Foreign Policy Blogs

Forget Looking for Muammar Q – Where are his WMDs?

When word of the possible fall of the dictatorship of Muammar Qadhafi began spreading across the wires, the very first thought I had was this: that’s great, but who has his reputed chemical weapons and what remains of his nuclear weapons program?

Sure enough, the good people at the Associated Press wondered the same thing and released this story yesterday.

The AP piece quotes U.S. intel and military types saying that they are worried that MQ, wherever he may be, might use the weapons stockpiles to make a last stand a la Custer, but with more firepower and more worrisome consequences. Worse yet, the 11 tons of mustard gas, 1,300 tons of precursor chemicals, the 5-900 metric tons of yellowcake uranium, an estimated 30,000 anti-aircraft rockets and other goodies could be snatched up by Libyan rebels or even al-Qaeda, which never met a chaotic situation they couldn’t take advantage of (anyone been to Waziristan?).

According to the AP piece, the chemical weapons stores remain in corroding drums at a site “southeast of Tripoli”, while the nuclear stores remain at the Tajoura nuclear reactor site located to the east. Apparently, the nuclear weapons technology and HEU are no longer in the country, having been turned over to the U.S. when Qadhafi surrendered his nuclear weapons program several years ago. However, yellowcake can still be valuable on the black market. And the Global Security Newswire quotes a post by former IAEA DDG for safeguards Olli Heinonen as saying that the LEU, radioisotopes and waste sitting at Tajoura could be used in a radiological dispersion device, or “dirty bomb”.

According to US and other sources, the yellowcake and chemical weapons caches “appear to be still under the control of what’s left of the Libyan government.” Doesn’t exactly give you the warm and fuzzies, does it?



Jodi Lieberman
Jodi Lieberman

Jodi Lieberman is a veteran of the arms control, nonproliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear safety trenches, having worked at the Departments of State, Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She has also served in an advisory capacity and as professional staff for several members of Congress in both the House and Senate as well as the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Jodi currently spends her time advocating for science issues and funding as the Senior Government Affairs Specialist at the American Physical Society. The views expressed in her posts are her views based on her professional experience but in way should be construed to represent those of her employer.

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