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Iraq and weapons of mass destruction

In the 1991 Gulf War ceasefire terms Iraq was forbidden from developing, possessing or using chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Other items proscribed by the treaty included missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometres.

The UN established a commission, UNSCOM, to verify Iraq's adherence to the treaty. At the time adherence was established economic sanctions against Iraq were to be lifted. Iraq's adherence to the treaty was, however, never established to the satisfaction of the United Nations Security Council and the sanctions were not lifted until after the 2003 war.

UNSCOM encountered various difficulties and lack of cooperation by the Iraqi government and was eventually withdrawn. Despite this UNSCOM's own estimate was that 90-95% of Iraqi WMD's had been successfully destroyed before its 1998 withdrawal. After that Iraq remained without any outside weapons inspectors for five years. During this time speculations arose that Iraq had actively resumed its WMD programmes. In particular various figures in the second Bush administration went so far as to express concern about nuclear weapons.

"We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." - Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Advisor, CNN Late Edition, 9/8/2002

"We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." - Dick Cheney, Vice President, Meet The Press, 3/16/2003

At the beginning of 2003, the United States and the United Kingdom administrations both claimed that there was absolutely no doubt that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was developing more. The intelligence services of some other countries also assessed that Iraq still had covert WMD programs.

Ample evidence exists to show that Iraq broke the terms of the ceasefire between 1991 and 1998. In addition to being forbidden to possess or develop WMD, Iraq was also bound to cooperate with the inspectors from the UN sent to verify destruction of the WMD programs. The UNSCOM commission clearly did not have the full cooperation of the Iraqi government. There is dispute about whether Iraq still had WMD programs after 1998 and whether its cooperation with UNMOVIC was complete. UN Chief Weapons Inspector said in January 2003 that Iraq has, "...not genuinely accepted U.N. resolutions demanding that it disarm." On March 7th, in an address to the Security Council, Hans Blix appeared to take a more positive view describing current Iraqi level of cooperation as "active or even proactive". Attributing increased Iraqi initiative to "outside pressure" he stated his estimate that it would take several months for all outstanding WMD issues to be resolved.

United States officials treated Blix's report dismissively.

Even in lieu of actual WMD programs, legal justification for the campaign was claimed due to the alleged lack of cooperation with UN inspectors by Iraq. The stated intention of the U.S. plan to invade Iraq was to eliminate Iraq's ability to threaten its neighbors or its own people with weapons of mass destruction.

Table of contents
1 Documented uses of WMD
2 The 1991 Gulf War
3 U.N. Ceasefire Resolutions
4 UNSCOM inspections 1991-1998
5 Period without inspections
6 UNMOVIC search 2003
7 The 2003 war and its aftermath
8 See also
9 External links and references

Documented uses of WMD

Use of chemical weapons by the British

The first documented use of WMD's in Iraq was in the early 1920's. Winston Churchill, then member of the British government, ordered chemical bombardment of "recalcritant" villages. Both Kurds and Arabs were affected. It is worth noting that this was before the 1925 ban on chemical and biological weapons.

Use of chemical weapons during the war with Iran

In 1980 the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency filed a report asserting that Iraq had been adctively acquiring chemical weapons capacities for several years. Subsequent events proved that this estimate was very likely correct.

In 1982 Iraqi forces started deploying chemical weapons against Iranian troops. In 1983 the use was greatly increased.

In 1982 the Reagan administration removed Iraq from the U.S. State Department's list of countries sponsoring terrorism. This opened the gate to U.S. trade and support of Iraq during the war with Iran. In 1983 the Reagan administration secretly administered the channeling of U.S. weaponry to Iraq.

The Washington post reported that in 1984 the CIA secretely started feeding intelligence to the Iraqi army. This included assistance in targetting chemical weapons strikes. The same year it was confirmed beyond doubt by European doctors and U.N. expert missions that Iraq was employing chemical weapons against the Iranians.

Despite this the Reagan administration re-established full diplomatic ties with Iraqon 26 November the same year and continued supplying Iraq with intelligence andequipment.

The Halabja incident

On 23 March western media sources reported from Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan, that several days before Iraq had launched a large scale chemical assault on the town. Later estimates were that 4000 people had been killed.

The incident caused an international outcry against the Iraqis. Later that year the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the "Prevention of Genocide Act", cutting off all U.S. assistance to Iraq and stopping U.S. imports of Iraqi oil. The Reagan administartion opposed the bill, calling it premature, and eventually prevented it from taking effect.

