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Once Germany broke the taboo against poison warfare at Ypres in April 1915, all of the other major combatants followed suit.
The rationale for this omission was that an incident of chemical terrorism would resemble a hazardous-materials accident and would be far less consequential than either a nuclear or biological attack.
In November 2009, the Obama administration issued a new but made no mention of chemical weapons.
Today the CW threat has all but disappeared from the radar screen of senior U. government policymakers, the news media, and the general public.
In 2008, for example, the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, chaired by former Senators Bob Graham (D.-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R.-Mo.), excluded any discussion of chemical weapons from its report, .
The German Army subsequently developed these compounds into what became known as the G-series nerve agents, including tabun, sarin, and soman.
Fortunately, Hitler never made use of these secret weapons during World War II, in part because German intelligence concluded — incorrectly — that the Allies had discovered them independently.During the latter conflict, Saddam Hussein first ordered the use of mustard gas in 1983 to counter Iran’s numerical superiority and “human-wave” infantry tactics, which were overwhelming Iraqi positions.When his chemical attacks did not provoke international condemnation, Saddam became emboldened and initiated the use of nerve agents in March 1984 during the battle of Majnoon Island.During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union produced and stockpiled tens of thousands of tons of nerve agents in a shadowy chemical arms race that paralleled the more visible nuclear competition.Chemical weapons also proliferated to several countries in the developing world and were used on the battlefield in the Yemen Civil War (1963-67) and the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88).In the early 1950s, industrial chemists at Imperial Chemical Industries in Britain developed a new pesticide called Amiton that soon proved too toxic for agricultural use and was pulled from the market.But Amiton was transferred to the British chemical warfare establishment at Porton Down and became the first of the V-series nerve agents, which readily penetrate the skin and are lethal in minute quantities: a drop of VX weighing 10 milligrams can kill a grown man in minutes.Some analysts have questioned whether chemical arms meet the criteria of a “weapon of mass destruction” because large quantities of an agent like sarin would be required to cause thousands of casualties in an outdoor attack.But if the threat posed by a weapon is thought of as the product of the likelihood of its use and the scale of the potential consequences, then chemical weapons must be taken seriously.The Iranian forces were vulnerable to chemical attack because the Basij militia had no gas masks and the Revolutionary Guards refused to shave their beards, preventing their masks from achieving an airtight seal.Towards the end of the war, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons as an instrument of terror against the restive Kurdish population in northern Iraq.