Will Gaddafi Use Mustard Gas On His Own People?

As Muammar Gaddafi’s insanity seems to become more apparent as his regime collapses around him, there are fears that he could deploy chemical weapons in one last, desperate, act of rage:

The government of Col. Moammar Gadhafi hasn’t destroyed significant stockpiles of mustard gas and other chemical-weapons agents, raising fears in Washington about what could happen to them—and whether they may be used—as Libya slides further into chaos.

Tripoli also maintains control of aging Scud B missiles, U.S. officials said, as well as 1,000 metric tons of uranium yellowcake and vast amounts of conventional weapons that Col. Gadhafi has channeled in the past to militants operating in countries like Sudan and Chad.

Current and former U.S. officials said in interviews that Washington’s counterproliferation operations against Libya over the past decade have scored gains, in particular the dismantling of Tripoli’s nascent nuclear-weapons program and its Scud C missile stockpiles. But the level of instability in Libya, and Col. Gadhafi’s history of brutality, continues to make the U.S. focus on the arms and chemical agents that remain, they said.

“When you have a guy who’s as irrational as Gadhafi with some serious weapons at his disposal, it’s always a concern,” said a U.S. official. “But we haven’t yet seen him move to use any kind of mustard gas or chemical weapon” during the unrest.

Given the extent to which elements of the military have refused to comply with orders to attack the protesters, one would hope that someone in the Libyan military would step in to stop this if Gaddafi ever went this far.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, World Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. When a mammal (or human) is perceiving that they are cornered with no way out, they are left to do drastic things. Let’s hope it doesn’t get this far.. 😐

    With Love and Gratitude,


  2. Dave Schuler says:

    When the difference between a regime being overturned and not being overturned is the difference between being willing to apply the level of force needed to disperse the demonstrators (as in Iran) vs. not being so willing (as in Egypt) it provides incentives for autocrats to hire foreign mercenaries and use whatever level of force is necessary.

    Note that Iran faced, essentially, no consequences when it used lethal force to end the mass demonstrations.

  3. jwest says:

    My associate in Libya emailed (posted in the comments on Doug’s last Libya thread) today to say there had been no airstrikes in Tripoli.

    Although the idea that Gadaffi could use mustard gas is not that far-fetched, it is important not to fall into a state of mind where every rumor becomes impending fact.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:


    Out of curiosity, what part of Libya is your contact in right now?

  5. jwest says:


    He lives and works in Tripoli.