Claims and evaluations of Iraq's proscribed weapons    






Ballistic missiles - retained stock

State Department, 12 September 2002, p.10, sourcing UNSCOM final report: "Discrepancies identified by UNSCOM in Saddam Hussein's declarations suggest that Iraq retains a small force of Scud-type missiles and an undetermined number of launchers and warheads."

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.6: "illegally retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles, with a range of 650km, capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads"

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.28: "According to intelligence, Iraq has retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles, in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 687. These missiles were either hidden from the UN as complete systems, or re-assembled using illegally retained engines and other components."

Department of Defense, 8 October 2002 (slides 23 and 26): 7 to 20 SCUD-Type missiles, 45 to 70 missile warheads, and 15,000 to 20,000 rockets are unaccounted for.

CIA, October 2002, p.18: "Iraq never fully accounted for its existing missile programs. Discrepancies in Baghdad's declarations suggest that Iraq retains a small force of extended-range Scud-type missiles and an undetermined number of launchers and warheads."

Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "numerous intelligence reports over the past decade from sources inside Iraq indicate that Saddam Hussein retains a covert force of up to a few dozen Scud-variant ballistic missiles. These are missiles with a range of 650 to 900 kilometers."

Evaluation. The claims about a retained stock of ballistic missiles seem unlikely. According to UNSCOM, by 1997, 817 out of Iraq's imported 819 Scud-B ballistic missiles had been certifiably destroyed. This finding was endorsed by UNSCOM commissioners in their report of November 1997 (para.7). On the worst-case assumption that Iraq has salvaged some of the parts for these missiles and has reconstructed them since 1998, even Charles Duelfer - former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, deputy head of UNSCOM and strong proponent of an invasion of Iraq - has provided an estimate of only 12 to 14 missiles held by Iraq.

There remain questions about Iraq's retained missile engines and warheads. Iraq produced 121 Scud-type warheads, and UNSCOM did not manage to find remnants of approximately 25 of them. Iraq also developed 7 engines, it claims, for training purposes, and states that these engines were destroyed in July 1991. UNSCOM was unable to verify this claim, but inspectors have yet to analyse the fragments Iraq claims were found from the destruction of these engines on 4 August 1997.

Ballistic missiles - rebuilt facilities

(a) al-Mamoun (65km southwest of Baghdad)

State Department, 12 September 2002, p.10: "At their al-Mamoun facility, the Iraqis have rebuilt structures that had been dismantled by UNSCOM that were originally designed to manufacture solid propellant motors for the Badr-2000 missile program."

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.30: "Iraq has managed to rebuild much of the missile production infrastructure destroyed in the Gulf War and in Operation Desert Fox in 1998. New missile-related infrastructure is also under construction. Some aspects of this, including rocket propellant mixing and casting facilities at the al-Mamoun Plant, appear to replicate those linked to the prohibited Badr-2000 programme (with a planned range of 700-1000km) which were destroyed in the Gulf War or dismantled by UNSCOM. A new plant at al-Mamoun for indigenously producing ammonium perchlorate, which is a key ingredient in the production of solid propellant rocket motors, has also been constructed. This has been provided illicitly by NEC Engineers Private Limited, an Indian chemical engineering firm with extensive links in Iraq, including to other suspect facilities such as the Fallujah 2 chlorine plant. After an extensive investigation, the Indian authorities have recently suspended its export licence, although other individuals and companies are still illicitly procuring for Iraq."

CIA, October 2002, pp.21-22: "At the Al-Mamoun Solid Rocket Motor Production Plant and RDT&E Facility, the Iraqis, since the December 1998 departure of inspectors, have rebuilt structures damaged during the Gulf war and dismantled by UNSCOM that originally were built to manufacture solid propellant motors for the Badr-2000 program. They also have built a new building and are reconstructing other buildings originally designed to fill large Badr-2000 motor casings with solid propellant. Also at al-Mamoun, the Iraqis have rebuilt two structures used to "mix" solid propellant for the Badr-2000 missile. The new buildings - about as large as the original ones - are ideally suited to house large, UN-prohibited mixers. In fact, the only logical explanation for the size and configuration of these mixing buildings is that Iraq intends to develop longer-range, prohibited missiles."

CIA, October 2002, p.22: "The Iraqis have completed a new ammonium perchlorate production plant at Mamoun that supports Iraq's solid propellant missile program. Ammonium perchlorate is a common oxidizer used in solid propellant missile motors. Baghdad would not have been able to complete this facility without help from abroad."

Brought up by State Department, 19 December 2002: "Iraq has disclosed manufacturing new energetic fuels suited only to a class of missile to which it does not admit. [..] Why is the Iraqi regime manufacturing fuels for missiles it says it does not have?"

