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UNSCOM and Iraqi Chemical Weapons

Iraq's chemical weapons program spanned a long time period, where different priorities and objectives were followed, and accordingly different needs were involved. Viewed from this perspective, Iraq's efforts should be understood as comprising three different levels of ambition. Iraq has stated that the initial programme was designed to create a massive number of tactical chemical weapons. The next stage, after 1988, aimed at self-sufficiency, integration of the programme into Iraq's chemical industry and production of more stable and storable chemical agents. In its last stage, the programme was aimed at the design and production of strategic chemical weapons. [S/1996/848] Iraq has admitted that, during the summer of 1988, a major decision to improve its chemical weapons capabilities was taken at the highest level.[S/1997/301] UNSCOM has evidence that chemical warfare agents and munitions were produced in 1989. Iraq has consistently denied this. In addition, the Commission believes that production of different types of chemical weapons was also carried out in the first half of 1990. [S/1996/848] Iraq used chemical weapons facilities to support other weapons of mass destruction programs. These included the production of casings for radiological bombs, activities for the uranium chemical enrichment process and major support for the biological weapons program. [S/1996/258]

Iraq's intentions with regard to the operational use of its biological and chemical weapons have been subject to conflicting presentations by Iraqi authorities. On the one side, it was explained that the biological and chemical weapons were seen by Iraq as a useful means to counter a numerically superior force; on the other, they were presented as a means of last resort for retaliation in the case of a nuclear attack on Baghdad. Certain documentation supports the contention that Iraq was actively planning and had actually deployed its chemical weapons in a pattern corresponding to strategic and offensive use through surprise attack against perceived enemies. The known pattern of deployment of long-range missiles (Al Hussein) supports this contention. Iraq stated to UNSCOM that authority to launch biological and chemical warheads was pre-delegated in the event that Baghdad was hit by nuclear weapons during the Gulf war. This pre-delegation does not exclude the alternative use of such a capability and therefore does not constitute proof of only intentions concerning second use. [S/1995/864]

The Security Council required Iraq to unconditionally accept the destruction, removal or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of all chemical weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities (para. 8 (a) of resolution 687 (1991)). Iraq is required to submit to the Secretary-General, within 15 days of the adoption of resolution 687 (1991), a declaration of the locations, amounts and types of all items just mentioned in the chemical area (para. 9 (a) of resolution 687 (1991)). Iraq is further required to agree to urgent, on-site inspection by the Special Commission of its chemical capabilities, based on Iraq's declarations and the designation of any additional locations by the Special Commission itself (para. 9 (a) of resolution 687 (1991)). Other acts required of Iraq include the yielding by Iraq of possession to the Special Commission for destruction, removal or rendering harmless of all chemical items specified in paragraph 37 of this report (para. 9 (b) (ii) of resolution 687 (1991)).

Iraq's first chemical full, final and complete disclosure [FFCD] was provided in 1992. During 1993 and 1994, the Commission received considerable information from supporting Governments on supplies of chemical weapons-related material to Iraq. This information not only contradicted statements made in the 1992 disclosure but also showed large gaps in that document. When confronted with these deficiencies, Iraq provided a new disclosure in March 1995. [S/1996/258] Iraq officially stated that the March 1995 FFCD was complete and accurate and that there was no additional information available. New information obtained by UNSCOM in August and September 1995 clearly showed that Iraq's FFCD presented on 25 March 1995, the attachment of 27 March 1995 and the addenda to the attachment, received on 29 May 1995, were incorrect and incomplete. The March 1995 FFCD omitted information on major militarily significant chemical weapons capabilities, such as additional types of warfare agents, advanced agent and precursor production, stabilization and storage technologies, new types and numbers of munitions and field trials and additional sites involved in the programme. On 07 October 1995 Iraq provided UNSCOM with a number of revised chapters, which covered only those areas already raised by UNSCOM as examples of shortcomings in the existing FFCD. [S/1995/864]

A significant number of chemical weapons, their components and related equipment were identified and destroyed under UNSCOM supervision in the period from 1991 to 1997. This included over 38,000 filled and unfilled chemical munitions, 690 tons of chemical warfare agents, more than 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals and over 400 pieces of production equipment. [S/1998/332] All chemical weapons destruction was carried out at the Muthanna State Establishment, Iraq's primary chemical weapons facility, with one exception. Some munitions found at the Khamissiyah arms depot in October 1991 were judged too dangerous to move. Therefore, they were destroyed in situ during February/March 1992. The destruction of all other agent and munitions took place at Muthanna from June 1992 to May 1994. UNSCOM supervised the destruction of over 480,000 litres of live chemical weapons agent and over 1 million kilograms of some 45 different precursor chemicals. [S/1996/848]

