Yes. At least 8 countries–Albania, India, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Russia, Syria and the United States–are known to possess stocks of chemical weapons, with 9 more (Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Israel, Japan, Pakistan, Serbia, Sudan, Taiwan and Vietnam) believed or suspected to have chemical weapons. This is despite the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty seeking to limit the proliferation of these weapons and which mandates destruction of these weapons by 2012. Despite their horrific destructive potential, chemical weapons have been used very seldom in combat, most extensively during the First World War when gas attacks (usually mustard gas) were common on the Western Front. In more modern times chemical weapons were used in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88, and infamously against the civilian population of an Iraqi town, Halabja, by Saddam Hussein in 1988. Although Saddam was known to have chemical weapons at the time of the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, Iraqi forces did not use them in that war. The greatest likely threat from chemical weapons today is probably not the possibility of their large-scale use in combat, since any state that actually used them would suffer considerable international condemnation and likely retaliation in kind, but the misappropriation or misuse of chemical weapons by terrorists, criminals or other non-state actors, such as the anthrax attacks of October 2001 in the United States which are believed to have been perpetrated by a mentally unbalanced former scientist.
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