Chemical Weapons and Warfare

The use of chemical weapons to injure or incapacitate an enemy has been an element of warfare since World War I. RAND has developed exercises to train public health agencies to respond to chemical warfare; examined the longer-term psychological consequences of chemical attacks; and created guidelines to improve individual preparedness for chemical, radiological, nuclear, and biological emergencies.

  • A chlorine-tinged cloud of smoke rises from a bomb detonated by Iraqi army and Shi'ite fighters in the town of al-Alam in Salahuddin province, March 10, 2015


    ISIS Plus Chemical Weapons Does Not Equal Apocalypse

    The renewed use of chemical weapons on the battlefields of Iraq and Syria is a dangerous regional phenomenon, not an imminent global threat.

    Sep 11, 2015

  • Medicins Sans Frontieres health workers disinfect protection clothes and boots outside the isolation unit at ELWA hospital in Monrovia August 23, 2014


    Ebola and Syria's Chemical Weapons Show U.S. Can Leave Nothing to Chance

    There are key takeaways from the Ebola outbreak, Syria's chemical weapons, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The U.S. and its international partners should view these events as learning opportunities that could help improve preparedness and response capabilities before the next crisis strikes.

    Jul 9, 2015

  • U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye at a joint news conference in Seoul, April 2014


    N.K. WMDs Carry Catastrophic Potential

    The failure of the United States and South Korea to prevent North Korea from gaining significant quantities of weapons of mass destruction saddles those governments with serious military responsibilities, should North Korea go to war or should its government collapse.

    Nov 19, 2014

  • Sailors patrol through yellow smoke simulating chemical, biological, and radiological exposure during combat


    Developing Navy Capability to Recover Forces in Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Hazard Environments

    How do you recover and decontaminate amphibious forces if they are attacked with chemical, biological, or radiological weapons while ashore?

    Jan 28, 2014

  • Syrian residents flee their homes following clashes between opposition fighters and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad


    Syria's Bloody Stalemate

    With little chance of a negotiated end to the fighting, the war in Syria is likely to drag on. And even if somehow the bloodshed were to end relatively soon, the war will leave a legacy of odium and thousands of fighters that will threaten the region and beyond far into the future.

    Jan 17, 2014

  • A man sits atop a lamp post waving pictures of Bashar Al Assad


    The Dynamics of Syria's Civil War

    As the Syrian conflict enters its third year, uncertainty persists regarding the circumstances on the ground, potential outcomes, and long-term consequences.

    Jan 17, 2014

  • U.N. chemical weapons experts investigating a gas attack that killed hundreds of civilians in the suburbs of Damascus


    The Hidden Conclusions in the U.N.'s Syria Gas Report

    The lethality of the munitions used in Syria point directly to an actor with significant capacities and long experience using chemical weaponry and artillery, writes James T. Quinlivan. And that fingers the notoriously abusive Assad regime, not the outmatched, outgunned and frantically improvising rebels.

    Sep 25, 2013

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin welcomes U.S. President Barack Obama before the first working session of the G20 Summit on September 5, 2013


    The Road on from Damascus: What the Syria Deal Means for the U.S. and Russia

    The deal the United States and Russia struck to get rid of Syria's chemical weaponry is neither a sign of a sea change in relations nor a victory for one party over the other, writes Olga Oliker. It is, however, something of a testament to diplomacy on both sides.

    Sep 23, 2013

  • Syrian Americans rally in support of the Bashar al-Assad regime and against proposed U.S. military action against Syria


    A Smarter Way to Stop Syria WMD Attacks

    President Obama made a strong case that the U.S. should take the lead in punishing the Syrian regime for its use of chemical weapons and actively enforce the near-global ban on these weapons. Now, the possibility of a diplomatic solution to this problem offers an opportunity to improve the request for the authorization of force currently before Congress.

    Sep 19, 2013

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.


    Examining the Diplomatic Option in Syria

    The United States' options in Syria are all miserable, but the Russian proposal appears to be the least miserable of the lot, says Bruce Bennett.

    Sep 12, 2013

  • Free Syrian Army fighters aim their weapons during clashes with forces loyal to Assad


    Punishing the Wicked in Syria

    The international community has once again defined a global standard of “the wicked” against whom sovereign states have a duty to fight, writes Paul D. Miller. Instead of pirates and cannibals, it is war criminals and genocidaires. This appears to be the implicit argument for military action against Syria.

    Sep 10, 2013

  • Syrian-Americans rallying in favor of proposed U.S. military action, outside the U.S. Capitol


    Objectives in Syria? Look at U.S. Targets

    If you want to understand the Obama administration's objectives in Syria, don't just listen to what officials say — watch what they bomb, writes Seth G. Jones. There are at least four sets of potential political objectives. Each is linked to a different set of targets.

    Sep 10, 2013

  • U.N. chemical weapons investigation team in Damascus


    US Should Keep Focus on Syria, Not Iran

    Those arguing for US-led airstrikes based on the premise of preventing a precedent with Iran would only make it easier for Iran and Syria to paint military action against the brutal Assad regime as an Israeli-inspired scheme rather than a regionally and internationally supported option, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye.

    Sep 6, 2013

  • News Release

    RAND Study Evaluates Airpower Options for Syria Intervention

    There are five options for U.S. and allied military intervention in the Syrian civil war using airpower. Destroying or grounding the Syrian air force is operationally feasible but would have only marginal benefits for protecting civilians.

    Aug 30, 2013

  • The official photo of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.


    Rowhani's Syria Dilemma

    Syria is Iran's only real state ally in the Middle East. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's behavior puts Iranian leaders, especially the newly elected President Hassan Rowhani, in a quandary.

    Aug 30, 2013

  • A photo of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo, Syria.


    RAND Experts Q&A on Syria

    There are increasing reports suggesting that President Obama will soon take military action against the Syrian government, perhaps targeting its chemical weapons facilities. Several RAND experts spoke with us about the latest developments.

    Aug 30, 2013

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    Airpower Options for Syria Intervention

    An examination of five options for U.S. and allied military intervention in the Syrian civil war using airpower warns that destroying or grounding the Syrian air force is operationally feasible but would have only marginal benefits for protecting civilians.

    Aug 30, 2013

  • Supporters of the Coalition for a Democratic Syria gathered outside the United Nations building in New York on August 21, 2013 to protest against the alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus


    A Measured Red-Line Response

    It was a year ago that President Obama declared the use of chemical weapons by the Assad government to be a red line that would bring a swift and sure U.S. response. Not acting threatens the credibility not just of Obama's red-line threat, but of all U.S. threats going forward, writes Julie Taylor.

    Aug 23, 2013

  • Soldiers wearing their M-17A1 protective masks while conducting training during Operation Desert Shield


    Gulf War Illness: Still Looking for Answers

    Bernard Rostker and Ross Anthony, RAND senior economists with expertise on Gulf War Illness (GWI), discuss a study by scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center that suggests the symptoms of GWI are biological in nature, and a GWI study RAND conducted more than a decade ago.

    Jul 8, 2013

  • destruction in Syria


    How to Arm Syria's Rebels

    What is required in Syria now is a program like the one the United States established in the mid-1990s to train and equip the armed forces of the Bosnian Federation, writes Angel Rabasa.

    May 23, 2013