The monitoring plan approved under Security Council resolution 715 (1991) calls for ongoing monitoring and verification of Iraq's compliance with its unconditional obligation not to use, retain, possess, develop, construct or otherwise acquire any weapons or related items prohibited under paragraphs 8 and 9 of resolution 687 (1991). When chemical monitoring began in October 1994, only a limited number of facilities devoted entirely to chemical processing and production were subject to the monitoring regime. However, during the three years of operation, the system has expanded. This stems from a number of factors: a full implementation of the contents of the annexes, the Commission's increasing knowledge and understanding of Iraq's prohibited chemical warfare programme, the post-Gulf War reorganization and development of Iraq's chemical industry and the increase in UNSCOM technical detection capabilities.[S/1997/774]

The task facing UNSCOM requires it to monitor throughout Iraq sites and facilities with equipment capable of producing proscribed weapons as well as to watch for clandestine sites that may be created for proscribed activities. These include research and development institutes, universities, munitions and chemical production sites, chemical storage sites and pesticide, fertilizer and petrochemical related facilities with dual-use equipment or chemicals. For the monitoring system to be effective, it must cast a broad net and cover major facilities such as petrochemical and biopesticide plants where chemical warfare agents could be produced. Therefore, those facilities must also be covered. The chemical monitoring group consists of 10 inspectors, three laboratory chemists and one explosive ordnance disposal specialist, from 11 States. The group periodically inspects 120 sites under monitoring and, occasionally, other sites (to date 52) ranging from petrochemical facilities to water treatment plants. The chemical teams use remote-controlled sensor systems installed at the most important sites under monitoring. There are 518 items of tagged dual-use equipment [up from 323 in 1997], as well as thousands of tonnes of dual-use chemicals now being monitored. The group continues to discover undeclared dual-use items and materials (i.e., equipment subject to monitoring which has not been declared by Iraq). Those items, which should have been declared by Iraq under the Commission's monitoring plan, have subsequently, in the main, been tagged.[S/1998/920

Iraq's chemical warfare programme was of enormous scope both in terms of scale and breadth. With respect to the issue of chemical warfare agent production, and based on Iraq's chemical FFCD of June 1996, the following material balance of chemical warfare agents and their precursors procured abroad and produced by Iraq in the period from 1981 to 1990 was presented by UNSCOM October 1997 [S/1997/774]:

Type of material Quantity (tons) Remarks
1. Precursor chemicals produced and procured More than 20 000 Some 4,000 tons of declared precursors are not verified owing to the absence of information sought by the Commission from suppliers.
2. Chemical warfare agents produced 3 850 Whether several hundred tons of additional chemical warfare agents were produced cannot be established owing to the uncertain quantities of precursors (mentioned in 1 above).
3. Chemical warfare agents consumed in the period from 1981 to 1988 2 870 No documents or information on the consumption of CW has been provided by Iraq to support the declared quantities consumed. Without supporting documents the verification of this part of the material balance is impossible.
4. Chemical warfare agents destroyed under UNSCOM supervision 690 Declared quantities were verified by the Commission.
5. Chemical warfare agents discarded during production, or destroyed during aerial bombardment in 1991 290 Iraq has not provided supporting documentation for 130 tons of chemical warfare agents declared to have been discarded or destroyed.

In the area of chemical warfare munitions, based on Iraq's FFCD of June 1996, a material balance of munitions either procured abroad and produced by Iraq, for CW purposes, in the period from 1981 to 1990 was presented by UNSCOM in October 1997 [S/1997/774]:

Type of munitions Quantity Remarks
1. Empty munitions produced and procured 247 263 Some 107,500 empty casings have not been verified owing to the absence of information sought by the Commission from the suppliers.
2. Munitions filled with chemical warfare agents or components 152 119 Whether several thousand additional munitions were filled with chemical warfare agents cannot be established owing to the uncertain quantities of procured munitions (mentioned in 1 above).
3. Filled munitions consumed in the period from 1981 to 1988 101 080 No documents or information on the consumption of chemical munitions has been provided by Iraq to support the declared quantities consumed. Without supporting documents the verification of this part of the material balance is impossible.
4. Filled and empty munitions destroyed unilaterally by Iraq 29 172 Unilateral destruction of 15,620 munitions is not verifiable owing to the destruction methods used by Iraq (melting and demolition).
5. Filled and empty munitions destroyed under UNSCOM supervision 38 537 Declared quantities were verified by the Commission.
6. Filled and empty munitions discarded by Iraq or destroyed during aerial bombardment in 1991 78 264 Iraq has not provided supporting documentation for 16,038 discarded chemical munitions.

