Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
Since the early 1960s, several Muslim states have figured prominently in international concerns on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty lists seven Muslim-majority states among the forty-four “nuclear-capable” states whose ratification is necessary for the treaty to enter into force: Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey. Pakistan, of course, became a confirmed nuclear power in May 1998. Not included in this list are three other states that are known to have sought nuclear capability: Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Iraq not only came close to developing nuclear weapons during the 1980s, but it was also a leading developer of chemical and biological weapons. Its repeated use of chemical weapons against Iranians and Kurds during the Iran-Iraq War is one of the most egregious violations of international agreements banning the use of such weapons. Iraq is, however, not alone among Muslim states in having stockpiled and used chemical weapons, nor in developing biological weapons.
Aside from these states, the threat posed by Muslim terrorist groups has steadily increased over the past decade. Because of its financial resources, its network of affiliated organizations around the world, and the technical sophistication of its recruits, al-Qa'ida is justifiably perceived as the principal WMD terrorist threat today. Documents and crude laboratories uncovered by coalition forces in Afghanistan indicate that the network led by Usama bin Ladin tried actively to develop or acquire chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.