Coronavirus: A new Pandora’s box being opened?

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Coronavirus: A new Pandora’s box being opened?

 

Nuclear arms: Pandora’s box number one

W hen the United States tested its first nuclear bomb, even the most pessimistic American observers were predicting that it would take the then Soviet Union at least 10 years to conduct a similar nuclear test, which the US set the stage for in six years’ time. The Russians, however, managed to do so in only four years. The Americans imagined that they would remain the sole possessor of nuclear arms for many years, but in less than a decade, two more countries got to equip themselves with nukes and the number rose to six within a 20-year time span. Since the dissolution in 1991 of the Soviet Union, the fate of a considerable number of nuclear warheads stored in the successor states remains unknown and there is a possibility that many more states will get their hands on nuclear arms in the years to come.

In 1957, nuclear powers established the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with the declared aim of promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy and inhibiting its use for any military purpose, but in fact the main reason behind founding such a watchdog was preventing the spread of nuclear know-how, an objective that does not seem to have been fully achieved.

The impacts of the US atomic bombing of Japanese cities in 1945 were not limited to the military field. Japan’s surrender and an end to World War II were only a small part of the aftermath. The nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed the global power structure forever. For example, the creation of the United Nations Security Council is rooted in the existence of nuclear armaments. The horrifying incident led to the emergence of new doctrines and strategies in the years that followed World War II and during the Cold War-era rivalry between two superpowers, a trend that still continues to exist.

Cyber weapons: Pandora’s box number two

Stuxnet was a malicious computer worm first discovered in 2010 and is estimated to have been developed five years earlier in 2005 with the aim of sabotaging Iran’s nuclear program. The highly sophisticated computer virus is the first malware ever used by a state against another state. After discovering the infection, Iran assembled a team of experts to neutralize the malware. Over 30,000 IPs were believed to have been infected with Stuxnet during the cyber raid.

The virus — which can be viewed as the most advanced and significant of its kind created over the past two decades — changed the face of cyber warfare and divided the history of cyber-attacks to pre- and post-Stuxnet eras. According available data and reports, the Stuxnet project was initiated during the term of ex-US president George W. Bush and came to fruition under his successor Barack Obama in collaboration with the Israeli regime. The software worm was in fact the outcome of decades of joint American-Israeli technological work.

Stuxnet introduced to the world a brand new generation of cyber warfare technology and was placed at the service of different states and even certain groups. More advanced versions of the virus later posed serious risks to cyber security across the globe. It was not, however, the only consequence. The cyber-attack was in reality a Pandora ’s box that let out evilness and pushed governments to further develop high-tech cyber warfare weaponry and unlawfully use the virtual arms against other countries. The large-scale cyber-attack by a state against Iran — which amounts to an instance of cyber terrorism — worked to minimize the heinous nature of such acts of aggression and was followed by a huge wave of cyber assaults by both governments and non-governmental groups against various world countries’ infrastructure, attacks that not only harmed data but even inflicted physical damage with the potential to cause disasters and fatalities.

Things went so far that the US itself — as the godfather of cyber terrorism — announced in line with the its Nuclear Posture Review in 2018 that the Pentagon could use nuclear weapons to respond to a wide range of devastating but non-nuclear attacks, including crippling cyber operations!

As predicted by experts, Stuxnet fell into the hands of many parties, the advanced level of software technology used in the malware altered the atmosphere of cyber security all over the world, and its numerous variants were used in cyber-attacks worldwide to the point that they took a major toll on the US itself.

This way, the harbingers of cyber-attacks went on to tremendously expand their capabilities. On the other hand, other countries, which had long been a victim of such assaults, have now turned into skillful virtual hunters themselves. Given the extraordinary progress that America’s adversaries have made in the field of cyber warfare, it could be said that the US administration, by opening the door to virtual attacks, poisoned the river that served as its own lifeblood.

Biological weapons: Pandora’s box number three

Unlike the two previous weapons, several cases of biological attacks have been reported in the course of history. In 1925, any resort to such unconventional arms was banned under the Geneva Protocol. Less than five decades later, the Biological Weapon Convention (BWC) expanded the ban announced in 1972 and, from then onwards, any storage and transfer of such material were declared illegal and forbidden. There is, however, evidence indicating a rise in the number of the countries capable of producing biological weapons despite the signing of the BWC.

As the world is in the grip of a new coronavirus pandemic, certain countries remain seriously divided over the origin of the deadly virus. Some believe the mysterious coronavirus has a natural origin blamed on the Chinese people’s unusual diet, which has seen them eat animals that have no place in the food basket of other nations. Everyone has heard of the famous ‘bat soup’ story. The other camp is of the view that the virus is man-made. In the second scenario, the virus is believed to have been created at a lab in a country.

On the one hand, officials at senior levels in China, Russia and Iran accuse the US of being behind the virus’ creation, an allegation that sounds plausible to some extent given America’s dark record in using internationally-banned weapons and developing environmental arms. Some argue that the US under President Donald Trump has created the dangerous coronavirus and let it loose in China with the goal of weakening the East Asian state’s economy, which has outpaced that of the US. It would not, of course, be a complicated procedure for the US, which runs over 200 biological labs across the world, to create such a virus. Others, on the other hand, attribute the outbreak to an accident, but believe the virus was initially being created as part of an agenda to develop bioweapons, whose deployment amount to a crime against humanity.

Despite all the theories, the source of the coronavirus and the respiratory disease it causes remains a mystery. Aside from all the conspiracy theories and allegations, the important thing here is that the coronavirus pandemic has brought about a climate of mistrust among world leaders, each of whom considers his own nation to be a victim of germ warfare staged by an adversary state. If it is proven that the outbreak is the result of a biological operation or if a number of world states go on to draw such a conclusion, a new global arms race will likely be in the offing, with world states rushing to outdo one another in developing biological weapons. In that scenario, recurrent recourse to such arms is only to be expected.

Yet suppose that the coronavirus originated naturally, research on the main characteristics of the pathogen — including its fast spread, the length of time that it can survive on surfaces, resistance to existing medicines and the rather long period of time (two weeks) the virus can live silently in the body of its carrier — could provide biological laboratories across the world with a good model and pave the way for them to design more effective versions of the virus to be used as bioweapons in the future.

It could be said that the world is today bracing for the opening of yet another Pandora’s box, but this time, it will not be about disrupting computers and industrial machines, but future bioweapons could drive human life on the Earth towards extinction. Piles and piles of dead bodies could be seen scattered across the streets of all world cities as a result of such warfare, leaving no hope for the human race to end the darkness of its own making.

 

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