Note. The margin of error in the accounting presented by Iraq is in the neighbourhood of 200 munitions.

In the period from 1988 to 1990, Iraq carried out several projects on types of chemical warfare munitions of which it has not provided physical evidence. This includes binary artillery munitions and aerial bombs, chemical warheads for short-range missiles, cluster aerial bombs and spray tanks. According to Iraq, prototypes of those munitions were produced in limited quantities and only for trials. Without documents to support Iraq's declarations, UNSCOM was not able to make an assessment of the extent of the projects and their implementation. The Commission has frequently requested documents from Iraq to support its statements. Such documents have not been provided.[S/1997/774] Iraq's efforts to produce indigenously key precursors for chemical weapons included the synthesis of cyclohexanol (a GF precursor) from phenol and the synthesis of di-isopropylamine (a VX precursor) from ammonia and acetone. [S/1995/864]

UNSCOM has sought to resolve the most important outstanding issues, which include the verification of the material balance of special munitions, including the accounting for 550 artillery shells filled with mustard chemical warfare agent, verification of the unilateral destruction of R-400 chemical and biological aerial bombs, and the provision by Iraq of the document sighted during the inspection at the headquarters of the Iraqi Air Force; accounting for the production of the chemical warfare agent VX; and verification of the completeness of declarations provided by Iraq on the material balance of chemical weapons production equipment [S/1998/920].

Production Equipment

UNSCOM determined that 197 pieces of glass chemical weapons production equipment had been removed by Iraq from the Muthanna State Establishment, Iraq's prime chemical weapons production site, in 1991, prior to the arrival in Iraq of the first inspection team. This equipment has been repeatedly moved in shipping containers between several facilities in Iraq in the period 1991-1996. This equipment was destroyed under UNSCOM supervision in 1997. UNSCOM asked Iraq to provide clarifications on the movement of all such equipment. Iraq presented its clarifications to the Commission in July 1998. However, field verification, which is required, has been blocked since Iraq's 5 August 1998 decision to cease cooperation with UNSCOM [S/1998/920].


Following the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law and former head of Iraqi military industries Hussein Kamel in August 1995, it became clear that even intrusive UNSCOM inspections had failed to discover Iraq's efforts to develop the nerve agent VX from May 1985 until December 1990. Until 1995 Iraq denied any production of VX. After enquiries from UNSCOM, Iraq issued a declaration that it had produced only 260 liters of VX. The existence of large-scale VX activities was acknowledged by Iraq only in 1995, when UNSCOM confronted Iraq with evidence of such activities[UNSCOM 03 June 98]. In the March 1995 Iraqi FFCD and its amendments, it was asserted that the VX program existed only from April 1987 to September 1988, conducted only laboratory-scale production and had been abandoned because of poor agent quality and instability. It is clear, however, that the VX program began at least as early as May 1985 and continued without interruption until December 1990. [S/1995/864] According to Iraq, 3.9 tons of VX were produced in total: some 2.4 tons in 1988, the remainder in 1990. Iraq provided documents on the 1988 production but did not provide sufficient verifiable evidence on the status of its 1990 production. Iraq has claimed, however, that its VX production program failed owing to the low purity and instability of the agent produced. UNSCOM's view is that Iraq was certainly able to produce VX, and probably produced it in quantity. However, the achieved level of verification of precisely how much VX was produced by Iraq is not satisfactory. Iraq claimed that it lacked the technology for industrial production of VX. However, documentation obtained by UNSCOM reveals that Iraq had in fact obtained sophisticated technology for the production of VX. [S/1998/920] Iraq has stated that purity and stabilization problems caused the program to be abandoned in 1990, in favour of the production of Sarin and Cyclosarin. At the beginning of 1989, Iraq had in its possession the necessary quantities of precursors for the large-scale production of V-agents. [S/1995/1038] UNSCOM has concluded that VX was produced on an industrial scale. Precursor and agent storage and stabilization problems were solved. Furthermore, one of Iraq's documents on this subject, dated 1989, proposes "the creation of strategic storage of the substance (VX - hydrochloride, one step from conversion into VX) so it can be used at any time if needed". [S/1995/864] Iraq procured a total of 750 tons of precursor chemicals for the production of VX and domestically produced a further 55 tons. According to Iraq, 460 tons of these VX precursors were destroyed through aerial bombardment. It also claims that 212 tons were unilaterally destroyed without international supervision. UNSCOM has been able to verify the destruction of only some 155 tons of these latter 212 tons of precursor chemicals. A further 36 tons were destroyed under supervision by the Commission. The remainder, according to Iraq, was consumed in pre-Gulf War VX production attempts.[S/1997/774] UNSCOM has documented that Iraq actually had precursors sufficient for the production of 200 tons of VX agent.[UNSCOM June 98] Iraq admitted in September 1995 the production in 1990 of 65 ton of choline, a chemical used exclusively for the production of VX. This amount would be sufficient for the production of approximately 90 ton of VX. Furthermore, Iraq had over 200 tons each of the precursors phosphorous pentasulphide and di-isopropylamine. These quantities would be sufficient to produce more than 400 ton of VX. As of 1995 there was no conclusive evidence to support Iraq's claims concerning the complete disposal of these two precursors and the choline. [S/1995/864]

