Iraq Survey Group Final Report
Realizing Saddam’s Veiled WMD Intent
Regime Strategy and WMD Timeline
For an overview of Iraqi WMD programs and policy choices, readers should consult the Regime Strategy and WMD Timeline chart, enclosed as a separate foldout and tabular form at the back of Volume I. Covering the period from 1980 to 2003, the timeline shows specific events bearing on the Regime’s efforts in the BW, CW, delivery systems and nuclear realms and their chronological relationship with political and military developments that had direct bearing on the Regime’s policy choices.
Readers should also be aware that, at the conclusion of each volume of text, we have also included foldout summary charts that relate inflection points—critical turning points in the Regime’s WMD policymaking—to particular events, initiatives, or decisions the Regime took with respect to specific WMD programs. Inflection points are marked in the margins of the body of the text with a gray triangle.
In the years following Iraq’s war with Iran and invasion of Kuwait, Saddam’s Regime sought to preserve the ability to reconstitute his WMD, while seeking sanctions relief through the appearance of cooperation with the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the UN Monitoring Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). Saddam’s initial approach under sanctions was driven by his perceived requirements for WMD and his confidence in Iraq’s ability to ride out inspections without fully cooperating. Interwoven into this basic fabric of Iraq’s interaction with the UN were equally significant domestic, international, and family events, all influenced by and reflective of Saddam’s strategic intent. These events can be divided into five phases that cover the entire period 1980 to 2003.
The opening years of Saddam’s Regime are defined by a period of ambition.The 1980 to 1991 period is dominated by the Iran-Iraq war and its aftershock.
The war was costly in financial, human and materiel resources and led Iraq towards a period of insolvency and decline. Further, the war taught Saddam the importance of WMD to national and Regime survival; in doing so, however, it also highlighted Iraq’s active WMD program to the world.
A sharp increase in the price of oil in 1979, following a series of earlier spikes, provided Saddam with a financial base that he hoped to use to improve Iraq’s civilian infrastructure and modernize its military. Indeed the 1979 gains created a new plateau for higher prices (more than $30 a barrel) through the mid-1980s and created a hard currency windfall for Iraq in 1980.
The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, however, interrupted Saddam’s plans. Although Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini threatened to “export [his] revolution to the four corners of the world,” he viewed his best opportunity to be among Iraq’s Shi’a majority in southern Iraq. Khomeini therefore supported Shi’a demonstrations in 1979 and an civil unrest in 1980. Saddam sought to punish Khomeini for his meddling and also sought to reestablish total Iraqi control over the Shatt al-’Arab waterway, Iraq’s primary outlet to the Persian Gulf. In 1975, Saddam had agreed under duress to share the waterway with the Iranians. In the fall of 1980, with Iran’s military weakened by internal purges, Saddam believed an attack would be successful. He also felt that attacking Iran would enhance his prestige with fellow Arab leaders who feared Khomeini’s influence. Saddam launched in September what he expected to be a short “blitzkrieg” campaign to take and hold territory in southern Iran to extort concessions from Khomeini and possibly cause his overthrow. The plan backfired. After several initial Iraqi victories, stiff Iranian resistance, stopped and then rolled back Iraqi gains with heavy casualties on both sides. This pattern of brutal thrusts, counterattacks, and prolonged stalemate continued for another eight years, eventually drawing in the United States and the Soviet Union (both supporting Iraq), the UN, and several other regional and Third World states.
Hostilities ended in August 1988, with no change from the 1980 political status quo, after both parties agreed to a cease-fire on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 598. The war exacted a significant toll on Iraq, which lost an estimated 375,000 casualties and 60,000 prisoners and cost $150 billion, much of it borrowed from Gulf neighbors and the Soviet Union (for arms). Having survived, Saddam learned that defeating superior numbers of Iranian forces, especially massed infantry attacks, required the use of CW. He was also convinced that Iraq’s ability to retaliate with missile strikes against Tehran in the 1988 “War of the Cities” finally forced Khomeini to agree to a ceasefire. The importance of a mutually supporting system of WMD, with theater ballistic missiles in securing Iraq’s national security became an article of faith for Saddam and the vast majority of Regime members.
Despite Iraq’s heavy burden of debt after the war, Saddam emerged with an experienced and expanded military force, poised to dominate the Gulf. Economic difficulties were Saddam’s main motive for the invasion of Kuwait, with irredentist grievances a secondary concern. Absorbing Kuwait as Iraq’s 19th province was viewed as having historical justification and being the key to revitalizing Iraq’s economy. Saddam had planned for an invasion of Kuwait for some weeks beforehand, but the timeframe in which to conduct the attack had not been formalized. The impulsive decision to invade in August 1990 was precipitated by what Saddam chose to perceive as Kuwait’s arrogance in negotiations over disputed oil drilling along the common border.
As in the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam’s ambition led him to miscalculate the impact of his actions. He was unprepared for the harsh reaction to the Kuwaiti invasion by the United States and the other permanent members of the UNSC, especially the Soviet Union, and surprised by the condemnation of fellow Arab leaders, many of whom he knew detested the Kuwaitis. In the face of this criticism, however, Saddam refused to back down, believing he could prevail, just as he did against Iran. While Coalition forces ousted Iraq from Kuwait, Saddam maintained his grip on power inside Iraq, as well as his conviction that the key to successfully defending Iraq was to possess WMD and an effective means of delivering them.
The costliness of the Iran/Iraq war and the resulting invasion of Kuwait ushered in a period of economic and military decline. The years 1991—1996 were a tense and difficult period that threatened Regime survival. The Iraqi economy hit rock bottom in 1995 and forced Saddam to accept the OFF program the following year; bolstering the position of the Regime generally and Saddam’s survival specifically.
UNSCR 715, passed on 11 October 1991, required Iraq’s unconditional acceptance of an ongoing monitoring and verification presence to verify Iraq’s compliance with the weapons-related provisions of UNSCR 687 (1991). UNSCR 715 also required national implementing legislation to ban future Iraqi WMD work. The former Regime refused to accept these provisions until November 1993. (However, national implementing legislation was not enacted until February 2003.) The former Regime objected to the open-ended nature of long-term monitoring, because Iraq equated the presence of inspectors with the continuation of sanctions. As this wrangling continued, sanctions took their toll on the Iraqi economy—government and private-sector revenues collapsed, rampant inflation undermined business confidence, and Iraqis at all levels were impoverished—and the former Regime in late 1994 threatened to end cooperation with inspectors unless the oil embargo was lifted. The Iraqi Government was unable to invest in rebuilding its infrastructure, already devastated by the Gulf war and the Iran-Iraq war.
The “no-fly zones” over northern and southern Iraq, patrolled by Coalition aircraft, were an affront to Iraqi sovereignty. Although severely weakened militarily, Iraq used troop movements into southern Iraq in 1994 to threaten the Kuwaitis and into northern Iraq in 1996 to punish disaffected Kurds. Internally, the departure to Jordan in August 1995 of Saddam’s son-in-law and close confidante Husayn Kamil created further disarray among senior members of the Iraqi Regime. Through it all, Saddam endured and his desire to end sanctions and rebuild his WMD capability persisted.
Selected UN Security Council Resolutions
UNSCR 687, 3 April 1991—created the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and required Iraq to accept “the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision” of its chemical and biological weapons and missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers and their associated programs, stocks, components, research, and facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was charged with abolition of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program.
UNSCR 706, 15 August 1991—proposed allowing Iraq to export oil to pay for food, medicine, and compensation payments to Kuwait and cost of UN operations.
UNSCR 707, 15 August 1991—noted Iraq’s “flagrant violation” of UNSCR 687 and demanded that Iraq provide “full, final, and complete disclosure” (FFCD) of its WMD programs, provide inspectors with “immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access” to inspection sites, and cease all attempts to conceal material or equipment from its WMD and missile programs.
UNSCR 712, 2 September 1991—Authorizes immediate release of funds from escrow to finance payments for the purchase of foodstuffs, medicines and materials and supplies for essential civilian needs, and confirmed that funds from other sources may be deposited in the escrow account to be immediately available to meet Iraq’s humanitarian needs, and urges that any provision be undertaken through arrangements which assure their equitable distribution to meet humanitarian needs.
UNSCR 715, 11 October 1991—approved UNSCOM and IAEA plans for Ongoing Monitoring and Verification (OMV) to prevent Iraq from reconstituting its WMD programs.
UNSCR 986, 14 April 1995—allowed Iraq to export $1,000,000,000 of petroleum and petroleum products every 90 days, placed the funds in an escrow account, and allowed Iraq to purchase food, medicines, and humanitarian supplies with the proceeds. Laid the groundwork of what came to be known as the Oil-For-Food Program.
UNSCR 1051, 27 March 1996—approved a mechanism for monitoring Iraqi imports and exports as required by UNSCR 715. The mechanism allowed the UN and the IAEA to monitor the import of dual-use goods in Iraq.
UNSCR 1154, 2 March 1998—provide Security Council endorsement for a Memorandum of Understanding between the UN Secretary General and the Iraqi Regime that governed the inspection of presidential palaces and other sensitive sites.
UNSCR 1194, 9 September 1998—condemned Iraq’s decision to halt cooperation with UNSCOM and IAEA inspections in August 1998 as a “flagrant violation” of its obligations and demanded that Iraq restore cooperation with UNSCOM. The resolution suspended sanctions reviews but promised Iraq a “comprehensive review” of its situation once cooperation resumed and Iraq demonstrated its willingness to comply.
UNSCR 1205, 5 November 1998—condemned Iraq “flagrant violation” of earlier UNSCRs in suspending cooperation with UN monitoring activities in Iraq on 31 October 1998.
UNSCR 1284, 17 December 1999—established the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to take over the responsibilities mandated to UNSCOM under UNSCR 687. It also linked Iraqi cooperation in settling disarmament issues with the suspension and subsequent lifting of sanctions. UNSCR 1284 also abolished the ceiling on Iraqi oil exports.
UNSCR 1441, 8 November 2002—declared Iraq in material breach of its obligations under previous resolutions including 687, required new weapons declarations from Iraq, and included stringent provisions for Iraqi compliance, including access to all sites, interviews with scientists, and landing and over flight rights.
Scientific Research and Intention to Reconstitute WMD
Many former Iraqi officials close to Saddam either heard him say or inferred that he intended to resume WMD programs when sanctions were lifted. Those around him at the time do not believe that hemade a decision to permanently abandon WMD programs.Saddam encouraged Iraqi officials to preserve the nation’s scientific brain trust essential for WMD. Saddam told his advisors as early as 1991 that he wanted to keep Iraq’s nuclear scientists fully employed. This theme of preserving personnel resources persisted throughout the sanctions period.
- Saddam’s primary concern was retaining a cadre of skilled scientists to facilitate reconstitution of WMD programs after sanctions were lifted, according to former science advisor Ja’far Diya’ Ja’far Hashim. Saddam communicated his policy in several meetings with officials from MIC, Ministry of Industry and Minerals, and the IAEC in 1991-1992. Saddam instructed general directors of Iraqi state companies and other state entities to prevent key scientists from the pre-1991 WMD program from leaving the country. This retention of scientists was Iraq’s only step taken to prepare for a resumption of WMD, in Ja’far’s opinion.
- Presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud wrote that in 1991 Saddam told the scientists that they should “preserve plans in their minds” and “keep the brains of Iraq’s scientists fresh.” Iraq was to destroy everything apart from knowledge, which would be used to reconstitute a WMD program.
- Saddam wanted people to keep knowledge in their heads rather than retain documents that could have been exposed, according to former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq ‘Aziz. Nuclear scientists were told in general terms that the program was over after 1991, and Tariq ‘Aziz inferred that the scientists understood that they should not keep documents or equipment. ‘Aziz also noted that if Saddam had the same opportunity as he did in the 1980s, he probably would have resumed research on nuclear weapons.
- Ja’far said that Saddam stated on several occasions that he did not consider ballistic missiles to be WMD and therefore Iraq should not be subject to missile restrictions. Ja’far was unaware of any WMD activities in Iraq after the Gulf war, but said he thought Saddam would reconstitute all WMD disciplines when sanctions were lifted, although he cautioned that he never heard Saddam say this explicitly. Several former senior Regime officials also contended that nuclear weapons would have been important—if not central—components of Saddam’s future WMD force.
- According to two senior Iraqi scientists, in 1993 Husayn Kamil, then the Minister of Military Industrialization, announced in a speech to a large audience of WMD scientists at the Space Research Center in Baghdad that WMD programs would resume and be expanded, when UNSCOM inspectors left Iraq. Husayn Kamil’s intimate relationship with Saddam added particular credibility to his remarks.
Reaction to Sanctions
Baghdad reluctantly submitted to inspections, declaring only part of its ballistic missile and chemical warfare programs to the UN, but not its nuclear weapon and biological warfare programs, which it attempted to hide from inspectors.In 1991, Husayn Kamil and Qusay Saddam Husayn attempted to retain Iraq’s WMD and theater missile capability by using MIC, along with the SSO, RG, SRG, and Surface-to-Surface Missile Command to conceal banned weapons and deceive UNSCOM inspectors.
- MIC organizations–the Technical Research Center and the Al Muthanna State Establishment–dispersed Iraq’s biological and chemical bombs and missile warheads in cooperation with the Iraqi Air Force and Surface-to-Surface Missile Command prior to Desert Storm. These undeclared or partially declared weapons remained in dispersal sites, allegedly, until July 1991.
Born in 1955 within the Al Majid branch of Saddam’s family, Husayn Kamil was the son of Saddam’s first cousin on his father’s side, Kamil Hasan Al Majid ‘Abd-al-Qadir. More importantly, Husayn Kamil became Saddam’s son-in-law, married in 1983 to Saddam’s eldest and favorite daughter, Raghad. Husayn Kamil began his rise to power within the Regime’s security services as part of Saddam’s personal detail. According to Tariq ‘Aziz, Husayn Kamil was a second lieutenant when Saddam became president in July 1979.
In 1983, Saddam appointed him Director of the SSO and later Supervisor, or “Overseer”(Mushrif), of the RG (including the SRG). In effect, he controlled all of Saddam’s security organizations, an unprecedented level of trust for any single individual. In 1987, Saddam appointed Husayn Kamil as Overseer of Military Industrialization. He rose to Minister of Industry and Military Industrialization (MIMI) in 1988 after acquiring the Ministries of Heavy Industry and Light Industry as well as exerting control over the Ministry of Petroleum, the Atomic Energy Commission, and Petrochemical Complex 3 (Iraq’s clandestine nuclear program). By 1990, Husayn Kamil was, very likely, the second most powerful man in Iraq.
Husayn Kamil received broad administrative and financial authority from Saddam to consolidate both Iraq’s research and development programs, and its industrial resources into military production, including WMD and missile delivery systems production. Although not technically trained, Kamil oversaw Iraq’s program to modify the Regime’s Scud missiles to the longer-range Al Husayn variant, and the development and production of nerve agents, including Tabun, Sarin and VX.
His relationship with Saddam gave Husayn Kamil opportunities to act outside the law and with minimal personal and fiscal oversight. Because of his family ties and proximity to Saddam, he could have anyone fired or placed under suspicion. Although ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi was the Deputy Director of MIC and a key subordinate, Kamil did not rely on deputies. A former subordinate noted: “Husayn Kamil did not have a right-hand man, as he was too arrogant.” His successor at MIC, who was also one of Kamil’s former subordinates said, “No one in MIC could control him and everyone feared him.”
By 1995 the impact of sanctions meant Iraq was on the verge of bankruptcy—Kamil’s capricious and self-serving oversight of MIC, his lack of accountability, and the intrusive nature of UN inspections combined to erode Iraq’s military industrial capability. Husayn Kamil, his brother Saddam Kamil, and their wives and children (Saddam Husayn’s grandchildren) fled Iraq and sought political asylum in Jordan on 9 August 1995.
Various reasons may explain why Husayn Kamil left Iraq. The most important reason may have been the growing tension between him and his bitter family-rival ‘Uday Saddam Husayn. According to King Hussein of Jordan, “as far as we know, this was a family crisis, in the personal context, for a fairly long period.” A further explanation revolves around the terrible state of the Iraqi economy under sanctions and the possibility that he wanted to escape Iraq before a popular or tribal revolt unseated Saddam and his family. For his part, Husyan Kamil said Saddam’s rule had “lost its creditability on the international and Arab level,” and that his defection “shows to what extent the situation in Iraq has deteriorated.” The Iraqi media and leadership first accused him of financial improprieties, and then said he was “no more than an employee in this state and his responsibilities were limited.” Finally, they made him the ultimate “fall guy” for all Iraq’s problems—from the Regime’s decision to invade Kuwait, to Iraq’s duplicitous relations with UNSCOM.
Despite the level of invective on both sides, Husayn Kamil, Saddam Kamil, and their families decided to return to Iraq in February 1996, supposedly with the promise of a pardon from Saddam. Upon their return from Jordan, he and his brother were detained, separated from their families, and placed under house arrest. Within days, Saddam’s daughters divorced their husbands. While under house arrest Husayn Kamil and his brother were confronted by ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid and members of their family tribe, come to reclaim “tribal honor.” Husayn Kamil, his brother Saddam, their father, their sister and her children were killed in the ensuing shoot-out. Saddam Husayn “explicitly endorsed the killings, which, as he saw them, ‘purified’ and healed the family by amputating from the ‘hand’ an ‘ailing finger.’” Trying at the same time to distance himself, however, he assured his listeners that, had he been notified about it ahead of time, he would have prevented the assault, because “when I pardon, I mean it.”
- The Surface-to-Surface Missile Command concealed undeclared Al Husayn and Scud missiles, launchers, and chemical and biological warheads.
- Particularly in the early 1990s, the SRG concealed uranium enrichment equipment, missiles, missile manufacturing equipment, “know-how” documents from all the programs, as well as a supply of strategic materials.
- The RG Security Directorate of the SSO conveyed instruction from Husayn Kamil and Qusay to the SRG elements that were hiding material and documents, and SSO political officers at SRG units often knew the whereabouts of the hidden material.
Senior Regime members failed to anticipate the duration of sanctions and the rigor of UN inspections.
- Saddam initially expected the sanctions would last no more than three years, and many Iraqis doubted the sanctions would be so comprehensive, according to several detainee interviews. These perceptions probably persuaded senior Regime leaders that they could weather a short-lived sanctions regime by making limited concessions, hiding much of their pre-existing weapons and documentation, and even expanding biological warfare potential by enhancing dual-use facilities.
- Following unexpectedly thorough inspections, Saddam ordered Husayn Kamil in July 1991 to destroy unilaterally large numbers of undeclared weapons and related materials to conceal Iraq’s WMD capabilities. This destruction–and Iraq’s failure to document the destruction–greatly complicated UN verification efforts and thereby prolonged UN economic sanctions on Iraq. According to Iraqi Presidential Advisor ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi, the unilateral destruction decision was comparable in its negative consequences for Iraq with the decision to invade Kuwait.
- Intrusive inspections also affected potential WMD programs by guaranteeing the presence of inspection teams in Iraqi military, and research and development facilities.
- Sanctions imposed constraints on potential WMD programs through limitations on resources and restraints on imports. The sanctions forced Iraq to slash funding that might have been used to refurbish the military establishment and complicated the import of military goods. Rebuilding the military, including any WMD capability, required an end to sanctions.
- The economic bite of the sanctions instead grew increasingly painful and forced the Regime to adopt an unprecedented range of austerity measures by 1996. Disclosure of new evidence of Iraqi WMD activity following Husayn Kamil’s 1995 flight to Jordan undermined Baghdad’s case before the UN.
Husayn Kamil’s Departure
Senior Iraqi officials—especially Saddam—were caught off-guard by Husayn Kamil’s flight to Jordan in August 1995. The Regime was forced to quickly assess what the fallout would be from any revelations and what damage they would inflict on Iraqi credibility with UNSCOM. Iraqi demands to end sanctions and threats to stop cooperation with UNSCOM became increasingly shrill in the two months prior to Husayn Kamil’s defection. Vice President Ramadan said on 14 June that Iraq had decided “not to continue cooperation with the Council” if UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekeus’ 19 June 1995 report to the Security Council did not bring about “a positive position that contributes to ending the siege imposed on Iraq.” On 17 July, the anniversary of the Ba’th party revolution, Saddam again threatened to stop cooperation with the UN unless sanctions were lifted. Two days later, after meetings with his Egyptian counterpart, Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Sa’id Kazim Al Sahaf insisted that Iraq had complied with its obligations under UN resolutions and demanded the oil embargo and other sanctions be lifted by the Security Council after the next review on 14 September.
By the time Husayn Kamil fled, Iraq already had submitted another “full, final, and complete declaration (FFCD)” on its biological program to UNSCOM. On 1 July 1995, Iraq had admitted to the production of bulk biological agent, but had denied weaponizing it. To maintain the appearance of cooperation, however, Iraq had to provide more information to inspectors and withdraw the earlier FFCD. After making such strident demands of Rolf Ekeus and the UN, Iraq was now forced—to great embarrassment—to withdraw its threat to cease cooperation with UNSCOM and admit that its biological program was more extensive than previously acknowledged.
- Husayn Kamil’s flight set the stage for further disclosures to the UN, particularly in the BW and nuclear fields. The UN responded by destroying extensive dual-use facilities critical to the BW program, such as the facilities at Al Hakam and Dawrah. The revelations also triggered contentious UNSCOM inspections in 1996 designed to counter Regime deception efforts and led to showdowns over access to sensitive facilities, including presidential sites.
- After Husayn Kamil’s departure, about 500 scientists and other nuclear officials assembled and signed documents affirming they would hide neither equipment nor documents, according to a former nuclear scientist.
- The director of the National Monitoring Directorate (NMD) responded to Husayn Kamil’s departure by installing representatives in each ministry and company, according to the former Minister of Military Industrialization ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh. These individuals, fully aware of all the UNSC resolutions, were to report any violations to the NMD. When they detected potential violations, such as trying to procure materials and conducting illicit research, they halted them.
Cooperating With UNSCOM While Preserving WMD
Iraq attempted to balance competing desires to appear to cooperate with the UN and have sanctions lifted, and to preserve the ability to eventually reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi behavior under sanctions reflects the interplay between Saddam’s perceived requirements for WMD and his confidence in the Regime’s ability to ride out inspections without full compliance, and the perceived costs and longevity of sanctions. The Iraqis never got the balance right.
