Iraq Survey Group Final Report
Evolution of the Biological Warfare Program
The 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 in tabular form at the back of Volume I. Covering the period from 1980-2003, 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, ISG has included a foldout summary chart 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 text with a gray triangle.
Evolution of the Biological Warfare Program
For more than 20 years Iraq pursued a program of secret research, development and production in a bid to acquire a BW capability with which to defend its interests and project its influence beyond Iraq’s borders. A well-kept secret known to only a handful of leaders, Iraq’s BW program—approved by Saddam Husayn, overseen by Husayn Kamil Hasan Al Majid, guided by Dr. ‘Amir Hamudi Hasan Al Sa’adi, and closely linked to the IIS—culminated in the first Gulf war in January 1991, by which point Iraq had developed a small but impressive arsenal of BW weapons comprising over 100 bombs, at least 25 Al Husayn warheads filled with anthrax spores, botulinum toxin and aflatoxin, as well as many thousands of liters of these agents stored in bulk, for use in Iraq’s unsophisticated delivery systems. Iraq’s BW infrastructure emerged from that conflict damaged, but not destroyed, and the in the wake of the war the Regime tried to preserve what it could of its BW program. Aiming to leave open the option of restarting BW activities once UN inspections were over and sanctions were lifted, Baghdad attempted to remove all possible signatures of its past offensive activities. Simultaneously, Iraq undertook a significant denial and deception effort intended to conceal from the UN the true nature, scope, and ultimate objectives of the program. By 1995, these efforts had failed, and Iraq admitted its offensive program, leading in 1996 to the destruction, at Saddam’s orders and under UN supervision, of most of the Iraq’s BW physical infrastructure.
The destruction of the BW infrastructure in the mid-1990s halted Iraq’s BW activities, with the exception of its efforts to preserve intellectual know-how, the Regime’s most valuable asset. BW programs are primarily the product of trained innovative scientific minds. Extensive scientific laboratories and vast industrial complexes are unnecessary. A handful of dedicated, bright scientists, supported by dexterous, intelligent, and experienced technicians working with simple but effective equipment, materials, and animals in a secure environment can accomplish most of what is required to lay the foundations of a BW program. In comparison to nuclear and chemical weapons (CW) programs, individuals’ intellectual capabilities play a far greater role in determining the success or failure of a program than the physical resources to which they may have access. Thus, any account of Iraq’s BW program is largely a story of the key experts who are involved, and only secondarily a history of facilities and equipment (see Figure 1).
Ambition: The Early Years, 1960-1985.
Iraq’s first foray into chemical and biological warfare (CBW) was rooted in the nationalist wave that swept the Middle East in the 1960s under Egypt’s president, Gamal Abdul Nasser, when Arab military leaders concluded the time had come to increase their understanding of the technology of modern warfare.Select junior officers in Iraq’s armed forces traveled overseas for CBW training, among them Lt. Nizar Al Attar, who attended the CBW courses at Fort McClellan in the US and was later to head Iraq’s CW program and introduce BW to Al Muthanna State Establishment (MSE). In 1964, the Iraqi Army established a Chemical Corps, thus taking the first step that led to the acquisition of CBW. Following the Ba’thist revolution of 17 July 1968 that brought Ahmad Hasan Al Bakr to power, senior army officers, encouraged by their technologically aware subordinates, decided to embark on a CW program. It was an amateur affair consisting of small groups trying to develop agent. By the early 1970s, the attempt had failed.
In 1974, a charismatic officer, Ghassan Ibrahim founded a laboratory, nominally a respectable academic body run by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research carrying out legitimate scientific research, named the Al Hasan Ibn-al-Haytham [Al Hazen Ibn-al-Haithem] Research Institute (see Figure 2). In reality, the institute was a front for clandestine activity in CW, BW, electronics, and optics under the patronage of the IIS. Ibrahim’s assistant was an intelligence officer, Fa’iz ‘Abdallah Al Shahin, who would later oversee Iraq’s production of CW agents during the Iran-Iraq war and play a key role in the development of other nonconventional weapons, such as radiological bombs. He would also briefly supervise part of the BW program. Later still, Fa’iz would become Deputy Minister of Oil.
