This reference file is an inventory and critical analysis of the claims made about the weapons and programmes that Iraq is proscribed from having under the terms of Security Council Resolutions 687 (1991), paragraphs. 10 and 12: that is, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150km.
It is not about Iraq's overall compliance with that resolution or subsequent
resolutions on Iraq, including SCR 1441 (2002). For example, it does not attempt
to analyse the extent of Iraq's obstruction of inspectors from UNSCOM, UNMOVIC
or IAEA. It is instead a presentation of what is actually known about the weapons
and programmes themselves. For the UN inspectors currently in Iraq, discovering
what is unknown about the history and present status of these items is the task
at hand. Inspectors must engage with the possibility of Iraq's retention
or development of non-conventional weapons, and report to the Security Council
on this basis. However, a set of evaluations can also be made of the likelihood
of Iraq's non-conventional weapons programmes, given the material available.
No overall judgements are made in this reference file, but material is presented
that should allow a more well informed opinion to be reached.
The author of this reference file is Dr Glen Rangwala, an independent analyst at the University of Cambridge, UK. If any of the technical claims made below are incorrect or incomplete, such mistakes have not been made in a deliberate attempt to mislead the reader: corrections and clarifications would be greatly appreciated. Contact details are at the end of this page.
The claims examined here about Iraq's weapons and weapons programmes are taken largely from reports of branches of the US and UK governments. The following sources have been used most extensively:
The evaluation of these claims is made using a broader variety of sources. These include:
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.9: "A new report released on September 9, 2002 from the International Institute for Strategic Studies - an independent research organization - concludes that Saddam Hussein could build a nuclear bomb within months if he were able to obtain fissile material."
CIA, October 2002, p.1: "If Baghdad acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year. Without such material from abroad, Iraq probably would not be able to make a weapon until the last half of the decade."
Evaluation. The key component of any fission bomb is the fissile material. According to the Nuclear Control Institute (nci.org/heu.htm), "With bomb-grade, high-enriched uranium (HEU), a student could make a bomb powerful enough to destroy a city". According to the Federation of American Scientists (p.61), "More than 90 percent of the entire Manhattan Project budget went to the production of fissile materials; less than 4 percent went to the weapon laboratory at Los Alamos." As a result, nuclear safeguards concentrate on preventing the transfer of plutonium-239 and highly enriched uranium (uranium containing 90% or more of uranium-235), and on enrichment technology. Once the fissile core has been obtained, a crude nuclear device can be assembled with a gun-like tube and high explosive; or alternatively with a series of detonators and high explosives shaped as lenses. None of these technological problems would pose a serious difficulty to a well-resourced scientist, working without international safeguards.
Therefore, the claim that Iraq could rapidly develop a nuclear bomb if it managed to acquire fissile material seems to be accurate. It is also verging on being a tautology. However, the controls on fissile material and the presence of international inspectors inside Iraq render the possibility of Iraq's effective development of a nuclear device very low. Furthermore, there have been no claims that Iraq has actually attempted to import fissile material since 1991, and the known fissile material within Iraq prior to that date has been fully accounted for by the IAEA.
Results of UN inspections: 45 days after the commencement of nuclear inspections, Time Magazine put the point to the IAEA's Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei: "The Bush Administration has repeatedly said Iraq is very close to owning a nuclear bomb." ElBaradei replied:
A summary of the IAEA's position was presented by ElBaradei to the Security Council on 7 March 2003:
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.10: "Iraq has withheld documentation relevant to its past nuclear program, including data about enrichment techniques, foreign procurement, weapons design, experimental data, and technical documents. Iraq still has [...] some of the infrastructure needed to pursue its goal of building a nuclear weapon."
Evaluation. The claim that Iraq has withheld documents, either by design or by neglect, seems to be plausible, but as the content of its dossier of December 2002 has not been made public available, it is not possible to assess this assertion. With regard to the claim that Iraq still has some of the infrastructure to build a nuclear weapon, a spokesperson of the IAEA said:
Results of UN inspections. Although confirming that the process of inspections was still in its early stages, the Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei was quoted by Reuters on 18 December 2002 saying that: "No evidence has surfaced so far that facilities have been changed since 1998 ". He reaffirmed this view on 6 January 2003, when he said that United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq had found nothing suspicious so far, and there was no evidence that Iraq had lied in its declarations on nuclear arms (quoted in the Financial Times, 7 January).
ElBaradei was more forthright in his update to the Security Council on 27 January 2003 (paras.65 and 71):
Department of Defense, 8 October 2002, slide 25: claimed al-Qaim plant was "currently active".
Evaluation. The facilities of al-Qaim, Iraq's only uranium extraction facility based 400 km to the west of Baghdad and near the Syrian border, were destroyed in 1991. A number of journalists have since visited al-Qaim and have found it in a state of disrepair. Paul McGeough, the much-respected Middle East correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote on 4 September 2002 that the site appeared to be a "near-vacant lot [...] as the result of a clean-up supervised by the [IAEA]". Reuters reporters have confirmed the same impression.
Results of UN inspections. Inspectors from the IAEA visited al-Qaim on 10-11 December 2002, and reported on their on-going monitoring of the destroyed plant. A further inspection took place on 7 January 2003.
President Bush, 7 October 2002: "Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past."
Evaluation. The satellite photos referred to by President Bush were published in the New York Times on 6 September 2002, and were cited at a press conference on 7 September 2002 with Tony Blair and George Bush. Mr Blair proclaimed that these commercial satellite photographs showed new buildings had been constructed at a former nuclear weapons site in Iraq, and that this showed that the "threat is real" of Iraq's continuing nuclear programmes. The location discussed was not identified by Blair and Bush, but is believed to be Tuweitha (the site called Osirak by its French constructors, 25 km southeast of Baghdad). The IAEA, to whom both leaders attributed the photos, put out a statement that "it has no new information on Iraq's nuclear programme since December 1998 when its inspectors left Iraq".
Results of UN inspection. Tuweitha has been visited by inspectors from the IAEA repeatedly since November 2002, and no suspicious findings have been reported. The IAEA has reported on inspections of the Tuweitha site on 6 December 2002 and, more extensively, on 9 - 10 - 11 December 2002. After a further visit, on 20 December 2002, an IAEA / UNMOVIC joint press statement concluded that "the former Tuwaitha nuclear complex [..] now conducts civilian research in the non-nuclear field". Further radiation testing at the site has been conducted by the IAEA on 21 January 2003, and an aerial inspection took place on 31 January 2003. An inspection of previously inaccessible sites at the Tuweitha site was conducted on 15 February 2003.
A more detailed description of Tuweitha was provided by Kim Sengupta in The Independent:
The IAEA inspection of the sites referred to by Tony Blair and George Bush was confirmed by the Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, in his briefing to the Security Council on 9 January 2003:
This view was confirmed and enlarged upon by ElBaradei in his update to the Security Council on 27 January 2003 (para.35):
A more concise assessment was provided by ElBaradei to the Security Council on 7 March 2003:
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.21: "Iraq has built a large new chemical complex, Project Baiji, in the desert in north west Iraq at al-Sharqat. This site is a former uranium enrichment facility which was damaged during the Gulf War and rendered harmless under supervision of the IAEA. Part of the site has been rebuilt, with work starting in 1992, as a chemical production complex. Despite the site being far away from populated areas it is surrounded by a high wall with watch towers and guarded by armed guards. Intelligence reports indicate that it will produce nitric acid which can be used in explosives, missile fuel and in the purification of uranium."
This plant is highlighted also in Department of Defense, 8 October 2002.
Evaluation. According to an IAEA report of January 1994, al-Sharqat is the principle supplier of sulphuric and nitric acid to Iraqi industries. The UK dossier does not claim that the nitric acid produced at al-Sharqat is used in the production of illicit weapons, merely that nitric acid "can be used" in missile fuel and in purifying uranium. It later changed its name to al-Hadar State Company.
Results of UN inspection. al-Sharqat was inspected by an UNMOVIC chemical team on 2 January 2003, and by a joint IAEA-UNMOVIC team on 12 January 2003. The overall assessment of Iraq's facilities provided by the IAEA is recounted above, in the section on Iraq's facilities.
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.25: "there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Iraq has no active civil nuclear power programme or nuclear power plants and therefore has no legitimate reason to acquire uranium."
State Department, 19 December 2002: "The [Iraqi] Declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from Niger. Why is the Iraqi regime hiding their uranium procurement?"
White House, January 2003, p.5: "The [Iraqi] Declaration ignores efforts to procure uranium from abroad."
Powell, 26 January 2003: "Why is Iraq still trying to procure
Evaluation. Iraq is indeed known to have sought to import significant quantities of uranium (yellowcake) from Niger; this was in 1981-82. The absence of any detail in the reports cited above - such as the year (or even the decade) in which this purported attempt to obtain uranium, and the quality of the uranium sought - may indicate that this is the incident referred to by the UK dossier and the State Department. According to a retired senior official who spoke to AFP, Niger cannot export uranium without the consent of its three partners, France, Japan and Spain. Niger's Prime Minister has stated that permission was not granted for uranium to be sold to Iraq (Voice of America, 27 December 2002).
The Director General of the IAEA indicated in his briefing to the Security Council (9 January 2003, para.12) that he had not received "any specific information" from the States making these allegations. This point was expanded upon in an interview on 12 January 2003: "There were reports from different member states that [...] [the Iraqis] were importing uranium from Africa [...]. They deny they have imported any uranium since 1991. (From) the U.S., the U.K. and others— we need to get specifics of when and where. We need actionable information."
On 7 March 2003, ElBaradei revealed to the Security Council that the allegations were centred around "documents provided by a number of States that pointed to an agreement between Niger and Iraq for the sale of uranium between 1999 and 2001." After reviewing the evidence extensively - including "correspondence coming from various bodies of the Government of Niger" - and "compar[ing] the form, format, contents and signatures of that correspondence with those of the alleged procurement-related documentation", ElBaradei gave his assessment of the reliability of this information:
ElBaradei concluded: "There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990."
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.9: "Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb. In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes which officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.26: "Iraq has also made repeated attempts covertly to acquire a very large quantity (60,000 or more) of specialised aluminium tubes. The specialised aluminium in question is subject to international export controls because of its potential application in the construction of gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium, although there is no definitive intelligence that it is destined for a nuclear programme."
CIA, October 2002, pp.1-2: "Iraq's aggressive attempts to obtain proscribed high-strength aluminum tubes are of significant concern. All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a centrifuge enrichment program. Most intelligence specialists assess this to be the intended use, but some believe that these tubes are probably intended for conventional weapons programs. Based on tubes of the size Iraq is trying to acquire, a few tens of thousands of centrifuges would be capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a couple of weapons per year."
President Bush, 7 October 2002: "Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."
President Bush, 28 January 2003: "Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide."
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "[Saddam Hussein] has made repeated covert attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes from 11 different countries, even after inspections resumed. These tubes are controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group precisely because they can be used as centrifuges for enriching uranium. [...] Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium. [...] all the experts who have analyzed the tubes in our possession agree that they can be adapted for centrifuge use. [...] First, it strikes me as quite odd that these tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that far exceeds U.S. requirements for comparable rockets. [...] Second, we actually have examined tubes from several different batches that were seized clandestinely before they reached Baghdad. What we notice in these different batches is a progression to higher and higher levels of specification, including, in the latest batch, an anodized coating on extremely smooth inner and outer surfaces. Why would they continue refining the specifications, go to all that trouble for something that, if it was a rocket, would soon be blown into shrapnel when it went off?".
Evaluation. David Albright, former IAEA inspector and director of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), has argued that the aluminium tubes are more likely to be used in the making of conventional artillery rockets. According to an ISIS paper:
In its declaration to the UN on 7 December 2002, Iraq "provided information on a short-range rocket that is manufactured using 81 mm aluminium tubes", according to Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, in his notes for briefing the Security Council of 19 December 2002. UNMOVIC has not yet been able to test the accuracy of this part of the declaration.
Results of UN inspection. The view that the tubes are used for rockets was provisionally endorsed by the Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, in his comments to the press on 9 January 2003:
This point was further elaborated upon in ElBaradei's briefing to the Security Council on the same day (paras.9-10; emphasis added):
"the IAEA has conducted a series of inspections at sites involved in the production and storage of reverse engineered rockets, held discussions with and interviewed Iraqi personnel, taken samples of aluminium tubes, and begun a review of the documentation provided by Iraq relating to contracts with the traders. While the matter is still under investigation, and further verification is foreseen, the IAEA's analysis to date indicates that the specifications of the aluminium tubes sought by Iraq in 2001 and 2002 appear to be consistent with reverse engineering of rockets. While it would be possible to modify such tubes for the manufacture of centrifuges, they are not directly suitable for it."
