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Iraq's Chemical and Biological Weapons Production

By Seth Carus

Published by Washington Institute for Near East Policy

June 1998

Executive Summary


Iraq is now investing substantial resources in its chemical and pharmaceutical industries. These investments will provide it with the ability to produce chemical warfare agents in relatively large quantities with minimal reliance on foreign sources of supply. Iraq is also in the process of obtaining the expertise and technical infrastructure needed to support a biological weapons program.

Iraq's legitimate chemical production facilities also make possible the production of the precursor chemicals needed to produce chemical weapons. This will significantly reduce Iraq's vulnerability to foreign export controls on such materials.

The United States tried to restrict Iraq's chemical weapons production by reliance on export controls to keep it from obtaining the chemical ingredients needed to produce the weapons. This policy will be of diminishing value as soon as Iraq becomes independent of foreign sources of precursor chemicals.

The United States should respond to this challenge in several ways. First, efforts to negotiate a global ban on the possession and production of chemical agents should be continued. Second, the United States should adopt harsh sanctions aimed at countries that employ chemical agents in violation of the Geneva Protocol and at companies that assist countries in producing chemical weapons.

Ultimately, however, resolve is more important than programs. It must be made clear, both to foreign leaders and to officials in Washington, that the United States will respond strongly to the use of chemical agents. Only then will it be possible to prevent future use of such weapons.

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