The New Threat of Nuclear Terror

We can continue to hope for the best, but must prepare for the worst. Paris has taught us that anything less is negligence.

FRENCH PRIME MINISTER Manuel Valls (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Two weeks ago, in the wake of the Paris terror attacks which killed 130, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke about the possibility of the Islamic State organization using chemical and biological weapons.
“'We must not rule anything out. I say it with all the precautions needed. The macabre imagination of the masterminds is limitless,” Valls said.
The French Prime Minister is certainly correct in both his assessment and the necessity to prepare for the possible use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorist organizations. Nevertheless, this line of thinking requires extending to its logical but frightening conclusion with the possible introduction of nuclear weapons into the heart of Europe.
If the macabre imagination of those that ruthlessly massacred people enjoying a Friday night out in Paris is really limitless, then they would surely seek weapons that will create the maximum amount of carnage, death and devastation.
In early 2003, Osama bin Laden sought and received from a radical Saudi cleric a religious ruling, or fatwa, that the use of a nuclear bomb against US civilians would be permissible under Islamic law, indeed mandatory, if it were to assist their cause. “If a bomb that killed 10 million of them and burned as much of their land……..were dropped on them, it would be permissible,” the ruling held.
Since that time, Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups have explored the possibility of acquiring nuclear weapons to be used against their enemies.
In May of this year, Islamic State used its propaganda magazine Dabiq to suggest the group is expanding so rapidly it could buy its first nuclear weapon within a year. “The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilayah (province) in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region," the article, attributed to British photojournalist John Cantlie held hostage by Islamic State for over two years, said.
Once the Islamic State buys the bomb in Pakistan, according to the article, it would transport it through Libya and Nigeria to the West.
The Islamic State has amply demonstrated that their words are no mere threats, and their thirst for endless and spectacular carnage and bloodletting is boundless.
During my recent meetings with international leaders over the last few months, most recently with French President Francois Hollande and British leaders, I have expressed the urgency of creating an international coalition, cantered around the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, to urgently monitor and prevent attempts by terrorist organizations to acquire nuclear weapons.
A working plan of action led by a Security Council resolution should recognize the potential merger between international terrorism and nuclear weapons as the paramount threat to global security and pass stricter and tighter controls on nations which have nuclear weapons with a special focus on those with a weak centralized leadership, like Pakistan, which has already in the past been credited with assisting in the acquisition of nuclear weapons by rogue regimes.
This is becoming even more necessary with the passing of the Iran nuclear deal that has allowed the Islamic Republic to maintain significant parts of its nuclear capabilities intact and merely postpones parts of their military dimensions.
Since it was assessed that Iran would be able to legitimize its illicit nuclear program, many other nations in an already volatile region have moved their own nascent programs forward at varying speeds. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which formed one of the axes of global security has been seriously harmed by these latest developments and is no longer considered robust enough for the role it was created for.
Growing nuclear programs with significant weapons dimensions could start to spring up across the Middle East in the years ahead. If the last decade has proven anything it is that this region in particular is the least stable with leaders frequently toppled, regimes changing and borders blurred.
An unstable region with rapidly uncertain border controls, multiple nascent nuclear programs and the control by terrorist organizations of vast swathes of territory is a recipe for disaster that is unfolding before our eyes.
The international community can no longer afford to react after the fact. A possible nuclear terrorist attack, perhaps through a rather rudimentary ‘dirty bomb’ would make the recent attacks on Paris seem relatively minor in comparison. The physical devastation and psychological effects would be unspeakable.
A number of weeks ago few could have imagined the level of mass murder that occurred on the streets of Paris perpetrated largely with the use of automatic rifles.
As Prime Minister Valls pointed out, our enemies have limitless macabre imaginations and we can no longer afford to have a limited imagination on the potential and strategic goal of global terrorists to inflict maximum harm to civilians in our towns and cities.
We dare not continue to be one step behind our opponents. We can continue to hope for the best, but we must prepare for the worst. Paris has taught us that anything less is negligence.
The writer is president of the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe and President of the European Jewish Congress