Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East

Includes WMD profiles of 11 countries, regional overviews, and reference tables of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and combat aircraft deployed.
Updated: Apr 2006


Weapons of Mass Destruction Capabilities and Programs[1]

Current WMD Middle East Information

Please note this section is no longer being updated. For the latest Middle East WMD information, please visit these links:

Country Profiles
Information on nuclear, biological & chemical weapons and missile programs, with details on capabilities, facilities, chronologies, and imports/exports.

CNS maintains these Country Profile databases for the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

Nuclear [2]
  • 1991 report about a covert nuclear development program with Chinese assistance prompted suspicion that Algeria sought nuclear weapons. Concerns alleviated by IAEA inspection of suspect facilities, additional intelligence data, apparent lack of motivation to acquire nuclear weapons, and Algeria's accession to the NPT.
  • 15MW and 1MW research reactors located at Ain Oussera and Draria, respectively. Construction initiated in secrecy in 1983; both are now under IAEA safeguards.
  • Acceded to the NPT on 1/12/1995; signed the CTBT on 10/15/1996.
Chemical [3]
  • Possible development, but no evidence of deployment.
  • Ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention on 8/14/1995.
Biological [4]
  • Basic research effort, but no evidence of deployment.
  • Acceded to BTWC on 7/22/2001.
Ballistic missiles [5]
  • None.
Cruise missiles [6]
  • 4 SS-N-2b Styx anti-ship cruise missile with 50km range and 513kg payload.
Other delivery systems [7]
  • Fighter and ground-attack aircraft include: 28 Su-24 with 22 on order, 25 MiG-29 with 50 on order, 20 MiG-29A/B/U (12 in service), 10 MiG-25, 40 MiG-23BN (38 in service), 30 MiG-23B/E, and 90 MiG-21MF (82 in service).
  • Ground systems include field artillery and rocket launchers, notably 32 FROG-7 artillery rockets with 12 launchers, which have a 70km range and carry a 450kg warhead.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) [8]
  • Four Seeker unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with 200km range, purchased from South Africa for delivery by the year 2000.


  1. This chart summarizes data available from public sources. Precise assessment of a state's capabilities is difficult because most weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs remain secret and cannot be verified independently.
  2. Leonard Spector, "Nuclear Proliferation," Non-Conventional Weapons Proliferation in the Middle East, Efraim Karsh, Martin S. Navias, and Philip Sabin, eds. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), pp. 147-151. Anthony H. Cordesman, "Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East: National Efforts, War Fighting Capabilities, Weapons Lethality, Terrorism, and Arms Control Implications," (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2/98), p. 13. "Algeria," Federation of American Scientists website, 9/12/96, http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/missile/algeria.htm. Nuclear Engineering International, 1998 World Nuclear Industry Handbook (Essex, UK: Wilmington Publishing Ltd., 1998), p. 112. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) website, INFCIRC/531, 1/97, http://www.iaea.or.at/worldatom/infcircs/inf531.html. "Algeria," 1996 Annual Report, IAEA website, http://www.iaea.or.at/worldatom/infcircs/inf531.html
  3. For further background on alleged Chinese assistance, see also: Bill Gertz, "China Helps Algeria Develop Nuclear Weapons," Washington Times, 4/11/91. Mark Hibbs, "Cooling Towers One Key to Claim Algeria is Building Bomb Reactor," Nucleonics Week, 4/18/91, pp. 7-8. Mark Hibbs, "Despite US Alarm Over Algeria, Europeans Won't Blacklist China," Nucleonics Week, 5/23/91, pp. 1, 10-11. Ann Maclaughlan, "Algerian Leader Asserts Good Faith in Nuclear Research," Nucleonics Week, 5/23/91, pp. 11-12. Elaine Sciolino and Eric Schmitt, "Algerian Reactor: A Chinese Export," New York Times, 11/15/91, pp. A1, A7. Vipin Gupta, "Algeria's Nuclear Ambitions," Nuclear Engineering International, 3/92, p. 6. "Chinese Nuclear Sales Flout Western Embargoes," Christian Science Monitor, 3/10/92. "Algeria Agrees to Safeguard Suspect Reactor," Arms Control Today, 5/92, p. 25. "Algeria Joins NPT, Advancing African Weapons-Free-Zone Effort," Nucleonics Week, 1/19/95, pp. 6-7. "Update: Algeria's Nuclear Reactor," Risk Report, 6/95.

    A 1998 US congressional task force report alleged that during 1991-92, "approximately 27.5 pounds of 93% U-235 which had been originally supplied to Iraq by France for use in the French-built Osirak research reactor" was shipped to Algeria via Sudan for storage at the "Algerian reactor at Ain-Oussera." The report was said to be based on unidentified European and Israeli intelligence sources, and asserts that the material remains in Algeria. Yossef Bodansky, "The Iraqi WMD Challenge: Myths and Reality," (Washington, DC: US House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, 2/10/98). Jim Wolf, Reuters, 2/15/98, "Iraq Hid Deadly Weapons Abroad-Congress Report."