ElBaradei repeated these conclusions in an interview on 12 January 2003: "Our provisional conclusion is that these tubes were for rockets and not for centrifuges". This judgement was expanded upon in ElBaradei's update to the Security Council on 27 January 2003, para.52.
In response to Secretary Powell's comments on the high level of specification of the aluminium tubes, ElBaradei told the Security Council on 14 February 2003 that:
ElBaradei's statement on 7 March 2003 provided a detailed reply to Secretary Powell's claims:
ElBaradei concluded: "There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminium tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminium tubes in question."
With regard to potential production of suitable aluminium tubes, ElBaradei added:
Ongoing monitoring is, however, necessary.
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.24: "Since 1998 Iraq had been trying to procure items that could be for use in the construction of centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.26: "other important procurement
activity since 1998 has included attempts to purchase:
Secretary Powell, 26 January 2003: "Why is Iraq still trying to procure [...] the special equipment needed to transform [uranium] into material for nuclear weapons?"
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "In 1999 and 2000, Iraqi officials negotiated with firms in Romania, India, Russia and Slovenia for the purchase of a magnet production plant. Iraq wanted the plant to produce magnets weighing 20 to 30 grams. That's the same weight as the magnets used in Iraq's gas centrifuge program before the Gulf War."
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "Intercepted communications from mid-2000 through last summer showed that Iraq front companies sought to buy machines that can be used to balance gas centrifuge rotors. [...] there is no doubt in my mind. These illicit procurement efforts show that Saddam Hussein is very much focused on putting in place the key missing piece from his nuclear weapons program".
|Evaluation. It should be noted that the claim in the UK dossier
is not that the materials that Iraq has sought to import can only be used
as part of a nuclear weapons programme, but that these materials could
be used in such a programme. Conversely, it is quite conceivable that
these materials are not being used in a nuclear programme at all.
For example, the dossier notes that Iraq has attempted to purchase Anhydrous Hydrogen Fluoride (AHF) since 1998, and that AHF could be used in gas centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium (Chapter 3, para.21). However, AHF is also used as an alkylating agent in the petrochemical industry. For a country that has been made solely dependent upon its petrochemical exports for its foreign exchange, the import of AHF can hardly be a surprise or a cause for suspicion in itself.
Results of UN inspection. The magnet production line referred to in the UK dossier and by Powell was discussed by ElBaradei in his update to the Security Council on 27 January 2003, paras.58-59:
That further investigation included an interview with an Iraqi magnet specialist formerly associated with the gas centrifuge programme on 21 February 2003.
ElBaradei's statement on 7 March provided a detailed reply to Secretary Powell's claims:
With regard to the magnet production line that Iraq admits to having signed a contract for in June 2001, the IAEA concluded that "domestic magnet production seems reasonable from an economic point of view", but that any facilities produced need to be subject to continued inspections and monitoring.
In response to the UK dossier's and Secretary Powell's claims about gas centrifuge rotors, ElBaradei told the Security Council on 14 February 2003 that:
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.10: "Iraq still has the technical expertise and some of the infrastructure needed to pursue its goal of building a nuclear weapon. Saddam Hussein has repeatedly met with his nuclear scientists over the past two years, signaling his continued interest in developing his nuclear program."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.24: "The JIC drew attention to intelligence that Iraq had recalled its nuclear scientists to the programme in 1998."
CIA, October 2002, p.6: "Iraq retains its cadre of nuclear scientists and technicians . [...] Iraqi media have reported numerous meetings between Saddam and nuclear scientists over the past two years, signaling Baghdad's continued interest in reviving a nuclear program."
President Bush, 7 October 2002: "Before being barred from Iraq in 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency dismantled extensive nuclear weapons-related facilities, including three uranium enrichment sites. That same year, information from a high-ranking Iraqi nuclear engineer who had defected revealed that despite his public promises, Saddam Hussein had ordered his nuclear program to continue. The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his 'nuclear mujahideen' -- his nuclear holy warriors."
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "over the last 18 months Saddam Hussein has paid increasing personal attention to Iraqis' top nuclear scientists."
Evaluation. The last part of the excerpt from President Bush's speech of 7 October 2002 contains a misquote, and a mistranslation. The speech referred to was made on 10 September 2000 and was about, in part, nuclear energy. The transcription of the speech was made at the time by the BBC monitoring service. Saddam Hussein actually refers to "nuclear energy mujahidin", and doesn't mention the development of weaponry.
In addition, the term "mujahidin" is often used in a non-combatant sense, to mean anyone who struggles for a cause. Saddam Hussein, for example, often refers to the mujahidin developing Iraq's medical facilities. There is nothing in the speech to indicate that Iraq is attempting to develop or threaten the use of nuclear weapons.
Results of UN inspection. ElBaradei reviews in passing the evidence about personnel in his update to the Security Council on 27 January 2003, paras.22-23:
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.18: "In the first half of 2000 the JIC noted intelligence on Iraqi attempts to procure dual-use chemicals and on the reconstruction of civil chemical production at sites formerly associated with the chemical warfare programme."
(a) Existing chemical weapons
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.9: "Gaps identified by UNSCOM in Iraqi accounting and current production capabilities strongly suggest that Iraq maintains stockpiles of chemical agents, probably VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard."
Similarly: CIA, October 2002, p.10: "More than 10 years after the Gulf war, gaps in Iraqi accounting and current production capabilities strongly suggest that Iraq maintains a stockpile of chemical agents, probably VX, sarin, cyclosarin, and mustard. [...] Iraq probably has stocked at least 100 metric tons (MT) and possibly as much as 500 MT of CW agents."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.18: "In mid-2001 the JIC assessed that Iraq retained some chemical warfare agents [...] and weapons from before the Gulf War."
Department of Defense, 8 October 2002: 200 metric tons of VX, 200 metric tons of G-Agents (sarin) and 200 metric tons of mustard are unaccounted for.
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.19: "Iraq has admitted to UNSCOM to having the knowledge and capability to add stabiliser to nerve agent and other chemical warfare agents which would prevent such decomposition. In 1997 UNSCOM also examined some munitions which had been filled with mustard gas prior to 1991 and found that they remained very toxic and showed little sign of deterioration."
Evaluation. It should also be noted that the UK and US have never claimed that Iraq continued to produce chemical or biological weapons in the period of UNSCOM inspections, between 1991 and 1998 (although they do claim that infrastructure and equipment for the production of non-conventional weapons was developed). As a result, a stockpile of existing weapons must consist of those produced prior to 1991, or after 1998. Any material produced after 1998 is discussed below, in the sections on production.
Up to 1998, a substantial part of the work of the weapons inspectors in Iraq was to track down chemical and biological agents that Iraq had produced before their entry in 1991, and to check the documentation that showed how much of each agent Iraq had manufactured. However, the amount Iraq is thought to have produced in the 1980s was found to be greater than the quantity that Iraq or the inspectors verified as having destroyed. The discrepancy between the two levels is the amount that remains - in the inspectors' language - "unaccounted for".
The levels of agents that are unaccounted for in this way is large, as many of the US and UK claims above rightly identify. But the fact that these quantities are unaccounted for does not mean that they still exist. Iraq has never provided a full declaration of its use of chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980-88 war, and it claims to have destroyed large quantities of its own stocks of these weapons in 1991 without keeping sufficient proof of its actions.
It may also be the case that Iraq had in fact produced more of these agents than they had declared to UNSCOM or that UNSCOM itself had uncovered. This possibility is mentioned in the excerpt below, from the CIA in October 2002.
In some cases, it is quite clear that any stocks that were retained no longer exist in usable form. Most chemical and biological agents are subject to processes of deterioration. A working paper by UNSCOM from January 1998 noted that: "Taking into consideration the conditions and the quality of CW-agents and munitions produced by Iraq at that time, there is no possibility of weapons remaining from the mid-1980's" (quoted in Arms Control Today, June 2000). As discussed below, mustard constitutes an exception to this general pattern.
If the allegations that Iraq possessed a stockpile of illicit weapons were to be true, then the UK and US would need to present credible evidence that Iraq had managed to stabilise its chemical and biological agents to a greater extent than it is previously thought to have done. The UK dossier does not make this claim, except as an unsubstantiated assertion that Iraq had "the knowledge and capability to add stabiliser to nerve agent and other chemical warfare agents which would prevent such decomposition." The fact that this assertion falls short of the claim that Iraq actually achieved the stabilisation of its chemical agents can be taken as an acknowledgement that no evidence has been discovered - after over 7 years of intrusive inspections and 11 years of intelligence gathering - to demonstrate Iraq's retention of stabilised chemical or biological agents.
CIA, October 2002, p.10: "UNSCOM discovered a document at Iraqi Air Force headquarters in July 1998 showing that Iraq overstated by at least 6,000 the number of chemical bombs it told the UN it had used during the Iran-Iraq War - bombs that remain are unaccounted for."
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "If we consider just one category of missing weaponry -- 6,500 bombs from the Iran-Iraq war -- UNMOVIC says the amount of chemical agent in them would be in the order of 1,000 tons. These quantities of chemical weapons are now unaccounted for."
Iraq provided this 6-page document to UNMOVIC on 30 November 2002, as discussed in an article in The Times of 21 December. After reviewing it, Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, in his notes for briefing the Security Council of 9 January 2003, stated:
"The so-called Air Force document, which was provided separately from the Declaration, relates to the consumption of chemical munitions in the Iraq/Iran war. It was hoped that the submission of this document would help verify material balances regarding special munitions. After having analysed the document, we have concluded that it will in fact not contribute to resolving this issue. There remains therefore, a significant discrepancy concerning the numbers of special munitions."
Dr Blix elaborated on these comments in his update to the Security Council on 27 January 2003:
"The document indicates that 13,000 chemical bombs were dropped by the Iraqi Air Force between 1983 and 1988, while Iraq has declared that 19,500 bombs were consumed during this period. Thus, there is a discrepancy of 6,500 bombs. The amount of chemical agent in these bombs would be in the order of about 1,000 tonnes. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we must assume that these quantities are now unaccounted for."
Dr Blix clarified his position in his briefing to the Security Council on 14 February 2003:
"To take an example, a document, which Iraq provided, suggested to us that some 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent were 'unaccounted for'. One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.16: "we assess that when the UN inspectors left Iraq they were unable to account for: up to 360 tonnes of bulk chemical warfare agent, including 1.5 tonnes of VX nerve agent"
State Department, 19 December 2002: "In 1999, UN Special Commission and international experts concluded that Iraq needed to provide additional, credible information about VX production. The [Iraqi] declaration provides no information to address these concerns. What is the Iraqi regime trying to hide by not providing this information?"
White House, January 2003, p.6: "In 1999, UN Special Commission and international experts concluded that Iraq needed to provide additional, credible information about VX production. UNSCOM concluded that Iraq had not accounted for 1.5 tons of VX, a powerful nerve agent. Former UNSCOM head Richard Butler wrote that “a missile warhead of the type Iraq has made and used can hold some 140 liters of VX [...]. A single such warhead would contain enough of the chemical to kill up to 1 million people.”"
Condoleezza Rice, "Why We Know Iraq is Lying", New York Times, 23 January 2003: "Iraq has also failed to provide United Nations inspectors with documentation of its claim to have destroyed its VX stockpiles."
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "It took years for Iraq to finally admit that it had produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent, VX. [...] UNSCOM also gained forensic evidence that Iraq had produced VX and put it into weapons for delivery. Yet, to this day, Iraq denies it had ever weaponized VX. And on January 27, UNMOVIC told this council that it has information that conflicts with the Iraqi account of its VX program."
Evaluation. In 1998, UNSCOM found VX degradation products on missile warheads, indicating that Iraq had stabilised VX sufficiently and had managed to weaponise it (in contrast to the Government of Iraq's own claims). Two factors would indicate that the 1.5 tonnes of VX nerve agent no longer exist in operational form.
Firstly, Iraq claimed that this quantity of VX was discarded unilaterally by dumping it on the ground. VX degrades rapidly if placed onto concrete (see this report of 15 November 2002). In accordance with Iraq's claim, UNSCOM tested the site at which the VX was reportedly dumped. UNSCOM's January 1999 report states in Appendix II, paragraph 16:
"Traces of one VX-degradation product and a chemical known as a VX-stabilizer were found in the samples taken from the VX dump sites."
However, from this information alone, UNSCOM was not able to make "a quantified assessment"; that is, they were not able to verify that all 1.5 tonnes of the agent had been so destroyed.
Iraq provided further material from late February 2003 to substantiate its case, material that is currently being assessed.
Secondly, VX, even if stabilised, degrades. The IISS strategic dossier of September 2002 records the status of VX produced before the Gulf War: "Any VX produced by Iraq before 1991 is likely to have decomposed over the past decade [...]. Any G-agent or V-agent stocks that Iraq concealed from UNSCOM inspections are likely to have deteriorated by now." (pp. 52 and 53).