Evaluation. The allegation from the UK dossier that an Indian firm, NEC Engineers Private Ltd, provided a plant for producing ammonium perchlorate has been strongly disputed by the firm in question. A review is contained in this article from the Asian Times. It appears that the trial of Rajiv Dhir, the general manager of the firm, for violating India's export controls is ongoing. However, the company's manager denies that his firm even has the capacity to produce the chemical in question.

UNMOVIC have confirmed that Iraq did rebuild casting chambers for missiles that UNSCOM had dismantled (eg on 16 February 2003).

al-Mamoun has subsequently been inspected by UNMOVIC teams of missile inspectors on 31 December 2002, on 3, 7 - 8 and 29 January 2003, and 1, 4, 9 - 10 and 16 February 2003.

(b) al-Mutasim, also known as Taj al-Ma'arik

CIA, October 2002, p.21: "The Al-Mutasim Solid Rocket Motor and Test Facility, previously associated with Iraq's Badr-2000 solid-propellant missile program, has been rebuilt and expanded in recent years. The al-Mutasim site supports solid-propellant motor assembly, rework, and testing for the UN-authorized Ababil-100, but the size of certain facilities there, particularly those newly constructed between the assembly rework and static test areas, suggests that Baghdad is preparing to develop systems that are prohibited by the UN."

Evaluation. al-Mutasim's rocket production facilities, based 60km south of Baghdad, were inspected by "an experienced UNMOVIC missile specialist" on 12 December 2002. See the IAEA / UNMOVIC joint press statement. Further inspections occurred on 15 December 2002, and 14, 19 and 21 January 2003. Latest inspections took place on 5, 9 and 24 February 2003. For an assessment of Ababil-100, see the analysis below.

Ballistic missiles - al-Samoud and Ababil-100 (al-Fatah)

State Department, 12 September 2002, p.10: "Iraq continues work on the al-Samoud liquid propellant short-range missile (which can fly beyond the allowed 150 kilometers). The al-Samoud and the solid propellant Ababil-100 appeared in a military parade in Baghdad on December 31, 2000, suggesting that both systems are nearing operational deployment."

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.6: "Iraq has [..] started deploying its al-Samoud liquid propellant missile, and has used the absence of weapons inspectors to work on extending its range to at least 200km, which is beyond the limit of 150km imposed by the United Nations" (reiterated at p.27).

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.6: "Iraq has [..] started producing the solid-propellant Ababil-100, and is making efforts to extend its range to at least 200km, which is beyond the limit of 150km imposed by the United Nations" (reiterated at p.27).

CIA, October 2002, p.19: "The al-Samoud liquid propellant SRBM and the Ababil-100 solid propellant SRBM, however, are capable of flying beyond the allowed 150km range. Both missiles have been tested aggressively and are in early deployment."

State Department, 19 December 2002: "Iraq claims that flight-testing of a larger diameter missile falls within the 150km limit. This claim is not credible."

White House, January 2003, p.5: "Iraq claims that its designs for a larger diameter missile fall within the UN-mandated 150km limit. But Dr. Blix has cited 13 recent Iraqi missile tests which exceed the 150km limit."

Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "We know from intelligence and Iraq's own admissions that Iraq's alleged permitted ballistic missiles, the al-Samoud II and the Al-Fatah, violate the 150-kilometer limit established by this Council in Resolution 687."

State Department, 27 February 2003: "Iraq admitted that multiple test flights of the al-Samoud 2 and al-Fat’h Ballistic Missiles exceeded the 150 kilometer limit set by the UN, but falsely declared that these missile systems comply with UN requirements. UNMOVIC declared al-Samoud 2 prohibited and should be destroyed."

Evaluation. Iraq incorporated into its declaration of 7 December 2002 its claims about the status of these new projects. According to Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, in his notes for briefing the Security Council of 19 December 2002:

"In the missile area, there is a go[o]d deal of information regarding Iraq's activities in the past few years. As declared by Iraq, these are permitted activities, which will be monitored by UNMOVIC to ensure that they comply with the relevant Council resolutions. A series of new projects have been declared that are at various stages of development. They include a design for a new liquid oxygen/ethanol propellant engine and replacement of guidance systems for several surface-to-air missiles. These projects will need to be investigated and evaluated by UNMOVIC."

As the declaration is not in the public realm, it is impossible to assess the material that Iraq has provided. However, it seems that the claim of the State Department (19 Dec 02) and White House in response to Iraq's dossier is incorrect: Iraq has admitted that the range of both al-Samoud II and al-Fatah in test flights has exceeded the 150km limit.

al-Samoud II

"In the missile area, Iraq has declared the development of a missile known as the Al Samoud, which uses components from an imported surface-to-air missile. A variant of the Al Samoud, with a larger diameter (760 mm) than the standard version (500 mm) has been declared. [...] In the latest update of the semi-annual monitoring declarations, Iraq has declared that in 13 flight tests of the Al Samoud the missile has exceeded the permitted range. The greatest range achieved was 183 kilometres."

