CIA Report on Intelligence Related to Gulf War Illnesses
2 August 1996
In parallel with the DOD's Persian Gulf Investigative Team, the CIA's Office of Weapons, Technology and Proliferation conducted an independent review of intelligence documents to determine whether US troops were exposed to chemical and biological warfare agents during the Gulf war. The CIA's effort did not seek to duplicate that of DOD; however, CIA analysts drew upon and examined DOD information to clarify intelligence, to obtain leads, and to ensure a thorough and comprehensive intelligence assessment.
- Key Findings
On the basis of a comprehensive review of intelligence and other information, we assess that Iraq did not use chemical or biological weapons or deploy these weapons in Kuwait. In addition, analysis and computer modeling indicate chemical agents released by aerial bombing of chemical warfare facilities did not reach US troops in Saudi Arabia. Coalition bombing resulted in damage to filled chemical munitions at only two facilities--Muhammadiyat and Al Muthanna--both located in remote areas west of Baghdad. UNSCOM inspections concluded that no chemical munitions were destroyed at the An Nasiriyah Ammunition Storage Area, countering publicized theories that fallout from the facility were the cause of credible but unverified nerve agent detections in Saudi Arabia. We assess no biological weapons or agents were destroyed by Coalition forces during the Gulf war. Finally, Iraq never produced radiological weapons for use and bombed Iraqi nuclear facilities caused only local contamination north of the Kuwait Theater of Operations.
A recent assessment based on a comprehensive review of all intelligence information and a May 1996 UNSCOM inspection concludes nerve agent was released as a result of inadvertent US postwar demolition of chemical rockets at a bunker and probably at a pit area at the Khamisiyah Ammunition Storage Area in Iraq. We have modeled the chemical contamination levels in Iraq resulting from the bunker destruction so that the DOD can assess who may have been exposed. Analysis of demolition activities in the pit area is still under way.
We assess that Iraq did not use chemical or biological weapons against Coalition troops based on our thorough review of intelligence reporting and on the lack of casualties that was a signature of chemical use during the Iran-Iraq war. We assess that Iraq probably did not use these weapons because of a perceived threat of overwhelming Coalition retaliation.
We assess that Iraq had chemical weapons at two sites (see figure 1) in Iraq--the An Nasiriyah Ammunition Storage Depot SW and the Khamisiyah (US name Tall al Lahm) Ammunition Storage Area--within the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO)(1) during Desert Storm. Both of these sites were large rear-area depots near the northern boundary of the KTO that stored mostly conventional ammunition. UNSCOM reporting and other information indicate that Coalition bombing did not destroy the bunker containing the chemical agents temporarily stored at An Nasiriyah. We have recently determined US troops were near a release of chemical agents at Khamisiyah, and DOD is assessing potential exposure.
According to Iraqi statements to UNSCOM in May 1996, An Nasiriyah stored 6,000 155-mm mustard rounds from early January until they were moved to Khamisiyah after 15 February 1991. Iraq stored the munitions starting just before the air war at one bunker--called Bunker 8 by Iraq--at An Nasiriyah Ammunition Storage Area SW. According to Iraq, these mustard rounds were moved to Khamisiyah because of fear of additional Coalition bombing.
The Coalition bombing of An Nasiriyah on 17 January 1991 did not cause a release of chemical agent because the bunkers that were bombed on that date did not contain chemical agents. In May 1996, UNSCOM inspectors examined the rubble surrounding the bunkers at An Nasiriyah that were bombed on 17 January 1991 and determined that the bunkers contained only conventional weapons. Although mustard rounds were in Bunker 8 at An Nasiriyah on 17 January, UNSCOM information indicates they were not damaged. No other agents were known to be at An Nasiriyah.
UNSCOM inspected chemical munitions at or near Khamisiyah in October 1991 and identified 122-mm sarin/cyclo-sarin (GB/GF) nerve-agent-filled rockets and 155-mm mustard rounds. At that time it was not clear whether these chemical weapons had been present during the Gulf war or whether, as was suspected at other locations, the Iraqis moved the munitions there shortly before the 1991 UNSCOM inspection.
