Virus made in USA sold to China. It is very likely that Israel was a partner in the project. Helping to develop the virus would also explain how Israeli scientists have been able to claim success at creating a vaccine so quickly, possibly because the virus and a treatment for it were developed simultaneously.
WASHINGTON — In addition to a widely suspected but unacknowledged nuclear arsenal, Israel has developed offensive chemical and biological warfare capabilities, though it is not clear whether the country possesses actual weapons stocks at this time, according to a new report by a Swedish defense agency (see GSN, Dec. 14, 2005).
Israel’s ambiguity about such activities probably is intended to suggest to potential adversaries it has a “credible and massive deterrence capability,” according to Israel and WMD: Incentives and Capabilities, produced in December by the Swedish Defense Research Agency.
“There is no doubt that Israel has both the scientific know-how, and the industrial infrastructure to produce CBW [chemical and biological weapons] if so desired,” it says.
Further, “Israel also has a breakout capability to produce CBW in a relatively short time frame, which could be complemented with chemical weapons (CW) agents produced in the past, if still stockpiled.”
“The most likely present focus of the Israeli chemical and biological program is to develop agents for small-scale covert use, i.e., a so-called ‘dirty tricks’ program” such as those in former Soviet and U.S. programs, the report says.
Israel’s nuclear arsenal, estimated at 100 to 200 warheads, however, is its most important weaponry “for deterrence and counterstrikes, if the state’s existence is threatened,” it says.
The report says Israel, along with North Korea, has the “worst record in the world” in signing and ratifying multilateral unconventional weapons treaties.
It notes Israel is not a party to the Biological Weapons Conventions or the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and has signed but not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Israel’s unconventional weapons acquisition in recent decades was spurred by the acquisition and use of such arms by its Arab neighbors, and concern about full-scale war with those nations, the report says.
While that threat has diminished in recent years, the suspected development of an Iranian nuclear program “has made Tehran a new emerging existential threat to the Israeli leadership,” it says.
The report says it used only open sources of information for its analysis, mostly Israeli and Western.
Capabilities AcquiredIsraeli development of chemical and biological weapons, and possible use of biological weapons, may date back to its earliest years, according to the report.
It says only one news article, from the Oct. 4, 1998 Sunday Times of London, could be found suggesting Israel by the late 1990s maintained chemical and biological weapons stocks.
In the story, an unidentified Israeli military source said F-16 fighter crews were trained to load such weapons in minutes.
The report cites an Economist Foreign Report article from 1984 that stated Israel had stocks of nerve agents, mustard gas, and riot control agents.
It says, though, “We have not found any conclusive evidence that show that Israel’s offensive programs still remain active today.”
However, from scientific publications on defensive and protective chemical and biological research, it is “possible to conclude … that Israel today possesses an advanced general knowledge of modern CBW agents,” it says.
In addition, some of Israel’s advanced chemical and biotechnology industries could be used for producing warfare agents, “as in many other industrial nations,” it says.
Small-scale production for covert “dirty tricks” programs “is conceivable,” the report says, citing an attempted Israeli assassination of a Hamas leader in Jordan in 1997 using a sprayed overdose of the anesthetic Fentanyl.
Perceived Existential Threats
Chemical and biological weapons development was hastened beginning in the 1960s by suspected proliferation and conflict in the region, according to the report.
It cites Egypt’s use of chemical agents during the mid-1960s Yemeni civil war; the 1973 Yom Kippur War during which chemical agents were not used but in which participants Egypt, Israel and Syria were believed to have chemical capabilities; Iraqi efforts in the 1980s to acquire a nuclear weapons capability; and chemical weapons use by both sides during the Iran-Iraq war.
“WMD in Israeli threat perception became a fundamental problem and an existential threat from the beginning of the 1980s,” it says.
“The deterrence policy, which constitutes a cornerstone in Israeli security strategy, seems to be shaped by the Israeli defense planners’ outlook that they simply cannot forsake any means of the ability to, through self-reliance, reassure the state of Israel’s future existence,” it says.
Neighbors Syria, Iraq and Egypt have not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention. Egypt and Syria have not ratified the Biological Weapons Convention.
In the early 1990s, the first Bush administration unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Israel, Syria and Egypt to sign or ratify all WMD nonproliferation pacts then existing. “Israel showed little interest in the process,” it adds.
Israel has seen improvement in its WMD threat concerns since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, with the ending of the Hussein regime in Iraq, Libya’s declared adherence to disarmament treaties, and international pressure to deny Iran a nuclear fuel cycle, according to the report.
Today, Syria is probably the only other country in the region with a military-capable chemical program, the report says. The Syrian capability, however, “is not perceived by Israel as an existential threat that could motivate Tel Aviv to deploy chemical and/or biological weapons, unless the Syrian CW-arsenal is coordinated with other regional states’ military capabilities.”
Egypt, meanwhile, is seen as the only Arab entity that is capable of taking on the Israeli military, though its main military supplier, the United States, has allowed Israel a qualitative edge in conventional hardware, the report says. Its economic and military dependence on the United States, however, makes conflict with Israel highly unlikely, it says.
“With the [exception] of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal, the threats from the Arab WMD in Israeli perceptions have eroded since early 1990s, and have to a large extent disappeared. However, the development in Iran during the same period of time is perceived by Israel to progress in the opposite direction,” it says.
Mutual WMD Concerns Seen
Israel and the United States now see Iran as the biggest threat in the region, and Israel has “elevated the prospect” of military strikes against Tehran’s suspected nuclear program, the report says.
Iran, meanwhile, is seeking nuclear weapons as deterrence against Israeli WMD capabilities and the prospect of a U.S. attack, whereas until recent years Iraqi and U.S. capabilities were its primary concerns, it says.
Israeli officials in public statements have suggested they would attack to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was quoted in September 2003 as saying, “Right after Iraq must come Iran,” the report says.
Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in October reportedly said he would like to see Israel and the United States eliminated.
More recently, he has described the holocaust as a “myth” and called for moving the state of Israel to Europe.
Iran, according to the report, claims it dismantled its chemical weapons after the Iran-Iraq war, but is believed by U.S. intelligence to maintain the program and stockpiles.
While a member of the Biological Weapons Convention, Iran has the technological capacity for an offensive program, it says.
Iran, as Israel, “feel[s] threatened by respective WMD capabilities and on both sides the threat perception has to be perceived as justifiable,” it says.
A previous report by the Swedish agency examined Syria’s incentives and capabilities regarding weapons of mass destruction.