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New study shows alliances and not religious ideology are key to forecasting CBRN pursuit

Contrary to previous qualitative studies, the available empirical data show that there is not a significant relationship between terrorist organizations' pursuit of CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear) weapons and the mere possession of a religious ideology, according to a new quantitative study by START researchers Victor Asal, Gary Ackerman and Karl Rethemeyer. Published in the current issue of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, "Connections Can Be Toxic: Terrorist Organizational Factors and the Pursuit of CBRN Weapons" explores the factors influencing the terrorist organizational decision to pursue CBRN weapons.

The authors found that organizations embedded in alliance structures and based in authoritarian countries with relatively strong connections to a globalized world are more likely to seek to develop or acquire CBRN weapons.

Other findings include:

  • The more embedded an organization's host country is in the world economy, the more likely the organization will pursue a CBRN capability.
  • Larger organizations are more likely to pursue CBRN capabilities.
  • Inexperienced organizations are less likely to use or attempt to use CBRN weapons.
  • Democratic regimes are less likely to host organizations that seek a CBRN capability.

The article is available through Studies in Conflict and Terrorism here.