During its October 1991 inspection of the Khamisiyah facility, the Iraqis told UNSCOM that Coalition troops had destroyed chemical weapons at a bunker earlier that year.(2), and UNSCOM found chemical munitions at two open sites (see figure 2):
- Remnants of 122-mm rockets were identified at a single bunker among 100 bunkers, called "Bunker 73" by Iraq. It was unclear whether the munitions in Bunker 73 were chemical because there was no sampling or positive chemical agent monitors (CAM) readings and inspectors did not document characteristic features of chemical munitions.
- Several hundred mostly intact 122-mm rockets containing nerve agent--detected by sampling and with CAMs--were found at a pit area about 1 km south of the main storage area.
- Over 6,000 intact 155-mm rounds containing mustard agent, as indicated by CAMs, were found in an open area several kilometers west of Khamisiyah.
Bunker 73 Rocket Destruction.The recent comprehensive review of all information enabled us to determine that US troops--not Iraq--destroyed the rockets in Bunker 73. In March 1996, in conjunction with DOD investigators, we determined that the US 37th Engineering Battalion had destroyed that bunker along with over 30 other bunkers on 4 March 1991.
However, it was not until UNSCOM's May 1996 inspection at Khamisiyah that it was determined that Bunker 73 contained remnants of 122-mm chemical rockets. During this inspection, inspectors documented the presence of high-density polyethylene inserts, burster tubes, fill plugs, and other features characteristic of Iraqi chemical munitions. Analysis of the contents of the rockets that UNSCOM found in 1991 in the pit area just outside the Khamisiyah Storage Area shows that the identical rockets in Bunker 73 had been filled with a combination of the agents sarin and GF. Therefore, we conclude that US troops destroyed chemical rockets in Bunker 73.
Pit Area Rocket Destruction. During the May 1996 UNSCOM inspection, Iraq claimed that some of the rockets located in the pit area had been destroyed by occupying forces. On the basis of very recent interviews of 37th Engineering Battalion personnel, DOD now believes that demolition personnel did set charges on stacks of rockets in the pit on 10 March 1991 at 1630 local time.
We are still trying to determine the number of rockets US forces could have destroyed. Once we determine the number, we will model the likely hazardous area caused by the destruction. Iraq told the May 1996 UNSCOM inspectors that it moved about 1,100 rockets out of Bunker 73 to the pit 2 km away to avoid chemical contamination of the bunker facility. The Iraqis claimed the rockets started leaking immediately after they were transferred from the Al Muthanna CW Production and Storage Facility just before the air war.
Open-Area Mustard Shells Intact. As discussed previously, more than 6,000 mustard rounds were moved from An Nasiriyah to an open area several kilometers west of the main facility at Khamisiyah. These munitions were found undamaged by UNSCOM in October 1991. They were later moved to and destroyed at UNSCOM's Al Muthanna destruction facility.
Modeling of the potential hazard caused by destruction of Bunker 73 indicates that an area around the bunker at least 2 km in all directions and 4 km downwind could have been contaminated at or above the level for causing acute symptoms including runny nose, headache, and miosis (see figure 3 and text box). An area up to 25 km downwind and 8 km wide could have been contaminated at or above the much lower general population dosage limit.(3) From wind models and observations of a video of destruction activity at Khamisiyah, we determined that the downwind direction was northeast to east (see figure 4).
Some of the following modeling assumptions were based on data from US testing in 1966 that involved destruction of a bunker filled with 1,850 GB rockets with maximum range similar to that of Iraqi rockets found in Bunker 73:
(a) DOD documents and multiple veterans reported that munition "cook-offs"--munitions that ignite and are ejected from their storage due to the demolition fire--sent ordnance as far as 10 km or more from the bunker facility. Nonetheless, we did not model this phenomena because we have been unable to determine whether any of the cook-offs involved chemical rockets, and if so, the number of rockets and how far they went.
(b) This altitude represents the estimated height of the mixing layer--the lower turbulent part of the atmosphere above which agent transport is inhibited due to a laminar boundary layer. This layer can often be seen from aircraft while landing in cities with polluted air.
