Over the last couple of decades, extremism by state and non-state entities has become a continuous danger to the stability of the world’s people. It not only presents a danger to people’s lives but also creates economic uncertainty as the amount of spending in the affected region’s declines dramatically due to inadequate protection and attempted terrorist attacks. For a long time, extremist groups and armed powers have employed multiple means of weapons of mass destruction to cause obliteration in the designated regions. Today, a broad variety of explosive devices have been introduced with the development in the fields of nuclear research and technology that can be used to inflict major damage in the targeted regions.
If we talk of the United States of America, we can infer that the United States has long been on the Red List of Terrorists, irrespective of its efforts to establish and stabilise peace and unity in the world. This paper provides a study of nuclear missiles as weapons of mass destruction, as well as the threat faced by non-state actors of this type. In addition, the paper also includes a segment on the ways in which, in the event that accused states ultimately commit an assault, the United States government will mitigate this risk. The research reason for this paper is that ‘Al-Qaeda (non-state actor) and Iran (state actor) are aggressively threatening the use of nuclear weapons against the US forces; thus, it is important to follow a well-planned strategy to mitigate the potential risk.’
Nuclear Bombs: Nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction
The nuclear bomb is the sort of weapon of mass destruction to be discussed in this report. Nuclear bombs have been the most deadly instruments of mass destruction ever since they were made. During the Second World War, his bombs were used against Japan in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causing thousands of casualties. Among the countries that hold these weapons are the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, North Korea, India, and Pakistan. Of all these countries, Pakistan is deemed the most dangerous nuclear state owing to the presence of the Al-Qaeda militant group and many other extremist and terrorist groups in the area. Pakistan is also one of the nations that has not ratified the Nuclear Energy Non-Proliferation Convention (NPT), which ensures the safe utilisation of nuclear tools. In contrast, the presence of Al-Qaeda in the field makes Pakistan the most unstable and dreadful nuclear state in the world, which could pose a direct threat to the United States.
Al-Qaeda and Potential Nuclear Attack Threat
Al-Qaeda has been one of the most brutal and vicious terrorist organizations since its formation. The objective of the group is to implement the Shariah law in the world, in particular, in all of the areas that the group occupies. The group also strives for expulsion of the Western forces from Islamic countries. Founded by a Saudi national, Osama Bin Laden, the group has carried out many violent attacks all over the world on airports, embassies, and civilians. One of the main operational tactics that group uses is suicide terrorism. Although the group has carried out a number of mass destruction attacks in different parts of the world, the major event associated with the group that changed the deadly assaults on the World Trade Center was founded around the world on September 11, 2001. Those attacks changed the perception about terrorism all over the world and every country started considering terrorism as one of the most critical issues of the present world.
At present, owing to the involvement of the U.S. army in Afghanistan and several other Islamic nations, the United States of America is one of al-main Qaeda’s focus countries army in Afghanistan and some other Islamic countries. Al-Qaeda terrorist group has been changing its organizational structure frequently since its formation (Cronin, 2006, p. 7). A key point to mention about Al-Qaeda is that its strength has come down due to the American invasion of Afghanistan. However, this attempt by the United States has posted new threats for its citizens all over the world.
As Gregory (2013) states, “al Qaeda has made several attacks against the United States despite our nuclear status” (p. 124). The members of this militant group see Americans as their enemies and try to take revenge from them wherever they come across them. Not only this, Al-Qaeda members aim to take revenge from the government of the United States by attacking the infrastructure of the country. They aim to destabilize the economy of the United States by carrying out multiple attacks on the country and shattering the confidence of investors.
The main point of concern in this regard is that Al-Qaeda can launch a nuclear attack on the United States because it has its strong presence in Pakistan, which is the neighboring country of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the main operating base for Al-Qaeda terrorist group. The borders of Pakistan-Afghanistan provide a good opportunity for the Al-Qaeda members to travel to Pakistan freely and safely. There is no special security in place at the border that can stop the terrorists from entering Pakistan, which is a nuclear state. The nuclear program of Pakistan is considered very unsafe because of the strong presence of Al-Qaeda in the region. Pakistan has been hit by multiple terrorist attacks in the near past, which show the weakness of Pakistani government in dealing with terrorism.