Al Hasan was a large, coordinated effort to master the technologies associated with several aspects of modern warfare. Quickly Al Hasan established chemical laboratories at Al Rashad, NE of Baghdad, posing as ‘The Center for Medical Diagnostics’ and a temporary biological center in the Al ‘Amiriyah suburb of Baghdad. A purpose built closed-institute soon followed: the Ibn-Sina Center at Al Salman occupying a peninsula formed by the River Tigris 30km south of Baghdad. The Ibn-Sina Center masqueraded as ‘The Center for Medical Agriculture’. After occupying a temporary headquarters in Sadun Street in the center of Baghdad, Al Hasan built a new headquarters and physics laboratory at Masbah nearby and later added an electronics laboratory at Tajiyat, north of Baghdad.
The generation of scientists trained and employed at Al Hasan, many of whom devoted more than 20 years of their careers to the pursuit of WMD, formed the backbone of Iraq’s later CW and BW programs. Initially, a group of nine scientists drawn from the Ministries of Higher Education, Defense and Health led the original offensive BW effort, conducting research into bacteria, toxins, and viruses, emphasizing production, pathogenicity, dissemination and storage of agents, such as Clostridium botulinum, spores of Bacillus anthracis, cholera, polio, and influenza virus. Later, in both chemical and biological disciplines, the Al Hasan Institute engaged prominent scientists to train and guide more junior staff and chemical corps officers. Dr. Muhammad ‘Abd-al-Mun’im Al Azmirli, an Egyptian, mentored the chemists and Dr. Muzhir [Mudher, Modher] Al Falluji led the biologists. The Institute sponsored its staff to study abroad for PhDs in subjects appropriate for the CW or BW effort. The Iraqi Regime rewarded success with promotion, high status, money, and material goods.
The second attempt to develop BW also faltered despite considerable effort. The Minister of Defense and Dr. ‘Amir Al Sa’adi concluded in a 1978 investigation that Al Hasan had failed to deliver what it promised and that there had been academic and financial fraud. Arrests and imprisonment of several researchers followed for fraud and embezzlement surrounding the purported development of influenza as a BW agent. Al Sa’adi decided that project was a failure, not having made enough progress toward industrial scale BW production and should be shut down, which the Iraqi government did on 16 January 1979, exactly 6 months before President Ahmad Hasan Al Bakr resigned in favor of his Vice President, Saddam Husayn. The facilities and staff were parceled out to various government establishments such as State Organization for Technical Industries (SOTI). The best personnel went to the IIS. Between 1979 and 1985, Iraq rebuilt and expanded the dual-use infrastructure for BW research, but undertook little work of significance.
- In 1979, a presidential decree created the Scientific and Technical Research Directorate (STRD) which later became the Technical Research Center (TRC), as a technical support agency for the IIS and to replace the Al Hasan as a cover mechanism for continued work on the development of chemical and biological agents.
- The IIS continued small-scale CBW activities, recruiting chemists and scientists from universities and private laboratories and assigning them to Al Salman to conduct research.
- In 1983, a militarily relevant BW program restarted at the CW facility at Al Muthanna. UN inspectors were told that the initiative for this came from the Director General (DG) of Al Muthanna, Lt. Gen. Nizar Al Attar, who then received endorsement from the Minister of Defense. ISG has been unable to establish the veracity of this story, although it is apparent that a BW program started there in 1984 under the auspices of the MOD, funded by the State Organization for Technical Industries (SOTI), and headed at the research level by a new recruit, Dr. Rihab. Her direction, at least at the working level, was at this time given by Lt. Gen. Nizar who instructed her that he “did not want research to put on a shelf. He wanted applied research to put in a bomb.”
Renewed Ambition and Near-Realization: 1985-1991
The outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 altered Baghdad’s perception of the value of WMD and led to a reinvigoration of the BW program. In the view of Iraqi leaders, Iraq’s CW halted Iranian ground offensives and ballistic missile attacks on Tehran broke its political will.
- According to Brig. Dr. Mahmud Farraj Bilal Al Samarra’i, Iraq’s war with Iran was the catalyst to reactivate Iraq’s BW efforts. Iraq’s success with CW during its war with Iran only reaffirmed the potential value of unconventional capabilities like BW. He opined that, “if the Iran war lasted beyond 1988, Saddam would have used BW.” Further, Iraq’s concerns about Israel and their WMD capabilities provided additional impetus to seek a strategic counterbalance to deter foreign threats.
- Dr. Bilal added additional perspectives on the strategic intent of Iraqi’s BW program, which he described as a strategic capability that would compliment Iraq’s CW efforts with great potential for achieving surprise. Bilal also commented that Iraq considered BW a potential counterbalance to the Israeli threat, but acknowledged that Iraq lacked an effective delivery system to mount a BW attack against Israel.