We conclude that Coalition aerial bombing damaged filled chemical munitions at two facilities--Muhammadiyat and Al Muthanna. In reaching this assessment, we examined all intelligence reporting on the location of chemical weapons in Iraq and the KTO and scrutinized dozens of sites (see table) that were alleged to be connected in one way or another with chemical weapons. Our modeling indicates that chemical agent fallout from these facilities--both located in remote areas west of Baghdad--did not reach troops in Saudi Arabia. Finally, we have found no information to suggest that casualties occurred inside Iraq as a result of chemical warfare (CW) agents released from the bombing of these sites--probably because these two facilities are in remote locations far from any population centers. The Muhammadiyat and Al Muthanna sites are both over 30 km from the nearest Iraqi towns.
According to the most recent Iraqi declarations, less than 5 percent of Iraq's approximately 700 metric tons of declared chemical agent stockpile was destroyed by Coalition bombing. In most cases, the Iraqis did not store CW munitions in bunkers that they believed the Coalition would target. The Iraqis stored many CW munitions in the open, protecting them from Coalition detection and bombing because we did not target open areas. In addition, all known CW and precursor production lines were either inactive or had been dismantled by the start of the air campaign.
Iraq declared that 200 mustard-filled and 12 sarin-filled aerial bombs at the Muhammadiyat (US geographic name Qubaysah) Storage Area were damaged or destroyed by Coalition bombing. We have modeled the contaminated area resulting from bombing of Muhammadiyat, a site at least 410 km from US troops stationed at Rafha and even further from the bulk of US troops (see figure 5). Bombing of this facility began on 19 January and continued throughout the air war. We have been unable to determine exactly when the chemical bombs were destroyed. On the basis of recent Iraqi declarations, we have modeled a release of 2.9 metric tons of sarin and 15 metric tons of mustard on all possible bombing dates to find the largest most southerly hazardous area. Southerly winds occurred for only a few of the days the site was bombed. Figures 6 and 7 show that for general population limit dosages (above 0.013 mg-min/m3), downwind dispersions in the general southerly direction for sarin and mustard fall below this level at about 300 and 130 km, respectively.
|Selected Suspect Chemical Weapons Sites Examined (a)|
|Al Muthanna (Samarra)||3351N/04349E|
|Khamisiyah (Tall al Lahm)||3045N/04623E|
|Muhammadiyat (Qubaysah Storage Depot)||3315N/04241E|
|Al Walid Airbase (H3 Airfield)||3256N/03945E|
|Fallujah I (Habbaniyah III)||3329N/04349E|
|Fallujah III (Habbaniyah I)||3333N/04338E|
|Al Bakr Airfield [subordinate] (Samarra East Airfield)||3410N/04416E|
|Al Taba'at Airstrip (H3 SW Airfield)||3245N/03936E|
|Al Tuz Airfield (Tuz Khurmatu Airfield)||3457N/04428E|
|Dujayl/Awarah (Sumaykah SSM Support Facility SE)||3349N/04415E|
|Fallujah Chem Proving Gnd (Habbaniyah CW Training Center)||3308N/04352E|
|Murasana Airbase (H3 NW Airfield)||3305N/03936E|
|Qadisiyah Airbase (Al Asad Airfield)||3347N/04226E|
|Saddam Airbase (Qayyarah West Airfield)||3546N/04307E|
|Tammuz Airbase (Al Taqaddum Airfield)||3320N/04336E|
|Al Qaim Superphosphate Fertilizer Plant||3422N/04110E|
|Al Taqaddum Airfield||3320N/04336E|
|An Nasiriyah Ammo Storage Depot SW||3058N/04611E|
|Ash Shuaybah Ammo Storage Depot||3029N/04739E|
|Baghdad Ammo Depot Taji||3333N/04414E|
|Fallujah II (Habbaniyah II)||3329N/04340E|
|Kirkuk Ammo Depot West||3533N/04358E|
|Qayyarah West Airfield||3546N/04307E|
|Qayyarah West Ammo Storage Depot||3552N/04307E|
|Ubaydah Bin al Jarrah Airfield||3229N/04546E|
|Ad Diwaniyah Ammo Depot||3158N/04454E|
|Al Fallujah Ammo Depot South||3313N/04341E|
|Ukhaider (Karbala Depot and Ammo Storage)||3223N/04330E|
|Qabatiyah Ammo Storage (Wadi al Jassiyah Ammo Storage)||3352N/04242|
|Tikrit Ammo Depot (Salahadin)||3443N/04339E|
|(a) These sites represent examples of sites that have been connected--often tenuously--to Iraq's chemical warfare program.|
Neither the first effects nor the general population limit levels would have reached US troops that were stationed in Saudi Arabia.(4)
Iraq declared that 2,500 chemical rockets containing about 17 metric tons of sarin nerve agent at Al Muthanna (US geographic name Samarra), the primary Iraqi CW production and storage facility, had been destroyed by Coalition bombing. UNSCOM inspectors were unable to verify the exact number because of damage to the rockets. We have modeled possible bombing dates for this bunker and determined that the most southerly dispersal for reaching the general population limit dosage is 160 km (figures 8), well short of US troops.