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.9: "Iraq has not [..] accounted for about 550 artillery shells filled with mustard agent." (repeated in CIA, October 2002, p.10).
State Department, 19 December 2002: "In January 1999, the UN Special Commission reported that Iraq failed to provide credible evidence that 550 mustard gas-filled artillery shells... had been lost or destroyed. [...] Again, what is the Iraqi regime trying to hide by not providing this information?" (partially repeated in White House, January 2003, p.6).
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "Saddam Hussein has never accounted for vast amounts of chemical weaponry: 550 artillery shells with mustard [..]"
Evaluation. A "blister agent", mustard has a longer shelf-life than G-series nerve agents. As the final assessment report from UNSCOM recorded:
"a dozen mustard-filled shells were recovered at a former CW storage facility in the period 1997 - 1998 [..]. After seven years, the purity of mustard ranged between 94 and 97%."
(Enclosure 1 to the Annex of the Letter to the President of the Security Council, 29 January 1999, S/1999/94, para.33; at: http://www.un.org/Depts/unscom/s99-94.htm)
However, mustard has a high volume-to-effectiveness ratio. As the IISS record in the strategic dossier, at p.43:
"large amounts of mustard are necessary for effective military operations. Roughly, one tonne of agent is needed to effectively contaminate 2.6 square kilometres of territory, if properly disseminated."
Iraq declared that it filled approximately 13,000 artillery shells with mustard prior to 1991. UNSCOM accounted for 12,792 of these shells, and destroyed them in the period of 1992-94. However, Iraq also declared that 550 mustard-filled artillery shells had been lost in the aftermath of the Gulf War. The extent to which these - if they still existed - could constitute an ongoing danger should be assessed in light of the need to deploy large amounts of mustard for effective use.
Iraq has also cooperated in the destruction of remaining mustard items. 10 artillery shells were found by UNSCOM but were not destroyed before UNSCOM withdrew in 1998. As requested, Iraq kept these shells at al-Mutanna facility, where they were identified by UNMOVIC on 4 December 2002. On 11 February 2003, UNMOVIC reported:
"An UNMOVIC chemical team went to Al Mutanna, approximately 140 km north of Baghdad in preparation for the beginning of the process of destroying 10 155mm artillery shells and four plastic containers filled with mustard gas. The destruction process will begin tomorrow and is expected to last four to five days to complete. UNMOVIC chemical inspectors will work with an Iraqi team in the destruction process. These artillery shells were scheduled to be destroyed by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in 1998 but the plan was halted when UNSCOM withdrew from Iraq."
(iv) G-agents (nerve agents)
Department of Defense, 8 October 2002: 200 metric tons of G-agents (sarin) are unaccounted for.
Evaluation. The main G-agents produced by Iraq were tabun, sarin and cyclosarin. These agents deteriorate rapidly, especially if impurities are present in their manufacture. This seems to have been the case with Iraq's nerve agents. The Persian Gulf War Illnesses Task Force of the US Department of Defense gave the following assessment in March 2001:
"Impure or improperly stored sarin is unstable and degrades over time. US experts consider chemical warfare agents less than 50 percent pure to be militarily ineffective. Western sources estimate the sarin Iraq produced never exceeded 60 percent purity, and Iraq reported that poor operating practices at Al Muthanna limited the purity of sarin to between 20 and 50 percent. Since it contained at least 40 percent impurities when manufactured, sarin produced at Al Muthanna had a short shelf life. The CIA estimates the chemical warfare agent in the rockets stored at Al Muthanna had deteriorated to approximately 18 percent purity by the time that Bunker 2 was destroyed, leaving about 1600 kilograms (1.6 metric tons) of viable sarin."
"The Gulf War Air Campaign - Possible Chemical Warfare Agent Release at Al Muthanna, February 8, 1991", 19 March 2001; at: http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/al_muth/al_muth_s02.htm
The taskforce of the Department of Defense attributed the high level of Iraqi cooperation in revealing the scale of its earlier chemical programme to the fact that the Iraqi government realised that the nerve agents it had produced were no longer viable:
"We believe Iraq was largely cooperative on its latest declarations because many of its residual munitions were of little use - other than bolstering the credibility of Iraq's declaration - because of chemical agent degradation and leakage problems."
"Chemical Warfare Agent Issues During the Persian Gulf War", Persian Gulf War Illnesses Task Force, April 2002; at: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/gulfwar/cwagents/cwpaper1.htm
A similar assessment was made by the CIA in a memorandum from January 1991:
"Iraq is not able to make good-quality chemical agents. Technical failures have reduced their purity and caused problems in storage and handling. This is a particular problem for the sarin- type nerve agents (GB and GF). These both contain hydrofluoricacid (HF), an impurity that attacks metal surfaces and catalyzes nerve agent decomposition. This leads to metal failure and leaks in the ammunition, increasing handling hazards. [...] Lower purity significantly limits shelf life and reduces toxic effects when the munition is employed. [...] The nerve agent should have already begun to deteriorate, and decomposition should make most of the nerve agent weapons unserviceable by the end of March 1991."
"Iraq: Potential for Chemical Weapon Use", 25 January 1991; at: http://www.fas.org/irp/gulf/cia/970825/970613_dim37_91d_txt_0001.html
This assessment is repeated in the IISS strategic dossier of 9 September 2002: "As a practical matter, any nerve agent from this period [pre-1991] would have deteriorated by now.." (p.51)
(b) Existing chemical precursors
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.9: "Iraq has not accounted for hundreds of tons of chemical precursors and tens of thousands of unfilled munitions, including Scud variant missile warheads."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.16: "we assess that when the UN inspectors left Iraq they were unable to account for [...] up to 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals, including approximately 300 tonnes which, in the Iraqi chemical warfare programme, were unique to the production of VX".
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.18: "In mid-2001 the JIC assessed that Iraq retained some chemical [..] precursors, production equipment [..] from before the Gulf War. These stocks would enable Iraq to produce significant quantities of mustard gas within weeks and of nerve agent within months."
CIA, October 2002, p.10: "Iraq probably has concealed precursors, production equipment, documentation, and other items necessary for continuing its CW effort. Baghdad never supplied adequate evidence to support its claims that it destroyed all of its CW agents and munitions. Thousands of tons of chemical precursors and tens of thousands of unfilled munitions, including Scud- variant missile warheads, remain unaccounted for."
State Department, 19 December 2002: "The Iraqi regime has never adequately accounted for hundreds, possibly thousands, of tons of chemical precursors. Again, what is the Iraqi regime trying to hide by not providing this information?" (repeated in White House, January 2003, p.6).
President Bush, 28 January 2003: "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands."
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "Saddam Hussein has never accounted [...] enough precursors to increase his stockpile to as much as 500 tons of chemical agents."
Evaluation. Chemical precursors do have a significantly longer shelf-life than the agents themselves. UNSCOM did recognise that it was unable to account for the balance between the precursor chemicals that Iraq is known to have had in 1991, and those that were verifiably destroyed. The total declared by Iraq - either produced by Iraq or imported - amounted to some 20,150 tonnes. Of these, 14,500 tonnes were used for the production of chemical weapons or for producing other precursors (leaving a balance of 5,650 tonnes unused for this purpose). Iraq further declared that it had in January 1991 a total of 3,915 tonnes of precursors left from the original 20,150 tonnes, with the discrepancy of 1,735 tonnes lost as a result of unsuitable storage, leaks, spillages etc.
Out of the 3,915 tonnes that Iraq claimed it still had in January 1991, UNSCOM accounted for 2,850 tonnes. The remainder was declared by Iraq either as having been destroyed unilaterally (242 tonnes) or having been destroyed during the Gulf War (823 tonnes). Iraq includes in the first of those categories - unilateral destruction in mid-1991 - all precursor chemicals for VX.
UNSCOM's assessment for each relevant precursor chemical that Iraq held in January 1991 is in Appendix II, para.22 of its January 1999 report. For some precursor chemicals, UNSCOM was able to account for the entire quantity held by Iraq; but with a number of other chemicals (such as dimethylaminohydrochloride, for the production of tabun; thionylchloride, for the production of G-agents mustard and VX; MPF and Cyclohexanol for G-agents; P2S5, diisopropyl amine, chloroethanol and choline for VX), UNSCOM was able to verify that destruction of these chemicals had taken place, but was unable to verify the amount. To take the example of dimethylaminohydrochloride, Iraq claimed that it had 295 tonnes in January 1991; but that approximately 30 tonnes were destroyed in the Gulf War. UNSCOM noted that "Evidence of destruction was seen by UNSCOM", but that "Accounting was not possible due to the state of destruction". Separately, 272 tonnes were destroyed under UNSCOM supervision.
Given UNSCOM's inability to discern the quantities of materials destroyed in 1991, it is difficult to see how Iraq could ever verify that this material no longer exists, particularly the material destroyed when the buildings they were in were bombed. It is also difficult to see how the US has arrived at a figure of 500 tonnes of potential production from retained precursors, as this figure is not mentioned in any UNSCOM or UNMOVIC reports.
It is also unclear to what extent Iraq has, pace the State Department, provided an adequate account of what happened to other chemical precursors it held in 1991. According to Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, in his notes for briefing the Security Council of 19 December 2002, in the Iraqi declaration of 7 December 2002:
"there are some sections of new material. In the chemical weapons field, Iraq has further explained its account of the material balance of precursors for chemical warfare agents."
As the declaration is not in the public realm, it is impossible to assess if Iraq has provided further evidence of its claim to have unilaterally destroyed in 1991 its remaining stocks of precursor chemicals.
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.9: "Iraq continues to rebuild and expand dual-use infrastructure that it could quickly divert to chemical weapons production, such as chlorine and phenol plants."
Many of the most detailed claims made about Iraq since 1998 have been related to the rebuilding of facilities that were formerly associated with chemical and biological weapons. It is noticeable that few of these claims are that a specific facility is currently being used for the production of chemical or biological warfare agents. Instead, the facilities are identified as being capable of producing such agents as well as civilian products, or that the material that is being produced could be used in the development of illicit weapons.
Unless there is a reliable assessment that the production undertaken at these facilities is part of a chemical and biological warfare programme, the information presented in these claims cannot be taken as demonstrating that Iraq has recently produced illicit chemical and biological agents.
(a) Fallujah II (100 km north-west of Baghdad), in al-Saqlawiyya area of al-Anbar province
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.20: "plants formerly associated with the chemical warfare programme have been rebuilt. These include the chlorine and phenol plant at Fallujah 2 near Habbaniyah. In addition to their civilian uses, chlorine and phenol are used for precursor chemicals which contribute to the production of chemical agents."
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.9: "Iraq is seeking to purchase chemical weapons agent precursors and applicable production equipment, and is making an effort to hide activities at the Fallujah plant, which was one of Iraq's chemical weapons production facilities before the Gulf War. At Fallujah and three other plants, Iraq now has chlorine production capacity far higher than any civilian need for water treatment, and the evidence indicates that some of its chlorine imports are being diverted for military purposes."
CIA, October 2002, pp.10-11: "Baghdad continues to rebuild and expand dual-use infrastructure that it could divert quickly to CW production. The best examples are the chlorine and phenol plants at the Fallujah II facility. Both chemicals have legitimate civilian uses but also are raw materials for the synthesis of precursor chemicals used to produce blister and nerve agents. Iraq has three other chlorine plants that have much higher capacity for civilian production; these plants and Iraqi imports are more than sufficient to meet Iraq's civilian needs for water treatment. Of the 15 million kg of chlorine imported under the UN Oil-for-Food Program since 1997, Baghdad used only 10 million kg and has 5 million kg in stock, suggesting that some domestically produced chlorine has been diverted to such proscribed activities as CW agent production.
Fallujah II was one of Iraq's principal CW precursor production facilities before the Gulf war. In the last two years the Iraqis have upgraded the facility and brought in new chemical reactor vessels and shipping containers with a large amount of production equipment. They have expanded chlorine output far beyond pre-Gulf war production levels - capabilities that can be diverted quickly to CW production. Iraq is seeking to purchase CW agent precursors and applicable production equipment and is trying to hide the activities of the Fallujah plant."
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "Iraq has rebuilt key portions of the Tareq State Establishment. Tareq includes facilities designed specifically for Iraq’s chemical weapons program and employs key figures from past programs".
Evaluation. This site, which used to produce chemical weapons precursors, was bombed in the Gulf War, and its remaining stocks were removed and destroyed by UNSCOM. It was inactive in 1998. The claims that it now produces chlorine and phenol (ie carbolic acid), which could serve as precursors for the production of weapons, were not substantiated in UK and US reports. These chemicals could also be used as disinfectants and in water treatment, and so the production of these chemicals in themselves would not necessarily be evidence for a weapons programme.
