Claims and evaluations of Iraq's proscribed weapons    






Summary of claims

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."

Key post-war readings: Bob Drogin, "The Vanishing", The New Republic,14 July 2003: includes detailed interviews with four Iraqi officials involved in activities relating to chemical weapons facilities before and after 1991.


(a) Existing chemical weapons

(i) General

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 be noted firstly 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. This point was acknowledged by UNMOVIC in its 6 March 2003 working document, specifically about remaining warheads which had been filled with chemical agents, but seemingly applicable to any storage of chemical weapons:

"While 155-mm projectiles filled with Mustard could be stored for decades, it is less likely that any remaining warheads filled with nerve agents would still be viable combat munitions."

UNMOVIC, "Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), p.55.

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." [sic]

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 the 6-page "Air Force" 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."

More details are provided in the UNMOVIC Working Document of 6 March 2003: "Unresolved Disarmament Issues", p.50:

"The 'Air Force document' recently received by UNMOVIC introduces additional uncertainty in accounting as it indicates that 6,526 fewer aerial CW bombs (of gauges 250, 500 and DB-2 types) had been “consumed” during the Iraq Iran War. Iraq has explained that the 'Air Force' document, which had been complied [sic] by one of its officers in 1995, was incomplete. According to Iraq, data on consumption of CW filled munitions positioned at three airbases was not included as the airbases had been occupied in 1991 and the records destroyed. This explanation is being reviewed by UNMOVIC."

Of these, 450 aerial bombs contained mustard, and would still be viable ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", pp.76-77). The others, containing Sarin and Tabun, would no longer be of use (see below).

(ii) VX

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."

State Department, 27 February 2003: "The UN concluded that Iraq had not accounted for 1.5 tons of the VX agent. Just one drop is enough to kill a person."

Evaluation. Iraq attempted to produce VX nerve agent using four different methods from 1987 to 1991. These are detailed in UNMOVIC's working paper, "Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), pp.79-83. Iraq declared that it produced 2.4 tonnes of VX in production trials from late 1987 to May 1988, but that this material degraded rapidly and was completely destroyed later in 1988. This account has been generally accepted (ibid., pp.79-80).

Iraq also produced 1.5 tonnes according to a second method (which UNMOVIC refer to as "route B") from April 1988 to April 1990. It is this quantity that the UK and Secretary Powell, among others, are referring to above. However, 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 at first denied the production of VX. When confronted with the evidence of its past VX production by UNSCOM, to explain the lack of documentary proof of the destruction of this quantity of VX, it "provided UNSCOM with handwritten notes that recorded the issuance of oral instructions, inter alia, to destroy any evidence indicating the presence of VX and a key precursor of VX, 'Iraqi choline'" ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.80).

Since then, it has provided further material from late February 2003 and on 14 March 2003 to substantiate its case, material that is currently being assessed.

Secondly, VX produced according to "route B" degrades rapidly. According to UNMOVIC:

"VX produced through route B must be used relatively quickly after production (about 1 to 8 weeks), which would probably be satisfactory for wartime requirements."

"Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), p.82

This conclusion is confirmed by other independent assessments. For example, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (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).

Iraq also used two further methods to produce VX: route C seems to have been unsuccessful, but route D did result in the production of "high purity VX [..] in laboratory/pilot-scale equipment" ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.82). According to UNMOVIC, any VX produced according to route D could have been stabilised, and could remain viable. However, there is no evidence that Iraq did ever produce significant quantities of VX through route D. As UNMOVIC record:

"Based upon the documents provided by Iraq, it is doubtful that any significant quantities of VX were produced using this route before the Gulf war."

"Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), p.82.

Furthermore, it seems unlikely that Iraq would have produced VX through route D during the Gulf War due to the more complex process that would have been involved. As UNMOVIC record:

"During times of war, or imminent war, it would make sense for Iraq to produce VX through route B, which involves only about half as many process steps as route D."

"Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), p.82.