Hans Blix, notes for briefing the Security Council of 19 December 2002

On 27 January 2003, Blix reported:

"During my recent meeting in Baghdad, we were briefed on these two programmes. We were told that the final range for both systems would be less than the permitted maximum range of 150 km. These missiles might well represent prima facie cases of proscribed systems. The test ranges in excess of 150 km are significant, but some further technical considerations need to be made, before we reach a conclusion on this issue. In the mean time, we have asked Iraq to cease flight tests of both missiles."

As part of the evidence-collection, on 12 December an UNMOVIC - IAEA joint press statement recorded the following test:

"An UNMOVIC team attended a test launch of a short-range ballistic missile being developed by Iraq. The test took place at a test range approximately 200 km west of Baghdad. The missile is a modified version of a missile already owned by Iraq. The missile range falls within that allowed under the UN resolutions. The UNMOVIC team was able to examine the missile before launch to verify its configuration."

UNMOVIC have not disclosed the specific missile programme, but is presumably the Ababil-100 (otherwise known as al-Fatah) programme, as this missile (unlike al-Samoud) is a modified version of the artillery rocket with a 100km range that was designed before the 1991 war.

A further test was conducted on 9 January 2003: "An UNMOVIC missile team witnessed a static test firing of the Al Samoud missile engine late in the afternoon yesterday, 9 January, after the morning test was postponed for technical reasons." Further static tests were conducted on 12 January and 23 February 2003. No further details were disclosed in either case.

On 14 February 2003, Blix confirmed that the al-Samoud II was indeed capable of exceeding 150km, and was therefore proscribed. The Iraqi government seemed to have accepted the discontination of this programme, including the tagging of al-Samoud missiles on 16 February 2003 to allow the detection of their movement. Inspections of facilities used in the production of al-Samoud have continued, and on 18, 19 and 20 February 2003 the missiles were tagged.

On 21 February, Blix confirmed in a letter that al-Samoud II missiles and associated items were considered proscribed, and he listed a number of items, including all al-Samoud II missiles and warheads, fuel and oxidizer, 380 SA-2 missile engines, and all engine components associated with this SA-2 engine that needed to be destroyed.

On 27 February 2003, Iraq sent a letter to UNMOVIC, which stated - according to the UNMOVIC spokesman - "that they agree in principle to the UNMOVIC request to start destroying the Al Samoud 2 missiles and other associated items by the first of March." Technical discussions were held on 28 February to ensure that UN inspectors could guide and supervise the destruction of the missiles, their components and associated systems.

The process of destruction began on 1 March 2003, with four al-Samoud II missiles and a casting chamber destroyed on that day. Warheads and the second casting chamber were destroyed on 3 March. On 4 March, UNMOVIC reported that "Now the two casting chambers are considered totally destroyed." A missile launcher and engines were also destroyed on 4 March. By 17 March, 72 missiles out of a total of about 120 had been destroyed, together with 47 warheads, as well as two casting chambers, two launchers, 5 engines, tools and special equipment to produce the al-Samoud II engine, computer software to launch the missile, small components, and several propellant tanks.

The progress in the destruction of al-Samoud II missiles was noted by Hans Blix in his 7 March 2003 statement to the Security Council:

"The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament - indeed, the first since the middle of the 1990s. [...] Until today, 34 Al Samoud 2 missiles, including 4 training missiles, 2 combat warheads, 1 launcher and 5 engines have been destroyed under UNMOVIC supervision. Work is continuing to identify and inventory the parts and equipment associated with the Al Samoud 2 programme. Two 'reconstituted' casting chambers used in the production of solid propellant missiles have been destroyed and the remnants melted or encased in concrete."

Ababil-100 (now known as al-Fatah)

This rocket has also come under UNMOVIC scrutiny as a result of Iraq's admission that it exceeds the 150km range. Iraq declared on 7 December that in 33 tests of its unguided version, 8 of them had flown between 150km and 161km. On 6 March 2003, UNMOVIC reported that the final assessment of its status had not yet been made, as more evidence needed to be collected ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", pp.15, 38).

Ballistic missiles - al-Rafah / Shahiyat liquid propellant engine static test stand

CIA, October 2002, p.19: "The Al-Rafah-North Liquid Propellant Engine Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E) Facility is Iraq's principal site for the static testing of liquid propellant missile engines. Baghdad has been building a new test stand there that is larger than the test stand associated with al-Samoud engine testing and the defunct Scud engine test stand. The only plausible explanation for this test facility is that Iraq intends to test engines for longer-range missiles prohibited under UNSCR 687."