    A White House official said on 2/16/98 that the United States has "no credible evidence" to support the allegations. European intelligence sources likewise said they had no evidence to support the charges, which were rejected by Algeria as a "fantasy." "White House Says No Sign Iraq Exported Arms," Reuters, 2/16/98. Sueddeutsche Zeitung (Munich), 3/26/98, "Authorities Claim US 'Disinformation Attempt' Over Iraq;" in FBIS Document WEU-98-085, 3/26/98. "Ambassador Denies Report Iraqi Uranium Is Stockpiled In Algeria;" Agence France Presse; in Dialog, 2/15/98, http://dialog.carl.org.

    The available evidence corroborates the Algerian response. The Ain Oussera facility is under IAEA safeguards, and the fissile material referred to in the task force report was physically removed from Iraq in 11/91 by the IAEA with the assistance of UNSCOM. UN Security Council Resolution 687 Paragraph 12 required Iraq to place all nuclear-weapons-usable materials under the exclusive control of the IAEA. The 12.6kg of highly enriched research reactor fuel stored at Al Tuiwaitha was airlifted from Iraq between 11/15/91 and 11/17/91. It was transformed in Russia through isotopic dilution for resale as 20%-enriched reactor fuel. "IAEA Inspections and Iraq's Nuclear Capabilities," IAEA website, 4/92, http://www.iaea.or.at/worldatom/inforesource/ other/iraq/iraqindex.html. "Fifth report of the Executive Chairman of the Special Commission, established by the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 9 (b) (i) of Security Council resolution 687 (1991), on the activities of the Special Commission," UNSCOM, 5/21/93, http://www.un.org/Depts/unscom/s25977.htm. "UNSCOM Activities," SIPRI Yearbook 1994 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press/Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 1994), pp. 755-56.

  4. Cordesman, p. 13.
  5. ibid.
  6. Duncan Lennox, ed., "Country Inventory – In Service," Jane's Strategic Weapons Systems Issue 24, 5/97. "Algeria," Federation of American Scientists website, 7/12/96 http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/missile/algeria.htm. Ian O. Lesser and Ashley J. Tellis, Strategic Exposure: Proliferation around the Mediterranean (Santa Monica: RAND, 1996) p. 46. Zeev Eytan, "Regional Military Forces," The Middle East Military Balance, 1993-94 (Tel Aviv: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, 1994), p. 248.
  7. However, the Centre for Defence and International Security Studies (CDISS) states that Algeria also possesses SS-1 Scud-B ballistic missiles, with a 300km range and 985kg payload: "Master Table: Afghanistan-Eritrea" CDISS website, http://www.cdiss.org. Also see Andrew Feickert, "Missile Survey: Ballistic and Cruise Missiles of Foreign Countries," CRS, 3/5/04, p. 33, via Globalsecurity.org, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/report/crs/31999.pdf.

  8. Lennox, p. 1. Lesser and Tellis, pp. 47-48. CDISS. "Campaign Wants Algeria Arms Ban," Cape Times,1/98, in Independent Online, http://www.inc.co.za/. Raytheon, Missile Systems of the World, (Lexington: AMI International, 1999), p. 262. "Algeria," Middle East Military Balance (Tel Aviv: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies), 1/29/06, p. 17, http://www.tau.ac.il/jcss/balance/algeria.pdf.
  9. The Military Balance 1997/98 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1997), p. 122. Lesser and Tellis, pp. 49-50. Anthony H. Cordesman, "Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East: The Impact on the Regional Military Balance," CSIS website, 3/25/05, p. 31 http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/050325_proliferation[1].pdf. "Algeria," Middle East Military Balance (Tel Aviv: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies), 1/29/06, p. 11. Yevgeny Nikitin, "Sukhoi, Algerian Air Force Sign After-Sale Maintenance Contract," ITAR-TASS, 7/14/03. "Algeria to Buy MiG-29 Fighters Worth $1.5 Billion from Russia," Russian Business Monitor, 6/2/04.
  10. Saturday Argus, 1/98, "Spy Plane Has Many Peacetime Uses, Says Denel;" in Independent Online, http://www.inc.co.za/. SAPA, 2/4/98, Release on the Sale of Military Aircraft to Algeria," 2/4/98. "Algeria," Middle East Military Balance (Tel Aviv: Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies), 1/29/06, p. 13.

Originally prepared by Michael Barletta and Erik Jorgensen, May 1998;
Updated by Sammy Salama and Alexis Zeiger, April 2006.

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