(From the National Interest)
Today and tomorrow, world leaders will gather for what will likely be the final international summit on security for nuclear weapons and the materials needed to make them—a key tool for preventing nuclear terrorism. The last time this group met, at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in the Hague, they declared that preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons or weapons-usable materials remained “one of the most important challenges in the years to come.” Yet, since then, nuclear security has improved only marginally, while the capabilities of some terrorist groups, particularly the Islamic State, have grown dramatically, suggesting that in the net, the risk of nuclear terrorism may be higher than it was two years ago.
At the time of the Hague summit, the Islamic State was one of many small extremist groups. Today, though under military pressure, the Islamic State governs swathes of Iraq and Syria, recruits followers around the world, demonstrates a desire and capability to strike far beyond its borders and states its ambition to launch major attacks on the United States.
As yet, there is no public evidence of an Islamic State nuclear-weapons effort. But there are worrying indicators of potential IS nuclear intent. The Islamic State espouses an apocalyptic vision of a final war between itself and the “crusader” forces. Authorities recently discovered that an Islamic State operative had been intensively monitoring a senior official of a Belgian facility that contains significant stocks of weapons-useable nuclear material. If the Islamic State ever does decide to pursue nuclear weapons, it has more money, more people, control of more territory and more ability to recruit experts across the world than Al Qaeda at its strongest ever had. That makes it all the more crucial to ensure that the essential ingredients of a nuclear recipe are secure and accounted for. Read more