Asian, Middle East States Might Have Produced Bioweapons, Graham Says

Former U.S. Senator Bob Graham said he is concerned that some Middle Eastern and South Asian nations might have produced biological weapons, theWashington Post reported yesterday (see GSN, Oct. 8, 2009).

Newly returned from a visit to the Middle East, Graham (D-Fla.) identified the nuclear-armed states of India, Israel and Pakistan as well as Syria as countries that might have weaponized disease agents.

“The extent to which they may have done it is classified, but it is a serious threat,” said Graham, former co-head of the Commission for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism.

“A couple of weeks in the Middle East has given me a greater sense of urgency,” he said.

Israel and Syria have not joined the Biological Weapons Convention, while India and Pakistan have ratified the pact. The treaty outlaws the development, manufacturing, possession and use of weaponized pathogens such as anthrax, smallpox and plague.

The possibility of hostilities involving biological or nuclear armaments between Syria and Israel or between Pakistan and India is “dangerously high,” said Graham, who is set to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee today on WMD-related matters (see related GSN story, today).

These concerns, along with connections between Pakistani and Syrian authorities and militant organizations, should force lawmakers in Washington to look harder at strategies to safeguard the United States from a potential bioweapons assault, he said.

“There’s been no significant legislation [in] recent years to establish a response capability,” Graham said (see GSN, Jan. 26).

The former lawmaker said he has called for substantial improvements to public health preparations to diagnose and administer countermeasures to people who have been exposed to biological weapons.

Bipartisan legislation from members of the House Homeland Security Committee that would align with those recommendations is anticipated to soon be submitted to Congress (Jeff Stein, Washington Post, April 20).