Al-Qaeda has already launched successful terrorist attacks on the military base camps of Pakistan, as well as on the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters in the nearest past. On 16th of December, 2014, Al-Qaeda launched a massive attack on an army school in Peshawar, a city of Pakistan, killing nearly 135 young school children. Army schools are considered the most secure schools in Pakistan. This attack and other acts of terrorism show that the government of Pakistan is not strong and capable enough to deal with terrorism.
Al-Qaeda can get hold of Pakistan’s nuclear assets and that would be very hazardous not only for the neighboring countries but also for the whole world. The group not only recruits militants but also recruits engineers and technicians who can get an idea of the way to prepare and use nuclear weapons. If a militant group gets the knowledge of the way to assemble nuclear weapons, it can be very hazardous. As the United States of America is on the hit list of Al-Qaeda, there are clear chances of Al-Qaeda carrying out a nuclear attack on the United States. If the terrorist group can hijack planes a decade ago, there is a huge possibility of the use of nuclear and other hazardous weapons by the same group against the same country. If a terrorist group can be so efficient and so resourceful that it can target Pentagon a decade ago when there was less technological development as compared to today, there are huge chances that the group will launch a more disastrous attack on the United States at this point of time when there is huge development in the field of science and technology.
Crossing the borders of the United States would not be a difficult step for the militants considering the geography of the United States. Mexican and Caribbean borders are being used even today by the drug smugglers to enter the United States. Same borders and sea routes can be used by the Al-Qaeda militants to enter the United States and carry out the intended attacks. The militants of the Al-Qaeda group can arrange all material required for manufacturing of nuclear weapons once they get the chance to know the scientific theory behind nuclear weapons development. It is a very critical issue because even a minor nuclear weapon can cause hundreds and thousands of casualties in the targeted area.
Al-Qaeda can also get direct support from Pakistan in the launch of nuclear attack on the United States if extremists come into power at some stage in future. The people of Pakistan generally have a negative perception about the interference of the U.S. government in Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s political affairs. There is a negative perception about the role of the United States in settling political and geographical disputes of Islamic countries. In such a situation, a political party can use this perception as a tool to get votes of people during elections and come into power. If an extremist political party comes into power, there is a huge chance of establishment of strong and direct links between the anti-American government and Al-Qaeda which may ultimately lead to hidden support to Al-Qaeda in leading a hazardous attack on the United States. Considering the severity of the situation, it can be said that Al-Qaeda and unsecure nuclear power of Pakistan are mutually one of the biggest threats to the safety and security of the United States.
Ways to Mitigate the Attack
The government of the United States needs to take some effective measures to mitigate the risk of nuclear attacks by Al-Qaeda. First of all, the government should go to the United Nations Organization to pass a resolution that should make Pakistan give the security responsibility of its nuclear program to the United Nations so that Pakistan’s nuclear program should be made safe and secure for the world. The reason is that Pakistan houses many terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda which have put the United States and its citizens on their red list. If the terrorists get hold of the nuclear program of Pakistan, it would be disastrous for the security of the United States. Secondly, Pakistan should be pressurized to sign the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty so that its nuclear program comes under observance and be used for peaceful purposes. Similarly, Pakistan should be forced to launch effective and fully coordinated military campaign against the terrorist groups residing and operating within its territory. If it fails to do so or shows lack of ability, heavy sanctions should be put in place against Pakistan.
The government of the United States should increase the scrutiny and observance of Arab and Pakistani tourists and residents because Al-Qaeda’s terrorists mainly belong to these parts of the world. Along with this, the United States should make its borders more secure so that the risk of entry of illegal immigrants can be reduced as much as possible. Moreover, the defense department of the United States should increase the frequency of drone attacks on the Al-Qaeda officials and terrorists residing in the tribal areas of Pakistan in order to reduce their strength and infrastructural capacity. Drone attacks have been very successful for the United States so far as many of the renowned Al-Qaeda members have been killed in the attacks (Jordan, 2014). The head of Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, has also been killed by the U.S. forces as the result of the direct intrusion in the Northern areas of Pakistan. This shows that the United States have much more effective and capable intelligence system which has helped the U.S. in getting rid of the main enemy of the United States even when he was residing in Pakistan. Therefore, the U.S. forces should keep on monitoring the presence of Al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan in order to kill them before they get their hands to the nuclear program of Pakistan.
