14 November 2012

From: Stephen M. Apatow
Founder, Director of Research & Development
Humanitarian Resource Institute (UN:NGO:DESA)
Humanitarian University Consortium Graduate Studies
Center for Medicine, Veterinary Medicine & Law
Phone: 203-668-0282
Email: s.m.apatow@humanitarian.net
Internet: www.humanitarian.net

Url: www.H-II.org

International Disaster Information Network

Syria - CBRNE Weapons - Nuclear Retaliation Scenario

Every day the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria [1] is allowed to spiral out of control, risks increase for a direct CBRNE attack [2] by the failed state and/or transfer of weapons of mass destruction to transnational terrorists.  This threat has prompted a review of global infrastructure analysis, contingency plans and response to a WMD 911.

It is well understood that a nuclear retaliatory strike would be the anticipated response to a CBRNE WMD attack, as emphasized in the 1999 Applied Science and Analysis Newsletter "The Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Challenge for Decision Makers."   Conclusions outlined in this report are the focus of assessment and progress made to date:

The risk of exposure to the effects of WMD is real. Weapons from each of the categories have been produced and tested. They are somewhere at someone's disposal. They have already been used in the recent past. Proliferation will augment the number of possessors and thus further increase the risk of these weapons being used.

The question is not whether, but when and where they will be used next.

We must first work to ensure that these weapons are not used. However, we must also enhance readiness for NBC defense.

In many countries, the public is not aware of these facts. Many decision makers have yet to fully perceive the risks involved and to take appropriate action.

The elimination of obvious shortcomings in biodefense capabilities, including medical biological defense, must be given high priority:

  • means for intercepting and destroying biological weapons,
  • aerosol detection and warning systems,
  • procedures for detecting biological agents,
  • preventing, diagnosing and treating BW diseases.

However, from a medical perspective, it would be ill advised to perform these remedies at the expense of nuclear and chemical medical defense. It remains, therefore, necessary to take preventive measures against weapons from each of the categories. Furthermore, retaliation with nuclear weapons may be the only viable option, especially where BWs are used. In the event of a nuclear strike, the medical services will have to deal with casualties arising from possible collateral effects.

In addition to the NBC risks arising from hostile action, medical services must be able to cope with other dangers, which may have effects similar to NBC weapons. In their deployment area, armed forces may face risks in the civilian sector resulting from the worldwide spread of nuclear technology (nuclear energy, technical and medical radiation sources, depleted uranium) and the chemical industry (production facilities and stocks of, for example, phosgene, hydrogen cyanide, chlorine gas or insecticides). There are likely to be fewer and fewer “clean, conventional” scenarios even where NBC weapons are not used.

Many countries have NBC defense experts and have equipped their forces with basic protective equipment, such as NBC protective masks. However, the forces of most countries do not have the capability to sustain operations in an NBC environment for more than a few hours and preserve their combat strength. This NBC defense capability, though, is precisely what is needed, not just tomorrow but today. It must be guaranteed throughout the entire operational spectrum by a balanced system of NBC defense measures.

As a rule, combat troops have the best NBC defense capabilities. Nevertheless, they rely on medical services that have some of the worst deficits in NBC defense capability. Most medical services are capable of protecting neither medical personnel at work, nor patients during treatment and evacuation, nor sophisticated medical material against NBC exposure. This inability presents a major obstacle for military operations in an NBC environment and may seriously limit the options available to political and military decision-makers. The only options may be to do nothing or to retaliate with nuclear weapons.

To make matters worse, very few countries have a group of NBC medical defense experts, and when they do, this is a small group. Consequently, even these few nations have very limited NBC medical defense capabilities, i.e., the ability to maintain and restore the health of personnel when other NBC defense measures fail. Such a small group can seldom do more than provide the necessary advice to political and military decision-makers. Some of these groups may also be able to conduct high-tech laboratory tests, e.g., identify a limited number of biological agents. Normally, however, such a group and its budget are too small to cover the most urgent NBC related problems. In particular, there are shortfalls in the ability to provide NBC medical defense training for all military doctors, let alone guarantee an acceptable level of NBC medical defense readiness.

The entire report can be accessed online at:


International Disaster Information Network (IDIN)

In 1999, Humanitarian Resource institute initiated the IDIN project  in cooperation with the FEMA Preparedness, Exercises & Training Directorate, building upon the foundation established by the U.S. State Department plans for a Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN) in the early 90's.  The IDIN global communication network included leaders in approximately 200 United Nations member countries, corporate, inter-governmental, non governmental, community action, interfaith organizations and media (newspaper, radio and television networks).  This resources were utilized to support contingency planning for the Year 2000 conversion. [3]

In response to the needs presented by FEMA, Humanitarian Resource Institute established a rapid response plan for (1) infrastructure analysis in each country, (2) assessment of NGO's and relief organizational capacity to address the size and scope of humanitarian needs, (3) the provision of data to enhance the strategic planning, project development and allocation of financial and inkind donations.

Expanding work in Biodefense [4], the publication "Biological Threats and Terrorism, Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities: Workshop Summary," [5] the National Academy of Sciences recognized Humanitarian Resource Institute (HRI) as one of nine leading educational and research institutions with:

  • Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
  • Columbia University: Center for Public Health Preparedness.
  • Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government: Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
  • Humanitarian Resource Institute
  • Johns Hopkins University: Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Center for International Studies.
  • National Academy of Sciences.
  • University of Maryland: Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland.
  • University of Minnesota: Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

  1. Syria: International Humanitarian & Security Discussions : Humanitarian Resource Institute. Url:  www.unarts.org/H-II/ref/syria242012OHCHR.html
  2. Syria's Chemical Weapons - Interactive Map: The Guardian UK.  Url: www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2012/aug/23/syria-chemical-weapons-map-interactive
  3. Year 2000: Global Infrastructure Analysis and Contingency Planning: Humanitarian Resource Institute.  Url:  www.humanitarian.net/contingency.html
  4. Pathobiologics International - The Consulting Arm of Humanitarian Resource Institute and the Humanitarian University Consortium: Humanitarian Resource Institute, 4 June 2004.  Url:  www.pathobiologics.org/groundzero.html
  5. Biological Threats and Terrorism: Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities: Workshop Summary. Institute of Medicine,Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2002, pg 234.  Url: www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10290&page=234


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