Since the end of the cold war and the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat no longer focuses solely on two superpowers but includes a host of nations, among them China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and Syria. Figure 3.2 and Figure 3.1 (both in Chapter 3) show the countries actively involved in developing biological and chemical weapons. Although several countries including the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China reduced stockpiles from 1986 to 2002, significant stores of these weapons remain in these countries. North Korea's declaration of an active nuclear weapons program in late 2002 is an illustration of the gravity of this transnational threat.
Many nations are also working to develop missile systems capable of carrying nuclear weapons. (See Figure 4.1.) Figure 4.1 and Table 4.1 list the differing ranges of such missiles. In a June 2000 address to the Asia Society, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Robert J. Einhorn called the proliferation of WMD and their missile-delivery systems the gravest threat to world security.
This chapter provides an overview of the nuclear, chemical, biological and conventional weapons programs and capabilities of selected nations. It also presents a more detailed examination of the history of Iraq's weapons development, program, and capabilities as well as the events in Iraq that led to its invasion by the United States in March 2003.