Iran and Potential Nuclear Attack Threat
One of the biggest threats to the U.S. has long been Iran (Pillar, 2013, p. 211). Iran is an Islamic state where the people have very negative feelings and perception about the government of the United States. Iran has been facing various sanctions imposed by the United Nations because of its nuclear energy program. The United States has played a crucial part in bringing Iran to be sanctioned by the United Nations. It is due to this reason that the people of Iran and its government have negative viewpoints about the U.S. Iran had stopped its nuclear power development for some time but is all set to resume the program as soon as possible. The spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has already warned the government of the United States to stay out of the country’s affairs which gives a hint of the hidden plans of Iran.
Iran can resume Uranium enrichment in this December as the result of the negotiations breakdown between the European Union and Shiite regime. The main purpose of these talks were to stop Iran from making nuclear weapons but Iran did not provide any guarantee about it. Washington strongly supported the viewpoint of the European Union’s members and signaled that Iran should either stop Uranium enrichment activities related to nuclear weapons development or should face heavy Security Council sanctions. Now, when the talks have been stopped, it is highly likely that the United States would go to the Security Council for imposing sanctions on Iran. As the result, Iran can launch an unconventional nuclear attack on the United States. “Iran has been seriously considering an unconventional pre-emptive nuclear strike against the U.S” (Farah, 2014). This shows that the United States is under a huge threat of a deadly nuclear strike by Iran.
Ways to Mitigate the Attack
The government of the United States needs to come up with an effective counter-terrorism and nuclear strike prevention strategy in order to mitigate the risk of nuclear attack by Iran. The U.S. should make all trading partners of Iran to stop trade with Iran as a way to pressurize the Iranian government to stop Uranium Enrichment activities. As Bowen and Brewer (2011) state, “It is essential, therefore, to maintain and if necessary to build up the pressure on Iran and to strengthen efforts to disrupt its procurement of technology and materials for its nuclear programme” (p. 923). Similarly, the U.S. should try to make the power balance equal in the region by providing technological and defense support to the neighboring countries of Iran. Moreover, the defense department of the United States should make the anti-ballistic missile system more strong and capable of blocking the missiles from exploding into the U.S. territory. All of these ways can be taken by the defense and security officials of the United States as key recommendations to mitigate the nuclear strike threat by Iran.
Summing it up, the United States of America is under huge threat of nuclear attacks by both non-state and state sponsored terrorists. Al-Qaeda is one of the most deadly terrorist organizations and has the history of targeting U.S. interests in the past. At present, Al-Qaeda is operating in Pakistan which is a nuclear state and has shown incapability to deal with the acts of terrorism even in its most secure military areas. This lack of ability of Pakistani national security departments poses a threat for the United States if Al-Qaeda gets its hands over the nuclear assets of Pakistan. On the other side, Iran even challenges the U.S., which is its rival and suspected nuclear state and has the ability to launch nuclear attack on the territory of the United States. The government of the United States needs to make its defense system and border areas more capable and secure respectively in order to mitigate the threats of nuclear attacks by both non-state actors of terrorism and state sponsored terrorism.
- Bowen, W., & Brewer, J. (2011). Iran’s Nuclear Challenge: Nine Years and Counting. International Affairs, 87(4), 923-943.
- Cronin, A. (2006). How al-Qaida ends: The decline and demise of terrorist groups. International Security, 31(1), 7–48.
- Farah, J. (2014). Electro-Magnetic Pulse Nuclear war to be launched by Iran. Retrieved from http://waronjihad.org/nuclear040505.html
- Gregory, R. (2013). On “Reaffirming the Utility of Nuclear Weapons”. Parameters, 43(2), 124-127.
- Jordan, J. (2014). The Effectiveness of the Drone Campaign against Al Qaeda Central: A Case Study. Journal of Strategic Studies, 37(1), 4-29.
- Pillar, P. (2013). The Role of Villain: Iran and U.S. Foreign Policy. Political Science Quarterly, 128(2), 211-231.