The Iraqis blamed the Halabja attack on Iranian forces. This was still the position of Saddam Hussein in his December 2003 captivity. Some evidence appears to support this theory. A report at the time by the United States Defense Intelligence Agency asserted that evidence of blood agent use was found in bodies of dead Kurds. At the time of the attack Iran was reportedly using the blood agent cyanide whereas Iraq was employing mustard gas.

End of the war with Iran

While numerous Security Council resolutions condemned the use of chemical weapons in the Iraq-Iran war the U.S. veto prevented any explicit condemnation of the Iraqis for years. As the war came to an end so did the last documented uses of WMD's in Iraq.

The 1991 Gulf War

Invasion of Kuwait

In 1991 Iraqi forces invaded and occupied Kuwait. The invasion was widely condemned and overnight the policy of the United States against the government of Saddam Hussein seemed to change. As fresh horror stories from the occupation of Kuwait, some of which later proved false, came into the spotlight, older atrocities, such as the gassing of Halabja, were also given attention. As the vilification of Saddam Hussein proceeded, his arsenal of non-conventional weapons also began gaining attention.

Invasion of Iraq by the Coalition

An international coalition of nations, led by the United States, invaded Kuwait and drove the Iraqi army back to the outskirts of southern Iraqi cities. Many expected the Iraqis to use non-conventional weapons but none were deployed.

U.N. Ceasefire Resolutions

In the ceasefire terms Iraq was forbidden from developing, possessing or using chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Other items proscribed by the treaty included missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometres. The relevant Security Council resolutions are number 686 and 687:

686 (2 March 1991): Iraq-Kuwait Affirms the "independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq" and sets out terms for a cease-fire. The use of force to remain valid to uphold these conditions.

687 (3 April 1991): Iraq-Kuwait Declares effective a formal cease-fire (upon Iraqi acceptance), establishes the UN Special Commission on weapons (UNSCOM), extends sanctions and, in paragraphs 21 and 22, provides conditions (the precise meaning of which later became the subject of much debate) for lifting or easing them. Described as a "Christmas tree", because "so much was hung on it". The fourth preambulary clause, on "the need to be assured of Iraq's peaceful intentions", was used to link the continuation of sanctions with the survival of the Saddam Hussein regime.

UNSCOM inspections 1991-1998

The United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) was headed by Rolf Ekeus and later Richard Butler. Between 1991 and 1995, UN inspectors uncovered a massive program to develop nuclear weapons and large amount of equipment was confiscated and removed. Some experts believe that as of 1991, Iraq was within one to three years of developing nuclear weapons. However, some think Iraq's nuclear weapons program suffered a serious setback in 1981 when the reactor used to generate source material for its bomb was bombed[1] by Israel.

In 1998, after more than seven years of inspections, Iraq charged that the commission was a cover for US espionage and refused UNSCOM access to certain sites. Although Ekeus has said that he resisted attempts at such espionage, many allegations have since been made against Butler, see for example [1] or [1]. Butler has vehemently denied the charges. Amidst controversy, Butler withdrew the UNSCOM team for safety reasons ahead of US bombing.

Former UNSCOM weapons inspector Scott Ritter stated that, as of 1998, 90-95% of Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical capabilities, and long-range ballistic missiles capable of delivering such weapons, had been verified as destroyed. Technical 100% verification was not possible, claims Ritter, not because Iraq still had any hidden weapons, but because Iraq had preemptively destroyed some stockpiles and claimed they had never existed.

That year, Ritter sharply criticized the Clinton administration and the U.N. Security Council for not being vigorous enough about insisting that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction be destroyed. Ritter also accused U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan of assisting Iraqi efforts at impeding UNSCOM's work. "Iraq is not disarming," Ritter said on August 27, 1998, and in a second statement, "Iraq retains the capability to launch a chemical strike."

During the 2002-2003 build-up to war Ritter criticized the Bush administration and maintained that it had provided no credible evidence that Iraq had reconstituted a significant WMD capability. In an interview with Time in September 2002 he stated:

"We have tremendous capabilities to detect any effort by Iraq to obtain prohibited capability. The fact that no one has shown that he has acquired that capability doesn't necessarily translate into incompetence on the part of the intelligence community. It may mean that he hasn't done anything."