In April/May 1998, UNSCOM passed samples from missile warhead fragments to a United States laboratory, which reported in June 1998 that they had found VX degradation products on the missile warheads. This was seen as indicating at the time that Iraq had stabilised VX sufficiently and had managed to weaponise it (in contrast to the Government of Iraq's own claims). However, further tests on fragments from the same missile warheads at two other laboratories (in Switzerland and France), and at the same United States laboratory with further samples, "found no nerve agent degradation products" (ibid., p.82). The chemical in question "could also originate from other compounds such as precursors or, according to some experts, a detergent" (ibid., p.81).

Key post-war readings: Bob Drogin, "The Vanishing", The New Republic,14 July 2003: includes detailed interview with a senior scientist involved in the production of VX prior to 1990.

(iii) Mustard

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 [..]"

State Department, 27 February 2003: "UNMOVIC has reported that Iraq failed to provide evidence to account for 1,000 tons of mustard gas, 550 mustard gas-filled munitions [..]".

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:

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; it later (in March 2003) claimed that this figure was arrived at by way of approximating the amount used, for which reliable records are not available, and thus the quantity unaccounted for is simply a result of the use of unreliable approximations. UNMOVIC report that the 550 artillery shells would contain between them "a couple of tonnes of agent" ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.76). 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."

Technical problems were subsequently reported, but destruction continued from 25 February 2003, and was completed by 5 March 2003.

With regard to the "1,000 tons of mustard gas", referred to by the State Department on 27 February 2003, this seems to be an exaggeration. The only mustard that is unaccounted for except for the artillery shells is the discrepancy revealed in the Air Force document between the aerial bombs that Iraq claims it used in the Iran-Iraq war and the lower figure for those used in that document (see above). As Hans Blix said (quoted above), the total amount of chemical agents in these bombs could be around 1,000 tonnes. However, a considerable proportion of this would be made up of Sarin and Tabun bombs, agents that would not have lasted for more than a few months, and not mustard.

(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. It is generally accepted that Iraq stopped producing Tabun in 1986 (UNMOVIC accept that this account "is plausible and appears to be supported by UNSCOM’s findings", in "Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.68), in favour of concentrating on the producing of 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:

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:

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:

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)

UNMOVIC have also acknowledged this conclusion with regard to specific substances:

Tabun: "documentary evidence suggests that Tabun was produced using process technology and quality control methodologies that would result in the agent being degraded to a very low quality through the action of a resulting by-product." ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.68).

Sarin / Cyclosarin: "According to documents discovered by UNSCOM in Iraq, the purity of Sarin-type agents produced by Iraq were on average below 60%, and dropped below Iraq’s established quality control acceptance level of 40% by purity some 3 to 12 months after production. [...] There is no evidence that any bulk Sarin-type agents remain in Iraq - gaps in accounting of these agents are related to Sarin-type agents weaponized in rocket warheads and aerial bombs. Based on the documentation found by UNSCOM during inspections in Iraq, Sarin-type agents produced by Iraq were largely of low quality and as such, degraded shortly after production. Therefore, with respect to the unaccounted for weaponized Sarin-type agents, it is unlikely that they would still be viable today." ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, pp.72-73).

(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; methylphosphonyl difluoride (MPF) 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. It is noticeable also that UNMOVIC recorded on 6 March 2003 that "no evidence of precursors has so far been observed by UNMOVIC inspection teams" ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.74).


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. Indeed, UNMOVIC inspections have not discovered any facilities in Iraq currently engaged in the production of chemical or biological weapons. A significant example is the description provided by UNMOVIC for the facilities required to produce mustard agents:

"Iraq does not appear to have a dedicated facility capable of producing Mustard and its key precursors. Significant modifications would be required to convert existing chemical production facilities for this purpose. Iraq would have to utilize “corrosion resistant” equipment (for the processing of the chlorinating agent), which it possesses in limited quantities. However, Iraq had some items of dual-use equipment distributed all over the country at legitimate facilities that could be removed and assembled for the construction of a dedicated Mustard production plant".

("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.77).

The example of mustard is significant because, according to UNMOVIC, "Mustard would be the easiest agent for Iraq to produce indigenously." (ibid.)

(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.

Key post-war readings: Transcript of the evidence of "Mr A", consultant to the UK Counter Proliferation Arms Control Department, at the Hutton Inquiry (UK), para. 99:10-105:24.


(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".

The Guardian, 6 February 2003.

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.

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