including blood, urine and hair from the victims.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation, OPCW


DeYoung, KarenKerry urges U.N. action as Syria deal hits rough spots” September 20, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked September 28, 2013.

  1. “The U.S.-Russia agreement on Syria’s chemical weapons appeared to be on shaky ground Thursday as Secretary of State John F. Kerry angrily called for U.N. Security Council action to back up the deal, ‘despite the efforts of some’ to deny Syrian government responsibility for last month’s chemical attack outside Damascus.”
  2. “Putin’s statement, made at a conference northwest of Moscow, echoed comments by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who just a week ago negotiated an agreement with Kerry to have Syria turn over its chemical arsenal to international monitors for destruction. Assad, who has acquiesced to the agreement, made the same accusation against the rebels in a Fox News interview broadcast Wednesday.”
  3. “The U.S.-Russia deal is not technically tied to acceptance of responsibility for the attack. But Russia’s renewed emphasis on deflecting blame from the Syrian government has become the public face of an argument taking place behind closed doors at the U.N. Security Council about making Syria’s disarmament commitment binding.”
  4. “President Obama, who set aside his request for a skeptical Congress to approve unilateral U.S. military action against Syria in favor of the disarmament initiative, said last week that the process would include a U.N. resolution to ‘verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments.’”
  5. “At Security Council meetings this week, Russia has refused even to discuss the draft resolution and has insisted that because Syria ‘voluntarily’ agreed to give up its chemical arsenal, any punishment for noncompliance should be considered only after the fact.”
  6. “U.N. inspectors who visited the site of last month’s attack said in a report this week that they found ‘clear and convincing’ evidence that chemicals were used.”
  7. “The Security Council, he said, must be prepared to act next week, when nearly 200 heads of state, including Obama, will gather for the annual U.N. General Assembly. Without a council agreement, Syria is likely to become a tense centerpiece of the gathering.”
  8. “Although Kerry and Lavrov have pledged to increase momentum toward finding a political solution to the Syrian conflict, they remain at odds over Western insistence that Assad must step down under any negotiated transition government. Russia, Assad’s main diplomatic backer and arms supplier, has said that is an unacceptable precondition to talks between the government and the rebels.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation


Fisher, MaxWhy Obama’s big U.N. speech on Syria was so awkwardly inconsistent” September 24, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked September 24, 2013.

  1. “In his address to the United Nations on Tuesday, President Obama did his best to rally the organization to action on Syria. His case was forceful but, at moments, the logic seemed strained, even contradictory.”
  2. “Obama has a habit of conflating his case for punishing chemical weapons use with his case for ending the war, and says we can do both at the same time. But he advocates contradictory actions in pursuit of those two goals.”
  3. “To be clear, this is not to argue that Obama is hypocritical or somehow dishonest. But he’s got a very tough needle to thread: he’s trying to rally an action-resistant United Nations into very difficult and unpopular action; he’s also trying to push it toward two very different forms of action.”
  4. “If the United Nations Security Council failed to pass a sufficiently tough resolution to force Assad to give up his chemical weapons, Obama warned, ‘then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.’”
  5. “On paper, Obama’s two overriding goals in Syria are actually pretty straightforward. First, he wants to uphold the international norm against the use of chemical weapons, which he believes Assad violated by using chemical weapons against civilians on Aug 21. Second, he wants for Assad to step down voluntarily as part of a negotiated peace deal with the rebels that would also leave elements of Assad’s government intact.”
  6. “The problem, though, is that Obama has linked his two pursuit, saying that the one complements the other. “Our agreement on chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic effort to reach a political settlement within Syria,” he said. That’s a bit of a contradiction: military force would undermine a peace deal, but it would force Assad to give up his chemical weapons and thus “energize” a peace deal.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation


Gearan, Anne & Lynch, ColumU.N. Security Council approves resolution on Syrian arms” September 28, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked October 4, 2013.

  1. “The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously late Friday to approve an ambitious plan requiring Syria to surrender its chemical weapons for destruction, the first major diplomatic milestone reached more than two years after the start of the Syrian conflict.”
  2. “U.S. and European diplomats conceded that some of their toughest wording aimed at compelling Syria to obey the council’s demands and holding perpetrators to account for using chemical weapons was removed from the final resolution at Russia’s insistence.”
  3. “Still, the measure constituted the first legally binding action on Syria from the Security Council since the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters in early 2011.”
  4. “The agreement binds Syria to turn over its chemical arsenal but provides no automatic punishment if Syria balks. Enforcement would require further negotiation, setting up the prospect of more tussles between the United States and Russia.”
  5. “The White House claimed victory, citing the prospect of weapons inspectors entering Syria as soon as next week to begin the work of auditing and dismantling the country’s chemical stockpile.”
  6. “Secretary of State John F. Kerry hailed the council action as a show of unity that promises the elimination of one of the world’s largest chemical weapons stockpiles, one that had remained secret for decades. The United States and its allies say the arsenal was used in an Aug. 21 attack that killed about 1,400 Syrians, including more than 400 children, many as they slept.”
  7. “He said that “violations” of the agreement and “the use of chemical weapons by anyone will have to be carefully investigated by the Security Council of the United Nations, which will impose penalties only in the event that violations are serious enough to merit punishment” and are ‘proven by 100 percent,’ a threshold that could be insurmountable.”
  8. “Assad agreed to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program by the middle of 2014 under Russian pressure and following global outrage over the Aug. 21 sarin gas attack, the deadliest chemical attack in 25 years. The United States and its allies blamed the Assad government for the attack; Assad and his Russian backers said the rebels were responsible.”
  9. “The resolution says Syria ‘shall not use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons,’ or transfer them to others.”
  10. “In the event of noncompliance, the resolution says, the Security Council can ‘impose measures under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter.’”
  11. “Shortly before the Security Council’s vote, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons adopted a plan to send experts to inspect Syria’s toxic munitions, which U.S. experts have described as a mix of nerve agents such as sarin and blister agents such as sulfur mustard. Approval by The Hague-based OPCW cleared the way for the Security Council vote.”
  12. “The OPCW is scheduled to produce by Nov. 15 a timeline that details a series of disarmament milestones that Syria will be required to meet in order to ‘complete the elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.’”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation, OPCW


Lucas, RyanChemical weapons inspectors enter Syria” October 2, 2013. The Washington Post. Last Checked October 4, 2013.