Results of UN inspections. Fallujah II was inspected by UNMOVIC inspectors on 9 December 2002. In contrast to the extensive claims of the CIA and the State Department, UNMOVIC found that the chlorine plant was not even in use:
"Two separate chemical plants are in the factory area and their major activity is the production of phenol and chlorine. The chlorine plant is currently inoperative. The site contains a number of tagged dual-use items of equipment, which were all accounted for. All key buildings were inspected in addition to the chlorine and phenol plants. The objectives of the visit were successfully achieved."
Joint IAEA / UNMOVIC press statement, 9 December 2002 (emphasis added).
Further inspections by UNMOVIC chemical teams have taken place on 17 December 2002, 8 and 19 January 2003, and 2 March 2003. An aerial inspection took place on 31 January 2003. The report of the inspection on 17 January 2003 repeated the finding that "The chlorine plant is currently inoperative."
Fallujah II is also sometimes referred to Tareq State Establishment (or Tareq State Enterprise). Secretary Powell used this name for the facility, as listed above; he may have used the alternate name to make refutation of his claims harder.
(b) Ibn Sina, Tarmiyya (68km northwest of Baghdad)
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.20: "New chemical facilities have been built, some with illegal foreign assistance, and are probably fully operational or ready for production. These include the Ibn Sina Company at Tarmiyah, which is a chemical research centre. It undertakes research, development and production of chemicals previously imported but not now available and which are needed for Iraq's civil industry. The Director General of the research centre is Hikmat Na'im al-Jalu who prior to the Gulf War worked in Iraq's nuclear weapons programme and after the war was responsible for preserving Iraq's chemical expertise."
Evaluation. This is a reference to the Research Centre for Industrial Chemistry which was established in March 1992. According to IAEA reports from 1993 and 1994, the Centre was engaged in small scale chemical recovery work, such as the purification of phosphoric acid and the recovery of vanadium from coal ash.
Results of UN inspection. The IAEA continues to monitor the site. On 11 December 2002, after an IAEA inspection, a joint IAEA/UNMOVIC news update stated that the monitors "inspected the new activities at the site and verified that no nuclear activities remain or have been initiated." There were further inspections by an UNMOVIC chemical team on 4 January 2003 and by a missile team on 11 January 2003.
(c) al-Qa'qa' (60km southwest of Baghdad)
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.20: "Parts of the al-Qa'qa' chemical complex damaged in the Gulf War have also been repaired and are operational. Of particular concern are elements of the phosgene production plant at al-Qa'qa'. These were severely damaged during the Gulf War, and dismantled under UNSCOM supervision, but have since been rebuilt. While phosgene does have industrial uses it can also be used by itself as a chemical agent or as a precursor for nerve agent."
Evaluation. Iraqi officials claimed to journalists visiting the site after the release of the UK dossier that phosgene is produced as a by-product of the manufacture of gun-powder, the stated purpose of the plant.
Results of UN inspection. al-Qa'qa' site has been repeatedly inspected by the IAEA, in most detail from 9 - 10 and 15 December 2002. An UNMOVIC chemical team has also visited, most recently on 18 - 19/20 - 21 - 23 - 24 - 25 January 2003; a multidisciplinary UNMOVIC team visited on 2 February 2003.
(d) al-Musayyib (south of Baghdad)
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "I'm going to show you a small part of a chemical complex called "Al Musayyib", a site that Iraq has used for at least three years to transship chemical weapons from production facilities out to the field. In May 2002, our satellites photographed the unusual activity in this picture. Here we see cargo vehicles are again at this transshipment point, and we can see that they are accompanied by a decontamination vehicle associated with biological or chemical weapons activity. What makes this picture significant is that we have a human source who has corroborated that movement of chemical weapons occurred at this site at that time. So it's not just the photo and it's not an individual seeing the photo. It's the photo and then the knowledge of an individual being brought together to make the case. This photograph of the site taken two months later, in July, shows not only the previous site which is the figure in the middle at the top with the bulldozer sign near it, it shows that this previous site, as well as all of the other sites around the site have been fully bulldozed and graded. The topsoil has been removed. The Iraqis literally removed the crust of the earth from large portions of this site in order to conceal chemical weapons evidence that would be there from years of chemical weapons activity."
Evaluation. It seems highly unlikely that residue of 3 years of chemical transshipment could be completely hidden simply by removing the topsoil. As Jonathan Ban of the Washington-based Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute said in response to the claims of Secretary Powell:
"I find it very difficult to believe that if there was chemical weapons contamination in the area that the Iraqis would be able to completely get rid of that contamination. The image shows that there are some areas of ground on the site that haven't been graded and I think the inspectors would be able to take samples from there to prove conclusively whether or not there has been recent chemical weapons activity".
Instead, detailed analysis of the facilities at al-Musayyib would be likely to yield physical evidence. This is what inspectors have been trying to find. A first visit to a pesticide store there was successfully completed on 13 December 2002. UNMOVIC reported on 11 February 2003:
"An UNMOVIC multidisciplinary team inspected the Al Musaayaib Ammo Depot, an ammunition storage area south of Baghdad on 10 February. The team inspected bunkers, warehouses, small buildings and storage areas."
Any evidence of chemical transshipment will be reported to the Security Council. No such evidence has been reported to date.
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.18: "The JIC concluded that Iraq had sufficient expertise, equipment and material to produce biological warfare agents within weeks using its legitimate bio-technology facilities."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.21: "We know from intelligence that Iraq has continued to produce biological warfare agents. [..] UNSCOM only destroyed equipment that could be directly linked to biological weapons production. Iraq also has its own engineering capability to design and construct biological agent associated fermenters, centrifuges, sprayer dryers and other equipment and is judged to be self-sufficient in the technology required to produce biological weapons."
CIA, October 2002, p.2: "All key aspects - R&D, production, and weaponization - of Iraq's offensive BW program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf war."
CIA, October 2002, p.15: "The improvement or expansion of a number of nominally "civilian" facilities that were directly associated with biological weapons indicates that key aspects of Iraq's offensive BW program are active and most elements more advanced and larger than before the 1990-1991 Gulf war."
Evaluation. It is unclear how seriously the CIA's claim that Iraq's BW programme is more advanced now than it was in 1991 should be taken, especially as al-Hakam, Iraq's main biological weapons facility, had been destroyed under UNSCOM supervision in May-June 1996. The Security Council's Panel on Disarmament recorded in March 1999 that "the declared facilities of Iraq's BW programme have been destroyed and rendered harmless" (para.23).
In any event, the CIA's claim is contradicted by other US official assessments. The US General Accounting Office (GAO), and investigative arm of the Congress, concluded in September 2002 that:
(i) General claims
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.8, sourcing UNSCOM's final reports: "Iraq admitted to producing biological agents, and after the 1995 defection of a senior Iraqi official, Iraq admitted to the weaponization of thousands of liters of anthrax, botulinim toxin, and aflatoxin for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs and aircraft. United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) experts concluded that Iraq's declarations on biological agents vastly understated the extent of its program, and that Iraq actually produced two to four times the amount of most agents, including anthrax and botulinim toxin, than it had declared."
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.8: "UNSCOM reported to the UN Security Council in April 1995 that Iraq had concealed its biological weapons program and had failed to account for 3 tons of growth material for biological agents."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.19: "In particular, Iraq could not explain large discrepancies between the amount of growth media (nutrients required for the specialised growth of agent) it procured before 1991 and the amounts of agent it admits to having manufactured. The discrepancy is enough to produce more than three times the amount of anthrax allegedly manufactured."
CIA, October 2002, p.15: "Baghdad did not provide persuasive evidence to support its claims that it unilaterally destroyed its BW agents and munitions. Experts from UNSCOM assessed that Baghdad's declarations vastly understated the production of biological agents and estimated that Iraq actually produced two-to-four times the amount of agent that it acknowledged producing, including Bacillus anthracis - the causative agent of anthrax - and botulinum toxin."
President Bush, 7 October 2002: "In 1995, after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq's military industries defected. It was then that the regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and capable of killing millions."
State Department, 19 December 2002: "The UN Special Commission concluded that Iraq did not verifiably account for, at a minimum, 2160kg of growth media." (repeated by White House, January 2003, p.5).
White House Press Briefing by Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, 15 January 2003: "The [Iraqi] regime [was] forced to admit that it produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors concluded that Iraq likely produced two to four times that amount. That's a massive stockpile, and it's never been accounted for and it's capable of killing millions. It remains unaccounted for."
Secretary Powell, 26 January 2003: "Where is the evidence -- where is the evidence -- that Iraq has destroyed the tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and botulinum we know it had before it expelled the previous inspectors? [...] We're talking about the most deadly things one can imagine, that can kill thousands, millions of people."
Secretary Powell, 26 January 2003: "What happened -- please, what happened -- to the three metric tons of growth material that Iraq imported which can be used for producing early, in a very rapid fashion, deadly biological agents?"
Evaluation. One key problem in many of the above claims is that there is a confusion between what Iraq could have produced before 1991, and what it actually did produce. Iraq could have produced considerably more biological agents than it declared if all of Iraq's claims to have lost, damaged and destroyed growth media were untrue, and furthermore if its claim that its fermentors (turning the growth media into weaponisable agents) were not used for certain periods of time was also untrue. Taking the maximal position that Iraq could have fully utilised all imported growth media, without any failed batches, and engaged its fermentors in maximal production continuously, UNSCOM states in its January 1999 report that Iraq could have produced three times as many anthrax spores, sixteen times as much Clostridium perfringens and 6% more botulinum toxin than it had declared. These are very large assumptions to make in assessing Iraq's production levels.
The quotes above from the State Department and CIA in September and October 2002, misrepresent the findings of UNSCOM most clearly: UNSCOM did not conclude with the State Department "that Iraq actually produced two to four times the amount of most agents, including anthrax and botulinim toxin, than it had declared", but that if the assumptions above were to hold, the "[q]uantities produced could be at least 3 times greater than stated" by Iraq (in its January 1999 report, Appendix III). To infer from this to what Iraq "actually produced" (State Department) is to make a leap of logic for which there is insufficient evidence. Similarly, President Bush and Press Secretary Fleischer both impute views to UNSCOM that never constituted the position of the inspectorate: in no UNSCOM report is it stated that Iraq is "likely" to have produced more than it claimed, but merely that it could have done so.
Furthermore, the claims about Iraq possessing a stockpile of biological weapons created before 1991 may suffer from the same problems as discussed for the notion of a stockpile of chemical weapons, above. The assessment by Professor Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is as follows:
"The shelf-life and lethality of Iraq's weapons is unknown, but it seems likely that the shelf-life was limited. In balance, it seems probable that any agents Iraq retained after the Gulf War now have very limited lethality, if any"
"Iraq's Past and Future Biological Weapons Capabilities" (1998), p.13, at: http://www.csis.org/stratassessment/reports/iraq_bios.pdf
It is particularly curious that Dr Blix, in his update to the Security Council on 27 January 2003, provides a wholly different set of figures from the US in accounting for growth media. He claims that 650kg of bacterial growth media is unaccounted for (unlike the US claims that 2160kg or, alternatively, 3 tonnes of this media is unaccounted for).
In addition to these confusions over the quantity of growth media that are unaccounted for, there is also the issue of whether any growth media held by Iraq in 1991 could still be still used for the production of biological weapons. UNSCOM (January 1999 report, Appendix III) state with regard to the growth media for botulinum toxin, anthrax and perfringens:
"Although the expiry date for this media would have passed, advice from the manufacturers is that given appropriate storage conditions, particularly away from moisture, the media would still be usable today. The Commission has no information regarding its fate, whether it was retained or used to produce additional undeclared BW agent."
Inspections. Iraq has attempted to demonstrate its claims about the destruction of biological agents in 1991 by excavating a site at which the agents were allegedly destroyed. On 25 February 2003, UNMOVIC reported as follows:
"UNMOVIC has received several letters from the Government of Iraq over the last few days. These letters relate to [...] excavations of a dumpsite for the destroyed aerial bombs filled with biological agents, and an additional explanation on a biological agent. UNMOVIC was invited to participate in the excavations and verification of the aerial bombs filled with biological agents, which Iraq claims had been unilaterally destroyed in the Al Aziziya Range in the summer of 1991. Iraq began excavations of the site on 19 February. An UNMOVIC biological team visited this dumpsite yesterday and today. This site is located approximately 100km southwest of Baghdad. The team inspected munitions fragments and observed excavation of a pit where, Iraq claims, munitions had previously been explosively destroyed."
The continued excavations at Al Azaziya are discussed below, with regard to the allegations about the delivery of chemical and biological weapons.
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "By 1998, U.N. experts agreed that the Iraqis had perfected drying techniques for their biological weapons programs."
Evaluation. This seems to be untrue. UNSCOM never stated in its official reports that Iraq had "perfected drying techniques". UNSCOM recognised that Iraq had experimented with drying techniques, but seem to have been unsure about Iraq's success in this regard. In its January 1999 report, Appendix III, UNSCOM report:
"Iraq cites the production of ~50 litres of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) spores in March 1990 for drying studies which are claimed not to have been done because of a failure to obtain a particular spray dryer. However, Bt spores were taken by Iraq to the supplier in December 1989 to test on the spray dryer it planned to acquire. The quantity of Bt spores produced can not be verified."