- According to ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud, Saddam privately told him that Iraq would reacquire WMD post-sanctions and that he was concerned about Iraq’s vulnerability to Israeli WMD and Iran’s growing nuclear threat.
- Baghdad tried to balance perceived opportunities offered by denial and deception, and diplomacy, against costs imposed by the continuation of sanctions, the UN’s introduction of more rigorous inspection techniques, and Coalition air attacks.
- Saddam repeatedly told his ministers not to participate in WMD-related activity, according to Tariq ‘Aziz.
- A former MIC employee stated he was directed to sign an affidavit in 1993 acknowledging he understood that he was under orders to comply with UN restrictions and that the penalty for non-compliance was death. He signed a similar affidavit in 1994-1995, and again in 1999, under orders from Minister of Military Industrialization ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh through his supervisor.
- In 1991, however, Husayn Kamil stated to presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud that it was not necessary to declare Iraq’s BW program to the UN and indicated that he would order the scientists to hide all evidence in their homes.
- Initially, the Iraqi Regime’s deception strategy responded only to the movement and actions of the UN inspectors. From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqis modified their tactics to continue the concealment of proscribed materials. During the early phases of the inspections in 1991, UNSCOM inspectors often gave notice of inspection sites 24 hours in advance of movements. This gave Iraqi officials a day to remove materials, if required. The materials could then be returned when the inspection was complete.
The continual decline led to the economic low point of 1995 and convinced the Regime to adopt different tactics.
Iraq’s economic decline forced the Regime to accept the UN OFF program; this resulted in economic recovery and underpinned a more confident Regime posture.
The tightening economic sanctions, Iraq’s declaration of a BW program, the flight of Husayn Kamil, and the subsequent failure of Iraq’s attempt to disclose the “chicken farm” documents sent the nation into a downward spiral. If Saddam was going to do something—it had to be soon. Iraq’s reluctant acceptance of UNSCR 986—the Oil-For-Food program approved by the UN on 14 April 1995—and its negotiation of the formal, unchallenged trade protocol with Jordan set the pattern for similar illegal deals with Syria and Turkey in 2000. These became the foundation for Iraq’s economic recovery. Although initially approved by the UN in April 1995, Iraq waited until 20 May 1996 to accept UNSCR 986, and it wasn’t until December of 1996 that the actual implementation of the program began funding this recovery.
According to Tariq ‘Aziz, Husayn Kamil’s defection was the turning point in Iraqi sanctions history in that afterwards Saddam agreed to accept OFF. In the early 1990s, Saddam and his advisors had failed to realize the strategic trade (and thereby political) opportunities that OFF program offered Iraq. France, Russia and China pushed Iraq to accept OFF because the Iraqis had consistently complained about the deprivation sanctions had imposed on the populace (‘Aziz had repeatedly tried to get Saddam to accept the program during the early 1990s). In the opinion of senior Iraqi leaders, OFF allowed Iraq to rejoin the world of international trade and its position began to improve by 1997. ‘Aziz said Iraq began “accumulating partners,” life became “less difficult,” and the Iraqi Government increased the amount of rations being provided.
Prior to the implementation of UNSCR 986, internally, the former Iraqi Regime struggled with its Kurdish enemies in northern Iraq, and used military force to recapture the city of Irbil in August 1996. Coalition military retaliation appeared in the form of Desert Strike and the subsequent extension of Iraq’s No-Fly-Zones, further constricting Iraqi controlled airspace. Russian and France continued to chide the United States for, what they viewed as, US unilateral action against the sovereignty of Iraq.
Iraq’s relationship with UNSCOM remained mercurial. Early Iraqi hopes for a quick resolution of outstanding inspection issues were swallowed up in ever increasing mistrust and substantive disputes between the two sides. Saddam had hoped to gain favor after a massive turnover of WMD-related documents that the Regime “discovered” at Husayn Kamil’s “chicken farm”, which validated suspicions about Iraqi concealment operations and raised additional questions. UNSCOM, however, became more suspicious of Iraqi motives and the relationship steadily deteriorated, despite intervention by the UN Secretary General. Eventually, the balance tipped against compliance with inspection requirements in favor of pursuing other avenues of sanctions relief. Saddam’s decisions in 1998 to suspend cooperation with UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) eventually led to UNSCOM’s departure and a Coalition military attack against Iraq, Desert Fox.
Saddam later regarded the air strikes associated with Desert Fox in December 1998 as the worst he could expect from Western military pressure. He noted, but was less influenced by, the limits of international tolerance shown in the UNSC to his hard-line against UNSCOM. He over-estimated what he could, in future, expect from Russia, France and China in the UNC in terms of constraining a more vigorous Coalition response.
- Iraq accepted OFF in May 1996 and oil began to flow in December 1996; revenues from this program gradually increased to $5.11 billion annually in 1998 (see the Regime Finance and Procurement chapter).
- Saddam distrusted OFF because he felt it would relieve international pressure on the UNSC to expeditiously lift sanctions. For the same reason, he refused in September 1991 to acknowledge UNSCR 712, to garner international support by claiming that sanctions were starving the Iraqi people.
Impact of the “Chicken Farm” Documents
The release of long-concealed WMD documentation planted at Husayn Kamil’s farm in August 1995, and Iraq’s declarations in February 1996 revealing new aspects of the WMD programs were major turning points in the Regime’s denial and deception efforts following the Desert Storm. Iraq considered the declaration to be a measure of goodwill and cooperation with the UN; however, the release of these documents validated UNSCOM concerns about ongoing concealment and created additional questions from the international community. In an attempt to comply with UN requirements:
- The Iraqi leadership required WMD scientists to sign an agreement in 1996 indicating that they would turn over any WMD documents in their houses and that failure to do so could lead to execution, according to reporting.
- Huwaysh, in 1997 ordered his employees to sign statements certifying they did not have any WMD-related documents or equipment. The penalty for non-compliance was death. His scientists relinquished rooms full of documents, which MIC turned over to the National Monitoring Directorate. Huwaysh was unsure what the NMD ultimately did with them.
Although Iraq’s release of the “chicken farm” documents initially created a more positive atmosphere with UNSCOM, the relationship grew strained as UNSCOM and the IAEA inspections became more aggressive. The release destroyed the international community’s confidence in the credibility of follow-on Iraqi declarations of cooperation. UNSCOM concluded that it had been successfully deceived by Iraq and that the deception effort was controlled and orchestrated by the highest levels of the former Regime. UNSCOM therefore directed its efforts at facilities associated with very senior members of the Regime and designed inspections to uncover documents rather than weapons. The situation eventually reached an impasse then escalated to crisis and conflict. From this experience, Iraq learned to equate cooperation with UNSCOM with increased scrutiny, prolonged sanctions, and the threat of war. In response, Baghdad sought relief via a weakening of the sanctions regime rather than compliance with it.
Looking Ahead to Resume WMD Programs
The Regime made a token effort to comply with the disarmament process, but the Iraqis never intended to meet the spirit of the UNSC’s resolutions. Outward acts of compliance belied a covert desire to resume WMD activities. Several senior officials also either inferred or heard Saddam say that he reserved the right to resume WMD research after sanctions.
- Presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud, while a detainee, wrote: “If the sanctions would have been lifted and there is no UN monitoring, then it was possible for Saddam to continue his WMD activities and in my estimation it would have been done in a total secrecy and [with] concealment because he gained from 1991 and UN decisions.” But in another debrief, Huwaysh said it would take 6 months to reconstitute a mustard program.
The Saga of the “Chicken Farm” Documents
Husayn Kamil Hasan Al Majid and Qusay Saddam Husayn were behind an effort to conceal WMD documents and strategic materials that only ended after he fled to Jordan in August 1995. After the first Iraqi declaration in April 1991, Husayn Kamil ordered that all “know-how” documents, catalogs, and technical documents from the WMD and missile programs should be gathered and given to the security services for safekeeping. The Director General of each Military Industrialization Commission (MIC) Establishment was to gather his organization’s important technical documents, and they were told that the documents were so important that the documents were to be destroyed only by the security services. Establishments were asked to deliver their documents to MIC security elements, which trucked them to a central rendezvous point in Baghdad where the trucks were turned over to the Special Security Organization (SSO) and the Special Republican Guard (SRG). On two or three occasions in April and May 1991, MIC security officers turned over truckloads of program documents.
A separate effort collected the documents of the PC-3 nuclear weapons organization. Security personnel hid these documents for a time in Duluiyah and Tarmiyah. Some nuclear documents were also loaded into a railroad car and shuttled between Baghdad and Hadithah in western Iraq.
The documents were later delivered to a house that belonged SRG training officer Lt. Col. Sufyan Mahir Hasan Al Ghudayri in the Ghaziliyah section of Baghdad. After Sufyan transferred to the Republican Guard in 1993, SRG Chief of Staff Col. Walid Hamid Tawfiq Al Nasiri took control of the documents and moved them to a new safe house in the Hay at-Tashri section of Baghdad near the Republican Palace.
An SRG element led by Col. Najah Hasan ‘Ali Al Najar was also selected to conceal several truckloads of metals—aluminum billets and maraging steel disks—that had been purchased for the uranium centrifuge enrichment program. The SRG loaded this material onto civilian trucksand drove them to various locations outside of Baghdad to evade inspectors. Col. Walid also managed and coordinated this activity.
Husayn Kamil’s flight to Jordan raised concerns that he would tell the UN about the hidden documents and materials. Qusay summoned Col. Walid to his office and quizzed Walid about the documents. Walid explained to Qusay about the Hay at-Tashri safe house. Shortly after this meeting, Walid was ordered by his former SRG commander, Kamal Mustafa ‘Abdallah, to move the documents out of Baghdad. Walid used seven to nine SRG trucks to haul the documents to a farm near ‘Aqarquf, west of Baghdad, where they were stored for a number of days. When Walid inquired of Kamal Mustafa what he should do with the documents, and Kamal Mustafa told him to burn them. After nearly two days of burning, Walid and his crew destroyed approximately a quarter of the documents.
At that point, Walid was contacted by Khalid Kulayb ‘Awan Juma’, the head of the SSO Republican Guard Security Directorate, who ordered that the documents be moved to Salman Pak and from there to a final destination. Walid and a convoy of trucks carried the boxes of documents in the middle of the night to Salman Pak where they were guided to Husayn Kamil’s “chicken farm” near Al Suwayrah. A number of people in civilian clothes met the convoy when it arrived at the farm and directed the unloading of the vehicles. The boxes of documents were all unloaded at the farm by 7 o’clock in the morning.
Walid also reportedly called Col. Najah the same night and directed Najah to meet his convoy of trucks containing the aluminum and steel at the SRG office in Amiriyah. Col. Walid subsequently led the convoy to Husayn Kamil’s farm where these vehicles were also unloaded.
UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekeus and IAEA Action Team leader Mauricio Zifferero were in Baghdad at the invitation of the Iraqi Government. They had conducted several days of talks with the Iraqis and were about to depart for Amman, Jordan to talk with Husayn Kamil. Husam Muhammad Amin Al Yasin, Director General of the National Monitoring Directorate (NMD), received a telephone call from presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud Al Khatab Al Nasiri explaining that Ekeus and Zifferero should view some documents found at Husayn Kamil’s farm.