In the same interview Ritter had this to say on accusations of UNSCOM being used for illegitimate spying on Iraq:

"It's ironic that everyone has focused on the struggle of the inspectors vs. Iraq. Not too many people speak of the struggle between the weapons inspectors and the U.S. to beat back the forces of U.S. intelligence which were seeking to infiltrate the weapons inspectors program and use the unique access the inspectors enjoyed in Iraq for purposes other than disarmament. Iraq has a clear case that under this past inspection regime unfortunately it was misused for purposes other than set out by the Security Council resolution."

Ritter was widely denounced in the United States for his supposed "defection" and "lack of patriotism". He was compared with Jane Fonda to the point of being asked when he would make his exercise video.

Ritter countered that he had given 12 years of service to his country as a Marine and that he was willing to put his record of service up against anyone.

Period without inspections

Between 1997 and 2002, Iraq prevented UN weapons inspectors from entering the country and the resulting controversy at the beginning of 2003 was whether or not Iraq used their absence to develop weapons of mass destruction in violation of UN resolutions. Another controversial point came from estimating the time it would take Iraq to produce nuclear weapons from raw materials.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies in Great Britain published (September 2002) a review of Iraq's current military capability, and concluded that Iraq could assemble nuclear weapons within months if fissile material from foreign sources were obtained.

Iraq insisted it no longer had any weapons of mass destruction.

The United States claimed the opposite and it may have had inside knowledge. One of the suppliers of biological weapons components to Iraq was the United States itself, in particular during the Iran/Iraq war. (From the Associated Press [1].) It was reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a biological sample company, the American Type Culture Collection, sent strains of anthrax, the bacteria that make botulinum toxin, the germs that cause gas gangrene, and samples of other deadly pathogens, including the West Nile virus, directly to several Iraqi sites.

UNMOVIC search 2003

In late 2002 Saddam Hussein, in a letter to Hans Blix, invited UN weapons inspectors back into the country. Subsequently the Security Council issued resolution 1441 authorizing new inspections in Iraq.

The carefully-worded U.N. resolution put the burden on Iraq, not U.N. inspectors, to prove that they no longer had weapons of mass destruction. Iraq's weapons report which was filed with the U.N. leaves weapons and materials unaccounted for. According to reports from the previous U.N. inspection agency, UNSCOM, Iraq had 600 metric tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, VX and sarin, and nearly 25,000 rockets and 15,000 artillery shells, with chemical agents, that are still unaccounted for. In fact, in 1995, Iraq told the United Nations that it had produced at least 30,000 liters of biological agents, including anthrax and other toxins it could put on missiles.

In January 2003, United Nations weapons inspectors reported that they had found no indication that Iraq had a currently active program to make nuclear weapons, and that there was no credible evidence that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons.

Some former UNSCOM inspectors disagree about whether the United States could know for certain whether or not Iraq had renewed production of weapons of mass destruction. Robert Gallucci said, "If Iraq had [uranium or plutonium], a fair assessment would be they could fabricate a nuclear weapon, and there's no reason for us to assume we'd find out if they had." Similarly, former inspector Jonathan Tucker said, "Nobody really knows what Iraq has. You really can't tell from a satellite image what's going on inside a factory."

However, a UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, said in late January 2003 that Iraq had "not genuinely accepted U.N. resolutions demanding that it disarm." [1]. He claimed there were some materials which had not been accounted for.

In the last quarterly report submitted by UNMOVIC before the invasion of Iraq the following statements are found:

"All inspections were performed without notice, and access was in virtually all cases provided promptly. In no case have the inspectors seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance of their impending arrival."

"More than 200 chemical and more than 100 biological samples have collected at different sites. ... The results to date have been consistent with Iraq's declarations."

"UNMOVIC has identified and started the destruction of approximately 50 litres of mustard declared by Iraq... This process will continue. A laboratory quantity of (1 litre) of thiodiglycol, a mustard precursor, ... has also been destroyed."

"[I]t was concluded that all variants of the Al Samoud 2 missile were inherently capable of ranges more than 150 kilometres and were therefore proscribed weapons systems."

"UNMOVIC has reported that, in general, Iraq has been helpful on "process", meaning, first of all, that Iraq has from the outset satisfied the demand for prompt access to any site, whether or not it had been previously declared or inspected. ... While such cooperation should be a matter of course, it must be recalled that UNSCOM frequently met with a different Iraqi attitude."