State Department, 12 September 2002, p.10: "The al-Rafah-North facility is Iraq's principal site for testing liquid propellant missile engines. Iraq has been building a new, larger test stand there that is clearly intended for testing prohibited longer-range missile engines."

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.6: "Iraq has [..] constructed a new engine test stand for the development of missiles capable of reaching the UK Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus and NATO members (Greece and Turkey), as well as all Iraq's Gulf neighbours and Israel"

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.29: "Intelligence has confirmed that Iraq wants to extend the range of its missile systems to over 1000km, enabling it to threaten other regional neighbours. This work began in 1998, although efforts to regenerate the long-range ballistic missile programme probably began in 1995. Iraq's missile programmes employ hundreds of people. Satellite imagery has shown a new engine test stand being constructed, which is larger than the current one used for al-Samoud, and that formerly used for testing SCUD engines which was dismantled under UNSCOM supervision. This new stand will be capable of testing engines for medium range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) with ranges over 1000km,which are not permitted under UN Security Council Resolution 687. Such a facility would not be needed for systems that fall within the UN permitted range of 150km. The Iraqis have recently taken measures to conceal activities at this site. Iraq is also working to obtain improved guidance technology to increase missile accuracy."

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.30: "Iraq might achieve a missile capability of over 1000km within 5 years".

Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003 [displaying slide 35: al-Rafah liquid engine test facility in Iraq]: "Iraq has programs that are intended to produce ballistic missiles that fly over 1,000 kilometers. One program is pursuing a liquid fuel missile that would be able to fly more than 1,200 kilometers. [...] Iraq has built an engine test stand that is larger than anything it has ever had. Notice the dramatic difference in size between the test stand on the left, the old one, and the new one on the right. Note the large exhaust vent. This is where the flame from the engine comes out. The exhaust vent on the right test stand is five times longer than the one on the left. The one of the left is used for short-range missiles. The one on the right is clearly intended for long-range missiles that can fly 1,200 kilometers. This photograph was taken in April of 2002. Since then, the test stand has been finished and a roof has been put over it so it will be harder for satellites to see what's going on underneath the test stand."

Evaluation. This site has been repeatedly inspected, beginning on 27 November 2002. Recent inspections include those of 4 February 2003.

The relevant excerpt of the UNMOVIC / IAEA report of 21 January 2003 read:

"Another missile team traveled to the Shahiyat Test Facility, about 100 km north of Baghdad, to verify that this site was still abandoned."

Dr Blix made this point explicit in his briefing to the Security Council on 14 February 2003:

"The experts also studied the data on the missile engine test stand that is nearing completion [...]. So far, the test stand has not been associated with a proscribed activity."

Ballistic missiles - imports

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.30: "Intelligence makes it clear that Iraqi procurement agents and front companies in third countries are seeking illicitly to acquire propellant chemicals for Iraq's ballistic missiles. This includes production level quantities of near complete sets of solid propellant rocket motor ingredients such as aluminium powder, ammonium perchlorate and hydroxyl terminated polybutadiene.There have also been attempts to acquire large quantities of liquid propellant chemicals such as Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) and diethylenetriamene. We judge these are intended to support production and deployment of the al-Samoud and development of longer-range systems."

CIA, October 2002, p.22: "Iraqi intermediaries have sought production technology, machine tools, and raw materials in violation of the arms embargo. [...] In August 1995, Iraq was caught trying to acquire sensitive ballistic missile guidance components, including gyroscopes originally used in Russian strategic nuclear SLBMs, demonstrating that Baghdad has been pursuing proscribed, advanced, long-range missile technology for some time. Iraqi officials admitted that, despite international prohibitions, they had received a similar shipment earlier that year."

Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "UNMOVIC has also reported that Iraq has illegally imported 380 SA-2 rocket engines."

The Iraqi government does seem to have admitted that they managed to import missile parts in violation of the sanctions regime. The SA-2 missile engines are stored at Ibn Al Haytham. According to Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, in his notes for briefing the Security Council of 9 January 2003,

"Iraq, in the [7 December 2002] Declaration, has declared the import of missile engines and raw material for the production of solid missile fuel. This import has taken place in violation of the relevant resolutions regulating import and export to Iraq. Inspections have confirmed the presence of a relatively large number of missile engines, some imported as late as 2002. We have yet to determine the significance of these illegal imports relating to the specific WMD-mandate of UNMOVIC."

On 16 February 2003, UNMOVIC inspectors tagged the SA-2 missile engines, so that any illicit use could be detected. The process of destruction of these engines began in early March 2003, as recounted above (in the discussion of al-Samoud II missiles). By 9 March 2003, 5 engines had been destroyed.

