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June 13, 2003


A substantial amount of Iraq's chemical warfare agents, precursors, munitions, and production equipment were destroyed between 1991 and 1998 as a result of Operation Desert Storm and UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission) actions. Nevertheless, we believe Iraq retained production equipment, expertise and chemical precursors and can reconstitute a chemical warfare program in the absence of an international inspection regime. Iraq's successful use of chemical weapons in the past against Iranian troops and Kurdish civilians increases the likelihood of a chemical warfare reconstitution. Iraq has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

There is no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, or where Iraq has -- or will -- establish its chemical warfare agent production facilities. Unusual munitions transfer activity in mid-2002 suggests that Iraq is distributing CW munitions in preparation for an anticipated U.S. attack. Iraq retains all the chemicals and equipment to produce the blister agent mustard but its ability for sustained production of G-series nerve agents and VX is constrained by its stockpile of key chemical precursors and by the destruction of all known CW production facilities during Operation Desert Storm and during subsequent UNSCOM inspections. In the absence of external aid, Iraq will likely experience difficulties in producing nerve agents at the rate executed before Operation Desert Storm.

Iraq is steadily establishing a dual use industrial chemical infrastructure that provides some of the building blocks necessary for production of chemical agents. In addition, Iraq has renovated and added production lines at two facilities formerly associated with Baghdad's chemical warfare program -- Habbaniyah I and Habbaniyah II. Activities include building reconstruction, salvage operations, and equipment movement and deliveries in the months that followed the 1998 expulsion of United Nations inspectors. Baghdad is rebuilding portions of its chemical production infrastructure under the guise of a civilian need for pesticides, chlorine, and other legitimate chemical products, giving Iraq the potential for a small "breakout" production capability.

Although we lack any direction information, Iraq probably possesses CW agent in chemical munitions, possibly including artillery rockets, artillery shells, aerial bombs, and ballistic missile warheads. Baghdad also probably possesses bulk chemical stockpiles, primarily containing precursors, but that also could consist of some mustard agent or stabilized VX.

Iraqi doctrine for the use of chemical weapons evolved during the Iran-Iraq war, and was fully incorporated into Iraqi offensive operations by the end of the war in 1988. Iraq demonstrated its ability to use chemical weapons during that conflict in the following roles: in a defensive role to disrupt or halt an overwhelming enemy offensive; as a preemptive weapon to disrupt staging areas before an offensive attack; and as an offensive weapon during well-staged attacks to regain territory. Authority for use of chemical weapons during that war eventually became delegated to corps commanders. The Iraqis delivered chemical agents with artillery, multiple rocket launchers, mortars, and aerial bombs dropped by fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. Iraq also used chemical agents against Kurdish civilians in 1988. Historical precedent suggests Saddam already may have deployed chemical weapons to western Iraq, as he did during Operation Desert Storm to be used against Israel in the event of coalition military action that threatens the regime.

Iraq will develop various elements of its chemical industry to achieve self-sufficiency in producing the chemical precursors required for CW agent production. Iraq might construct a new dedicated CW facility or facilities at remote sites to avoid detection or, alternatively, upgrade the production capabilities at its Habbaniyah I and II facilities to produce the agent mustard and binary components necessary for the production of nerve agents.






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As of August 2006, Iraq Watch is no longer being updated. Click here for more information.

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