Is al Qaeda planning a chemical attack on the west?

At yesterday’s AEI conference on al Qaeda, terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University said that there has been a spate of arrests of terrorists who possess nerve gas. The arrests have occurred mainly in Turkey and Israel.

Hoffman infers from the arrests that al Qaeda may be planning a chemical attack on the West. Such an attack would most likely occur in Europe, but the United States could be a target.

Reports also say that al Qaeda fighters in Syria want desperately to expropriate chemical weapons from the Assad regime. This tends to confirm fears that its goal is a chemical attack against the West.

But the arrests in Turkey and Israel show that al Qaeda already possesses nerve gas. And it is reasonable to fear that it wants to use them against the West, particularly given the competition al Qaeda now faces from new terrorist organizations.

The competition places pressure on al Qaeda to do something big. As Robert Kagan said yesterday, when terrorists compete, we lose.

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