Delivery of chemical and biological weapons

State Department, 12 September 2002, p.9: "Iraq has not accounted for at least 15,000 artillery rockets that in the past were its preferred vehicle for delivering nerve agents.."

CIA, October 2002: "Iraq has not accounted for 15,000 artillery rockets that in the past were its preferred means for delivering nerve agents, nor has it accounted for about 550 artillery shells filled with mustard agent."

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.16: "we assess that when the UN inspectors left Iraq they were unable to account for [...] over 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents."

State Department, 19 December 2002: "There is no adequate accounting for nearly 30,000 empty munitions that could be filled with chemical agents. Where are these munitions?"

State Department, 19 December 2002: "In January 1999, the UN Special Commission reported that Iraq failed to provide credible evidence that [...] 400 biological weapon-capable aerial bombs had been lost or destroyed. [...] Again, what is the Iraqi regime trying to hide by not providing this information?" (partially repeated in White House, January 2003, p.6).

White House, January 2003, p.6: "There is no adequate accounting for nearly 30,000 empty munitions that could be filled with chemical agents. If one of those shells were filled with the nerve agent Sarin, which Iraq is known to have produced, it would contain over 40,000 lethal doses."

Secretary Powell, 26 January 2003: "What happened to nearly 30,000 munitions capable of carrying chemical agents? The inspectors can only account for only 16 of them. Where are they? It's not a matter of ignoring the reality of the situation. Just think, all of these munitions, which perhaps only have a short range if fired out of an artillery weapon in Iraq, but imagine if one of these weapons were smuggled out of Iraq and found its way into the hands of a terrorist organization who could transport it anywhere in the world."

President Bush, 28 January 2003: "U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them -- despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them."

Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "Saddam Hussein has never accounted for [...] 30,000 empty munitions [...]"

Evaluation: Artillery shells and Iraq's munitions have a very limited range, and could only be considered a threat to Iraq's own citizenry and those within a few kilometres of Iraq's borders. However, inspections have demonstrated that Iraq has retained at least a small number of chemical warheads. Artillery projectiles are not suitable for use with biological agents.

Artillery projectiles. Iraq declared that it had imported 85,000 empty 155mm projectiles before August 1990. 70,000 were filled with chemical agents (mostly mustard), and of these Iraq declared that 54,000 were used between 1984 and 1988. Out of the remainder, UNSCOM destroyed 12,792 mustard 155mm projectiles in the period 1992-94, as it stated in its report of January 1999 (Appendix II, para.11). Iraq stated that it converted the unfilled projectiles to conventional munitions in the period from 1992-93. This claim seems to have been endorsed by UNSCOM, as UNMOVIC reported in "Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), p.54:

"Iraq declared that it had unilaterally converted approximately 15,500 empty 155-mm artillery projectiles, purchased for chemical warfare use, into conventional high explosive munitions in 1992-93. UNSCOM attempted to verify the disposition of these munitions and found approximately 1,800 of these projectiles at the Babylon Ammunition Depot. UNSCOM was satisfied with its findings and did not pursue the matter further."

The 122mm chemical warheads were a major element in Iraq's programme prior to 1991. Iraq declared that it produced or purchased over 100,000 such warheads. Many of these were used in the Iran-Iraq war, and 14,000 warheads were handed over the UNSCOM for destruction (as stated in UNSCOM's report of January 1999, Appendix II, para.11). Iraq claimed that the remaining 26,000 warheads were destroyed either unilaterally or in bombing during the Gulf War. The extent of destruction of 122mm rocket warheads was confirmed by UNSCOM:

"In 1991, two locations were seen by UNSCOM where rockets had been destroyed. Evidence of many destroyed rockets was found [..]. In the period 1991-1998, remnants of about 4,000 rockets were recovered and accounted for by UNSCOM. [...] Completely destroyed hangers where rockets had been destroyed were seen by UNSCOM. Evidence of many destroyed rockets was found. Accounting for the remnants was not possible due to the extent of the destruction. [..] In 1995, documentary evidence was provided by Iraq that 36,500 rockets had been stored at a facility destroyed during the Gulf war. [..] Remnants of 11,500 rockets destroyed through demolition were seen by UNSCOM. Accounting was not possible due to the state of destruction. [..] UNSCOM was presented with ingots declared to be from the melting of 15,000 rockets. The material presented could not be assessed as adequate for proper verification."

UNSCOM's report of January 1999, Appendix II, para.11

In all of these cases, UNSCOM - despite being able to verify the large-scale destruction of rocket warheads - was not able to quantify that destruction. As such, attempts to put a number to the number of rocket warheads that Iraq may still possess are problematic.

