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Policy Analysis

Policy Papers 23

The Poor Man's Atomic Bomb? Biological Weapons in the Middle East

Seth Carus

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Saddam Hussein has claimed that Iraq possesses ballistic missiles capable of carrying biological weapons. This dramatic, if ambiguous, statement only served to dramatize earlier assertions by American officials that Iraq was indeed capable of waging biological warfare. As troubling as is the immediate threat from Baghdad, American officials, however, believe that Iraq is only one of a growing number of countries, several in the Middle East, that are attempting to acquire the capacity to conduct biological warfare.

Assessing the reality of the threat posed by biological warfare presents several puzzling questions. First, there is the possibility of Saddam Hussein’s biological arsenal. What do we know about the threats that the Iraqi program could pose to the region and beyond? How can the United States be prepared to prevent and protect against their use? Our experience with the Iraqi program provides a framework for tackling the second level of this threat, worldwide proliferation of biological weapons. What is the extent of biological weapons proliferation in the Middle East and elsewhere? In this Policy Paper, Seth Carus addresses these questions and recommends a number of policies to curtail biological weapons proliferation in the Middle East.

  • 52 pages