"During the period of time covered by the present report, Iraq could have made greater efforts to find any remaining proscribed items or provide credible evidence showing the absence of such items."

In the next quarterly report, after the war, the total amount of proscribed items destroyed by UNMOVIC in Iraq can be gathered. Those include:

The 2003 war and its aftermath


Prior to the invasion, the United States said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and that it must either give them all up or undergo a regime change. However, immediately prior to the invasion, the United States made a further demand that Saddam Hussein step down from power and vacate Iraq. Still later, the United States announced that even if Saddam Hussein abdicated and his government was changed, it would send in forces to verify disarmament and oversee the transition to a new government. Iraq variously claimed that it never had any WMD, or that it had gotten rid of them all (and asserted that it was thus in compliance with United States and United Nation demands).

Some said before the invasion that if Iraq were to prove credibly that it no longer had such capability, by allowing unfettered access to inspectors and permitting the destruction of WMD stocks and production facilities as they were found, the primary claimed justification for the proposed US invasion would vanish.

The fall of Iraq

As of April 16, 2003, Iraq's Baath regime had fallen to the invasion, all major cities have been captured, and no weapons of mass destruction had been reported found. As of April 24, 2003, the United States had started backing off[1] on the search for weapons of mass destruction. Although no WMDs have yet been found, UNMOVIC chief inspector Hans Blix has called for UN inspections to resume.[1]

Wolfowitz makes a controversial statement

On May 30, 2003, Paul Wolfowitz stated in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine that the issue of weapons of mass destruction was the point of greatest agreement among Bush's team among the reasons to remove Saddam Hussein from power. In Vanity Fair, he said, "The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason..." The remainder of the quote, which was not included in the article, is as follows, according to a Pentagon transcript: "...but, there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two." [1] The same day, General James Conway, senior Marine commander in Iraq, expressed similar thoughts in a satellite interview with reporters at the Pentagon.

Looting of nuclear facilities

Various nuclear facilities, including the Baghdad Nuclear Research Facility and Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, were found looted in the month following the invasion. On June 20, 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that tons of uranium had been recovered, and that the vast majority had remained on site. By June 7, 2003, many American and British media sources [1] [1] began questioning the credibility of the Bush administration, and John Dean even brought up the possibility of impeachment [1] for "lying to Congress and the American people", although this idea has largely fallen by the wayside since some members of Congress had access to much of the same information as the White House. Bush suggests that all the documents and suspected weapons sites were looted and burned in Iraq by looters in the final days of the war before the US could find them. [1]

Blair maintains that Iraq had WMD's

On July 17, 2003, the British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an address to the US congress, that history would forgive the United States and United Kingdom, even if they were wrong about weapons of mass destruction. He still maintained that "with every fiber of instinct and conviction" Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction.

The Kay Report

On October 3, 2003, the world digests David Kay's Iraq Survey Group report that finds no WMD in Iraq, although it states the regime intended to develop more weapons with additional capabilities. Such plans and programs appear to have been dormant, the existence of these were though concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in 2002. Weapons inspectors in Iraq do find clandestine "network of biological laboratories" and a deadly strain of botulinum. The US-sponsored search for WMD has so far cost $300 million and is projected to cost around $600 million more.

Demetrius Perricos, then head of UNMOVIC, stated that the Kay report contained little information not already known by UNMOVIC.

On October 29 U.S. intelligence spokesmen claimed that Iraqi WMDs and programmes had been comprehensively hidden before or immediately after the fall of Bagdhad, with some elements of the programmes being shipped out of the country.

Saddam captured: Insists "no WMD's".

On December 14 Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. forces. In his first interrogation he was asked whether Iraq had any WMD's. His reply was: "No, of course not, the U.S. dreamed them up itself to have a reason to go to war with us."

Blister gas mortars

On January 9, 2004, Icelandic munitions experts and Danish military engineers discovered 36 120mm mortar rounds containing liquid buried in Southern Iraq. While initial tests suggested that the rounds contained the banned chemical weapon blister gas, [1] subsequent analysis by American and Danish experts showed that no chemical agent was present. [1] It appears that the rounds have been buried, and most probably forgotten, since the Iran-Iraq war. Some of the munitions were in an advanced state of decay and most of the weaponry would likely have been unusable.

See also

U.S.-led occupation of Iraq | U.S. plan to invade Iraq | September Dossier | Dodgy Dossier | Iraq Survey Group

External links and references