On 16 January 2003, an UNMOVIC multidisciplinary team visited the Ukhaider Ammunition Storage Area (170km southwest of Baghdad), and found "11 empty 122 mm chemical warheads and one warhead that requires further evaluation. The warheads were in excellent condition and were similar to ones imported by Iraq during the late 1980’s." Further samples were taken from the 12th warhead on 18 and 28 January 2003. Both this warhead and the storage building are under IAEA seal.

Iraq also declared 4 more items at al-Taji munitions stores on 20 January 2003, and these were inspected on 21 January 2003. UNMOVIC discovered another single empty warhead on 4 February 2003, and "an empty 122 mm Al Burak chemical warhead and an empty plastic chemical agent canister" on 9 February 2003, at al-Taji Ammunition Depot. The warheads were tagged and secured, and samples have been taken for analysis. Reports say that the range of the rockets for these warheads is 6 miles, and that they are all Sakr-18 warheads.

In subsequent interviews, the UNMOVIC Executive Chairman provided more details on the find:

"These things were laying in boxes. They had never been opened. They were covered by bird droppings, so they'd been there for some time. But they had never been opened, actually, and they were in excellent conditions. They were from pre-1990, so at the time when they were able to have these things legally. But of course, they should have been properly declared and, in fact, destroyed."

CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, 19 January 2003.

He also seems to have warned against attributing too much significance to this find:

"He warned against over-dramatising the discovery last Thursday of 12 warheads, saying none had produced 'any evidence' of containing traces of lethal chemicals. 'We haven't found a gun but a little bit of smoke... we must not forget that these were empty things and in all likelihood they never had anything in them.'"

"'I will not be pushed into war by US' - Blix", The Observer (London), 19 January 2003.

Hans Blix also corrected his earlier assessment that the warheads had been found in a new storage area:

"You recall that when we were here last time there had been a finding of 12 empty chemical warheads of 122 mm [...]. I should comment in the margin that when we made a statement about this we did say that we believed they were stored in new bunkers and therefore we must conclude that they were moved there after 1991. After further study we should correct that statement that where they were stored was not new. I'd like to stand corrected on behalf of my Commission in that regard."

Press Conference, 9 February 2003

The site at which the warheads were found, the Ukhaider Ammunition Storage Area, is a well-known storage site for Iraq's permitted artillery, and is frequently searched by inspectors. According to Raymond Zilinskas, a former UNSCOM biological weapons inspector and consultant to the US Department of State and the US Department of Defense (and director of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program, Monterey Institute of International Studies):

"If there are depots with millions of rounds of artillery shells for conventional use and one box of artillery shells for chemical use, it would be easy to miss. It could have fallen between the cracks".

Los Angeles Times, 17 January 2003, reprinted here.

Furthermore, it appears that the 12 rockets found at Ukhaider were not part of a significantly larger stock that could still be uncovered:

"A Commission of Inquiry has been set up by Iraq to investigate why these warheads were stored at these sites or whether any more such warheads or other proscribed munitions are stored at other locations in Iraq. According to a document from the Commission, which was handed over to UNMOVIC in February 2003, the 12 warheads were part of a batch of less than 20 warheads received by Al Muthana in 1989 for training and reverse engineering purposes."

UNMOVIC, "Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), p.54.

The same report records that the "Sealed casings containing some of the rocket warheads were dated April 1988", and that the liquid found in one of the warheads "was found to be water contaminated by hydrogen sulphide, which seems to be consistent with the fact that coloured water was used for trial purposes to simulate a CW agent." (p.55).

Aerial bombs. Iraq claims to have destroyed its aerial bombs in the summer of 1991. UNSCOM was not able to account for 300 to 350 R-400 and R-400A bombs (R-400A bombs are R-400 bombs that have had an internal epoxy coating to carry biological agents). It is these bombs that are referred to by the State Department on 19 December 2002 as "400 biological weapon-capable aerial bombs", though the numbers appear to have been exaggerated. It should be noted that the reason that UNSCOM was not able to account for some of the bombs was as follows:

"UNSCOM found that the accounting for some of the unilaterally destroyed bombs was not possible given the hazardous conditions created by the method of destruction."

UNMOVIC, "Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), p.46.

On 19 February 2003, Iraq began to excavate Al Aziziya Range (100km southwest of Baghdad), the site of the purported destruction of bombs that had been filled with biological agents, claiming that the material was no longer so dangerous. It was visited by UNMOVIC's biological team from 25 February. In the news update of 26 February, UNMOVIC gave the following description:

"An UNMOVIC biological team returned to the Al Aziziyah Range, where excavations of the R400 aerial bombs were under way. Iraq claims that these bombs filled with biological agents had been unilaterally destroyed in 1991. The team observed the excavation of a pit and inspected excavated munitions and fragments. UNMOVIC also conducted an aerial survey of the site."

