|Al Qaeda and Nuclear Weapons: Does Acquisition Equal Use?
Would the use of nuclear weapons serve Osama bin Ladens overarching goal of rallying the faithful to a new Muslim Caliphate?
There are many analysts who are of the opinion that the use of nuclear weapons would alienate potential supporters of Al Qaeda. However, we must remain cognizant of the fact that the support that Al Qaeda enjoys has been obtained through terror and there is no reason to suggest that Al Qaeda could not use a nuclear attack to facilitate capitulation on the part of Muslims.
Bin Laden and his immediate lieutenants might, under some conditions, regard nuclear weapons as too valuable to detonate.
This assessment is categorically false, as Al Qaeda would be in a position to establish a Muslim Caliphate overnight if they were able to launch a successful nuclear strike. Many Islamic nations would be willing to make major concessions in return for nuclear weapons technology, therefore, putting Al Qaeda in a position to wield significant influence over several Islamic states simultaneously. Additionally, Al Qaeda would be faced with a use or lose proposition in regards to any nuclear weapon they develop or obtain due to the high probability that America would take preemptive action against them in order to separate them from their nuclear arsenal.
Nuclear possession but nonuse also could open up new options for Bin Laden
Any attempt by Al Qaeda to pursue options based only on the threat of a nuclear attack would give the proponents of the global war on terror time to launch potentially decisive and or disabling attacks against them. Bin Laden realizes that he has gone too far in regards to terrorism to ever be able to deter America from attempting to eliminate him while also destroying Al Qaeda. The acquisition of nuclear weapons will only strengthen the resolve of America. Armed conflict is the only option for both Bin Laden and Al Qaeda if they are to survive.
Al Qaeda will have to seize power in at least one Islamic state in order to realize their goal of acquiring nuclear weapons
The success of A. Q. Khans proliferation network thoroughly refutes this assessment. In fact, Khans network has made it possible for Al Qaeda to acquire valuable nuclear weapons technology independently from various rogue and terror sponsoring nations that had dealings with Khan.
Dunn, A. Lewis. Can Al Qaeda be Deterred from Using Nuclear Weapons? Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction 2008