Claims and evaluations of Iraq's proscribed weapons    
 

Nuclear

Biological

 
 

Biological

Biological

 

Summary of claims

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:

"In the context of the conventional battlefield, the nature and magnitude of the military BW threat has not changed materially since 1990 in terms of the number of countries suspected of developing BW capability, the types of BW agents they possess, or their ability to weaponize and deliver BW agents. This is particularly true regarding the ability to accumulate and deliver sufficient quantities of processed agent to cause mass casualties."

GAO Report GAO-02-445 (September 2002), p.3, at:
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d02445.pdf

Stockpile - existing biological weapons and growth media

(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 Aziziya 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."

State Department, 27 February 2003: "UN inspectors believe Iraq [..] can produce dry agent."

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."

UNMOVIC report that "Iraq’s interest in drying of BW agents appeared to focus on anthrax" ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.119). The discussion of attempts to dry anthrax are discussed at the end of the section below.

(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."

State Department, 27 February 2003: "Iraq declared producing nearly 8,500 liters but denied its ability to produce dry agent. UN inspectors believe Iraq may have produced 26,000 liters [...]."

Evaluation.

(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."

There are two sets of allegations relating to Iraq's production of anthrax that are relevant in assessing whether Iraq is likely to have produced more anthrax than it declared. Firstly, there is a claim that Iraq used its fermenters at al-Hakam, its known anthrax production site, at a greater capacity than it has declared previously: this is the source of the allegation from the US and UK that Iraq could have produced 25,000 litres of anthrax. Secondly, there is the more recent claim that Iraq could have produced anthrax in the period from 1 to 15 January 1991, a period in which it denies producing anthrax, both at al-Hakam and at another biological weapons site - al-Dawra Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Plant. Both claims rely upon an assessment that Iraq has not adequately accounted for its anthrax growth media, a claim that is itself disputable (see below).

The first case is that Iraq may have 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 8,445 litres of anthrax spores at al-Hakam, 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. 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. 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]".

However, Iraq's claim that it actually did not produce anthrax spores at the level at which its fermentors could have operated is substantiated by the only documentation found relating to that production. A 1990 annual report from al-Hakam indicates the levels of production at this 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 did not consider the 1990 al-Hakam report reliable, as it used 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.

The second case for the production of a greater volume of anthrax is made in UNMOVIC's working document, "Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), p.95-98. UNMOVIC claim that Iraq could have used its fermenters at al-Hakam and al-Dawra in the period from 1-15 January 1991 to produce 7,000 litres of anthrax, and that Iraq has not declared this anthrax. This report seems to accept that Iraq did produce 8,445 litres of anthrax in al-Hakam in 1990, on the basis of the al-Hakam annual report - which it refers to as a "credible document" (ibid., p.96); it focuses solely on what could have been produced in the fifteen days prior to the deadline imposed by Security Council Resolution 678 (1990) for the start of war.

This argument depends upon three interlinked claims:

1. that "after August 1990, anthrax production was given a high priority", and it would "not seem plausible" that Iraq stopped producing anthrax at the end of 1990 (p.96; also p.124);

2. that "UNSCOM found evidence of anthrax in two fermenters and a mobile storage tank at the Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine (FMDV) plant at Al Daura" (p.95);

3. that the quantity of growth media that could have been used at these two sites in that time period is roughly consistent with the amount that Iraq claims was lost or stolen (p.97; also p.125).

How plausible are these claims? For the above claims to be true, the following must also be valid, although they may seem to be implausible:

1. that Iraq did not move its anthrax production equipment out of its facilities in advance of the conflict, as it had claimed. "Iraq has declared that 'all dangerous munitions and materials and essential assets' were instructed to be evacuated from BW programme establishments by 15 January 1991. Accordingly, equipment including fermenters, and materials, such as bacterial growth media, were said to have been removed from Al Hakam facilities." (ibid., p.97). UNMOVIC provide no indication why this is not a plausible explanation of Iraq's claim that it stopped producing anthrax in advance of the deadline for conflict.

2. UNMOVIC accepts that "it is evident that anthrax was not produced at FMDV in that year [1990]" (ibid., p.96), despite the high priority given to anthrax production from August 1990. UNMOVIC's claim is tenable only if it would have been credible for Iraq to move part of its anthrax production to another site on 1 January 1991, and not before that date, even though Iraq knew that the deadline for war was only 15 days away. It seems much more plausible that Iraq either started its anthrax production at FMDV in or soon after August 1990, or it decided not to use that facility at all. UNMOVIC accepts that the evidence presented by Iraq rules out the first possibility.

3. that Iraq managed to use all of its growth media without any loss or spoilage.

4. that the traces of anthrax at al-Dawra FMDV are from industrial-scale production rather than from research work that was carried out over 1990. No evidence is presented to indicate that the latter explanation is not credible, although the size of the fermenters at FMDV is undisclosed. Hussein Kamel, to whom UNSCOM (and implicitly UNMOVIC) attributed some significance in his presentation of the high priority for the production of anthrax, seems to connect the work at al-Dawra in anthrax to research in the only publicly available transcript of an interview with UNSCOM (pp.6 and 7 of the transcript).

The uncertain nature of the claims made in the 6 March report is evidenced by the different figures used by Hans Blix five weeks earlier. In his update to the Security Council on 27 January 2003, Dr Blix provides a different set of figures from both the 6 March report and 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, and 2,000 litres less than that claimed in the 6 March report. 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 International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) dossier of 9 September 2002 states that "wet anthrax from [the 1989-90] period - if stored properly - would still be infectious." (p.40). Similarly, UNMOVIC record: "As a liquid suspension, anthrax spores produced 15 years ago could still be viable today if properly stored." ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.98).