(ii) Anthrax spores and yeast extract
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.16: "we assess that when the UN inspectors left Iraq they were unable to account for [...] growth media procured for biological agent production (enough to produce over three times the 8,500 litres of anthrax spores Iraq admits to having manufactured)"
Department of Defense, 8 October 2002, slide 24: 3 to 4 times more anthrax .. was produced than are unaccounted for.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Washington, 19 December 2002: "Before the inspectors were forced to leave Iraq, they concluded that Iraq could have produced 26,000 liters of anthrax. That is three times the amount Iraq had declared. Yet, the Iraqi declaration is silent on this stockpile, which, alone, would be enough to kill several million people."
State Department, 19 December 2002: "The UN Special Commission concluded that Iraq did not verifiably account for, at a minimum, 2160kg of growth media. This is enough to produce 26,000 liters of anthrax -- 3 times the amount Iraq declared" (repeated by White House, January 2003, p.5).
President Bush, 28 January 2003: "The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax -- enough doses to kill several million people."
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "Iraq declared 8,500 liters of anthrax, but UNSCOM estimates that Saddam Hussein could have produced 25,000 liters. If concentrated into this dry form, this amount would be enough to fill tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of teaspoons. And Saddam Hussein has not verifiably accounted for even one teaspoon-full of this deadly material."
(1) Production before 1991
In his update to the Security Council on 27 January 2003, Dr Blix stated:
"There are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared, and that at least some of this was retained after the declared destruction date. It might still exist."
The "strong evidence" seems to be a reference to the possibility that Iraq used its fermentors at a greater capacity than it has declared previously: this is the only explanation provided by UNSCOM for the possibility of a greater volume of anthrax spores being produced by Iraq than it has declared. In its January 1999 report to the Security Council (Appendix III), UNSCOM details how Iraq produced anthrax spores on an industrial scale from September 1990 until a few weeks before the start of the Gulf War in January 1991. The volume of the fermentors in use at al-Hakam (where Iraq's anthrax was produced) is described in this UNSCOM report:
"According to a document provided by Iraq two such fermentors were planned to produce Agent A (botulinum toxin) and one for Agent B (Bacillus anthracis spores). This is described as industrial scale production and implicit is that it satisfied the minimum military requirement for Iraq. [...] In the event the fermentation line from the Al-Kindi Company was installed comprising seven 1480 litre fermentors and two 1850 litre fermentors (i.e., a total of 14060 litres) which is a similar overall volume confirming the operational scale requirement. Operating at a 5-day cycle about 820,000 litres of agent could be produced per year equivalent to 82000 litres of 10-fold concentrated agent. Assuming an annual replenishment of agent it would appear the initial annual capacity of the factory would be about 80,000 litres."
Iraq claimed that it produced 8445 litres of anthrax spores, material which UNSCOM had some evidence that Iraq destroyed:
"There are various accounts derived from both [Iraq's declaration to UNSCOM] and independent Iraqi testimony concerning the destruction of bulk Agent B [ie, Bacillus anthracis spores]. Laboratory analysis of samples obtained at Al-Hakam has demonstrated the presence of viable Bacillus anthracis spores at an alleged bulk agent disposal site."
However, using UNSCOM's figures above about the size of Iraq's fermentors, Iraq could have produced three times this amount. UNSCOM states that Iraq has not been able to demonstrate that it did not use its programme in this way:
"There is no corroborating documentation to support the less than optimal bulk agent production levels reported in" Iraq's declaration on biological weapons production to UNSCOM.
Iraq had a period of around 120 days at which, according to a statement made to UNSCOM by Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel Hassan - who defected from Iraq in 1995 - its biological programme worked at full capacity.
Iraq's claim that it actually did not produce anthrax spores at the level at which its fermentors could have operated is however substantiated by the only documentation found relating to that production. A 1990 report from al-Hakam indicates the levels of production at that facility in that year. It appears that this is the source of Iraq's estimate of the total amount of anthrax spores produced. UNSCOM criticised Iraq for using this report for the "extrapolations into 1989 and earlier". As production of anthrax prior to 1990 seems - by UNSCOM's own account - to have been only operating at "pilot scale" from 1988, the levels of production prior to 1990 are somewhat immaterial compared to the large-scale production after September 1990. It is unclear why UNSCOM does not consider the 1990 al-Hakam report reliable, as it uses it to verify other points about Iraq's biological weapons production. It seems that the only documentary evidence from 1990 that is available appears to endorse the Iraqi claim about the level of production of anthrax spores.
In his update to the Security Council on 27 January 2003, Dr Blix provides a different set of figures from the US. He states that "the quantity of media involved would suffice to produce, for example, about 5,000 litres of concentrated anthrax." This is less than one-fifth of the material that the US has claimed that Iraq could produce. It is possible that this involves a different assessment of Iraq's capacity prior to 1991.
The assessment by Professor Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) seems to discount the possibility that the anthrax produced in bulk prior to 1991 can still be effectively weaponised:
"Anthrax spores are extremely hardy and can achieve 65% to 80% lethality against untreated patients for years. Fortunately, Iraq does not seem to have produced dry, storable agents and only seems to have deployed wet Anthrax agents, which have a relatively limited life."
"Iraq's Past and Future Biological Weapons Capabilities" (1998), p.13, at: http://www.csis.org/stratassessment/reports/iraq_bios.pdf
This assessment of the degradability of wet anthrax is not accepted by the entire expert community. The IISS report of 9 September 2002 states that "wet anthrax from [the 1989-90 period - if stored properly - would still be infectious." (p.40).
There have been allegations that Iraq was researching drying technologies for anthrax. In particular, Bacillus thuringiensis spores - a close relation to anthrax spores - were tested on a spray dryer in December 1989, according to UNSCOM. However, there has been no evidence that anthrax spores were themselves ever dried by Iraq, and it is unclear if Iraq ever obtained suitable drying equipment for itself. In the absence of evidence that Iraq produced dried anthrax, Secretary Powell's comments to the Security Council of 5 February 2003 are irrelevant.
Since late February, the Iraqi government has been provided documentation to demonstrate its claim that it destroyed its anthrax stocks in 1991. An account was provided by Hans Blix in his 7 March 2003 statement to the Security Council:
"More papers on anthrax [..] have recently been provided. [...] Iraq proposed an investigation using advanced technology to quantify the amount of unilaterally destroyed anthrax dumped at a site. However, even if the use of advanced technology could quantify the amount of anthrax said to be dumped at the site, the results would still be open to interpretation. Defining the quantity of anthrax destroyed must, of course, be followed by efforts to establish what quantity was actually produced."
(2) Growth media unaccounted for
The UNSCOM report of January 1999 (Appendix III) claimed that Iraq could not account for 520kg of yeast extract, the growth media used for making anthrax spores.
Iraq claims that it unilaterally destroyed a quantity of growth media at a site adjacent to al-Hakam prior to the arrival of inspectors in 1991. UNSCOM was not able to account for how much material was destroyed at this site; it "confirmed that media was burnt and buried there but the types and quantities are not known", and thus could not reduce the quantity of material still classified as unaccounted for (in its January 1999 report, Appendix III).
The seemingly large amount of the yeast extract that remains unaccounted for (520kg) - with the potential to produce anthrax spores - amounts to less than 11% of the total amount of yeast extract destroyed under UNSCOM supervision in 1996 (4942 kg). Whether this quantity is within a reasonable margin of error - particularly given that UNSCOM acknowledged that its understanding of Iraq's destruction of weapons in mid-1991 was of "considerable uncertainty" - is open to question.
UNSCOM's own process for deriving the figure of 520kg for unaccounted yeast extract is itself far from transparent.
(iii) Botulinum toxin and casein / thioglycollate broth
Department of Defense, 8 October 2002, slide 24: twice as much botulinum toxin was produced than are unaccounted for.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Washington, 19 December 2002: "The regime also admitted that it had manufactured 19,180 liters of a biological agent called botchulinum [sic] toxin. UN inspectors later determined that the Iraqis could have produced 38,360 additional liters. However, once again, the Iraqi declaration is silent on these missing supplies."
State Department, 19 December 2002: "The UN Special Commission concluded that Iraq did not verifiably account for, at a minimum, 2160kg of growth media. This is enough to produce [...] 1200 liters of botulinum toxin" (repeated in White House, January 2003, p.5).
President Bush, 28 January 2003: "The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure."
Evaluation. Secretary Powell and President Bush both make a claim about growth material for botulinum toxin that is unaccounted for, and attribute this claim to the United Nations. Both are inaccurate.
According to the UNSCOM January 1999 report, the growth media unaccounted for that could be used for making botulinum toxin consisted of 460kg of casein and 80kg of thioglycollate broth. It records that this amount was "Sufficient for the production of 1200 litres of concentrated botulinum toxin (depending on availability of other components including yeast extract). This would represent an additional 6% of that which has already been declared by Iraq." Although far from being a small volume, the 1200 litres at issue for UNSCOM is quite different in scale from the 38,000 litres described by Secretary Powell and President Bush.
Clostridium botulinum (botulinum toxin) consists of anaerobic bacilli, which have a short shelf life.
According to a CIA briefing of 1990 on the threat from Iraq's biological weapons facilities:
"Botulinum toxin is nonpersistent, degrading rapidly in the environment. [...] [It is] fairly stable for a year when stored at temperatures below 27c."
"Iraq's Biological Warfare Program: Saddam's Ace In The Hole", August[?] 1990, at: http://www.fas.org/irp/gulf/cia/960702/73924_01.htm
The "strategic dossier" of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) of 9 September 2002 assesses the likelihood of Iraq retaining a stockpile of biological weapons:
"Any botulinum toxin produced in 1989-90 would no longer be useful" (p.40).
(iv) Clostridium perfringens (gas gangrene) and peptone, aflatoxin
Department of Defense, 8 October 2002, slide 24: Gas gangrene and Aflatoxin production levels were not confirmed as correlating with the amount Iraq has declared.
State Department, 19 December 2002: "The UN Special Commission concluded that Iraq did not verifiably account for, at a minimum, 2160kg of growth media. This is enough to produce [...] 5500 liters of clostridium perfrigens -- 16 times the amount Iraq declared."
White House, January 2003, p.5: "The UN Special Commission concluded that Iraq did not verifiably account for, at a minimum, 2160kg of growth media. This is enough to produce [...] 2200 liters of aflatoxin, a carcinogen."
Evaluation. For Clostridium perfringens, the UNSCOM report of January 1999 (Appendix III) could not account for 1100kg of its growth media, peptone.
Iraq has stated that 700kg of peptone were stolen when after it was evacuated from al-Hakam, Iraq's main biological weapons site, during the Gulf War. However, UNSCOM has asserted that it "has reason to believe" that this material was not stolen, hence its claim that Iraq could have produced 16 times more perfringens than it has accounted for (in its January 1999 report, Appendix III). UNSCOM does not provide the basis for its claim that the material was not stolen; and, confusingly, later in the report qualifies this assessment by describing Iraq's claim as "probably untrue".
Other claims by Iraq hold more credibility: it claims that it unilaterally destroyed a quantity of growth media at a site adjacent to al-Hakam prior to the arrival of inspectors in 1991. UNSCOM was not able to account for how much material was destroyed at this site; it "confirmed that media was burnt and buried there but the types and quantities are not known", and thus could not reduce the quantity of material still classified as unaccounted for (in its January 1999 report, Appendix III).
Clostridium perfringens consists of anaerobic bacilli, which have a short shelf life.
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "We know from Iraq's past admissions that it has successfully weaponized [...] ricin."
Evaluation. This seems to be untrue. UNSCOM stated in its January 1999 report, Appendix III, that Iraq only admitted to attempting field trials using 155mm artillery shells in November 1990.
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "Saddam Hussein has [..] the wherewithal to develop smallpox."
Evaluation. This seems to be highly unlikely. Either Iraq had been able to preserve live smallpox virus from the early 1970s (when there was the last outbreak inside the country), without any detection or admission by the former head of its biological weapons programme (who defected in August 1995). Or it must have imported it: the only known stocks are in Russia and the US, and there is no indication these stocks have been compromised. UNSCOM did not consider smallpox to be an item of concern in Iraq, and did not mention it in their reports.
(a) al-Dawrah (also known as al-Manal)
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.8: "The al-Dawrah Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Facility is one of two known biocontainment level-three facilities in Iraq that have an extensive air handling and filtering system. Iraq has admitted that this was a biological weapons facility. In 2001, Iraq announced that it would begin renovating the plant without UN approval, ostensibly to produce vaccines that it could more easily and more quickly import through the UN."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.22: "Facilities of concern include: [..] the al-Dawrah Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Institute which was involved in biological agent production and research before the Gulf War".
