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.

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

    Report

    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

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

    Report

    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

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

    Blog

    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

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

    Blog

    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

    Blog

    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

    Blog

    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.

    Blog

    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

    Blog

    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

    Blog

    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

    Blog

    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

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    Report

    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

  • The official photo of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

    Blog

    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.

    Blog

    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

  • 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

    Blog

    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

    Blog

    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

    Blog

    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

  • U.S. Army Soldiers put their gas masks on for a simulated chemical attack during a training mission near Camp Ramadi, Iraq

    Blog

    Chemical Weapons in Syria: What Could the U.S. Do About Them?

    The combined lessons of the attack and disarmament of Iraq's chemical weapons in the First Gulf War suggest that chemical weapons are hard to find and destroy, writes James Quinlivan. Lots can survive even a sustained attack.

    May 21, 2013

  • Marines practicing a chemical, biological, or radiological attack

    Blog

    The Syrian Chemical Weapons Conundrum

    Dealing with chemical weapons in Syria is a complicated and dangerous task, but nowhere near the challenge of securing a nuclear arsenal in a country consumed by crisis, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    May 1, 2013

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Kerry and Syrian Opposition Council Chairman Mouaz al-Khatib during Kerry's 2013 Middle East visit

    Blog

    The Risks of an Excess of Caution in Syria

    Syria is looking more like a collapsed state every day. Nearly a million people have now fled Syria for safety abroad. Meanwhile, the influence of extremist groups, such as the al Nusrah Front, continues to grow as these groups slip into the areas vacated by the Syrian state, writes Christopher Chivvis.

    Mar 29, 2013