There have been allegations that Iraq was researching drying technologies for anthrax. However, Iraqi attempts to purchase a dryer seem to have failed. As UNMOVIC record, "a foreign company was approached in 1989 in an attempt to acquire a special dust-free spray dryer suitable for the safe drying of anthrax spores. Documentation shows that, in 1990, the company could not obtain an export license for the dryer and the order lapsed. Iraq declared that no bulk spray drying was carried out, either of pathogenic or of non-pathogenic bacteria." ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.119).

As a result, UNMOVIC reached the following conclusions:

"It is most likely that, as it had declared, Iraq was unsuccessful in 1989/90 in acquiring a special dust-free spray dryer to safely dry large quantities of anthrax. [...] In any event, it seems likely that no bulk drying of agent took place in either 1989 or 1990. Apparently, in 1989, large-scale BW agent production was in its initial phase and Iraq was expecting to obtain from an overseas company a special dryer for its future requirements. Therefore, there seemed to be little reason, at that time, to modify existing dryers to make them safe for BW agent drying. An Al Hakam annual report for 1990 makes no reference to large scale drying of BW agents, implying that no drying occurred in that year either. The annual report, which UNMOVIC considers reliable, indicates that research into the drying of anthrax continued in 1990, but even this ceased for that year when the foreign company failed to supply the special dryer." (ibid., p.120)

Because no records of the Al Hakam facility exist for the first fifteen days of 1991, before the deadline for the commencement of the Gulf War, it has not been possible to conclude so firmly that no anthrax drying took place in that period. However, UNMOVIC appear to acknowledge that this is unlikely:

"UNMOVIC has no evidence that drying of anthrax or any other agent in bulk was conducted." (ibid., p.120)

In the absence of evidence that Iraq produced dried anthrax, Secretary Powell's comments about a teaspoon of anthrax 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. In particular, UNMOVIC admitted that "about 1400 kilogrammes of 'unknown' media components were destroyed under UNSCOM supervision" ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.124).

These factors, including especially the acceptance that unknown growth media has already been destroyed, indicate that any growth media that Iraq continues to hold will be considerable less than the quantity claimed by the UK and US. 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."

State Department, 27 February 2003: "Iraq declared 19,000 liters. The UN believes it could have produced more than double that amount."

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.

UNMOVIC further downgrade the quantity of growth media that Iraq could have retained for the production of botulinum toxin. UNMOVIC reached the following assessment:

"it seems unlikely that significant undeclared quantities of botulinum toxin could have been produced, based on the quantity of media unaccounted for."

("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.125).

Clostridium botulinum (botulinum toxin) consists of anaerobic bacilli, which have a short shelf life. As a result, UNMOVIC record:

"Any botulinum toxin that was produced and stored according to the methods described by Iraq and in the time period declared is unlikely to retain much, if any, of its potency. Therefore, any such stockpiles of botulinum toxin, whether in bulk storage or in weapons that remained in 1991, would not be active today."

("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.101).

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).

UNMOVIC record that "there is no evidence available to UNMOVIC that weaponisation [of Clostridium perfringens] occurred" ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.112).

With regard to aflatoxin, UNMOVIC report:

"Iraq declared that the entire amount of agent was destroyed. Such stocks would have degraded and would contain little if any viable agent in 2003."

("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.105).

(v) Ricin

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. UNMOVIC record:

"Iraq states that a single static field test was conducted in November 1990, that it was considered to be a failure and that the project was abandoned. While UNMOVIC finds it probable that this test occurred, the project was probably abandoned due to the onset of war rather than the failure of the test. Apart from this static field test using 155mm artillery shells, there is no evidence to suggest that Iraq weaponized ricin for military purposes."

("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.116).

(vi) Smallpox

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.

UNMOVIC mention smallpox only to record:

"there is no evidence that Iraq had possessed seed stocks for smallpox or had been actively engaged in smallpox research."

("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.129).

Production

(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."

Further UNMOVIC inspections have taken place on 19 December 2002, 6 January 2003 and 16 February 2003. An aerial inspection took place on 31 January 2003.

On 6 March 2003, UNMOVIC reported:

"The castor oil extraction plant at Fallujah III was destroyed in December 1998. UNMOVIC inspections since December 2002 have verified that the bombed castor oil extraction plant at Fallujah III has been reconstructed on a larger scale. However, the production seems to have ceased in July 2001."

("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.116).

(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.

An UNMOVIC biological team undertook a full inspection of this site on 15 December 2002, and again on 19 January 2003.

(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, UNMOVIC have investigated the facilities when locations have been provided to them:

"UNMOVIC has also received many reports of underground facilities involved in a range of proscribed activities from research to the production of CW and BW agents. Such facilities have been reported to be at locations throughout Iraq, from the mountains in the north, to buildings in Baghdad, including a Baghdad hospital. In some cases, where the location could be positively identified, inspectors have investigated the site using the tools available to them, including ground penetrating radar. However, in many cases, the locations have not been specific and, in such circumstances, further intelligence has been sought. The result, so far, is that no underground facility of special interest has been found."

UNMOVIC Working Document of 6 March 2003: "Unresolved Disarmament Issues: Iraq's Proscribed Weapons Programmes", p.13.

Hans Blix in his 7 March 2003 statement to the Security Council gave a further 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."

State Department, 27 February 2003: "Multiple sources confirm the existence of mobile units producing biological weapons, which Iraq denies."

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."

News Hour with Jim Lehrer, 19 December 2002

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."

Key post-war readings:

Imports

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."

Personnel

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."

   
   
Author: GLEN RANGWALA
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