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19 Jan, 2018 13:30

‘Real concern’ that returning militants may intend to use ‘low-grade WMD’ in Europe

‘Real concern’ that returning militants may intend to use ‘low-grade WMD’ in Europe

One of the main differences between nuclear and chemical weapons is that many more people have the means to manufacture and deploy chemical armaments, according to Max Abrahms, assistant professor at Northeastern University.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a UN Security Council session on Thursday that Syrian militants were now capable of producing their own chemical weapons. He added that there is serious concern “over the growing threat of ‘chemical’ terrorism” in the Middle East.

“The militants not only use toxic chemicals, but also have their own technologies and production capabilities for the synthesis of fully fledged chemical warfare agents as well as established and branched channels for accessing the precursors,” Lavrov said.

RT discussed how sophisticated these chemical weapons could be with Max Abrahms of Northeastern University in Boston, USA.

“One of the main differences between nuclear weapons and chemical weapons is that many more people have the means to manufacture and to deploy chemical weapons. There is wide variety of different types of chemical weapons that could be used, that we’ve seen on the battlefield – sarin gas, for example, or chlorine,” he said.

“I agree with Lavrov’s statement in the sense that surely some of the militants do know how to create chemical weapons and could use them,” Abrahms continued. That, according to the analyst, is a very real concern as it can’t be ruled out that foreign fighters returning home may intend to use “some kind of a low-grade WMD,” including in Europe.

In Abrahms’ opinion, it’s not difficult to get materials to produce chemical weapons. “Unlike nuclear weapons, there doesn’t need to be a government sponsor,” he said.

There have been other instances of Syrian rebels carrying out chemical attacks but the West seems to have turned a blind eye to these. Speculating as to why this may be the case, Abrahms told RT that there is “a big empirical dispute about who is perpetrating these chemical attacks.”

“When there is a chemical attack in Syria, the international community overwhelmingly blames the Assad regime. The US stands with the international community and shares that view. I do not get involved in this empirical dispute about who is responsible for the attacks, because I am based in Boston, but what I can say [is that] whoever is responsible for the attacks has been very, very politicized, so it is almost used as a bludgeon to kind of undermine whoever you don’t like in Syria,” he said.

In addition to “a lot of finger-pointing” and exchanging accusations, there’s almost “an expectation” that chemical weapons will be used again, the analyst said. “The various sides are sort of laying the groundwork to say: ‘Look, it is actually the rebels. Look, it is actually the Assad regime that is presumably behind the attack.’ Once the attack can be blamed on one of the sides, it generates all sorts of international antipathy towards that person. It is a lot like when there is collateral damage: is it intentional? Who did it? But when it comes to chemical weapons – even more so, because WMD are sort of understood to be taboo. So if a government can be blamed for using WMD that turns the international community against it,” Abrahms concluded.