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COVID-19: Bringing Attention to the Growing Capabilities of Asymmetric Warfare

Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) warfare has been an enduring manufacturer of fear and anxiety in most societies of the modern world. While any non- conventional attack could easily create a catastrophic event, COVID-19 has exposed the serious and dangerous threat of biological warfare. Chemical, radiological, and nuclear weapons are largely confined to a specific location, but biological agents — including the coronavirus, for example — are microscopic organisms without national borders.

Many health and scientific communities are incredibly aware of the risk of a global pandemic, yet COVID-19 is rattling the certainty of their respective governments around the world to adequately respond to such a biological threat. Any combination of social distancing, lockdown, and quarantine measures may reduce the spread of a virus, but the efforts come at a big cost to the nation. Societies around the world have been extremely disrupted. In some regions of the world, medical and emergency infrastructures are excessively burdened. People are suffering and dying, while global economies are shaken to the core.

It is imperative the world prevail over each hardship, economically and politically. Why? Because these events have also not escaped the attention of rogue nations like China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Syria — which all collaborate on offensive biological warfare research. The fact of the matter is there are state actors, as well as nonstate actors, with the malicious intent to deliberately weaponize pathogenic microorganisms. While the Chinese Communist Party may have deliberately genetically modified the novel coronavirus, domestic and foreign terrorists are inspiring their supporters to exploit the global pandemic.

Consider a trending example. Over 2,000 people comprised of Indian Muslims, as well as foreign Muslims, attended a Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Markaz in the Nizamuddin area of Delhi between March 13-15, despite government orders against gatherings. More than 1,000 have been sent to the hospital and to quarantine, and dozens have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Following the deaths of some of the attendees, #CoronaJihad began trending on Twitter. One Twitter user posted: “What is #CoronaJihad ? Infected Muslims want to go and spread Corona to Kafirs(Infidels) so they can die in hundreds of thousands. Their Idea: Few hundred muslims will die, but they can make up for it by making more children. Use the Corona to kill more Kafirs..” Another user questioned whether or not #CoronaJihad is “a ground reality,” and encouraged Indian agencies to investigate. In a similar vein, a number of sources indicate Pakistan is deliberately moving people infected with COVID-19 into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Serious attention needs to be given to both biodefense and biological agent research, production, and the potential for use by hostile rogue actors. In a multilateral approach, governments around the world must take the necessary steps to not only improve their response to naturally occurring pandemics, but also to the threat of a laboratory- engineered biological agents. Any such disruptive or deadly pathogen can be held in store or be used for a globally catastrophic biological event, whether it be an offensive or defensive measure of a malign adversary.

COVID-19 is set to have a lasting effect on how the world responds to a global pandemic.

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