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Professor Kosal Interviewed on Fox News

Aug 30, 2013 | Atlanta, GA

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  • Professor Margaret E. Kosal

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Fariah Majmundar
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Nunn School Assistant Professor Margaret E. Kosal was interviewed Tuesday on Fox News on the suspected chemical weapons use in Syria, verification challenges, and the potential US responses. 

Link to part 1 of the interview:http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/08/27/us-officials-investigate-use-syrian-chemical-weapons/ (Awaiting Link to part 2 of the interview.)

In the two part interview, she emphasized the need for confirmation of use, determination of type of material used, and the origin of the material. Kosal noted that weapons inspectors will be looking for physical evidence to verify CW use. She discussed the specific tell-tale chemical signatures that can confirm the use of nerve agents, like sarin, and challenges (technical, political, and due to the ongoing civil war) that UN inspectors might encounter. Depending on the surface and environment, these signatures can be detected days, weeks, or in some cases, up to months after use. Sooner is better because of the importance of verification in the political decisions that the US is considering. She also stressed that confirming who used them – Assad’s forces, rebels, or other group – is more challenging than confirming use.

Regarding potential US responses, she emphasized that the US must define what is our vital interest and the desired end state. If credibly demonstrating that the international community or the US will not tolerate use of chemical weapons is the end state, then yes, she strongly asserted the US should respond if use of chemical weapons is verified. In the context of specific military responses, Kosal noted that the air strikes against Libya in 1986’s Operation Eldorado Canyon and against Iraq in 1998’s Operation Desert Fox did not substantively affect Muammar Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein’s behavior.

Working at the intersection of science and security, Kosal is among the foremost young experts on the weapons of mass destruction and the national security implications of emerging and dual-use technologies; such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, and the cognitive neurosciences. She earned a doctoral degree in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and has served previously in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), and as an advisor to the Chief of Staff of the US Army as part of his Strategic Studies Group (SSG). Her book Nanotechnology for Chemical and Biological Defense (Springer Academic Publishers, 2009) explores scenarios and strategies regarding the benefits and potential proliferation threats of nanotechnology and other emerging sciences for national security.