Outside View: Stakes may rise in Mideast

By ROBERT L. MAGINNIS, A UPI Outside View commentary

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Expect more attempts at mega-terrorist exercises in mass murder, and not just from al Qaida. Palestinian terrorists are working overtime to "kick it up another notch" by adding chemical and biological agents to their lethal arsenals. Their goal: massive casualties, both for Israel and America.

There is no smoking gun as yet, but circumstantial evidence is mounting. Palestinian terror groups certainly want chemical and biological weapons, or CBW, capabilities and are supported by anti-American and anti-Israeli nations that possess or may possess these weapons. The U.S. and Israeli governments believe this noxious cooperation is credible. That's why they are sounding alarms and taking precautions.


On Aug. 8, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reaffirmed that "Terrorist states have (CBWs), and terrorist states have relationships with terrorist networks." He explained that "reasonable people have to expect that there will be an event involving a weapon of mass destruction at some point in the future."


Consider the evidence.

For some time, Palestinian terrorists have called for the use of CBW against Israel. CBW terrorism against Israel likely will signal a new era of attacks against American interests as well.

Palestinian author Dr. Salim al-'Awa states in the Egyptian newspaper al-Istiqla, "(I)t is the duty of Muslims to act in every possible way to acquire weapons of mass destruction. ... We want the state of Israel to cease to exist and the state of Palestine to be established in its place."

Last year, in the weekly al-Manar, the Palestinian Center for Information Sources stated, "Due to the seriously uneven balance of power in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the Palestinian side is required to use weapons of deterrence, "that is, chemical, biological and perhaps nuclear weapons."

Omar Bakri Mohammed, a cleric tied to Islamic Jihad and Hamas, said that "if any Muslims are under occupation by a western force, they can use any weapon to survive and that includes biological weapons."

In June, the Jerusalem Post reported that Hamas announced that it would add chemical weapons to its conventional arsenal.

In early August, Israel's Channel 2 quoted Hamas officials as saying that, "When we reach that stage using chemical weapons, the gates will be opened to develop suicide attacks with Allah's help."


Recent reports indicate that Palestinian terrorist groups are moving closer to using these weapons. According to an Aug. 3 report in The Times of London, the British government circulated a dossier outlining Iraq's use of mobile labs for biological weapons research.

The dossier included evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein likely is recruiting Palestinian terror groups to use CBW on his behalf.

Saddam's lethal exploitation of the Palestinian people is integral to his attempt to delay U.S. action to change regimes in Iraq. Saddam has a compelling personal interest in maintaining the 21-month-old Palestinian assault on the Jewish state. For this, he showers families of suicide bombers with blood money.

Palestinian officials confirmed that Saddam provided $5 million to Gaza families who sacrificed their children to kill Israelis.

On Aug. 8, in a nationwide speech, Saddam exhorted the Palestinian people to continue to mobilize against Israel and the United States.

Israeli security officials say that Salah Shehada, the Hamas leader recently assassinated in Gaza City, planned an attack using some 1,300 pounds of explosives.

Until now, suicide bombers were loaded with only about 20 pounds. But the threat of what Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon calls a "mega-terror" attack may involve non-conventional munitions, not simply bigger bombs strapped to murderers.


Sharon, in the Aug. 7 Jerusalem Post, warned that "terrorists could be plotting to bomb a high-rise building or some other type of attack that could cause widespread damage unseen so far in the current conflict."

Others, such as the insurance industry, also predict the threat is ominous. There have been reports in the U.S. media that some Jewish organizations in the United States are losing their insurance because of the growing possibility of CBW attacks.

Hamas, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and other terror groups need state help to incorporate CBW into their arsenals.

Iran, Iraq and Syria support Palestinian terrorists and also have CBW programs. Jonathan Tucker of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies told the Senate last fall that Saddam has a history of "attempting to enhance his stature as a regional hegemony, suggesting that the transfer of Iraqi CBW materials or know-how to terrorists cannot be ruled out."

Tucker told the Senate that Iran already may have provided Palestinian terrorists with chemical and biological training and materials.

Marshall Billingslea, deputy assistant secretary of defense, told a Senate committee that "Every country that harbors, funds, or otherwise assists terrorist groups as a matter of government policy, (also) is pursuing nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. ... There is a very dangerous potential that equipment and expertise meant for a state-level program could fall into the hands of terrorist groups."


Palestinian terrorists should not be allowed to "kick it up another notch" by adding CBW to their arsenals. It's not a question of "if," but of "when" terrorists will acquire and use these weapons. Iraq is first among rogues. Saddam must be put out of business -- before, as Rumsfeld said, "potentially tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people" are killed.

(Robert L. Maginnis is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who is a frequent analyst for many television and radio networks. He is also a vice president for the Washington-based Family Research Council.)

Outside View commentaries are written for UPI by outside writers who specialize in a variety of important global issues.

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