Husam Amin was able to reach Ekeus about one hour prior to Ekeus’ scheduled departure from Baghdad. Ekeus, along with the IAEA’s Gary Dillon, set off for Husayn Kamil’s farm, guided by two minders sent by the presidential secretary.
Reportedly, the original plan for the documents was to burn them all, and Walid and his crew had begun that process at the farm in ‘Aqarquf. Then someone had the “bright idea” to incriminate Husayn Kamil in the concealment of the documents, so they took the materials to his “chicken farm.” When inspectors examined the material at the farm, they noticed the presence of pebbles among the dust on top of the document boxes, as though someone had simply thrown dirt on top of the boxes in an attempt to make it appear that the boxes had been at the farm for a long time. When the UN began an inquiry into how the documents were discovered at the farm, the Iraqis produced several fanciful stories that quickly unraveled.
- Saddam had said that after sanctions Iraq would resume production of WMD to “achieve international balance and protect the dignity of Iraq and Iraqis and the Arab nations,” according to former presidential secretary ‘Abd. ‘Abd wrote while a detainee, “He [Saddam] would say if only Iraq possessed the nuclear weapon then no one would commit acts of aggression on it or any other Arab country, and the Palestinian issue would be solved peacefully because of Iraq.”
- Saddam would have restarted WMD programs, beginning with the nuclear program, after sanctions, according to Tariq ‘Aziz. Saddam never formally stated this intention, according to ‘Aziz, but he did not believe other countries in the region should be able to have WMD when Iraq could not. ‘Aziz assessed that Iraq could have a WMD capability within two years of the end of sanctions.
- Saddam’s intent to maintain and compartment WMD capabilities was well known and often acknowledged by high level authorities, according to a senior Al Kindi State Company official. The Minister of Military Industrialization allegedly told the source that Saddam wanted a WMD program “on the shelf.” Huwaysh, in a written statement, explained instead that Saddam briefed senior officials on several occasions saying, “We do not intend or aspire to return to our previous programs to produce WMD, if the Security Council abides by its obligations pertaining to these resolutions [UNSCR 687, paragraph 14].” Saddam reiterated this point in a cabinet meeting in 2002, according to Dr. Humam ‘Abd-al-Khaliq ‘Abd-al Ghafur, the former Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
- Huwaysh believed that Saddam would base his decision regarding future Iraqi WMD development on how the Security Council followed through on its promise in paragraph 14 to establish “in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery.” If this promise was not fulfilled, Iraq should be free to act in its own interests. During an earlier debrief Huwaysh speculated that Iraq would have reconstituted many of its proscribed programs within five years if OIF had not occurred.
- During a custodial interview, Saddam, when asked whether he would reconstitute WMD programs after sanctions were lifted, implied that Iraq would have done what was necessary.
Guarding WMD Capabilities
The abortive efforts to outwardly comply with the UN inspection process from 1995 onward slowly shifted to increased efforts to minimize the impact of the inspection process on Regime security, military, and industrial and research capabilities. Throughout 1997-1998, Iraq continued efforts to hinder UNSCOM inspections through site sanitization, warning inspection sites prior to the inspectors’ arrival, concealment of sensitive documentation, and intelligence collection on the UN mission.
- Increasingly after September 1997, Iraq burned documents, barred access to sites to UNSCOM, banned US inspectors, and threatened to shoot down UNSCOM U-2 missions until the UN forced compliance in November of the same year.
Instruments of Denial and Deception
Iraq placed high priority on monitoring UN inspection teams, as well as the political dynamic of UN policy toward Iraq. Former Regime officials state that the Iraqi security services, along with select military elements, played critical roles in guarding Saddam and other key members of the Regime, enforcing Regime policies, and protecting Iraqi military and security activities. (See Annex B “Iraqi Intelligence Services” and Annex C “Iraqi Security Services” Annex for additional information.)
The Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS)
The IIS, responsible for counterintelligence, was the lead organization charged with monitoring UN inspection activities and personnel. IIS directorates carried out human, technical and electronic surveillance of the UN in Iraq to detect intelligence agents and to predict which sites were to be inspected so that those sites could be sanitized.
- IIS personnel accompanied all UNSCOM and UNMOVIC inspection convoys, according to a former senior Iraqi official. The IIS believed that all foreigners were spying on the security of Saddam Husayn or were seeking military or security information. The IIS believed that UN Security Council Resolution 1441 was very tough and that it was important to engage in counterintelligence activities to protect against the loss of important information. IIS “minders” traveled with communications intercept equipment in their vehicles in order to listen to UNSCOM communications while on the move, though this strategy was not used against UNMOVIC in 2002 and 2004 out of fear of detection.
- In the early and mid-1990s, the IIS was tasked with clandestine monitoring of UNSCOM weapons inspectors and their communications, as well as attempting to recruit or turn UNSCOM members, according to a former IIS official. As soon as the UNSCOM mission began focusing on presidential sites, the SSO became actively involved in the inspection process.
- IIS personnel were directed to contact facilities and personnel in advance of UNMOVIC site inspections, according to foreign government information. The IIS developed penetrations within the UN and basic surveillance in country to learn future inspection plans. IIS officials also had the responsibility of organizing protests at UNMOVIC inspection sites.
- According to presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud Al Khatab Al Nasiri, during the mid-to-late 1990s Saddam issued a presidential decree directing the IIS to recruit UNSCOM inspectors, especially American inspectors. To entice their cooperation, the IIS was to offer the inspectors preferential treatment for future business dealings with Iraq, once they completed their duties with the United Nations. Tariq ‘Aziz and an Iraqi-American were specifically tasked by the IIS to focus on a particular American inspector.
- The IIS Directorate of Signals Intelligence (M17) conducted surveillance and collection activities directed against UNSCOM and the UN, according to a former M17 officer. As with the rest of the IIS effort, M17’s objectives were the identification of spies and intelligence activities and the determination of inspection sites before the inspection took place. M17 used a number of techniques including signals intelligence collection from fixed sites and mobile platforms, the bugging of hotel rooms, and eavesdropping on inspector conversations. The IIS also intercepted inspectors’ phone calls. As noted above, M17 did not carry out these activities during 2002 and 2003.
- During UNMOVIC inspections in 2002 and 2003, the IIS was determined not to allow inspection teams to gather intelligence as the Iraqis perceived had been done in the past. Members of the IIS Directorate of Counterintelligence (M5) dramatically increased their physical observation of UN personnel during site visits, having as many as five minders per inspector. The IIS also attempted to be extremely cautious in monitoring UNMOVIC inspections in order to avoid international incidents or being caught hindering inspection activities.
The Special Security Organization (SSO)
The SSO was primarily responsible for the security of the President and other key members of the Regime, security of Presidential palaces and facilities, and ensuring the loyalty of key military units, principally the RG and SRG. SSO personnel also played an important coordinating role between Husayn Kamil Hasan Al Majid and the SRG elements that engaged in concealment of weapons, documents, and materials in the early 1990s. An SSO element also coordinated flight planning for UNSCOM and UNMOVIC aviation elements and provided warning of UN flight activities to the Iraqi Government. The SSO reportedly worked with the IIS to develop a database of inspectors.
- SSO minders also accompanied inspection teams involved in inspections of “sensitive sites,” which included RG, SRG, and security service sites. Their role, ostensibly, was to facilitate quick access to the facilities and prevent controversy. In 2002 and 2003, SSO minders accompanied many inspection teams because of the requirement laid down by UNSCR 1441 to provide immediate access to all facilities, including presidential sites. They also served to warn Saddam Husayn’s security personnel that inspectors were approaching presidential locations.
- Qusay also ordered SSO personnel to hide any orders from Saddam when UN teams came to inspect SSO sites, according to two high-level SSO officers. They were also to hide any contingency war plans, anything dealing with Saddam’s family, SSO personnel rosters, or financial data which could have posed a risk to Iraq national security. Officers would keep materials in their homes and return it once inspectors left.
- The SSO recruited sources on inspection teams to uncover information on planned inspection visits, according to a former SSO security officer. When the SSO officer assigned to an UNSCOM inspection team learned which site was due for inspection, he notified the target site via walkie-talkie using a predetermined code system. The SSO officer on-site had authority to use whatever means was necessary to keep the team from entering the site before it was fully sanitized.
- Concealment failures ultimately compounded issues raised by UNSCOM. The most notorious failure was UNSCOM’s discovery in July 1998 discovery of the “Air Force Document” which called into question Iraq’s declaration of destroyed chemical munitions. Inspectors found the document despite extensive Iraqi efforts to sanitize the site prior to inspector arrival. The discovery resulted in a presidential decree creating a committee to purge such documents from MIC facilities to prevent other such occurrences.
Iraq’s Internal Monitoring Apparatus: The NMD and MIC Programs
In 1998, after the Air Force Document incident, Saddam personally ordered the establishment of a Document Committee under the purview of the NMD to purge all MIC establishments of records of past-prohibited programs to prevent their discovery.
- The NMD oversaw the destruction of redundant copies of declared documents, as well as continued the concealment of documents of past programs that would cause additional problems with the UN. Financial documents that were deemed too valuable to destroy but too controversial to declare were placed in a lockbox in the care of a special agent of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.
- According to NMD Director Husam Muhammad Amin, the NMD continued in its role of enforcing UNSC resolutions, despite its subordination to MIC and the departure of UNSCOM inspectors on 15 December 1998. For example, the NMD carried out the destruction of missile production components, such as the 300-gallon mixer, that MIC had reconstructed against Security Council resolutions in 2002. This role prompted MIC to undertake an internal deception campaign to withhold information regarding the procurement of dual-use material from the NMD, which was viewed as an obstacle to MIC progress.
VX Warhead Samples & The Iraqi Air Force Document Story
Two events in mid-1998 defined a turning point in UNSCOM/Iraq relations: The detection of VX-related compounds on ballistic missile warhead fragments and the discovery of a document describing the use of special weapons by the Iraqi Air Force. Both events convinced inspectors that their assessment of ongoing Iraqi concealment was correct. Conversely, the discoveries convinced Iraqi authorities of the futility of continued cooperation.
“You overlook many truths from a liar.”—’Amir Al Sa’adi in reference to an old Arabic proverb
In order to verify Iraqi declarations and special weapons accounting, wipe samples of ballistic missile warhead remnants were taken by an UNSCOM sampling mission in April 1997. These samples were analyzed by laboratories designated by the Special Commission, which detected the presence of degradation products of nerve agents, in particular VX, on a number of warhead remnants. In addition to these chemicals, a VX stabilizer and its degradation product were identified in some of the samples. A second round of sample testing was conducted by the United States in February 1998, confirming the previous findings. However, subsequent analysis performed by French and Swiss labs was been inconclusive.
In June 1998, in multiple statements, including from Iraq’s Foreign Minister and Permanent Representative to the UN, Iraq categorically denied the outcome of the testing and argued that the results could not have been accurate since VX was not used in any kind of munitions in Iraq due to continuous production failure. According to the former the Minister of Military Industrialization, the Iraqi leadership viewed this episode as one more example of collusion between the US and UNSCOM to discredit Iraqi compliance efforts and lengthen sanctions.
UNSCOM submitted a report to the Security Council, which stated that the existence of VX degradation products conflicted with Iraq’s declarations that the unilaterally destroyed special warheads had never been filled with any CW agents.
