Would terrorists go nuclear? Motivation and strategy

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This thesis is an attempt to assess the likelihood that terrorist groups would use true nuclear weapons if they had them. It is highly unlikely, although not altogether inconceivable, that terrorists could obtain a hnctional nuclear weapon unless they were directly state-supported. However, non-nuclear radiological dispersion or emission devices could be used. A well-hnded terrorist religious cult, such as Aum Shinrikyo, would pose the greatest risk of nuclear terrorism because it would not be constrained by law or conventional morality and would be undeterrable. The next most dangerous would be a religiously-motivated transnational group, such as a1 Qa'ida, which claims a divine mandate, has no fixed homeland, and has a small, dispersed constituency. Nationalrevolutionary or separatist groups would be least likely to use nuclear weapons because their homelands are vulnerable to retaliation and they could be constrained by their constituencies. Right-wing and single issue groups are 'wild cards'.

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Department of Political Science - Simon Fraser University
Thesis type: 
Thesis (M.A.)