Chemical and Biological Weapons

December 13, 2013 • Volume 23, Issue 44
Can they be eliminated or controlled?
By Reed Karaim


A student practices handling simulated waste (U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity)
A student practices handling simulated waste at the Chemical Demilitarization Training Facility at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. Most of the world's chemical weapons have been destroyed under a 1993 treaty. However, several non-participants in the treaty, including North Korea, maintain chemical weapons stockpiles. (U.S. Army Chemical Materials Activity)

The Syrian government's use of nerve gas on rebel-controlled Damascus neighborhoods this summer focused renewed attention on the threat posed by chemical and biological weapons. The attacks, which killed up to about 1,400, led President Obama to threaten military retaliation. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad responded by agreeing to destroy his chemical arsenal. Chemical weapons have been outlawed since 1928, after the world saw the horrors of their effect in World War I. After Iraq used chemical weapons to kill tens of thousands of Iranians and Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s, a 1993 international accord strengthened enforcement of the ban. The Syrian gas attacks have spurred debate over whether chemical weapons are worse than conventional arms. Meanwhile, biological weapons also are outlawed, but some experts fear they could be used by terrorists.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Arms Control and Disarmament
Feb. 14, 2020  The New Arms Race
Dec. 13, 2013  Chemical and Biological Weapons
Mar. 2010  Dangerous War Debris
Oct. 02, 2009  Nuclear Disarmament Updated
Jan. 27, 1995  Non-Proliferation Treaty at 25
Dec. 24, 1987  Defending Europe
Feb. 22, 1985  Arms Control Negotiations
Jun. 08, 1979  Strategic Arms Debate
Apr. 09, 1969  Prospects for Arms Control
Mar. 15, 1961  New Approaches to Disarmament
Feb. 25, 1960  Struggle for Disarmament
Nov. 07, 1958  Arms Control: 1958
Jun. 11, 1957  Inspection for Disarmament
Jul. 11, 1955  Controlled Disarmament
Oct. 09, 1933  The Disarmament Conference, 1933
Jan. 05, 1932  World Disarmament Conference of 1932
Apr. 08, 1929  Efforts Toward Disarmament
Mar. 13, 1928  The League of Nations and Disarmament
Feb. 22, 1927  The United States and Disarmament
Arms Control and Disarmament
Conflicts in Asia
General Defense and National Security
Middle East Conflicts
Terrorism and Counterterrorism
World War I
World War II