CIA, October 2002, p.16: "The al-Dawrah Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) Vaccine Facility is one of two known Biocontainment Level-3 - facilities in Iraq with an extensive air handling and filtering system. Iraq admitted that before the Gulf war Al-Dawrah had been a BW agent production facility. UNSCOM attempted to render it useless for BW agent production in 1996 but left some production equipment in place because UNSCOM could not prove it was connected to previous BW work. In 2001, Iraq announced it would begin renovating the plant without UN approval, ostensibly to produce a vaccine to combat an FMD outbreak. In fact, Iraq easily can import all the foot-and-mouth vaccine it needs through the UN."
Evaluation. Prior to 1991, al-Dawrah was engaged in research on viral warfare agents. In March 2001, the Government of Iraq wrote to the UN Secretary-General to notify him of the reactivation of this facility for the production of foot and mouth vaccine. This was in the aftermath of a severe outbreak of the disease, during which "at least 400,000 animals have died for lack of the vaccine", and the Executive Director of the UN Iraq Programme himself recommended the reconstitution of Iraq's own facilities for producing the vaccine (AP, 3 July 1999). The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned in February 1999 that "Iraq would need to import the vaccines required to fight foot-and-mouth disease [...] Procurement of the vaccines and their timely delivery is vital to safeguarding animal health, which is an essential component of food security in the region. [...] The government has been unable to adequately monitor and control the spread of these diseases, partly because of the difficulties it has in obtaining equipment and supplies, particularly vaccines. As a result the Iraqi government has repeatedly sought the assistance of FAO to deal with the outbreaks" (emphasis added).
Permission from the UN Sanctions Committee to import foot and mouth vaccine was inconsistent. The UN Secretary-General reported on 22 February 1999 that "Only two batches of vaccines, ordered under phases I and IV have been made available, amounting to approximately 500,000 doses. This is not enough to contain the outbreak, and FAO's estimate of the cost for procuring sufficient vaccines and facilities is in excess of 15 million." (para.14). According to a Reuters report of 13 April 1999, the US had again held up Iraq's purchase of the vaccine in the UN Sanctions Committee for a short period of time. Although Iraq has in general been able to import the vaccine under the oil-for-food programme since that date, especially as the vaccine is not on the May 2002 list of items that need to be reviewed by the Sanctions Committee prior to import, there may in 2001 have been suspicions that an indigenous facility would be necessary in the event of a renewed obstructionist US role on the Sanctions Committee.
A number of journalists have visited al-Dawrah since this date. On 12 August 2002, a reporter from Russian news agency RIA-Novosti recounted that: "Journalists were shown empty shops at the plant, and dark, dusty premises with no light. Electric cables and various pipes along the walls had been cut through. Remnants of structures and equipment were piled on the floor." The former UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, visited the site in July 2002, and recorded that "There's no sign of human activity. You go in there. It's dusty and destroyed, there's no electricity. When I went in there in July, it was completely disabled and destroyed, and I think in fact that only the shell is something one could possibly use. The rest needs to be totally rebuilt."
Results of UN inspection: "By the time the inspectors left the plant today, after four hours, they had concluded that the plant was no longer operational -- not for the production of toxins, and not for animal vaccines either. Reporters who were allowed to wander through the plant after the inspectors left found the place largely in ruins. Apparently, it had been abandoned by the Iraqis after 1996, when the weapons inspectors took heavy cutting equipment to the fermenters, containers and pressurized tubing and valves used in the toxin production." ("Inspectors Find Only Ruins at an Old Iraqi Weapons Site", New York Times, 29 November 2002).
(b) Fallujah III (100km west of Baghdad)
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.22: "Facilities of concern include the Castor Oil Production Plant at Fallujah: this was damaged in UK/US air attacks in 1998 (Operation Desert Fox) but has been rebuilt. The residue from the castor bean pulp can be used in the production of the biological agent ricin".
Highlighted also in Department of Defense, 8 October 2002.
CIA, October 2002, pp.16-17: "The Fallujah III Castor Oil Production Plant is situated on a large complex with an historical connection to Iraq's CW program. Of immediate BW concern is the potential production of ricin toxin. Castor bean pulp, left over from castor oil production, can be used to extract ricin toxin. Iraq admitted to UNSCOM that it manufactured ricin and field-tested it in artillery shells before the Gulf war. Iraq operated this plant for legitimate purposes under UNSCOM scrutiny before 1998 when UN inspectors left the country. Since 1999, Iraq has rebuilt major structures destroyed during Operation Desert Fox. Iraqi officials claim they are making castor oil for brake fluid, but verifying such claims without UN inspections is impossible."
Evaluation. The official purpose of the production of castor oil is for brake fluids. The former UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, visited the site in July 2002, and recorded that "[the factory] is rusting away. I don't think it has seen any activity for a long time."
Results of UN inspection. UNMOVIC conducted an inspection of the Fallujah III site on 8 December 2002. An UNMOVIC-IAEA joint press release stated that "The site contains a number of tagged dual-use items of equipment, which were all accounted for. Additionally, all key buildings at the site were inspected. The objectives of the visit were successfully achieved."
(c) Amariyah Serum and Vaccine Plant at Abu Ghraib, western Baghdad
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.22: "Facilities of concern include [...] the Amariyah Sera and Vaccine Plant at Abu Ghraib: UNSCOM established that this facility was used to store biological agents, seed stocks and conduct biological warfare associated genetic research prior to the Gulf War. It has now expanded its storage capacity."
CIA, October 2002, p.16: "The Amiriyah Serum and Vaccine Institute is an ideal cover location for BW research, testing, production, and storage. UN inspectors discovered documents related to BW research at this facility, some showing that BW cultures, agents, and equipment were stored there during the Gulf war. Of particular concern is the plant's new storage capacity, which greatly exceeds Iraq's needs for legitimate medical storage."
Evaluation. Journalists were allowed into the new buildings at this plant within two hours of the UK dossier's release, and reported that they found only empty fridges.
(d) New stationary facilities
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.8, sourcing "Secret Sites: Iraqi tells of Renovations at Sites for Chemical and Nuclear Arms," The New York Times, December 20, 2001: "In 2001, an Iraqi defector, Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, said he had visited twenty secret facilities for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Mr. Saeed, a civil engineer, supported his claims with stacks of Iraqi government contracts, complete with technical specifications. Mr. Saeed said Iraq used companies to purchase equipment with the blessing of the United Nations - and then secretly used the equipment for their weapons programs."
Evaluation. Specific sites were named by Adnan Saeed al-Haideri, a civil engineer and formerly the managing director of al-Fao construction firm, that he claimed had been specially constructed for the production of biological and chemical weapons. These include underground facilities.
He does not seem to have provided details in public of the production of nuclear weapons in Iraq, contrary to the State Department piece above; he also admits to not having visited a number of sites himself that he makes allegations about: "Saeed said that he had not visited the lab [underneath Saddam Hussein Hospital] and was not certain whether it was a storage facility for germs and other materials to be used in the program or a place where research and development was conducted" (the New York Times article of 20 December 2001, referred to in the State Department report). A further problem is that he seems to have admitted at a press conference that there was little evidence that the buildings were themselves engaged in the research or production of biological weapons: "He said he never heard people referring to germ warfare; instead, they called it 'chemical work'" (The Advertiser, Australia, 22 December 2001; contained here).
His public allegations (1,2,3,4) have focused on a "secret biological laboratory underneath the Saddam Hussein hospital in central Baghdad", facilities in Waziriya, a building in Quraiyat residential district, rebuilt facilities at al-Taji (for the production of mustard agents) and al-Misayad, a complex between Abu Ghraib and Mahmodia that works only at night, and a "clean room" in the Radwaniyya presidential complex in Baghdad. He also claimed that the facilities at al-Dawrah were being used for the production of biological weapons.
Since these claims were made, some of these sites have been visited by inspectors from UNMOVIC's biological teams. At al-Taji, there have been inspections on 19 December 2002 (of al-Baetar centre's Veterinary Drug Research Production Centre, the Chemical Production and Analysis facility, and the Biological Research and Development Department) and 25 December 2002 (of the former Single Cell Protein Plant, which now used by a liquid propane gas-filling company). al-Dawrah has also been inspected, as recounted above. A site in Waziriya has also been inspected by UNMOVIC on 2 December 2002, although it was not disclosed if this was the same location as referred to by Haideri.
According to The Times (12 July 2002), Haideri was given a three-week "debriefing" by Nabil Musawi, spokesman for the opposition Iraqi National Congress, in Bangkok. He was further "debriefed" by officials from the US State Department. These sessions with parties committed to the overthrow of the present government seem to have occurred prior to the production of his detailed allegations. As such, and coupled with the fact that his claims about at least one specific facility has not been borne out in the inspections process, his credibility is open to question. However, it would take the detailed examination of the sites that Haideri mentions before a more accurate assessment is possible. As UNMOVIC will be able to investigate these facilities if Iraqi cooperation is maintained, a reliable indication of the reliability of the information he has provided should be forthcoming.
With regard to underground facilities, Hans Blix in his 7 March 2003 statement to the Security Council gave an account of investigations that have taken place:
"During inspections of declared or undeclared facilities, inspection teams have examined building structures for any possible underground facilities. In addition, ground penetrating radar equipment was used in several specific locations. No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found so far."
(e) New mobile facilities
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.6: "Iraq has [..] developed mobile laboratories for military use, corroborating earlier reports about the mobile production of biological warfare agents"
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.18: "There was intelligence that Iraq was starting to produce biological warfare agents in mobile production facilities. Planning for the project had begun in 1995 under Dr Rihab Taha, known to have been a central player in the pre-Gulf War programme."
CIA, October 2002, p.17: "UNSCOM uncovered a document on Iraqi Military Industrial Commission letterhead indicating that Iraq was interested in developing mobile fermentation units, and an Iraqi scientist admitted to UN inspectors that Iraq was trying to move in the direction of mobile BW production."
CIA, October 2002, p.2: "Baghdad has established a large-scale, redundant, and concealed BW agent production capability, which includes mobile facilities; these facilities can evade detection, are highly survivable, and can exceed the production rates Iraq had prior to the Gulf war."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.22: "UNSCOM established that Iraq considered the use of mobile biological agent production facilities. In the past two years evidence from defectors has indicated the existence of such facilities. Recent intelligence confirms that the Iraqi military have developed mobile facilities. These would help Iraq conceal and protect biological agent production from military attack or UN inspection."
State Department, 19 December 2002: "The Iraqi declaration provides no information about its mobile biological weapon agent facilities. Instead it insists that these are 'refrigeration vehicles and food testing laboratories.' What is the Iraqi regime trying to hide about their mobile biological weapon facilities?" (partially repeated in White House, January 2003, p.6).
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Washington, 19 December 2002: "we know that in the late 1990s, Iraq built mobile biological weapons production units. Yet, the declaration tries to waive this away, mentioning only mobile refrigeration vehicles and food-testing laboratories."
Secretary Powell, 26 January 2003: "Where are the mobile vans that are nothing more than biological weapons laboratories on wheels?".
President Bush, 28 January 2003: "From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them."
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq's biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents. [...]. We have firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails. The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War. Although Iraq's mobile production program began in the mid-1990s, U.N. inspectors at the time only had vague hints of such programs. Confirmation came later, in the year 2000. The source was an eye witness, an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities. He actually was present during biological agent production runs. He was also at the site when an accident occurred in 1998. Twelve technicians died from exposure to biological agents. He reported that when UNSCOM was in country and inspecting, the biological weapons agent production always began on Thursdays at midnight because Iraq thought UNSCOM would not inspect on the Muslim Holy Day, Thursday night through Friday. He added that this was important because the units could not be broken down in the middle of a production run, which had to be completed by Friday evening before the inspectors might arrive again. [...] His eye-witness account of these mobile production facilities has been corroborated by other sources. A second source, an Iraqi civil engineer in a position to know the details of the program, confirmed the existence of transportable facilities moving on trailers. A third source, also in a position to know, reported in summer 2002 that Iraq had manufactured mobile production systems mounted on road trailer units and on rail cars. Finally, a fourth source, an Iraqi major, who defected, confirmed that Iraq has mobile biological research laboratories, in addition to the production facilities I mentioned earlier. We have diagrammed what our sources reported about these mobile facilities. [...] As shown in this diagram, these factories can be concealed easily, either by moving ordinary-looking trucks and rail cars along Iraq's thousands of miles of highway or track, or by parking them in a garage or warehouse or somewhere in Iraq's extensive system of underground tunnels and bunkers. We know that Iraq has at lest seven of these mobile biological agent factories. The truck-mounted ones have at least two or three trucks each. That means that the mobile production facilities are very few, perhaps 18 trucks that we know of-there may be more-but perhaps 18 that we know of."