- After the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, one of the country’s most eminent microbiologists and one of its few experts in fermentation, Professor Nassir Al Hindawi of Mustansiriyah University, submitted a proposal for BW research to the Presidential Diwan. The leadership directed his proposal to Lt. Gen. Nizar, the DG of Al Muthanna. Al Hindawi convinced Saddam to utilize disease-causing agents to aid the war effort against Iran. The focus of his interest was developing botulinum toxin as tactical nerve-like BW agent and anthrax as a strategic and tactical weapon.
In the early 1980s Baghdad stepped up the pace of it BW program significantly.In 1983, the remnants of the first BW effort became formally part of Al Muthanna under the direction of Lt. Gen. Nizar Al Attar. According to UNSCOM reporting, a formal research plan was drafted that year committing to BW research. Meanwhile, close by at the old facilities of the Al Hasan Institute, Al Salman was conducting a parallel BW research program under the authority of the intelligence services that included research into an anti-crop fungal agent, Tilletia, and the development of a bacterial spray device (known as the Zubaydi device, after its inventor). Al Salman tested the spray device, mounted on a helicopter, with reportedly inconclusive results, at Khan Bani Sa’ad in August 1988.
In late 1984, on returning from completing her PhD in the UK, Dr. Rihab was contacted by Lt. Gen. Nizar and directed to report to Al Muthanna, where she took over technical leadership of the BW program and led it to a series of achievements. According to Dr. Rihab, in 1983, there was an informal decision made to revitalize the BW program. Three years later, a 5-year plan was drawn up that would lead to BW weaponization,a course Dr. Rihab and her group implemented with urgency, authority, and great secrecy demonstrating considerable planning. Dr. Rihab formed a team and commenced extensive literature surveys, based initially on the citation indices of the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) publications of the 1960 and 1970s. The team also started conducting toxicological investigations. Under her leadership of the technical elements, the program moved steadily through a series of discrete phases.
- In 1985, Dr. Rihab ordered reference strains of several pathogenic organisms from a variety of foreign sources and began basic research on candidate BW agents. Al Hindawi became an advisor to her in 1986.
- In 1986, under the guise of work at Baghdad University, she successfully ordered multiple isolates of pathogens from the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), such as B. anthracis for use in the early BW agent research effort.
- In 1987, the program moved from Al Muthanna to Al Salman. The group now under the control of Ahmad Murtada, DG of the TRC, recruited new staff and broadened its range of agents. Murtada was an acolyte of Husayn Kamil and relied on the Military Industrialization Commission (MIC) and its Senior Deputy, Dr. ‘Amir Al Sa’adi, for the weapons aspects of the program. Equipment from the At Taji SCP Plant was transferred to Al Salman in August that year.
- Also in 1987, Dr. Rihab and Dr. ‘Amir Al Sa’adi discussed the possibility of developing a transportable system for the production of BW agents. She claims that the idea was largely ‘Amir Al Sa’adi’s and that she rejected the proposal in favor of a fixed production site at Al Hakam.
- In 1988, they opened the facility at Al Hakam. Production of anthrax, botulinum toxin and Clostridium perfringens started. Weapon development and testing followed.
- In May 1988, TRC broadened the base of the BW program by adding a mycologist, Dr. ‘Imad Dhiyab, with a team that researched fungal toxins, including trichothecene mycotoxins and later aflatoxin. The connection, if any, of this work with the earlier fungal work at Al Salman, is unknown.
- When Iraq tried to expand the production capacity of Al Hakam by importing three 5 cubic meter fermentation vessels from the Swiss company Chemap in 1988, the export license was denied; this, despite implementing an elaborate deception plan involving a fake production building at Al Qa’qa’a. However, fermentors and other equipment were requisitioned from an Iraqi veterinary vaccine plant at Al Kindi and transferred to Al Hakam in November 1988.
- In 1989, Dr. Rihab sought to have a spray dryer manufactured in Iraq for work at Al Hakam. Iraqi companies were able to fabricate the body of a dryer but not the other components. In fact, there was already a dryer at Al Hakam that would, with some safety modifications, have been suitable for drying BW agent. This dryer had been transferred from the At Taji SCP Plant to Al Hakam in 1988. Nevertheless, she sought from overseas a commercial dryer that could, without modification, safely dry anthrax. In 1989, Iraq approached a foreign manufacturer of dryers with a sample of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) to be dried for biopesticide purposes as a cover for the true purpose. The company did not supply Iraq with the special dryer.