On both 27 and 28 February, "Additional fragments of R-400 bombs were identified" (similarly, on 2 and 3 March). The contents of these bomb fragments were subject to analysis from 2 March 2003. A full account was provided by Hans Blix in his 7 March 2003 statement to the Security Council:

"To date, Iraq has unearthed eight complete bombs comprising two liquid-filled intact R-400 bombs and six other complete bombs. Bomb fragments were also found. Samples have been taken. The investigation of the destruction site could, in the best case, allow the determination of the number of bombs destroyed at that site. It should be followed by a serious and credible effort to determine the separate issue of how many R-400 type bombs were produced. In this, as in other matters, inspection work is moving on and may yield results."

Other aerial bombs. Between 1983 and 1990, UNSCOM estimated that Iraq produced or procured some 30,000 aerial bombs, used to disseminate chemical or biological agents. UNSCOM supervised the destruction of 12,000 of these bombs, as well as the aerial bomb production plant.

There are two residual areas of uncertainty. Firstly, it is unclear how many of these aerial bombs were used in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). The above discussion on the Air Force document indicates that the staus of over 6500 aerial bombs remains unresolved. Secondly, UNSCOM was not able to confirm that 2000 bombs were destroyed in a fire accident, as Iraq has claimed.

Airborne sprayers

State Department, 12 September 2002, p.8, sourcing Proliferation: Threat and Response; Department of Defense (January 2001): "The Department of Defense reported in January 2001 that Iraq has continued to work on its weapons programs, including converting L-29 jet trainer aircraft for potential vehicles for the delivery of chemical or biological weapons."

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.22: "helicopter and aircraft borne sprayers:Iraq carried out studies into aerosol dissemination of biological agent using these platforms prior to 1991. UNSCOM was unable to account for many of these devices. It is probable that Iraq retains a capability for aerosol dispersal of both chemical and biological agent over a large area"

UK dossier, 24 September 2002, p.23: "we know from intelligence that Iraq has attempted to modify the L- 29 jet trainer to allow it to be used as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) which is potentially capable of delivering chemical and biological agents over a large area."

CIA, October 2002, p.2: "Baghdad's UAVs - especially if used for delivery of chemical and biological warfare (CBW) agents - could threaten Iraq's neighbors, US forces in the Persian Gulf, and the United States if brought close to, or into, the US Homeland."

CIA, October 2002, p.22: "Immediately before the Gulf war, Baghdad attempted to convert a MiG-21 into an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to carry spray tanks capable of dispensing chemical or biological agents. UNSCOM assessed that the program to develop the spray system was successful, but the conversion of the MiG-21 was not. More recently, Baghdad has attempted to convert some of its L-29 jet trainer aircraft into UAVs that can be fitted with chemical and biological warfare (CBW) spray tanks, most likely a continuation of previous efforts with the MiG-21. Although much less sophisticated than ballistic missiles as a delivery platform, an aircraft - manned or unmanned - is the most efficient way to disseminate chemical and biological weapons over a large, distant area. Iraq already has produced modified drop-tanks that can disperse biological or chemical agents effectively. Before the Gulf war, the Iraqis successfully experimented with aircraft- mounted spray tanks capable of releasing up to 2,000 liters of an anthrax simulant over a target area. Iraq also has modified commercial crop sprayers successfully and tested them with an anthrax simulant delivered by helicopters."

State Department, 19 December 2002: "Iraq denies any connection between UAV programs and chemical or biological agent dispersal. Yet, Iraq admitted in 1995 that a MIG-21 remote-piloted vehicle tested in 1991 was to carry a biological weapon spray system. Iraq already knows how to put these biological agents into bombs and how to disperse biological agent using aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles. Why do they deny what they have already admitted? Why has the Iraqi regime acquired the range and auto-flight capabilities to spray biological weapons?" (partially repeated in White House, January 2003, p.6).

Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "Iraq has been working on a variety of UAVs for more than a decade. [...] This effort has included attempts to modify for unmanned flight the MiG-21 and, with greater success, an aircraft called the L-29. However, Iraq is now concentrating not on these airplanes but on developing and testing smaller UAVs such as this. UAVs are well suited for dispensing chemical and biological weapons. There is ample evidence that Iraq has dedicated much effort to developing and testing spray devices that could be adapted for UAVs. And in the little that Saddam Hussein told us about UAVs, he has not told the truth. One of these lies is graphically and indisputably demonstrated by intelligence we collected on June 27th last year. According to Iraq's December 7th declaration, its UAVs have a range of only 80 kilometers. But we detected one of Iraq's newest UAVs in a test flight that went 500 kilometers nonstop on autopilot in the racetrack pattern depicted here. Not only is this test well in excess of the 150 kilometers that the United Nations permits, the test was left out of Iraq’s December 7th declaration. The UAV was flown around and around and around in this circle and so that its 80-kilometer limit really was 500 kilometers, unrefueled and on autopilot -- violative of all of its obligations under 1441 [...]. Iraq could use these small UAVs which have a wingspan of only a few meters to deliver biological agents to its neighbors or, if transported, to other countries, including the United States."

