The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which currently has 165 states-parties, is the principal international legal instrument against biological warfare. Developments in science and technology pose a continuing challenge to the treaty and the broader biological weapons nonproliferation regime. If they are applied to state or nonstate biological weapons programs, these developments can undermine the treaty’s prohibitions.
The head of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission last month offered a bleak assessment of the prospects for holding a long-planned conference on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, citing the “somber realities” in the region.
A recent State Department report expressed concerns about suspected unconventional weapons programs in the Middle East and elsewhere but with language that showed slight or no differences from last year’s assessment for the countries and programs it covers.
For more than a decade, the world has witnessed an increasing confluence of rapidly advancing science and its embodiment in practical technologies, the extensive global diffusion of the knowledge and capabilities associated with those developments, and a seemingly unending shift in the international security environment. The scope and intensity of these interactions have generated concern about security risks stemming from the possible misuse of emerging science and technology. The issue is especially acute with respect to the life sciences and related technologies.
President Barack Obama last month warned the Syrian government that using or moving chemical weapons would be seen as a step that was so serious it could trigger a U.S. military response.
Amid ongoing concerns about the fate of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, officials in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East are making plans to secure it once the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad falls.
Libya has set a target date of December 2013 for complete destruction of its most potent chemical weapons, according to documents circulated at a May 1-4 meeting on the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).
Although there has been “substantial progress” in organizing a planned conference on creating a Middle Eastern zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), it is “clear that further and intensified efforts are needed,” the conference’s facilitator said last month.
Destruction of the last elements of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile could take two years longer than previously planned, the Army’s Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA) program said in an April 17 press release.
Although the goal of ridding the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is receiving increased attention, it remains a distant prospect. Achieving such an ambitious goal will require a series of incremental steps even to begin the process. An agreement that bans the development and possession of ballistic missiles capable of flying more than 3,000 kilometers and includes members of the Arab League, Iran, Israel, and Turkey is a reasonable first step toward a WMD-free Middle East.