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Chemical and Biological Terrorism:
Profile of an Intensifying Non-Conventional Threat

Dany Shoham
Policy Paper No. 43, 1998


This analysis portrays the nature of C/B terrorism and shows its currently intensifying threat. In its very essence, the menace of C/B terrorism is indeed a worrisome one, due to great attractiveness, high feasibility, and potentially severe impact, in both tactical and strategic terms. The characteristics of C/B terrorism combine typical features of sabotage together with unconventional warfare and weapons of mass impact/destruction. Generally speaking, those characteristics may probably suit some remarkably changing trends of present and anticipated terrorism. Among the various possible modes of terrorism, bio-terrorism would apparently be the preferred mode of action, in light of its uniqueness.

C/B terrorism may increasingly take place both domestically and internationally, because it can effectively meet various needs and purposes. Thus, the issue of state-sponsored C/B terrorism, particularly if untraceable, is of great importance. At the same time, the very fact that a developed country like Japan, in spite of its notable discipline, repeatedly experienced domestic chemical terrorism, speaks for itself.

This review gives details of many C/B terrorism events over a long period of time, globally and in the Middle East. The temporal course of C/B terrorism is marked by considerable fluctuations, yet, as a whole, there is a fairly distinctive trend of aggravation, apparently an accelerated one. This trend probably stems from escalating interactions between terrorist elements and institutionalized systems, increase in radical approaches and concepts, intensifying awareness of the potentiality and availability of C/B agents, and decreasing effectiveness of conventional terrorism.

Geographically, this trend is noticeable particularly in the USA and the Middle East, but practically it may come into effect anywhere. Lately, this trend is characterized by the far-reaching involvement of Moslem elements, including state-sponsored ones. Thus, basically it is but a matter of time until this menace acquires its full explosive potential and harshly materializes. Too many indications lead to such a conclusion. Still, the paramount question is to what degree would it be actively possible to foil C/B terrorism. Unfortunately, it is a very complex, scarcely soluble issue. The cardinal component of preparedness towards C/B terrorism would most probably be preemptive intelligence. Other components are certainly important, though secondarily.

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