In response, Iraq claimed that the contamination of the warhead fragments had been the result of a deliberate act of tampering with samples taken to the United States. In public statements following an August 1998 announcement of Iraq’s suspension of cooperation with UNSCOM, Tariq ‘Aziz denied Iraq had any weapons of mass destruction and accused UNSCOM of catering to hostile American policy by prolonging the inspection process. Said ‘Aziz, “the manner in which the inspection teams have acted recently is neither honest nor fast. This policy serves the United States. I have had . . . the impression that UNSCOM is back to its old games and tricks.” Al Sa’adi saw the VX issue as the critical catalyst in feeding Iraqi distrust of UNSCOM and convincing Iraqi officials that no matter what they did, it would never be enough to achieve sanctions relief. He summed up the matter by stating, “We lost faith with UNSCOM after VX; we determined they were after us by hook or crook.”
On 18 July 1998, another incident created a confrontation between UNSCOM and Iraqi officials. During an inspection of the operations room at Iraqi Air Force Headquarters, an UNSCOM team found a document containing information about the consumption of special (chemical) munitions during the Iran-Iraq War.
According to Husam Muhammad Amin, former director of the National Monitoring Directorate, “It was laziness on behalf of the Brigadier that the document was found. The Brigadier had more than one hour to hide the document while the inspectors waited at the entrance of the Air Force command. The Brigadier was sent to court and his judgment was imprisonment for 5-10 years in jail.”
The inspection team felt that this document could be helpful in their efforts to verify the material balance of Iraq’s chemical munitions. Rather than take possession of the document, the chief inspector on the team requested a copy. Initially Iraqi officials on the scene agreed; then reneged, saying inspectors could only take notes on the document or receive a redacted copy. The chief inspector objected to these restrictions after which Iraqi officials seized the document from the chief inspector’s hands and refused UNSCOM any further access to the papers. According to Amin, Iraq considered any documentation or discussions detailing the use of chemical weapons to be a redline issue. Iraq did not want to declare anything that documented use of chemical weapons for fear the documentation could be used against Iraq in lawsuits. Iraqi Regime leadership was concerned Iran would seek legal reparations for the death and suffering of Iranian citizens due to Iraq’s use of CW in the 1980s.
From 1998 until 2003, Iraq was unwilling to hand over the Air Force document. According to Tariq ‘Aziz, “In most cases Saddam listened and agreed with me when I would tell him that we must be forthcoming with the UN.” However, ‘Aziz added, “The Higher Committee did not want to release the document to the UN because the delivery times and methods contained in the document were thought to be sensitive.” When pressed further on why the Iraqis were so adamant about maintaining the Air Force document ‘Aziz paused, then stated, “We did not have to hand over the document because it was a matter of our national security.”
- MIC employees in 1999 had to sign an affidavit stating that they would not import restricted materials or withhold documents, according to a former senior Iraqi officer who worked in MIC. The Minister of Military Industrialization claimed that although he prohibited any research that would violate UN sanctions, some scientists conducted research in secret. The deputy of NMD requested scientists to turn in documents that might be stored in their home in 2001, according to a sensitive source.
Suspending Cooperation With UNSCOM
The tension that had built between Iraq and UNSCOM over 1997 began to ease in 1998 with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s visit in February and the subsequent draft of a Memorandum of Understanding that restricted the criteria for presidential site visits. A month later, the UNSC decided to review the status of sanctions every sixty days, giving the former Regime hope that the end of sanctions was nearing. These two concessions to Iraq calmed the situation and gave the appearance that things were moving forward. Over the summer of 1998, however, pressure on Iraq began to build again as the VX findings leaked in June, and the Air Force document was discovered in July. Tariq ‘Aziz, in a carefully scripted early August performance, demanded that UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler report to the Security Council that Iraq had met its disarmament obligation, but Butler refused to do so.
UNSCOM and the IAEA failed to close any of the outstanding WMD case files during the summer of 1998—despite high Iraqi hopes to the contrary. Saddam’s profound sensitivity over palace inspections and growing Iraqi bitterness about prolonged cooperation with the UN without getting anything in return also complicated Iraqi-UN relations.These events created breakdowns in the process that probably would have occurred whether or not Iraq retained WMD.
Saddam, Tariq ‘Aziz, and other senior Regime officials realized by August 1998 that Iraq would not be able to satisfy UNSCOM and the UN Security Council and have sanctions lifted.This led Saddam to suspend cooperation with UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 5 August and to halt all UNSCOM activities in Iraq, including monitoring, on 31 October. Even though Saddam revoked this decision on 14 November (under the threat of an American air strike), it had so poisoned the atmosphere with UNSCOM that the relationship could not be repaired. UNSCOM inspectors returned in November and December 1998, but in a letter to the UN Secretary General on 15 December, UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler noted that “Iraq’s conduct ensured that no progress was able to be made in either the fields of disarmament or accounting for its prohibited weapons programmes.” Iraqi behavior, the VX detection, the Air Force document and other indications all conspired to eliminate any UN acceptance of imperfect compliance. Later that day UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors withdrew from Iraq; in the early morning hours of 16 December the Coalition launched a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq designated Desert Fox. On 19 December, Baghdad declared that UNSCOM would never be allowed to return to Iraq.
The suspension of cooperation with UN inspectors ushered in a period of mixed fortunes for the Regime.This transitional phase was characterized by economic growth on the one hand, which emboldened and accelerated illicit procurement and programs. On the other hand Saddam’s increasing physical reclusiveness and the nature of the revenue streams weakened the routine functioning of the Regime and its governance structures.
At the conclusion of Desert Fox on 19 December 1998, Vice President Ramadan announced the end of Iraq’s cooperation with UNSCOM at a press conference in Baghdad. He declared, “The issue of UNSCOM is behind us now. The commission of spies is behind us now. It no longer has a task . . . all that has to do with inspection, monitoring, and weapons of mass destruction is now behind us.” The Security Council, however, created three panels on 30 January 1999 under the direction of Brazilian Ambassador Celso L.N. Amorim to re-start the process of inspections. The panel on Disarmament and Current and Future Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Issues reported its results on 27 March 1999 and recommended to the Security Council that it create a new monitoring and verification apparatus, within the existing framework of UNSC resolutions, to replace UNSCOM and tackle remaining Iraqi disarmament issues. Iraq’s agreement to inspections, however, was still needed for a successful effort. The recommendations from the panels formed the basis of UNSCR 1284, ratified on 17 December 1999. Resolution 1284’s first priority was the establishment of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) to replace UNSCOM. The Security Council in January 2000 appointed Hans Blix as UNMOVIC’s Executive Chairman. Obtaining Iraq’s cooperation with UNMOVIC so inspectors could return, however, took nearly three more years. Resolution 1284 also included language at Russia’s insistence that obligated the Security Council to consider lifting economic sanctions. UNSCR 1284 also provided the background to Iraq’s failure to accept renewed inspections from 2000 to late 2002.
Despite the end of the former Regime’s cooperation with UNSCOM, the OFF program continued without interruption. The Security Council not only renewed the original OFF mandate under UNSCR 986, but raised the revenue ceiling for Iraqi oil exports in October 1999 with UNSCR 1266. The ceiling was then eliminated with UNSCR 1284 (although the resolution reaffirmed sanctions). While the former Regime managed to collect significant hard currency revenues by illicitly exploiting the OFF contracting process, Saddam chafed under OFF controls, even as benefits to the Iraqi people increased and the Security Council raised oil production ceilings. On 17 July 1999, in a speech commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Ba’thist revolution in Iraq, Saddam stated, “Arab oil must be for the Arabs. It has become clear now that the oil is for foreigners . . . . The United States determines the amounts and prices of oil, with the help of its fleets and the occupation forces . . . in the Arabian Gulf countries [and is] now dictating to others what they should sell or manufacture, the goods and commodities they purchase, how much and how many. Such a situation makes economic progress an unattainable wish in our greater Arab homeland.”
The former Regime attempted to use Iraq’s oil resources to leverage the world community, and from 1999 to 2001 repeatedly—but with varying success—reduced or suspended oil production in an attempt to influence decision-making in the Security Council. Iraq controlled the contracting process for both selling its oil and arranging purchases of humanitarian goods and it took advantage of lax UN oversight. To try to garner diplomatic support in the UN, the former Regime ensured that Chinese, French and Russian energy firms, as well as others representing states sympathetic to Iraq, were prominent recipients of oil contracts. Iraq also manipulated oil contracts by imposing an illegal “surcharge” on every barrel sold. Furthermore, Iraq’s neighbors Syria and Turkey negotiated formal, but technically illegal trade protocols which allowed Iraq to provide oil at discounted prices for hard currency or items it could not obtain through OFF. Trade with Syria flourished, providing Iraq with the largest share of its illegal hard currency revenues by 2002. (See Syrian Trade Protocol, under the Regime Finance and Procurement chapter for additional information.)
Saddam invested his growing reserves of hard currency in rebuilding his military-industrial complex, increasing its access to dual-use items and materials, and creating numerous military research and development projects. He also emphasized restoring the viability of the IAEC and Iraq’s former nuclear scientists. The departure of UN inspectors and Iraq’s refusal to allow their return permitted MIC to purchase previously restricted dual-use materials and equipment that it needed for both weapons development and civilian applications. In addition, MIC had greater flexibility in adapting civilian technology to military use. Yet without inspectors to certify Iraq’s ultimate compliance with UNSC resolutions, the UN could perpetuate sanctions indefinitely. The actions of Minister of Military Industrialization ‘Abd-al-Tawab Al Mullah Huwaysh reflected this situation: he said he gave explicit directions to MIC leadership and workforce to avoid any activities that would jeopardize lifting UN sanctions. But, according to reports from his subordinates, he disregarded UN restrictions; acting, as if Saddam had instructed him to do so and justifying his actions by telling his employees that no matter how much evidence Iraq provided it would never satisfy the UN. For example, Huwaysh authorized in 2000 the repair of two 300-gallon mixers, and two solid propellant casting chambers in 2002 (all rendered inoperable by UNSCOM inspectors in 1992), for possible use in building solid propellant missiles that exceeded the 150 km range restriction fixed by UNSCR 687.
While international sympathy for the plight of the Iraqi people increased and support for sanctions progressively eroded, Saddam was unable to capitalize on these shifting moods to strengthen his bargaining position with the UN. Isolated internally by his paranoia over personal security, and externally by his misreading of international events, Saddam missed a major opportunity to reduce tensions with the United States following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. By failing to condemn the attacks and express sympathy to the American people, Saddam reinforced US suspicions about his connections to Al Qa’ida and certified Iraq’s credentials as a rogue state. He told his ministers that after all the hardships the Iraqi people had suffered under sanctions he could not extend official condolences to the United States, the government most responsible for blocking sanctions relief. From a practical standpoint, Saddam probably also believed—mistakenly—that his behavior toward the United States was of little consequence, as sanctions were on the verge of collapse.
Nullifying All Obligations To UNSC Resolutions
Saddam, angered by sanctions, inspections, and the Desert Fox attacks, unilaterally abrogated Iraq’s compliance with all UN resolutions—including the 1991 Gulf war ceasefire—with a secret RCC resolution, according to both presidential secretary ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud and Diwan President Ahmad Husayn Khudayr. Tension within the former Regime over the inspections process had been building since 1995, but Saddam did not formalize his decision to cut Iraq free from UN-imposed limitations until 1998.The RCC resolution was unique because of its confidential nature, according to Ahmad Husayn. The RCC never repealed the resolution nor published it. The secret RCC resolution most likely represented—beyond a personal and impetuous swipe by Saddam at those he saw as his tormentors—an attempt by Saddam to create a legal foundation for future action, as well as preserve his standing in Iraqi history.