By early 1990, Iraq was methodically advancing toward the acquisition of a BW component to its arsenal of WMD. Iraq had conducted laboratory and environmental static and dynamic explosive field tests of wheat cover smut, aflatoxin, anthrax simulants (Bacillus subtilis and thuringiensis), botulinum toxin, Clostridium perfringens and ricin. Following Saddam Husayn’s speech on 2 April 1990 that identified Israel as a threat, Husayn Kamil ordered the BW program to go all out for weaponization. The program took on a sudden urgency and its direction changed dramatically; frenetic and convulsive efforts to adapt new weapons and acquire and expand BW agent production replaced the years of orderly progress.
By the time of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, the BW program had moved into high gear with the aim of fielding filled weapons as quickly as possible. Also in August 1990, Al Hakam commenced production of Clostridium perfringens, the causative agent of gas gangrene. There is no evidence of the weaponization of this material and details of its disposal remain uncertain.
- Botulinum toxin and anthrax were the backbone of the Iraqi pre-1991 BW program. In addition to the production activities at Al Hakam, the Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine plant (FMDV) at Al Dawrah was adapted for the production of botulinum toxin and continued to produce the agent until they evacuated the site on 15 January 1991, two days before the start of Desert Storm. While senior Iraqi officials deny production of anthrax at FMDV, the UN found traces of anthrax on two fermentors and a mobile storage tank in the facility. One source has informed ISG that the site did produce anthrax. ISG concludes that FMDV produced anthrax. ISG does not know whether the fate of this anthrax was the same as that produced at Al Hakam.
- Dr. Hazim ‘Ali, recruited in July 1990 to lead the development of viral agents, took over the FMDV Plant at Al Dawrah in September of that year, renaming it ‘Al Manal’. He commenced work on viruses including hemorrhagic conjunctivis, human rotavirus, and camel pox with a view to weaponization. Hazim’s viral work was still in its infancy by the time of Desert Storm and very little had actually been achieved.
In parallel with the production of BW agents, other facilities were manufacturing R-400 aerial bombs and warheads for the Al Husayn missile.Husayn Kamil had the final say over which agents to weaponize. Although in November 1990, Al Muthanna started adapting an aircraft auxiliary fuel tank as a means of dispersing BW agent, a few days after the invasion of Kuwait, Husayn Kamil chose to use the R-400 aerial bomb and the Al Husayn missile warhead because they were already in use for CW agents. There was no discussion of how to weaponize BW agents because of lack of time and the pressing need to make decisions quickly. Additional weapons testing of R-400 bombs using an anthrax simulant, B. subtilis, occurred leading up to the war. In addition, there is an unconfirmed report that Bt was used in explosive testing of an unidentified BW munition at Al Hakam between September 1990 and January 1991.
- In November 1990, Al Muthanna started adapting an aircraft auxiliary fuel tank as a means of dispersing BW agents. Iraq had previously attempted a similar development in the CW field and in a letter, dated 10 December 1990, to Husayn Kamil, Gen. Fa’iz Shahin, DG of Al Muthanna, had referred to “successful tests of spraying mustard gas by planes which proved to be very effective.” It appears that the BW spray device was a continuation of this earlier effort. Sometime in early January 1991, at a meeting of the Iraqi leadership, Husayn Kamil told Saddam: “Sir, the best way to transport this weapon (BW) and achieve the most harmful effects would come by using planes, like a crop duster, to scatter it. This is, Sir, a thousand times more harmful.” Saddam responded that he wanted all options of delivering BW agent to the targets. The Iraqi Air Force flew the tanks with anthrax simulants to optimize the dispersion characteristics. The Air Force also experimented with a remotely piloted MiG-21 aircraft as a possible delivery platform for a similar tank system. These trials only ceased when Desert Storm started.
By January 1991, reflecting the huge exertion of the previous months, Iraq had produced large quantities of anthrax, botulinum toxin, Clostridium perfringens, aflatoxin, and small quantities of ricin, and had more than 180 BW weapons deployed to five hide sites. In addition, Al Hakam protected caches of bulk BW agent containers by moving them from site to site during the hostilities. The weapons and agent were guarded and ready for use. The Iraqi leadership decided policy for their use and targeting. Iraq states that the opening bombardment of 17 January 1991 destroyed the only aircraft and spray tank ready for use. Despite this, work continued to complete another three tanks, with plans for a further eight in preparation.