  1. “An advance group of international inspectors arrived in Syria on Tuesday to begin the ambitious task of overseeing the destruction of President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program, a mission that must navigate the country’s civil war as well as the international spotlight.”
  2. “Nineteen inspectors from a Netherlands-based chemical weapons watchdog crossed into Syria from neighboring Lebanon on their way to Damascus to start finding, dismantling and ultimately destroying a chemical arsenal weighing an estimated 1,000 tons.”
  3. “The experts have about nine months to complete their work, which has been endorsed by a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for Syria’s chemical stockpile to be eliminated by mid-2014.”
  4. “Experts at The Hague, where the OPCW is based, said Sunday that the inspectors’ top priority is to help Syria end its ability to manufacture chemical weapons by a Nov. 1 deadline, using every means possible. That may include smashing mixing equipment with sledgehammers, blowing up delivery missiles, driving tanks over empty shells or filling them with concrete, and running machines without lubricant so they seize up and become inoperable.”
  5. “Within a week, a second group of inspectors is scheduled to arrive – fewer than 100 combined – and form teams that will fan out to individual sites.”
  6. “Also Tuesday, a Syrian activist group that has been tracking the 30-month-long conflict put the death toll at more than 115,000. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists on the ground, said it has documented 115,206 people killed in the conflict. That tally includes 28,804 government troops, 18,228 pro-government militiamen and at least 21,531 rebels.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, U.S. Foreign Policy, Sarin, UN, Chemical Surveillance, Nonproliferation, OPCW


Erin BrodwinIs It Too Late to Determine Which Chemical Weapons Were Used in Syria?“August 28, 2013. Scientific American.

  1. “”Scientific American” spoke with Charles Blair, senior fellow on state and nonstate terrorist threats with the Federation of American Scientists, about the challenges of pinning down a toxic culprit.”
  2. “”What happened at 2:00 A.M. in the Ghouta region of Syria on Wednesday, August 21?” There are some visuals, but apparently there were thuds or explosions releasing a chemical agent that was dispersed throughout the area, harming a large number of people in a small space.”
  3. “If it was sarin, they have 29 weeks to detect the degradation components. What happens is it goes into the soil. If there were bursts of sarin in the area say, nearby a crater, the bottom of that crater would be a great place to find sarin remnants.”
  4. “”Is there a main degradation component that you look for when you’re looking for evidence that sarin may have been used in an attack?” The main one is IMPA, or isopropylmethylphosphonic acid. That’s the main chemical marker.”
  5. “What we do know is that VX can be up to 100 times more toxic than sarin. If we look at the history of chemical warfare, it used to be that you’d either want an agent that was persistent and did its business on the surface or you’d want a gas agent that did damage in the air quickly and dispersed.”

Syria, Chemical, WMD, Sarin, Chemical Surveillance


Oppenheimer, AndyCBRN Terrorism: Threat Becomes RealityMilitary Technology, Volume 40 Issue 3. Pages 60-61. 2016.

  1. “The long-heralded threat of CBRN terrorism became real in 2015 following several reported incidents of mustard gas used in IEDs and mortars by the so called Islamic State (IS) mainly against Kurdish forces.” – page 60
  2. “IS has acquired more wealth and territory than al-Qaeda in setting up its proto-caliphate and hence has been rapidly attracting regional and international affiliates; acquiring an arsenal of weapons and purloined resources unprecedented for any insurgency or terrorist group in modern history.” – page 60
  3. “… IS applies means of conventional warfare, such as bombing and artillery, while also relying on ways of non-conventional warfare and the tried and tested terrorist MO of numerous suicide bomb attacks” – page 60
  4. “Areas under attack are spreading in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).” – page 60
  5. “IS is said to be actively recruiting experts with a background in physics and chemistry, and has already proven its capability to use CW against its adversaries. In Libya, Syria, and Iraq they control facilities that stored raw CB material, including traces of sarin-type chemical weapons, ricin-type biological weapons and mustard agents.” – page 60
  6. “Several organisations such as the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) and the NATO WMD Non-Proliferation Centre have urged that Europe must prepare for the possibility of a chemical or biological attack by IS…” – page 60
  7. “Major terrorist plots in the Middle East, Europe and the USA show that IS successfully infiltrated local societies with either comprehensive sleeper cells or lone wolves. The consequences in European security and defence policies were severe: IS’ new tactics lead to a lockdown of Brussels the week after the Paris attacks.” – page 60
  8. “Apart from arresting and putting on trial returnees from Syria with suspected IS allegiance, several EU countries have set up de-radicalisation programmes with varying degrees of limited success” – page 6

Libya, Iraq, Syria, Europe, Africa, Military, Chemical, Nuclear, WMD, Sarin, Ricin, Terrorist/Offender, Al-Qaeda, Isis, NATO, Bioterrorism