An internationally recognized authority on terrorism visited Salt Lake City on Sunday night to warn of the "poor man's nuclear weapon" - chemical warfare.
"I fear a new stage of terrorism," Sabi Shabtai explained during an interview. "The Iran-Iraq war gave a new legitimacy to chemical warfare. Used by both sides, but more effectively by Iraq, chemical warfare has been called `the savior weapon' by Iraqi newspapers. There is the feeling among Arabs that the Iraqi `victory' was achieved because of the chemical weapons. This weapon is now receiving an elevated `prestige' - and there is a new desirability of having chemical weapons," Shabtai said.Shabtai, an authority on preventing hijacking and other acts of political violence, was guest speaker for the annual United Jewish Appeal dinner at Kol Ami synagogue. He is author of the 1981 bestseller "Five Minutes to Midnight" and consultant to corporations and governments throughout the Western world.
"There is a new evil, one that you can't look the other way and say, `this can't touch me.' Chemical weapons are so easy to manufacture. They're cheap, easy to deliver, a high school chemistry book holds the technology and a department store the ingredients. The amount of chemical that fits on the head of a pin can kill you if it touches you; place it in front of a fan and it can kill a roomful of people. With sophisticated ground-to-ground missiles, genocide is possible," Shabtai warned.
There are 22 nations engaged in the development of chemical-warfare capability, although the primary countries are Syria, Iraq, Iran and Libya, according to Shabtai. He said China recently delivered ground-to-ground missiles to Saudi Arabia, and Israel is worried about the possibility of Saudi chemical weaponry.
"There must be a world outcry - an international ban on the development and use of chemical weapons. Iraq gassed 5,000 Kurds. How long was it on the news? There was no independent observer sent to check it, no sanctions from the world community, no denouncement from the United Nations Security Council," Shabtai said.
When asked about the U.S. Army's continued research into biological and chemical warfare, Shabtai said not to be involved in research would be a dereliction of duty.
"This last phase of PLO terrorism, the throwing of Molotov cocktails in the territories will end when the Arabs realize that just as the Arabs have the right to 23 Arab countries, the Jews have the right to one. If the PLO will make the gesture of removing from their charter the call to destroy Israel and recognize the right of Israel to exist, then we can negotiate a lasting and just peace," Shabtai said.
Shabtai was not always a counter-terrorist. Born in Israel, he served in the IDF intelligence force and received a doctorate in political science from the University of Chicago. He was senior fellow at the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs, where he specialized in problems of violence and international terrorism.
"When I speak to college kids and tell them that at one time you could just walk on board an airliner, they cannot imagine it," Shabtai said. "I was a consultant for Pan American Airways when the security check was developed."
Shabtai is now director of counter-terrorist studies for the California-based Office of Special Services and contributed to security preparations for the 1984 Olympics. He is completing a new book on terrorism and producing an espionage film for CBS television.