Evaluation. Much of the speculation about Iraq's mobile production facilities began from the statement from Lt. Gen. Amer Al-Saadi that the creation of such facilities was once considered. However, he - and the Iraqi government - have denied that any mobile biological weapon agents facilities have ever been built. Iraq did have 47 mobile storage tanks participating in its biological weapons programme; UNSCOM has accounted for the destruction of 24 of these tanks, but its January 1999 report (Appendix III) notes that the unaccounted for tanks "can be used for long-term storage of agent under controlled conditions or modified to function as fermentors suitable for the production of BW agent". However, there has been no independent confirmation that any tanks have been modified in this way.
Much of the further alleged information about Iraq's facilities has come from defectors from Iraq, who claim to have witnessed such facilities: four such defectors are described in Secretary Powell's statement of 5 February 2003. This is a notoriously unreliable source.
The claims of the first defector described by Powell are perhaps the least credible. Raymond Zilinskas, a microbiologist and former U.N. weapons inspector (now director of Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies), was reported in the Washington Post as saying that a 24-hour production cycle was insufficient for creating significant amounts of pathogens such as anthrax.
"You normally would require 36 to 48 hours just to do the fermentation. The short processing time seems suspicious to me. [..] The only reason you would have mobile labs is to avoid inspectors, because everything about them is difficult. We know it is possible to build them -- the United States developed mobile production plants, including one designed for an airplane -- but it's a big hassle. That's why this strikes me as a bit far-fetched."
The Washington Post further reported that:
"Zilinskas and other experts said the schematic presented by Powell as an example of Iraq's mobile labs was theoretically workable but that turning the diagram into a functioning laboratory posed enormous challenges -- such as how to dispose of large quantities of highly toxic waste."
"Despite Defectors' Accounts, Evidence Remains Anecdotal", by Joby Warrick, Washington Post (6 February 2003).
The second source seems to be Adnan Saeed al-Haideri, whose standing is discussed above. It seems that he did not make any claims about mobile facilities in his first press conferences - none of the reports on those press conferences mention mobile facilities. Instead, he only began to refer to them in mid-2002, some six months after his first accounts. This would automatically cast some suspicion on the reliability of the new information that he is now providing.
Hans Blix has warned against attributing significance to UNMOVIC's inability to find any mobile facilities:
"We do go around and we check into industries, chemical industries, for instance, or pharmaceutical industries, into military installations. And so we can check a good deal. But you cannot check in every nook and corner of a large country. Above all, there's difficulty of course in finding things underground or anything that is mobile."
However, in his 7 March 2003 statement to the Security Council, he gave an account of investigations that have taken place:
"Several inspections have taken place at declared and undeclared sites in relation to mobile production facilities. Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities has so far been found. Iraq is expected to assist in the development of credible ways to conduct random checks of ground transportation."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.18: "Iraq had also been trying to procure dual-use materials and equipment which could be used for a biological warfare programme."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.21: "Some dual-use equipment has also been purchased, but without monitoring by UN inspectors Iraq could have diverted it to their biological weapons programme."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.18: "Personnel known to have been connected to the biological warfare programme up to the Gulf War had been conducting research into pathogens."
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.10, sourcing UNSCOM final report: "Discrepancies identified by UNSCOM in Saddam Hussein's declarations suggest that Iraq retains a small force of Scud-type missiles and an undetermined number of launchers and warheads."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.6: "illegally retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles,with a range of 650km, capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads"
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.28: "According to intelligence, Iraq has retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles, in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 687. These missiles were either hidden from the UN as complete systems, or re-assembled using illegally retained engines and other components."
Department of Defense, 8 October 2002 (slides 23 and 26): 7 to 20 SCUD-Type missiles, 45 to 70 missile warheads, and 15,000 to 20,000 rockets are unaccounted for.
CIA, October 2002, p.18: "Iraq never fully accounted for its existing missile programs. Discrepancies in Baghdad's declarations suggest that Iraq retains a small force of extended-range Scud-type missiles and an undetermined number of launchers and warheads."
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "numerous intelligence reports over the past decade from sources inside Iraq indicate that Saddam Hussein retains a covert force of up to a few dozen Scud-variant ballistic missiles. These are missiles with a range of 650 to 900 kilometers."
Evaluation. The claims about a retained stock of ballistic missiles seem unlikely. According to Unscom, by 1997, 817 out of Iraq's known 819 ballistic missiles had been certifiably destroyed. On the worst-case assumption that Iraq has salvaged some of the parts for these missiles and has reconstructed them since 1998, even Charles Duelfer - former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, deputy head of UNSCOM and strong proponent of an invasion of Iraq - has provided an estimate of only 12 to 14 missiles held by Iraq.
(a) al-Mamoun (65km southwest of Baghdad)
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.10: "At their al-Mamoun facility, the Iraqis have rebuilt structures that had been dismantled by UNSCOM that were originally designed to manufacture solid propellant motors for the Badr-2000 missile program."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.30: "Iraq has managed to rebuild much of the missile production infrastructure destroyed in the Gulf War and in Operation Desert Fox in 1998. New missile-related infrastructure is also under construction. Some aspects of this, including rocket propellant mixing and casting facilities at the al-Mamoun Plant, appear to replicate those linked to the prohibited Badr-2000 programme (with a planned range of 700-1000km) which were destroyed in the Gulf War or dismantled by UNSCOM. A new plant at al-Mamoun for indigenously producing ammonium perchlorate, which is a key ingredient in the production of solid propellant rocket motors, has also been constructed. This has been provided illicitly by NEC Engineers Private Limited, an Indian chemical engineering firm with extensive links in Iraq, including to other suspect facilities such as the Fallujah 2 chlorine plant. After an extensive investigation, the Indian authorities have recently suspended its export licence, although other individuals and companies are still illicitly procuring for Iraq."
CIA, October 2002, pp.21-22: "At the Al-Mamoun Solid Rocket Motor Production Plant and RDT&E Facility, the Iraqis, since the December 1998 departure of inspectors, have rebuilt structures damaged during the Gulf war and dismantled by UNSCOM that originally were built to manufacture solid propellant motors for the Badr-2000 program. They also have built a new building and are reconstructing other buildings originally designed to fill large Badr-2000 motor casings with solid propellant. Also at al-Mamoun, the Iraqis have rebuilt two structures used to "mix" solid propellant for the Badr-2000 missile. The new buildings - about as large as the original ones - are ideally suited to house large, UN-prohibited mixers. In fact, the only logical explanation for the size and configuration of these mixing buildings is that Iraq intends to develop longer-range, prohibited missiles."
CIA, October 2002, p.22: "The Iraqis have completed a new ammonium perchlorate production plant at Mamoun that supports Iraq's solid propellant missile program. Ammonium perchlorate is a common oxidizer used in solid propellant missile motors. Baghdad would not have been able to complete this facility without help from abroad."
Brought up by State Department, 19 December 2002: "Iraq has disclosed manufacturing new energetic fuels suited only to a class of missile to which it does not admit. [..] Why is the Iraqi regime manufacturing fuels for missiles it says it does not have?"
Evaluation. The allegation from the UK dossier that an Indian firm, NEC Engineers Private Ltd, provided a plant for producing ammonium perchlorate has been strongly disputed by the firm in question. A review is contained in this article from the Asian Times. It appears that the trial of Rajiv Dhir, the general manager of the firm, for violating India's export controls is ongoing. However, the company's manager denies that his firm even has the capacity to produce the chemical in question.
UNMOVIC have confirmed that Iraq did rebuild casting chambers for missiles that UNSCOM had dismantled (eg on 16 February 2003).
CIA, October 2002, p.21: "The Al-Mutasim Solid Rocket Motor and Test Facility, previously associated with Iraq's Badr-2000 solid-propellant missile program, has been rebuilt and expanded in recent years. The al-Mutasim site supports solid-propellant motor assembly, rework, and testing for the UN-authorized Ababil-100, but the size of certain facilities there, particularly those newly constructed between the assembly rework and static test areas, suggests that Baghdad is preparing to develop systems that are prohibited by the UN."
Evaluation. al-Mutasim's rocket production facilities, based 60km south of Baghdad, were inspected by "an experienced UNMOVIC missile specialist" on 12 December 2002. See the IAEA / UNMOVIC joint press statement. Further inspections occurred on 15 December 2002, and 14, 19 and 21 January 2003. Latest inspections took place on 5, 9 and 24 February 2003.
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.10: "Iraq continues work on the al-Samoud liquid propellant short-range missile (which can fly beyond the allowed 150 kilometers). The al-Samoud and the solid propellant Ababil-100 appeared in a military parade in Baghdad on December 31, 2000, suggesting that both systems are nearing operational deployment."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.6: "Iraq has [..] started deploying its al-Samoud liquid propellant missile, and has used the absence of weapons inspectors to work on extending its range to at least 200km, which is beyond the limit of 150km imposed by the United Nations" (reiterated at p.27).
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.6: "Iraq has [..] started producing the solid-propellant Ababil-100, and is making efforts to extend its range to at least 200km, which is beyond the limit of 150km imposed by the United Nations" (reiterated at p.27).
CIA, October 2002, p.19: "The al-Samoud liquid propellant SRBM and the Ababil-100 solid propellant SRBM, however, are capable of flying beyond the allowed 150km range. Both missiles have been tested aggressively and are in early deployment."
State Department, 19 December 2002: "Iraq claims that flight-testing of a larger diameter missile falls within the 150km limit. This claim is not credible."
White House, January 2003, p.5: "Iraq claims that its designs for a larger diameter missile fall within the UN-mandated 150km limit. But Dr. Blix has cited 13 recent Iraqi missile tests which exceed the 150km limit."
5 February 2003: "We know from intelligence and Iraq's own admissions
that Iraq's alleged permitted ballistic missiles, the al-Samoud II and the Al-Fatah,
violate the 150-kilometer limit established by this Council in Resolution 687."
Evaluation. Iraq incorporated into its declaration of 7 December 2002 its claims about the status of these new projects. According to Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, in his notes for briefing the Security Council of 19 December 2002:
As the declaration is not in the public realm, it is impossible to assess the material that Iraq has provided. However, it seems that the claim of the State Department and White House in response to Iraq's dossier is incorrect: Iraq has admitted that the range of al-Samoud is greater than 150km.
On 27 January 2003, Blix reported:
As part of the evidence-collection, on 12 December an UNMOVIC - IAEA joint press statement recorded the following test:
UNMOVIC have not disclosed the specific missile programme, but is presumably the Ababil-100 (otherwise known as al-Fatah) programme, as this missile (unlike al-Samoud) is a modified version of the artillery rocket with a 100km range that was designed before the 1991 war.
A further test was conducted on 9 January 2003: "An UNMOVIC missile team witnessed a static test firing of the Al Samoud missile engine late in the afternoon yesterday, 9 January, after the morning test was postponed for technical reasons." Further static tests were conducted on 12 January and 23 February 2003. No further details were disclosed in either case.
On 14 February 2003, Blix confirmed that the al-Samoud II was indeed capable of exceeding 150km, and was therefore proscribed. The Iraqi government seemed to have accepted the discontination of this programme, including the tagging of al-Samoud missiles on 16 February 2003 to allow the detection of their movement. Inspections of facilities used in the production of al-Samoud have continued, and on 18, 19 and 20 February 2003 the missiles were tagged.
On 21 February, Blix confirmed in a letter that al-Samoud II missiles and associated items were considered proscribed, and he listed a number of items, including all al-Samoud II missiles and warheads, fuel and oxidizer, 380 SA-2 missile engines, and all engine components associated with this SA-2 engine that needed to be destroyed.
On 27 February 2003, Iraq sent a letter to UNMOVIC, which stated - according to the UNMOVIC spokesman - "that they agree in principle to the UNMOVIC request to start destroying the Al Samoud 2 missiles and other associated items by the first of March." Technical discussions were held on 28 February to ensure that UN inspectors could guide and supervise the destruction of the missiles, their components and associated systems.
The process of destruction began on 1 March 2003, with four al-Samoud II missiles and a casting chamber destroyed on that day. Warheads and the second casting chamber were destroyed on 3 March. On 4 March, UNMOVIC reported that "Now the two casting chambers are considered totally destroyed." A missile launcher and engines were also destroyed on 4 March. By 10 March, 52 missiles out of a total of about 120 had been destroyed, together with 19 warheads
The progress in the destruction of al-Samoud II missiles was noted by Hans Blix in his 7 March 2003 statement to the Security Council:
CIA, October 2002, p.19: "The Al-Rafah-North Liquid Propellant Engine Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E) Facility is Iraq's principal site for the static testing of liquid propellant missile engines. Baghdad has been building a new test stand there that is larger than the test stand associated with al-Samoud engine testing and the defunct Scud engine test stand. The only plausible explanation for this test facility is that Iraq intends to test engines for longer-range missiles prohibited under UNSCR 687."