State Department, 27 February 2003: "Iraq has denied any connection between its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) Programs and chemical or biological agent dispersal, despite a previous admission and has failed to turn over all of its UAVs to the UN. From a truck in Iraq, its small UAVs can reach Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or Israel. From a ship, one can reach New York, Paris, London, Berlin, or Beijing".

Evaluation. The two items of concern are remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs), which are controlled from an external guidance system, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which fly autonomously to pre-programmed targets. UNMOVIC has claimed that UAVs and RPVs with a range greater than 150km are proscribed (in its 6 March 2003 working document, pp.14-15). The basis for this claim is unexplained: only ballistic missiles with a range of greater than 150km are prohibited under Security Council Resolution 687 (1991), para.8(b); and all UAVs are listed as items that must be declared (not destroyed) in Security Council Resolution 1441 (2002), para.3. There do not appear to be any resolutions or statements of the Security Council which indicate that a specific range of UAVs are prohibited.

The claims about Iraq's UAVs originate from an occasion in 1998 when small Czech-built L-29 training jets were spotted at Iraq's Talil airbase in 1998. A British defence official invoked the possibility that if these drones were flown at low altitudes under the right conditions, a single drone could unleash a toxic cloud engulfing several city blocks. He labelled them "drones of death". The hyperbole is misleading: even if Iraq has designed such planes, they would not serve their purpose, as drones are easy to shoot down (as the US has itself found: see the Chicago Tribune, 2 March 2003). A simple air defence system would be enough to prevent the drones from causing damage to neighbouring countries. The L-29 has a total range of less than 400 miles: it would be all but impossible to use it in an attack on Israel. The only possibility for their use against western targets would be their potential deployment against invading troops.

The CIA report of October 2002 and Secretary Powell's statement of 5 February 2003, quoted above, invoke the possibility that these drones could cause widespread suffering in the US if they were transported to the US. How Iraq could possibly transport planes fitted with a mechanism for dispensing chemical or biological agents into the US is left unexplained, and the explanation provided by the State Department on 27 February 2003 - delivery by ship - lacks credibility, given the extensive monitoring of ships leaving from Iraq's port.

Iraq has admitted engaging in various UAV and RPV projects since the 1980s, including:

  • the modification of Mirage F-1 drop-tanks for the dispersion of biological warfare agents in 1990-91, producing three modified drop-tanks as well as one prototype drop-tank. Iraq claims that the drop tanks were destroyed in mid-1991. UNSCOM verified the remains of the three modified tanks, but did not find the dissemination devices. One of these was presented to UNSCOM in April 1998. UNSCOM was not able to find evidence for the destruction of the modified drop-tank.
  • the modification of the Mirage F-1 drop-tanks for use on a MiG-21 fighter aircraft, which would be remotely piloted. Iraq claims that this programme was terminated in April 1991.
  • the development of aerosol generators for use on a modified crop dusting helicopter, from July 1987-Sept 1988. Iraq handed over to UNSCOM various items related to this project in March 1996.
  • the conversion of the L-29 aircraft into a RPV as part of al-Baia'a project, declared by Iraq in July 1998 as used for air defence training. The range of craft was designed as 30km. The project began in November 1995. In its 7 December 2002 declaration, Iraq claimed that this project was discontinued due to lack of parts in 2000.

In its 7 December 2002 declaration, Iraq did not mention the development of any new UAVs, but referred to the development of two RPVs (Musaryara 20 and Musaryara 30) with a range of 100km, as well as continuing work on smaller RPVs with a range less than 30km. UNMOVIC (in its 6 March 2003 working document, p.59) has also stated that there may be signs that Iraq has developed a chemical weapons drop-tank that it has not declared, and that the rationale presented for why Iraq did not convert more drop-tanks into use for biological agents - the shortage of suitable valves - is unconvincing.

Iraq's facilities in producing RPVs and UAVs have been repeatedly inspected. Most recently, UNMOVIC biological teams have on 4 March inspected the Ibn Fernas Centre in northern Baghdad; and on 5 March inspected the Samarra East Airfield (about 90km north of Baghdad), used for the flight-testing of RPVs. On 6 March 2003, UNMOVIC reported that another drone, with a wingspan of 7.45m, was also under development; this item was under investigation to determine if its range exceeded 150km ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", p.14).

Key post-war readings:


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