- According to ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud, on the second day of Desert Fox, Saddam said, “[T] he cease-fire principle is over; the US broke the international law and attacked a country, which is a member in the UN.” He drafted a resolution which called for the RCC “to cancel all the international obligations and resolutions, which Iraq has agreed upon.” ‘Abd said that Saddam blamed the United States for attacking “Iraq without the UN permission, and [pulling] the inspectors out of Iraq.” As a result, “Iraq [had] the right to cancel all these resolutions to get rid of the sanction which was imposed for more than seven years.”
- The RCC resolution formally ended all Iraqi agreements to abide by UN resolutions. Ahmad Husayn Khudayr recalled that Saddam’s text ordered Iraq to reject every Security Council decision taken since the 1991 Gulf war, including UNSCR 687. Ahmad said the resolution was worded in careful legal terms and “denied all the previously accepted [resolutions] without any remaining trace of them [in the Iraqi Government].”
- Saddam stressed to all those present in the office that his decision was secret and not to disclose it until the decision was publicly announced, according to ‘Abd this admonition was also passed to RCC members.
- Later that evening, Saddam addressed the RCC; Tariq ‘Aziz, Taha Yasin Ramadan, and Taha Muhyi-al-Din Ma’ruf were among those present. Saddam asked the group’s opinion of his draft resolution. ‘Abd remembered, “Tariq ‘Aziz started talking, because he has an experience in international foreign politics and was following the UN resolutions from 1991 to 1998, and also a leader of the committee that worked with the WMD inspectors in Iraq. He supported the resolution along with Ramadan and Taha Muhyi-al-Din Ma’ruf.”
- Saddam signed three copies of the RCC-approved resolution. One was passed to ‘Izzat Ibrahim Al Duri, another went to Ahmad Husayn Khudayr, and the last was held by ‘Abd. According to both ‘Abd and Ahmad the resolution was kept secret for the remainder of the Regime. ‘Abd noted, however, that Saddam said, “One day I will declare this resolution.” The secret nature of the RCC resolution meant that it did not see widespread implementation in ongoing administrative processes, notably NMD operations.
We do not know what measures were taken by the former Regime after the secret resolution was approved, but a number of events may be linked to it. The former Regime made public statements and undertook potential WMD-related activities that would seem to follow from the December 1998 RCC resolution (for more information, see examples from 1999 in the “Preserving and Restoring WMD Assets and Expertise” sub-section below). ‘Abd and Ahmad, however, claim that they know of no specific responses by the former Regime to the resolution. ‘Abd stated that no action was taken because the secret resolution—despite its apparent gravity—was not distributed and remained limited to the three original copies.
- Taha Yasin Ramadan, also present for the secret RCC decision, held a press conference shortly after the end of the Desert Fox campaign and repeatedly termed Iraq’s compliance with UN requirements as something in the past: “The same applies to the blockade, which has lasted too long and which is now behind us,” he declared. “There are no terms [to end the conflict]. We don’t accept any conditions. Everything in the past is behind us now.” “I am not talking about the details. What I am saying is that all that has to do with inspections, monitoring, and weapons of mass destruction is now behind us.” UN inspectors were denied access to Iraq until late 2002, when the threat of war caused Saddam to relent.
- Struggling to explain Saddam’s motives behind the secret resolution, Ahmad Husayn Khudayr offered that Saddam might have been attempting to save “face” by publicly accepting UN mandates but rejecting them in private. By doing this he could then reveal the resolution in the future and claim that he had never really stopped fighting. However, Ahmad’s reasoning is debatable: Saddam passed the secret order in the midst of an attack—suggesting a more resolute frame of mind—rather than immediately prior to an act of forced compliance.
Preserving and Restoring WMD Infrastructure and Expertise
There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise. In addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD as soon as sanctions were lifted. The infrequent and uninformed questions ascribed to him by former senior Iraqis may betray a lack of deep background knowledge and suggest that he had not been following the efforts closely. Alternatively, Saddam may not have fully trusted those with whom he was discussing these programs. Both factors were probably at play. All sources, however, suggest that Saddam encouraged compartmentalization and would have discussed something as sensitive as WMD with as few people as possible.
- Between 1996 and 2002, the overall MIC budget increased over forty-fold from ID 15.5 billion to ID 700 billion. By 2003 it had grown to ID 1 trillion. MIC’s hard currency allocations in 2002 amounted to approximately $364 million. MIC sponsorship of technical research projects at Iraqi universities skyrocketed from about 40 projects in 1997 to 3,200 in 2002. MIC workforce expanded by fifty percent in three years, from 42,000 employees in 1999 to 63,000 in 2002.
- According to a mid-level IIS official, the IIS successfully targeted scientists from Russia, Belarus, Poland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, China, and several other countries to acquire new military and defense-related technologies for Iraq. Payments were made in US dollars. The Iraqi Government also recruited foreign scientists to work in Iraq as freelance consultants. Presumably these scientists, plus their Iraqi colleagues, provided the resident “know how” to reconstitute WMD within two years once sanctions were over, as one former high-ranking Iraqi official said was possible.
- Saddam met with his senior nuclear scientists in 1999 and offered to provide them with whatever they needed, and increased funding began to flow to the IAEC in 2001, according to the former Minister of Military Industrialization. Saddam directed a large budget increase for IAEC and increased salaries tenfold from 2001 to 2003. He also directed the head of the IAEC to keep nuclear scientists together, instituted new laws and regulations to increase privileges for IAEC scientists and invested in numerous new projects. He also convened frequent meetings with the IAEC to highlight new achievements.
- Saddam asked in 1999 how long it would take to build a production line for CW agents, according to the former Minister of Military Industrialization. Huwaysh investigated and responded that experts could readily prepare a production line for mustard, which could be produced within six months. VX and Sarin production was more complicated and would take longer. Huwaysh relayed this answer to Saddam, who never requested follow-up information. An Iraqi CW expert separately estimated Iraq would require only a few days to start producing mustard—if it was prepared to sacrifice the production equipment.
- Imad Husayn ‘Ali Al ‘Ani, closely tied to Iraq’s VX program, alleged that Saddam had been looking for chemical weapons scientists in 2000 to begin production in a second location, according to reporting.
- Huwaysh stated that in 2001 Saddam approached him after a ministers’ meeting and asked, “Do you have any programs going on that I don’t know about,” implying chemical or biological weapons programs. Huwaysh answered no, absolutely not. He assumed that Saddam was testing him, so Huwaysh added that because these programs were prohibited by the UN, he could not pursue them unless Saddam ordered it. Huwaysh said Saddam seemed satisfied, asked no further questions, and directed no follow-up actions. The incident was perplexing to Huwaysh, because he wondered why Saddam would ask him this question. While he had no evidence of WMD programs outside MIC, Huwaysh speculated that Qusay had the ability within the SSO to compartmentalize projects and select individuals to do special work.
- Saddam stated to his ministers that he did not consider ballistic missiles to be WMD, according to Huwaysh. Saddam had never accepted missile range restrictions and assessed that if he could convince the UN inspectors he was in compliance regarding nuclear, chemical and biological weapons then he could negotiate with the UNSC over missile ranges.
- Saddam stated publicly in early 2001 that “we are not at all seeking to build up weapons or look for the most harmful weapons . . . however, we will never hesitate to possess the weapons to defend Iraq and the Arab nation”.
- Purported design work done in 2000 on ballistic and land attack cruise missiles with ranges extending to 1000 km suggests interest in long-range delivery systems.
- In 2002, Iraq began serial production of the Al Samud II, a short-range ballistic missile that violated UN range limits—text firings had reached 183 km—and exceeded UN prescribed diameter limitations of 600mm. Iraq’s production of 76 al Samud IIs, even under sanctions conditions, illustrates that Iraq sought more than a handful of ballistic missiles, but was deterred by the existing trade restrictions.
- Saddam directed design and production of a 650 to 750 km range missile in early 2002, according to Huwaysh. Saddam wanted the missile within half a year. Huwaysh informed him, later that year, that Dr. Muzhir Sadiq Saba’ Al Tamimi’s twin Volga engine, liquid-propellant design would reach only 550 km and would take three to five years to produce. Saddam seemed profoundly disappointed, left the room without comment, and never raised the subject again.
- Other reports suggest work on a ballistic missile designed to exceed UN restrictions began earlier. A high-level missile official of Al Karamahh State Company said that in 1997 Huwaysh requested him to convert a Volga (SA-2) air defense missile into a surface-to-surface missile. When the official briefed Huwaysh on the results, however, he said Huwaysh told him to stop work immediately and destroy all documentary evidence of the tests. In mid-1998, another missile official said Huwaysh ordered ‘Abd-al-Baqi Rashid Shi’a, general director at the Al Rashid State Company to develop a solid-propellant missile capable of a range of 1,000 to 1,200 km. The missile official speculated Huwaysh’s order came directly from Saddam. A senior level official at Al Karamahh, alleged that in 2000 Huwaysh ordered two computer designs be done to extend the range of the al Samud, one for 500 km and the other for 1000 km, which were provided him in late 2000. Huwaysh disputes all these accounts.
- As late as 2003, Iraq’s leadership discussed no WMD aspirations other than advancing the country’s overall scientific and engineering expertise, which potentially included dual-use research and development, according to the former Minister of Military Industrialization. He recalled no discussions among Regime members about how to preserve WMD expertise per se, but he observed there were clear efforts to maintain knowledge and skills in the nuclear field.
Pumping Up Key Revenue Streams
Baghdad made little overall progress in lifting sanctions between December 1998 and November 2002, despite Russia’s pressure to include language in UNSCR 1284 that provided for the end of sanctions. The former Regime, however, was able to increase revenue substantially from several legitimate and illicit sources. Iraq started to receive the revenues of OFF in January 1997. Revenues from this program increased from $4.2 billion in 1997 to a peak of $17.87 billion in 2000 (see the Regime Finance and Procurement chapter).
- According to his former science advisor, ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi, Saddam, by mid-to-late 2002, had concluded that sanctions had eroded to the point that it was inevitable they would be dropped.
- The Regime also sought diplomatic support for the lifting or easing sanctions by tying other countries’ interests to Iraq’s through allocating contracts under the OFF program and entering into lucrative construction projects to be executed when sanctions were lifted. In addition, Iraq held conferences to recruit and cultivate “agents of influence” to build pressure for lifting sanctions.
- Iraq negotiated a $40 billion agreement for Russian exploration of several oil fields over a 10-year period. Follow-on contracts called for the construction of a pipeline running from southern to northern Iraq. Performance would start upon the lifting of sanctions. Under OFF, 32 percent of the Iraqi contracts went to Russia. The Iraqis gave preferential treatment to Russian companies mainly to try to gain Russia’s support on the UN Security Council. The Russians, French, Ukrainians, and others succeeded in reducing the amount of OFF money Iraq paid to the UN Compensation Committee (for Gulf war reparations) from 30 to 25 percent thus adding significantly to Iraq’s income stream.
- The Regime sought a favorable relationship with France because France was influential as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and was in a good position to help Iraq with lifting sanctions.
