By Sajad Abedi*
Today’s wars are taking on a new form and increasing complexity. Widespread changes in the type and structure of wars have led to the introduction of new vocabularies into the world’s military literature, which is bioterrorism as a new form of terrorism. The unpredictability and suddenness, the power of mass destruction and destruction and the psychological stress caused by bioterrorism have made it one of the top priorities of societies and countries that want peace and security.
The fear of being exposed to a variety of diseases has always been a concern for man over the course of history. In the meantime, people with animal temperament have always sought to exploit various factors to dominate and harm others. These people, with knowledge of the general panic caused by disease and the power of pathogens in paralyzing societies, have always sought to make the most of these factors in order to achieve their goals. With the advances made in genetic and medical sciences, this concern and general panic in diseases have been somewhat resolved, but these developments have led to some abuse.
Although bioterrorism is one of the main problems of public health and a threat to infection control, the fact is that bioterrorist threats have always been exhibited by the aggressive nations, inciting rivals into an adversarial or retaliatory position. Bioterrorism made a comeback after the 9/11 incident, so that the annual US budget was tens of times tallied to fight these criminal acts. The widespread propaganda that has taken place in this area has caused more and more people to be afraid of this phenomenon and compromising the mental health of societies. However, many people still believe that biological warfare has come to fruition in the military imagination, while today, political developments and biotechnology advances have changed this belief.
Despite the irreparable risks and impacts of bioterrorist attacks on various societies, the fear and fear of society, patients, health workers and the general public is much wider than their real consequences. The mental responses of people who have been traumatized may be horror, anger, unnecessary worries about infection, and fear of spreading illness. Therefore, when planning to prepare for bioterrorist attacks, the psychological aspects of the problem and the way to prevent fear among people should be considered.
In assessing the factors affecting a bioterrorist attack, a number of other factors must be considered in addition to the assessment of the potential risks of biological agents or the likelihood of bio terroristic attacks. Therefore, it cannot be said that a terrorist’s unwillingness to use a dangerous biological risk reduces the risk of a terrorist attack on it, and on the contrary, even the most dangerous terrorists, in order to achieve their terrorist goals, need to have biological agents for harm and terror.
Dependency of factors causes each other to disproportionately focus on the above branches and to ignore the link between factors that ‘reduce’ the threat, as preventing a bioterrorism operation will be impossible. A tangible example of the above is that by reducing the vulnerability through a general vaccination against a specific agent, the bio terroristic motives and goals will be weaker in applying this particular factor.
In dealing with bioterrorism, in addition to practical (objective) evaluations such as: determining the value of assets, the target vulnerability or the potential risk of a particular factor, consider the mental aspects of the case. Knowing this subtlety can formulate separate policies that cannot be achieved without tackling terrorist intentions. For example, it is impossible to completely eliminate the vulnerability of the masses to a particular factor, but diverting terrorists’ thoughts from the vulnerability of a region’s people will reduce the likelihood of a terrorist attack. Most of the debates on bioterrorism focus more on the potential risk and less attention is paid to qualitative aspects such as the motivation of terrorists to use such deadly weapons or the vulnerability of different societies to bioterrorism.
One of the new theories about bioterrorism is “opportunity theory.” Thus, rationally, a bioterrorist attack occurs when a person is induced by a bioterrorist attack in a cost-benefit analysis and finds more than its cost. The aforementioned theory states that if the interests of the bioterrorists are more than the costs incurred by them, the probability of committing the crime from the strikers will increase. This theory states that by changing the cost-benefit components, the probability of a crime can be reduced. Also, by eliminating the excuse of the opposition groups to carry out bioterrorist activities, it is possible to prevent such offenses to a very large extent.
Any action taken to prevent the proliferation of biological agents will make it harder to achieve biological agents and will offer more opportunities to counteract the use of these agents. Therefore, by increasing the cost of doing such operations and taking into account the cost benefit analysis, incentives for using biological weapons are reduced.