Iraq denies that it weaponized VX. Sampling by UNSCOM of special warheads has thrown significant doubt upon this claim [S/1998/920]. Iraq stated that the VX it did succeed in producing had poor stability. Through sampling, however, UNSCOM said it has found traces of a VX stabilizer, indicating that in all probability the VX produced by Iraq was more stable than they have thus far admitted. [UNSCOM June 98] In April 1998 UNSCOM decided to remove some remnants of special missile warheads destroyed unilaterally by Iraq and sample them in a laboratory outside Iraq. The purpose was to verify Iraq's declarations on the filling of the special warheads. This followed Iraq's protracted refusal to permit the removal of missile remnants which the Commission, in the beginning of November 1996, had excavated for analysis abroad. Forty-four metal fragments of different types of warheads were selected for sampling. Initially Iraq did not permit the removal of samples for analysis. In May 1998, the samples were sent for analysis to a laboratory in the United States of America. This analysis was completed by mid-June. Degradation products of the chemical warfare agent VX were found in some samples. In September 1998, the Commission held an international expert meeting, with the participation of specialists from the laboratories involved in the analysis of samples. In addition, experts from China, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland attended the meeting. [S/1998/920]. On 22-23 October 1998 UNSCOM held in New York a meeting of international experts on the issue of VX. 21 experts from seven countries (China, France, Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States), and experts from the Special Commission, participated in the meeting. Both Swiss and French laboratories found chemicals known to be degradation products of a decontamination compound. The existence of VX degradation products conflicts with Iraq's declarations that the unilaterally destroyed special warheads had never been filled with any CW agents [UNSCOM VX-3].

Binary Sarin

Iraq has admitted the development of prototypes of binary sarin-filled artillery shells, 122mm rockets and aerial bombs. However, documentation shows production in quantities well beyond prototype levels. Iraq has also admitted three flight tests of long-range missiles with chemical warheads, including one, in April 1990, with sarin. [S/1995/864]

Mustard Munitions

In 1991 Iraq declared that they had 12,792 chemical-filled munitions. During the period 1991-1994 these munitions were destroyed under UNSCOM supervision. In 1996, after UNSCOM obtained some storage inventories relating to these munitions, Iraq declared that they actually had closer to 13,500 munitions, but that 550 were destroyed during the Gulf war. Iraq, however, was unable to locate the site of their destruction.[UNSCOM June 98] Iraq declared that the 550 155mm shells filled with mustard had been lost shortly after the Gulf war, and no evidence of the missing munitions has been found. A dozen mustard-filled shells were recovered at a former chemical weapons storage facility in the period 1997-1998. The chemical sampling of these munitions in April 1998 revealed that the mustard was still of the highest quality. After seven years, the purity of mustard ranged between 94 per cent and 97 per cent. Iraq still has to account for the missing shells and to provide verifiable evidence of their disposition. In July 1998, Iraq promised to provide clarifications on this matter. To date, only preliminary information has been provided by Iraq on its continuing internal investigation[S/1998/920].

R-400 aerial bombs

Among 1,550 R-400 aerial bombs produced by Iraq, more than 1,000 bombs were declared as destroyed unilaterally by Iraq, including 157 bombs stated as filled with biological warfare agents. The accounting for about 500 bombs unilaterally destroyed was not possible owing to the state and extent of destruction. In order to bridge the gap, UNSCOM requested Iraq to provide the documentation on the disposition of the tail parachute sections of R-400 bombs. The accounting for these components would enable the Commission to verify the maximum number of R-400 bombs, which Iraq could have produced. Iraq presented the information sought on the disposition of tail sections but field inspection activities are still required.

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