- Iraq awarded short term contracts under OFF to companies around the world. As of June 2000, French companies had contracts totaling $1.78 billion.
- ‘Aziz personally awarded several individuals substantial oil allotments. All parties understood that resale of the oil was to be reciprocated through efforts to lift UN sanctions, or through opposition to American initiatives within the Security Council.
The Miscalculation phase was marked by a series of poor strategic decisions that left Saddam isolated and exposed internationally.This period was triggered by the ill-considered reaction of the Regime—driven personally by Saddam—to the 9/11 terrorist attack. This refusal to publicly condemn the terrorist action led to further international isolation and opprobrium. This was the first of several miscalculations that inexorably led to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Following President George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech on 29 January 2002, senior members of the Iraqi Government were nervous about both Iraq’s inclusion in the “Axis of Evil,” and the promise that “the United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.” Some ministers recognized that the United States intended to take direct unilateral action, if it perceived that its national security was endangered, and argued that the best course of action was to “step forward and have a talk with the Americans.” Also concerned with the assertion of a connection between Iraq and its “terrorist allies,” they felt they must “clarify” to the Americans that “we are not with the terrorists.” Saddam’s attitude, however, toward rapprochement with the UN was well known and remained unchanged. He had posed to his ministers on numerous occasions the following rhetorical question: “We can have sanctions with inspectors or sanctions without inspectors; which do you want?” The implied answer was “we’re going to have sanctions one way or the other for a long time because of the hostile attitude of the United States and Great Britain.”
Iraqi statements on renewing cooperation with the UN varied, perhaps indicating a clash between the private views of some officials and Saddam’s policy. Vice President Ramadan on 10 February 2002 told journalists at the opening of the Syrian Products Exhibition in Baghdad that Iraq was ready to entertain a dialogue with the UN Secretary General for “return of international inspectors to Iraq without any preconditions.” Four days later Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri “ruled out that Iraq would send any signals to the UN regarding its readiness to agree on the return of international inspectors.”
Dialogue, however, did begin between Iraq and the UN. Senior-level talks occurred in March and May 2002 at UN Headquarters in New York among Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix, IAEA Director General Mohammed El-Baradei and an Iraqi delegation headed by Naji Sabri.The results of these meetings were mixed, although both Naji Sabri and Annan agreed that the talks had been a positive and constructive exchange of views on the Iraq-UN relationship. In July 2002, Naji Sabri and Annan met again for talks in Vienna, and Naji Sabri noted that it would take a while to reach agreement on issues where there had been “12 years of lack of contact” and “12 years of conflict.” Despite the positive tone of these meetings, very little substantive progress was made: Iraq still refused to accept UNSCR 1284 or to allow UN weapons inspectors to return. As a result, UNSCR 1441 imposed sanctions more harsh than those of UNSCR 1284.
President Bush’s speech to the UN General Assembly on 12 September 2002, emphasizing the threat Iraq’s WMD posed to global peace and security, unsettled Saddam and the former Regime’s leadership. Most chilling to them was the promise that “the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced—the just demands of peace and security will be met—or action will be unavoidable.” According to ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh, Saddam was “very stiff” when he discussed this situation with his ministers some three weeks later, and was obviously still “feeling the pressure.” Collectively, there was an even greater fear among the Regime’s ministers that the United States unilaterally would attack Iraq, than when Bush made his “Axis of Evil” speech in January 2002. Saddam told them, “What can they discover, when we have nothing?” But some of the ministers were not as sure. Huwaysh said he began to wonder whether Saddam had hidden something: “I knew a lot, but wondered why Bush believed that we had these weapons,” he said. Huwaysh could not understand why the United States would challenge Iraq in such stark and threatening terms, unless it had irrefutable information.
The Security Council’s unanimous decision on 8 November 2002 to adopt Resolution 1441, which found Iraq in “material breach of all its obligations under relevant resolutions,” clearly demonstrated the seriousness of the international community. Resolution 1441 required that Iraq “provide UNMOVIC and the IAEA immediate, unimpeded, unconditional, and unrestricted access to any and all, including underground, areas, facilities, buildings, equipment, records, and means of transport which they wished to inspect, as well as immediate, unimpeded and private accessto all officials and other persons whom UNMOVIC or the IAEA chose to interview in the mode or location of UNMOVIC’s or the IAEA’s choice pursuant to any aspect of their mandates.” UNMOVIC and IAEA were instructed “to resume inspections no later than 45 days following adoption of this resolution and to update the Council 60 days thereafter.”
Having held out for so long, Saddam initially did not accept much of what UNSCR 1441 required. Although Russia and France were putting pressure on Iraq, Saddam felt the risk of war and even invasion warranted re-acceptance of inspections. According to Vice President Ramadan, Saddam eventually permitted UNMOVIC greater latitude than he had initially intended. Military leaders were instructed at a meeting in December 2002 to “cooperate completely” with the inspectors, believing full cooperation was Iraq’s best hope for sanctions relief in the face of US provocation. According to a former NMD official, one of the Regime’s main concerns prior to UNMOVIC inspections was interviews of scientists. When asked why the former Regime was so worried if there was nothing to hide, the source stated that any such meeting with foreigners was seen as a threat to the security of the Regime.
Iraq’s cooperation with UN inspectors was typically uneven, and ultimately the Coalition considered the Regime’s efforts to be too little, too late. By January 2003, Saddam believed military action was inevitable. He also felt that Iraqi forces were prepared to hold off the invaders for at least a month, even without WMD, and that they would not penetrate as far as Baghdad. He failed to consult advisors who believed otherwise, and his inner circle reinforced his misperceptions. Consequently, when Operation Iraqi Freedom began, the Iraqi armed forces had no effective military response. Saddam was surprised by the swiftness of Iraq’s defeat. The quick end to Saddam’s Regime brought a similarly rapid end to its pursuit of sanctions relief, a goal it had been palpably close to achieving.
Renewing UN Inspections
Iraq allowed the IAEA and UNMOVIC to resume inspections in November 2002 in the face of growing international pressure while apparently calculating a surge of cooperation might bring sanctions to an end.
- As it was during the period of the UNSCOM inspections, the Higher Committee was re-established in 2002, this time headed by Vice-President Ramadan, in order to prepare for the UNMOVIC missions. According to Tariq ‘Aziz, Saddam believed that the goal of these inspections was to deprive Iraq of any scientific, chemical or advanced technology. Saddam said, “These people are playing a game with us—we’ll play a game with them.”
- Saddam assembled senior officials in December 2002 and directed them to cooperate completely with inspectors, according to a former senior officer. Saddam stated that the UN would submit a report on 27 January 2003, and that this report would indicate that Iraq was cooperating fully. He stated that all Iraqi organizations should open themselves entirely to UNMOVIC inspectors. The Republican Guard should make all records and even battle plans available to inspectors, if they requested. The Guard was to be prepared to have an “open house” day or night for the UNMOVIC inspectors. Husam Amin met with military leaders again on 20 January 2003 and conveyed the same directives. During this timeframe Russia and France were also encouraging Saddam to accept UN resolutions and to allow inspections without hindering them.
- The Higher Committee gradually addressed UN concerns as Ramadan relaxed Baghdad’s original opposition to the UN resuming U-2 flights and conducting private, unmonitored interviews with Iraqi scientists. These actions eliminated major stumbling blocks in potential Iraqi cooperation with UNMOVIC.
- Saddam hoped to get sanctions lifted in return for hosting a set of UN inspections that found no evidence of WMD, according to statements ascribed to him by a former senior officer. The government directed key military units to conduct special inspections to ensure they possessed no WMD-associated equipment.
- Upon the direction of UNMOVIC, Baghdad started destroying its al Samud II ballistic missiles 1 March 2003 despite disagreements over the actual operational range of the missile.
- Beginning on 27 November 2002 until United Nations withdrew all its personnel on 18 March 2003, UNMOVIC completed 731 inspections at 411 sites, including 88 sites it had visited for the first time.
- The NMD published the Currently Accurate, Full, and Complete Declaration on 7 December 2002, and it attempted to resolve the pending issues of the UN’s Unresolved Disarmament Issues: Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes until the beginning of the war.
Iraqi military industries several times required scientists to sign statements acknowledging the prohibition on conducting WMD research. At a minimum, the forms would have provided documents to offer the UN, but they may also have stopped “free lancing” and thereby ensured that any WMD research underway was tightly controlled to avoid inadvertent disclosures.
- MIC on 20 January 2003 ordered the general directors of its companies to relinquish all WMD to the NMD and threatened severe penalties against those who failed to comply, according to documentary evidence.
- The NMD director met with Republican Guard military leaders on 25 January 2003 and advised them they were to sign documents saying that there was no WMD in their units, according to a former Iraqi senior officer. Husam Amin told them that the government would hold them responsible if UNMOVIC found any WMD in their units or areas, or if there was anything that cast doubt on Iraq’s cooperation with UNMOVIC. Commanders established committees to ensure their units retained no evidence of old WMD.
Iraq’s National Assembly passed a law banning WMD, a measure that had been required under paragraph 23 of the Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Plan approved under UNSCR 715—and one Iraq had refused to pass despite UN requests since 1991. On 14 February 2003, Saddam issued a presidential directive prohibiting private sector companies and individuals from importing or producing biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons or material, according to documentary evidence. The directive did not mention government organizations.
Iraq’s Other Security Concerns
Iraq engaged in denial and deception activities to safeguard national security and Saddam’s position in the Regime. These surveillance activities and the suspect vehicle movements in and around sensitive sites made it difficult for Western intelligence services to distinguish innoculous security-related measures from WMD concealment activities which added to the suspicion of Iraqi actions.
- According to a former senior SSO officer, prior to any UN inspection visits, the SSO leadership would instruct the chiefs of each SSO directorate to conceal anything to do with the President or his family, any documents referring to the Scientific Directorate, documents pertaining to human rights violations, documents pertaining to prisoners in custody, and photos of senior Regime personnel.
- The IIS was determined not to allow UN inspection teams to gather intelligence at sensitive sites, which the Iraqis feared had been done in the past. Members of the Directorate of Counterintelligence (M5) heightened their physical observation of UN personnel during site visits to prevent this, according to sensitive reporting from a source with excellent access.
- Huwaysh instructed MIC general directors to conceal sensitive material and documents from UN inspectors. This was done to prevent inspectors from discovering numerous purchases of illicit conventional weapons and military equipment from firms in Russia, Belarus, and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia.
- Saddam was convinced that the UN inspectors could pinpoint his exact location, allowing US warplanes to bomb him, according to a former high-level Iraqi Government official. As a result, in late 1998 when inspectors visited a Ba’th Party Headquarters, Saddam issued orders not to give them access. Saddam did this to prevent the inspectors from knowing his whereabouts, not because he had something to hide, according to the source.
In order to preserve his dignity and security, Saddam wanted to ensure that he had absolutely no contact with UNMOVIC inspectors. SSO “minders” used radios to alert Saddam’s security personnel of UNMOVIC’s actions so he could avoid contact with inspectors. According to a former senior Iraqi official, on one occasion when inspectors arrived at a presidential site, Saddam left through the back gate.