There are no indications that any biological agent was destroyed by Coalition bombing. Available intelligence reporting and Iraqi statements indicate that Iraq went to great lengths to protect its biological munitions from aerial bombardment. The Iraqis have stated that its biological-agent-filled aerial bombs were deployed to three airfields well north of the KTO. The bombs were placed in open pits far from bombing targets, then covered with canvas, and buried with dirt. Iraqi biological warheads for Al Husayn missiles were hidden well north of the KTO both in a railroad tunnel and in earth-covered pits at a location near the Tigris canal. The Iraqis admitted to production of biological agents at four sites near Baghdad but said it ceased production before the air war. In addition, UNSCOM found no damage to any of these facilities from Coalition bombing.
We found no evidence that would indicate that Iraq developed agents specifically intended to cause the most common types of long-term symptoms seen in ill Gulf war veterans. This finding is important in ruling out the scenario of covert use of such an agent. With the possible exception of aflatoxin, all declared Iraqi agents were intended to cause rapid death or incapacitation. The only documented effects of aflatoxin in humans are liver cancer months to years after it is ingested and symptoms--possibly including death--caused by liver damage from ingestion of large amounts. Effects of aerosolized aflatoxin are unknown. UNSCOM assesses that Iraq looked at aflatoxin for its long-term carcinogenic effects and that testing showed that large concentrations of it caused death within days. We have no information that would make us conclude that Iraq used aflatoxin or that it was released in the atmosphere when bombing occurred.
CIA's also reviewed intelligence on potential hazards other than chemical and biological agents. Some of the studied hazards include:
- Red Fuming Nitric Acid (RFNA). Scud missiles that impacted in Saudi Arabia and Israel each contained approximately 300 pounds of toxic RFNA oxidizer and 100 pounds of kerosene fuel. Although we know of no long-term illnesses related to these chemicals, we assess that RFNA is a likely cause of some of the burning sensations reported by veterans near Scud impacts. DOD's Persian Gulf Investigation Team (PGIT) has been informed of this and is following up to look for long-term symptoms.
- Radiological Weapons and Radiation Fallout. Although Iraq conducted research on radiological weapons, we assess it never progressed into the developmental phase. Small quantities of radioactive material were released during tests in areas north of Baghdad. These tests took place two years before the Gulf war, and any radioactivity from those tests would have decayed away by the time of the war. In addition, Iraqi nuclear facilities bombed during the Gulf war produced only minimal local contamination north of the KTO, with no releases detected beyond those facilities.
- Miscellaneous. We have seen a number of reports claiming that veterans were exposed to other hazards including everything from poisoned water supplies to chocolate additives. In examining these reports, we found nothing to corroborate them, but we have made DOD's Persian Gulf Investigative Team aware of them.
CIA will continue to track any leads that surface in the future and will make our findings available to the public. We will complete our review of the hazards posed by destruction of chemical rockets in the pit area and will publish our findings over the Internet.
(1) Generally defined as Kuwait and Iraq below 31 degrees north latitude.
(2) This statement, however, was viewed with skepticism at the time because of the broad, continuous use of deception by the Iraqis against UNSCOM.
(3) The Army established this dosage criteria for protection of the general population: a 72-hour exposure at 0.000003 mg/m3--significantly lower than the 0.0001mg/m3 occupational limit defined for 8 hours--is specified.
(4) When predicting very low concentration levels far downrange of the source, large dispersions are created that are difficult to model. We assess, however, that our results are biased upward because we chose optimal times and dates that would have produced the maximum dispersion toward Saudi Arabia. In addition, the models do not account for phenomena--such as deposition onto the ground and rain removal of agent--that would greatly diminish potential downwind exposure.
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