The country’s capabilities in this area can be evaluated in various areas such as: public awareness, coping and prevention, treatment and removal of attack lesions. Since our country suffers frequently from natural disasters, looking at how to deal with these crises can be used to counteract bioterrorism attacks in most areas as well. Unfortunately, the unconscious, weak and slow handling of various agencies in events such as floods and earthquakes and subsequent reconstruction shows that our country is by no means prepared to deal with such crises. The low level of knowledge and understanding of the executive bodies of the country and the people in coping with crises such as floods and earthquakes, which are well-known phenomena, illustrates the fact that there is a lot of work against threats such as bioterrorist attacks, which are even somewhat unfamiliar to specialized organizations such as the ministries of Defense and Health. It is difficult and perhaps impossible. As preparations for dealing with these crises are not achieved in the short term, so at the present time, we should focus more on our strength, the country’s intelligence and security systems, which have proven their effectiveness in confronting various threats and deterring them. Such operations will be ideal for the country as well as preventing such attacks from the consequences of pathology.
Preventing bioterrorism attacks using intelligence work is much better and less costly than coping with it. And intelligence and security services have a great role to play. On the other hand, the use of a bioterrorist agent may become so rapid that it is impossible to control, and the damage and losses incurred even for users is unpredictable and surprising. In some of the bioterrorist attacks, its perpetrators, which are more than the domestic opposition, are not intended to inflict human injuries or economic damage, but to mock the intelligence and security services and to weaken them in preventing and detecting these handicap threats.
Regarding the geographical situation of our country and opposition groups with the regime, it can be said that among the above groups, the MEK, the Kurdistan Workers Party and most importantly ISIS have the motivations to carry out bioterrorist operations against our country. It should be noted, however, that the Mojahedin Khalq Organization has recently announced that it is no longer planning to carry out terrorist operations in order to gain EU-US support more openly. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party also does not have such terrorist operations on its record. The most important threat that can be mentioned is the ISIS group, whose history shows that there is no shortage of widespread and horrific operations. The hatred of this group of Iran’s Shiite system may well be due to the cause. But in my opinion, and given the recent developments in the region, emerging groups such as Jundallah, which do not have a clear and accurate regulation, are far more dangerous, given the violent and overwhelming attacks that have been taking place in recent years. The dependence of these emerging economies on large and advanced countries has increased the risk of these attacks, which indicates the heavy responsibility of the country’s intelligence and security systems at the present time.
Since the terrorist attack may not follow the expected pattern, the military and police forces’ efforts to identify and respond to biological attacks should remain high. In addition, a small prevalence of the disease can be a primary warning to more serious attacks, and the detection and use of preventive measures, such as vaccines and effective antibiotics, can save thousands of lives. In order to facilitate the rapid identification of bioterrorist attacks, all personnel of the military and police forces, such as health and medical personnel, should have at least basic “epidemiological” skills. Any small or widespread disease should be considered as a bioterrorist attack. This preliminary study should not be time consuming or requires new rules. In order to determine everything that seems unusual and refers to bioterrorism, the prevalence of surroundings should be considered.
The discussion of biological wars is a sensitive and preventable task by politicians and military strategists, scientists and lawyersThe discussion of bioterrorism attacks is not a cross-sectional one, and the readiness to deal with the bioterrorist attacks should be a permanent undertaking.
All countries are vulnerable to biological terrorist attacks (Bioterrorism) and should not be ignorant of these attacks. Evidence suggests that the threat of biological attacks is on the rise, and emerging-age groups with less ethical responsibilities are expanding, so focusing on ways to confront the terrorist and concealed biological invasion is necessary. Finally, it should be noted at the end that, as ignoring and disregarding the bioterrorism threats is extremely dangerous, the magnitude and controversy in this case is also exaggerated and should be addressed logically.
*Sajad Abedi is a Resident Research Fellow at the National Security and Defense Think Tank. He obtained his Ph. D. degree in National Security from the National Defense University, Islamic Republic of Iran. His research interests pertain to Arab-Israeli studies, Cyber Security studies and National Security.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Levant staff.