Sorting Out Whether Iraq Had WMD Before Operation Iraqi Freedom
ISG has not found evidence that Saddam Husayn possessed WMD stocks in 2003, but the available evidence from its investigation—including detainee interviews and document exploitation—leaves open the possibility that some weapons existed in Iraq although not of a militarily significant capability. Several senior officers asserted that if Saddam had WMD available when the 2003 war began, he would have used them to avoid being overrun by Coalition forces.
- ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi told an emissary from the RG leadership, on 27 January 2003, that if Saddam had WMD, he would use it, according to a former officer with direct knowledge of Iraqi military ground operations and planning.
- According to a former senior RG official, Iraq had dismantled or destroyed all of its WMD assets and manufacturing facilities. Had Saddam possessed WMD assets, he would have used them to counter the Coalition invasion.
- If he had CW, Saddam would have used it against Coalition Forces to save the Regime, according to a former senior official.
- Iraqi military planning did not incorporate the use—or even the threat of use—of WMD after 1991, according to ‘Ali Hasan Al Majid. WMD was never part of the military plan crafted to defeat the 2003 Coalition invasion.
Senior military officers and former Regime officials were uncertain about the existence of WMD during the sanctions period and the lead up to Operation Iraqi Freedom because Saddam sent mixed messages. Early on, Saddam sought to foster the impression with his generals that Iraq could resist a Coalition ground attack using WMD. Then, in a series of meetings in late 2002, Saddam appears to have reversed course and advised various groups of senior officers and officials that Iraq in fact did not have WMD. His admissions persuaded top commanders that they really would have to fight the United States without recourse to WMD. In March 2003, Saddam created further confusion when he implied to his ministers and senior officers that he had some kind of secret weapon.
- Prior to December 2002, Saddam told his generals to concentrate on their jobs and leave the rest to him, because he had “something in his hand” (i.e. “something up his sleeve”), according to Minister of Military Industrialization ‘Abd-al-Tawab ‘Abdallah Al Mullah Huwaysh.
- Saddam surprised his generals when he informed them he had no WMD in December 2002 because his boasting had led many to believe Iraq had some hidden capability, according to Tariq ‘Aziz. Saddam had never suggested to them that Iraq lacked WMD. Military morale dropped rapidly when he told senior officers they would have to fight the United States without WMD.
- Saddam spoke at several meetings, including those of the joint RCC-Ba’th National Command and the ministerial council, and with military commanders in late 2002, explicitly to notify them Iraq had no WMD, according to the former presidential secretary. Saddam called upon other senior officials to corroborate what he was saying.
- In Saddam’s last ministers’ meeting, convened in late March 2003 just before the war began, he told the attendees at least three times, “resist one week and after that I will take over.” They took this to mean he had some kind of secret weapon. There are indications that what Saddam actually had in mind was some form of insurgency against the coalition.
Iraq’s Movement of Critical Defense Assets
From the mid-1990s to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq continued to move and conceal key air defense equipment and other military assets to ensure their survivability. Interviews with former Regime officials indicate that the Iraqis felt threatened after President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech on 29 January 2002, and they increased movements of critical military equipment soon afterward.
- The biggest perceived threat to Iraq’s military equipment was cruise missiles; so military items were moved from location to location. The Higher Committee never thought that these movements would be seen as suspicious because they were carried out to preserve military equipment, according to former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq ‘Aziz.
- Between August 2002 and early January 2003, the Iraqi military had taken measures to prepare for an anticipated US military attack on Iraq, according to a former IIS official. These measures included the movement and hiding of military equipment and weapons. Army leaders at bases throughout Iraq were ordered to identify alternate locations and to transfer equipment and heavy machinery to off-base locations, taking advantage of farms and homes to hide items.
A recovered 2002 document outlines the Iraqi evacuation plan to protect key military industries and equipment from Coalition air strikes or threats. The former Regime developed these concepts in response to lessons learned after Desert Storm and Desert Fox. The report outlines the importance of utilizing a properly concealed Iraqi railroad system along with trucks and pre-equipped trailers to move important laboratories, equipment, and machinery.
- Just before the war began, Saddam reiterated the same message to his generals. According to Huwaysh, Saddam told them “to hold the coalition for eight days and leave the rest to him. They thought he had something but it was all talk.”
- Saddam believed that the Iraqi people would not stand to be occupied or conquered by the United States and would resist—leading to an insurgency. Saddam said he expected the war to evolve from traditional warfare to insurgency.
Alternative Hypotheses on Iraq’s Nonuse of WMD During Operation Iraqi Freedom
The view has been advanced widely that if Saddam had WMD at the time of OIF, he would have used it. In the event, there are no indications that WMD was used during OIF.
If Iraq possessed WMD Saddam may have concluded, given his perception of the Coalition threat, he would not need to use WMD. Military commanders consistently over-reported their combat capability and Saddam had concluded most Iraqis would fight to defend the country. He may not have realized that his Regime could not be saved until it was too late to deploy CW from existing storage areas to operational forces. Saddam told his debriefer that it was clear to him, some four months before the war, that hostilities were inevitable. Despite this knowledge, it seems that Saddam and those around him misjudged the nature and intensity of the conflict. It is possible that Saddam’s public statements and those to his chief lieutenants were intended to reassure rather than confide.
- Former Director of Directorate of Military Intelligence, Staff Gen. Zuhayr Talib ‘Abd-al-Satar: “Two to three months before the war, Saddam Husayn addressed a group of 150 officers. He asked why the Americans would want to come here.
Negative Indicators—What Iraqi Preparations Were Not Observed?
A former Iraqi army officer familiar with ground operations and planning compared ground CW activity required during the Iran-Iraq war to the absence of similar preparations for Operation Iraqi Freedom in the 2nd RG Corps area. He noted that standard operating procedures for CW had been validated during the Iran-Iraq war by experience, with many accidents, as many shells were defective. Unlike during the Iran-Iraq war, during Operation Iraqi Freedom there were:
- No orders from Baghdad to bring any artillery pieces from indirect support to a special handling point.
- No meetings to carefully fix friendly and enemy positions.
- No decontamination unit assigned to the unit engaging in chemical fires.
- No special security officer informing any commander that a chemical ammunition convoy was coming.
- No SSO handlers ready to receive convoys.
- No messages warning chemical battalions to don protective gear and to prepare to receive chemical weapons.
Why would they come here when they don’t need anything from Iraq? They have already fulfilled the goals that the military established in the first Gulf war. They wanted to occupy the Gulf States and look it has happened. Everyone except for Saddam Husayn, his children, and his inner circle, everyone else secretly believed that the war would continue all the way to occupation. Saddam and his inner circle thought that the war would last a few days and then it would be over. They thought there would be a few air strikes and maybe some operations in the south.”
- Former Minister of Defense Sultan Hashim Ahmad Al Ta’i: “We knew the goal was to make the Regime fall . . . . We thought the forces would arrive in Baghdad or outside Baghdad in 20 days or a month. We accepted that the cities on the way would be lost. All commanders knew this and accepted it. Saddam Husayn thought that the people would, of their own accord, take to the streets and fight with light arms, and that this would deter the US forces from entering the cities.”
- Former commander of the Nebuchadnezzar Republican Guard Division, Staff Maj. Gen. Hamid Isma’il Dawish Al Raba’i: “We thought the Coalition would go to Basrah, maybe to Amarra, and then the war would end . . . Qusay Saddam Husayn never took any information seriously. He would just mark on the map. He thought most of us were clowns. We pretended to have victory, and we never provided true information as it is here on planet earth. Qusay always thought he’d gain victory. Any commander who spoke the truth would lose his head.”
- Saddam’s draft speeches and public addresses conveyed this theme—an attack was unlikely, according to Tariq ‘Aziz.
- Saddam was convinced that a show of force would be sufficient to deter an invasion. The United States would seek to avoid another Vietnam, according to a former senior Ba’th party member.
- Saddam had concluded time was on his side and that the Coalition would never be allowed to attack, according to the former science advisor.
If WMD stocks existed, timing was the problem. The Coalition attack moved so rapidly that Saddam was unable to exercise any options to use WMD and when he realized the end of the Regime was near, he was not prepared tactically to use any WMD he might have had.Based on the statements of former senior officers, the Iraqi military—including the RG—allegedly had no plans for employing WMD, had not practiced tactical use of WMD since 1991, had no available stockpiles of WMD, had not deployed any WMD to tactical units, and had no special infrastructure in place for handling WMD.
- The 2nd RG Corps had chemical defense battalions, according to the former Al Quds Forces Chief-of-Staff, but these battalions left their equipment in their barracks during Operation Iraqi Freedom because the corps commander was confident the Coalition would not use CBW against Iraq. They probably would have retained this equipment had the commanders envisioned using CBW munitions in the 2nd RG Corps.
- The RG did not use its special ammunition distribution system before either the Gulf war or Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to a former senior Iraqi artillery officer. This system—specialized chemical battalions; replacement of company drivers with chemical battalion drivers and ammunition handlers; and use of special MIC depots—had served it well during the Iran-Iraq war. The source commented that all systems broke down and there was no chemical ammunition distribution system during OIF. Even if units had received chemical ammunition, they would have buried it, not fired it.
Tariq ‘Aziz on Saddam’s Overconfidence
Debrief, 23 June 2004
Debriefer: You appeared confident. Your public statements were exactly what you said—that Iraq was prepared to defeat any American invasion.
‘Aziz: Of course I said these things: How could I say “I think we are making a mistake; we are not prepared for an attack?” That would be impossible. I had to say these things because this was my government’s position, but it was true. A few weeks before the attacks Saddam thought that the US would not use ground forces; he thought that you would only use your air force.
Debriefer: Wasn’t he aware of the buildup of forces in the region?
‘Aziz: Of course he was aware, it was all over the television screen. He thought they would not fight a ground war because it would be too costly to the Americans. He was overconfident. He was clever, but his calculations were poor. It wasn’t that he wasn’t receiving the information. It was right there on television, but he didn’t understand international relations perfectly.
- General ‘Amir Husayn Al Samarra’i, commander of the Iraqi chemical corps, said the Iraqi army had no plans to use chemical weapons during OIF, according to reporting. If there had been a strategy for regular army forces to use chemical weapons, he would have known about it.
- The Commander of 2nd RG Corps stated it was his firm belief that Iraq did not have chemical weapons.
If WMD existed, Saddam may have opted not to use it for larger strategic or political reasons, because he did not think Coalition military action would unseat him.If he used WMD, Saddam would have shown that he had been lying all along to the international community and would lose whatever residual political support he might have retained in the UNSC. From the standpoint of Regime survival, once he used WMD against Coalition forces, he would foreclose the chance to outlast an occupation. Based on his experience with past coalition attacks, Saddam actually had more options by not using WMD, and if those failed, WMD always remained as the final alternative. Although the Iraqi Government might be threatened by a Coalition attack, Saddam—the ultimate survivor—believed if he could hold out long enough, he could create political and strategic opportunities for international sympathy and regional support to blunt an invasion.
- Asked by a US interviewer in 2004, why he had not used WMD against the Coalition during Desert Storm, Saddam replied, “Do you think we are mad? What would the world have thought of us? We would have completely discredited those who had supported us.”
- Iraqi use of WMD would deeply embarrass France and Russia, whom has cultivated Iraq.
- Use of WMD during Operation Iraqi Freedom would serve to justify US and UK prewar claims about Iraq’s illegal weapons capabilities. Such a justification would also serve to add resolve to those managing the occupation
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