The Bayonet

Wednesday, Mar. 05, 2014

Chemical weapons expert visits post

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A subject matter expert on chemical and biological weapons visited Fort Benning Feb. 26 to discuss the alleged 2013 chemical attacks in Syria, as well as the potential for future proliferation of such weapons.

Amy Smithson, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C., office of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, has authored, co-authored, edited and co-edited numerous publications about the dangers of chemical and biological weapons. She also chairs the Global Affairs Council on Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons for the World Economic Forum.

Smithson specializes in in-depth field research related to dual-use chemical and biological technologies, weapons proliferation, threat reduction mechanisms, defense and homeland security.

During her visit to Fort Benning, Smithson discussed the August 2013 chemical weapons incident in the suburbs of Damascus, Syria, that left more than 1,500 people dead, as well as the subsequent United Nations investigation and the Syrian’s government’s decision to give up its chemical weapons for destruction.

She said the political environment created by the incident led to Syria’s decision.

“I think there was a tremendous amount of pressure, not only from the U.N. report, but also from the fact that the Russians were working with America to get a framework for an agreement,” she said. “My hope here is that these weapons aren’t used again. … It’s always a tragedy to see this kind of thing unfold in this day and age.”

However, Smithson said that biological or chemical weapons would likely be used in a future terrorist attack, citing the availability of knowledge on the scientific processes needed to produce such weapons.

“The basic scientific knowledge on how to do this is out there in the open literature,” she said.

“I don’t know when there’s going to be another biological or chemical terrorist attack … but it’s going to happen. There are too many things that are coming along.”

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