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.10: "The al-Rafah-North facility is Iraq's principal site for testing liquid propellant missile engines. Iraq has been building a new, larger test stand there that is clearly intended for testing prohibited longer-range missile engines."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.6: "Iraq has [..] constructed a new engine test stand for the development of missiles capable of reaching the UK Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus and NATO members (Greece and Turkey), as well as all Iraq's Gulf neighbours and Israel"
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.29: "Intelligence has confirmed that Iraq wants to extend the range of its missile systems to over 1000km, enabling it to threaten other regional neighbours. This work began in 1998, although efforts to regenerate the long-range ballistic missile programme probably began in 1995. Iraq's missile programmes employ hundreds of people. Satellite imagery has shown a new engine test stand being constructed, which is larger than the current one used for al-Samoud, and that formerly used for testing SCUD engines which was dismantled under UNSCOM supervision. This new stand will be capable of testing engines for medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) with ranges over 1000km,which are not permitted under UN Security Council Resolution 687. Such a facility would not be needed for systems that fall within the UN permitted range of 150km. The Iraqis have recently taken measures to conceal activities at this site. Iraq is also working to obtain improved guidance technology to increase missile accuracy."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.30: "Iraq might achieve a missile capability of over 1000km within 5 years".
5 February 2003 [displaying slide
35: al-Rafah liquid engine test facility in Iraq]: "Iraq has programs
that are intended to produce ballistic missiles that fly over 1,000 kilometers.
One program is pursuing a liquid fuel missile that would be able to fly more
than 1,200 kilometers. [...] Iraq has built an engine test stand that is larger
than anything it has ever had. Notice the dramatic difference in size between
the test stand on the left, the old one, and the new one on the right. Note
the large exhaust vent. This is where the flame from the engine comes out. The
exhaust vent on the right test stand is five times longer than the one on the
left. The one of the left is used for short-range missiles. The one on the right
is clearly intended for long-range missiles that can fly 1,200 kilometers. This
photograph was taken in April of 2002. Since then, the test stand has been finished
and a roof has been put over it so it will be harder for satellites to see what's
going on underneath the test stand."
The relevant excerpt of the UNMOVIC / IAEA report of 21 January 2003 read:
Dr Blix made this point explicit in his briefing to the Security Council on 14 February 2003:
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.30: "Intelligence makes it clear that Iraqi procurement agents and front companies in third countries are seeking illicitly to acquire propellant chemicals for Iraq's ballistic missiles. This includes production level quantities of near complete sets of solid propellant rocket motor ingredients such as aluminium powder, ammonium perchlorate and hydroxyl terminated polybutadiene.There have also been attempts to acquire large quantities of liquid propellant chemicals such as Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and diethylenetriamene. We judge these are intended to support production and deployment of the al-Samoud and development of longer-range systems."
CIA, October 2002, p.22: "Iraqi intermediaries have sought production technology, machine tools, and raw materials in violation of the arms embargo. [...] In August 1995, Iraq was caught trying to acquire sensitive ballistic missile guidance components, including gyroscopes originally used in Russian strategic nuclear SLBMs, demonstrating that Baghdad has been pursuing proscribed, advanced, long-range missile technology for some time. Iraqi officials admitted that, despite international prohibitions, they had received a similar shipment earlier that year."
5 February 2003: "UNMOVIC has also reported that Iraq has illegally
imported 380 SA-2 rocket engines."
The Iraqi government does seem to have admitted that they managed to import missile parts in violation of the sanctions regime. The SA-2 missile engines are stored at Ibn Al Haytham. According to Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, in his notes for briefing the Security Council of 9 January 2003,
On 16 February 2003, UNMOVIC inspectors tagged the SA-2 missile engines, so that any illicit use could be detected. The process of destruction of these engines began in early March 2003, as recounted above (in the discussion of al-Samoud II missiles). By 9 March 2003, 5 engines had been destroyed.
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.9: "Iraq has not accounted for at least 15,000 artillery rockets that in the past were its preferred vehicle for delivering nerve agents.."
CIA, October 2002: "Iraq has not accounted for 15,000 artillery rockets that in the past were its preferred means for delivering nerve agents, nor has it accounted for about 550 artillery shells filled with mustard agent."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.16: "we assess that when the UN inspectors left Iraq they were unable to account for [...] over 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents."
State Department, 19 December 2002: "There is no adequate accounting for nearly 30,000 empty munitions that could be filled with chemical agents. Where are these munitions?"
State Department, 19 December 2002: "In January 1999, the UN Special Commission reported that Iraq failed to provide credible evidence that [...] 400 biological weapon-capable aerial bombs had been lost or destroyed. [...] Again, what is the Iraqi regime trying to hide by not providing this information?" (partially repeated in White House, January 2003, p.6).
White House, January 2003, p.6: "There is no adequate accounting for nearly 30,000 empty munitions that could be filled with chemical agents. If one of those shells were filled with the nerve agent Sarin, which Iraq is known to have produced, it would contain over 40,000 lethal doses."
Secretary Powell, 26 January 2003: "What happened to nearly 30,000 munitions capable of carrying chemical agents? The inspectors can only account for only 16 of them. Where are they? It's not a matter of ignoring the reality of the situation. Just think, all of these munitions, which perhaps only have a short range if fired out of an artillery weapon in Iraq, but imagine if one of these weapons were smuggled out of Iraq and found its way into the hands of a terrorist organization who could transport it anywhere in the world."
President Bush, 28 January 2003: "U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them -- despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them."
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "Saddam Hussein has never accounted for [...] 30,000 empty munitions [...]"
Evaluation: Artillery shells and Iraq's munitions have a very limited range, and could only be considered a threat to Iraq's own citizenry and those within a few kilometres of Iraq's borders. However, inspections have demonstrated that Iraq has retained at least a small number of chemical warheads.
On 16 January 2003, an UNMOVIC multidisciplinary team visited the Ukhaider Ammunition Storage Area, and found "11 empty 122 mm chemical warheads and one warhead that requires further evaluation. The warheads were in excellent condition and were similar to ones imported by Iraq during the late 1980’s." Further samples were taken from the 12th warhead on 18 and 28 January 2003. Both this warhead and the storage building are under IAEA seal. Iraq also declared 4 more items at al-Taji munitions stores on 20 January 2003, and these were inspected on 21 January 2003. UNMOVIC discovered another single empty warhead on 4 February 2003, and "an empty 122 mm Al Burak chemical warhead and an empty plastic chemical agent canister" on 9 February 2003, at al-Taji Ammunition Depot. The warheads were tagged and secured, and samples have been taken for analysis. Reports say that the range of the rockets for these warheads is 6 miles, and that they are all Sakr-18 warheads.
In subsequent interviews, the UNMOVIC Executive Chairman provided more details on the find:
He also seems to have warned against attributing too much significance to this find:
Hans Blix also corrected his earlier assessment that the warheads had been found in a new storage area:
The site at which the warheads were found, the Ukhaider Ammunition Storage Area, is a well-known storage site for Iraq's permitted artillery, and is frequently searched by inspectors. According to Raymond Zilinskas, a former UNSCOM biological weapons inspector and consultant to the US Department of State and the US Department of Defense (and director of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program, Monterey Institute of International Studies):
With regard to aerial bombs, Iraq claims to have destroyed these in the summer of 1991. On 19 February 2003, Iraq began to excavate Al Aziziya Range (100km southwest of Baghdad), the site of the purported destruction of bombs that had been filled with biological agents; it was visited by UNMOVIC's biological team from 25 February. In the news update of 26 February, UNMOVIC gave the following description:
On both 27 and 28 February, "Additional fragments of R-400 bombs were identified" (similarly, on 2 and 3 March). The contents of these bomb fragments were subject to analysis from 2 March 2003. A full account was provided by Hans Blix in his 7 March 2003 statement to the Security Council:
State Department, 12 September 2002, p.8, sourcing Proliferation: Threat and Response; Department of Defense (January 2001): "The Department of Defense reported in January 2001 that Iraq has continued to work on its weapons programs, including converting L-29 jet trainer aircraft for potential vehicles for the delivery of chemical or biological weapons."
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.22: "helicopter and aircraft borne sprayers:Iraq carried out studies into aerosol dissemination of biological agent using these platforms prior to 1991. UNSCOM was unable to account for many of these devices. It is probable that Iraq retains a capability for aerosol dispersal of both chemical and biological agent over a large area"
UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.23: "we know from intelligence that Iraq has attempted to modify the L- 29 jet trainer to allow it to be used as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) which is potentially capable of delivering chemical and biological agents over a large area."
CIA, October 2002, p.2: "Baghdad's UAVs - especially if used for delivery of chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents - could threaten Iraq's neighbors, US forces in the Persian Gulf, and the United States if brought close to, or into, the US Homeland."
CIA, October 2002, p.22: "Immediately before the Gulf war, Baghdad attempted to convert a MiG-21 into an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to carry spray tanks capable of dispensing chemical or biological agents. UNSCOM assessed that the program to develop the spray system was successful, but the conversion of the MiG-21 was not. More recently, Baghdad has attempted to convert some of its L-29 jet trainer aircraft into UAVs that can be fitted with chemical and biological warfare (CBW) spray tanks, most likely a continuation of previous efforts with the MiG-21. Although much less sophisticated than ballistic missiles as a delivery platform, an aircraft - manned or unmanned - is the most efficient way to disseminate chemical and biological weapons over a large, distant area. Iraq already has produced modified drop-tanks that can disperse biological or chemical agents effectively. Before the Gulf war, the Iraqis successfully experimented with aircraft- mounted spray tanks capable of releasing up to 2,000 liters of an anthrax simulant over a target area. Iraq also has modified commercial crop sprayers successfully and tested them with an anthrax simulant delivered by helicopters."
State Department, 19 December 2002: "Iraq denies any connection between UAV programs and chemical or biological agent dispersal. Yet, Iraq admitted in 1995 that a MIG-21 remote-piloted vehicle tested in 1991 was to carry a biological weapon spray system. Iraq already knows how to put these biological agents into bombs and how to disperse biological agent using aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles. Why do they deny what they have already admitted? Why has the Iraqi regime acquired the range and auto-flight capabilities to spray biological weapons?" (partially repeated in White House, January 2003, p.6).
Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: " Iraq has been working on a variety of UAVs for more than a decade. [...] This effort has included attempts to modify for unmanned flight the MiG-21 and, with greater success, an aircraft called the L-29. However, Iraq is now concentrating not on these airplanes but on developing and testing smaller UAVs such as this. UAVs are well suited for dispensing chemical and biological weapons. There is ample evidence that Iraq has dedicated much effort to developing and testing spray devices that could be adapted for UAVs. And in the little that Saddam Hussein told us about UAVs, he has not told the truth. One of these lies is graphically and indisputably demonstrated by intelligence we collected on June 27th last year. According to Iraq's December 7th declaration, its UAVs have a range of only 80 kilometers. But we detected one of Iraq's newest UAVs in a test flight that went 500 kilometers nonstop on autopilot in the racetrack pattern depicted here. Not only is this test well in excess of the 150 kilometers that the United Nations permits, the test was left out of Iraq’s December 7th declaration. The UAV was flown around and around and around in this circle and so that its 80-kilometer limit really was 500 kilometers, unrefueled and on autopilot -- violative of all of its obligations under 1441 [...]. Iraq could use these small UAVs which have a wingspan of only a few meters to deliver biological agents to its neighbors or, if transported, to other countries, including the United States."
Evaluation. The claims about Iraq's UAVs originate from an occasion in 1998 when small Czech-built L-29 training jets were spotted at Iraq's Talil airbase in 1998. A British defence official invoked the possibility that if these drones were flown at low altitudes under the right conditions, a single drone could unleash a toxic cloud engulfing several city blocks. He labelled them "drones of death". The hyperbole is misleading: even if Iraq has designed such planes, they would not serve their purpose, as drones are easy to shoot down. A simple air defence system would be enough to prevent the drones from causing damage to neighbouring countries. The L-29 has a total range of less than 400 miles: it would be all but impossible to use it in an attack on Israel. The only possibility for their use against western targets would be their potential deployment against invading troops.
The CIA report of October 2002 and Secretary Powell's statement of 5 February 2003, quoted above, invoke the possibility that these drones could cause widespread suffering in the US if they were transported to the US. How Iraq could possibly transport planes fitted with a mechanism for dispensing chemical or biological agents into the US is left unexplained, and would appear to be unexplainable.
Iraq's facilities in producing remote piloted vehicles (RPVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been repeatedly inspected. Most recently, UNMOVIC biological teams have on 4 March inspected the Ibn Fernas Centre in northern Baghdad; and on 5 March inspected the Samarra East Airfield (about 90km north of Baghdad), used for the flight-testing of RPVs.
GLEN RANGWALA, 3 January 2003. Last updated 7 March 2003.
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