- Iraq had filled ballistic missiles and aerial bombs, and was modifying aircraft fuel tanks to spray BW agents.
- The weapons, though not agent production, were not well designed technically and the result of an immature development program. In ISG’s view, the weapons were suboptimal but could have been effective in certain circumstances.
- The Iraqis were well aware of the shortcomings of the Al Husayn missile and the R-400. Lt. Gen. Hazim, commander of the Surface-to-Surface Missile Forces openly admitted that the Al Husayn, with a BW agent filled warhead, would fulfill its purpose if after impact in an enemy country sufficient material survived to enable its detection as a BW agent. It was a weapon of terror. They were for use in extremis and only if an enemy directly threatened the existence of the Regime in its heartland in and around Baghdad. Except for those in the know, Iraqi armed forces treated BW weapons as ‘special chemical’, a more toxic type of CW weapon.
Saddam himself exercised control over Iraq’s BW arsenal, and he was prepared to use it against US and allied forces in the event of war. At a meeting in early January 1991, he identified the targets for the BW weapons. Israel was to be first and all Israeli cities were targets, but he ordered that strikes concentrate on Tel Aviv. US forces were to be targets if they attacked with unconventional forces. He also identified Riyadh and Jeddah as targets. In a transcript of discussions held at the time Saddam ordered the use of the more persistent (presumably anthrax) BW agents: “we want the long term, the many years kind.”
- Saddam envisaged all out use of the weapons. He said “we don’t want to depend on one option” and that Iraqi forces must use all means, bombs, missiles and spray aircraft, to deliver the BW agent. He pointed out that this was “a life and death issue and all the orders about targets are sealed in writing and authenticated” in case something happened to him.
- The stockpiles of weapons and bulk agents remained in their hide sites unused and undamaged. Two officials shared the day-to-day responsibility; Dr. Bilal for the bombs and missiles and Dr. Rihab for the bulk BW agent.
The Beginning of the Decline: Opportunity Through Ambiguity and the End of the Game (1991-1996)
ISG assesses that in 1991, Iraq clung to the objective of gaining war-winning weapons with strategic intent that would enable the projection of its power over much of the Middle East and beyond. BW was part of that plan. With an eye to the future and aiming to preserve some measure of its BW capability, Baghdad in the years immediately after Desert Storm sought to save what it could of its BW infrastructure, hide evidence of the program, and dispose of its existing weapons stocks.Following Baghdad’s formal acceptance of UNSCR 687 of 3 April 1991, Iraq had 15 days to declare its stocks of WMD. It did not do so, and in a letter dated 18 April 1991, to the Secretary General of the UN, Foreign Minister Tariq ‘Aziz even denied that Iraq had any BW program. Baghdad’s action in the following months and years indicate that it intended to preserve its BW capability and return to the steady, methodical progress toward a mature BW capability when inspections ended and sanctions were lifted. Thebiopesticide program that was established after the 1991 Gulf war, temporarily preserved Iraq’s research, development and production base at Al Hakam and, whether intentionally or otherwise, achieved several objectives set out in the original Iraqi BW strategic plan drafted in 1985. These included industrial-scale production of biological agents, albeit nonpathogenic ones, and perfecting development of dry agent formulation.
Baghdad took early steps to protect what remained of the BW physical plant and equipment. During the first Gulf war, the only facilities directly relevant to Iraq’s BW program that were destroyed were the research laboratories at Al Salman and the munitions filling station at Al Muthanna. Neither was critical to the BW program that was centered on Al Hakam. Al Hakam at that time was unknown to the Coalition and therefore was not attacked during the war, unlike the Abu Ghurayb Infant Formula Plant (the Baby Milk Factory) that the Coalition destroyed by bombing in the mistaken belief that it was a key BW facility. Following approval of UNSCR 687 in early April 1991, Saddam Husayn endorsed Husayn Kamil’s decision not to declare Al Hakam as part of the BW program and decided to convert the plant to commercial use prior to the arrival of the second UNSCOM BW team in September 1991. Husayn Kamil pressured Dr. Rihab to complete this transition quickly to save equipment and the jobs of the scientists and technicians.
- Saddam wanted to keep scientists employed, according to ‘Amir Muhammad Rashid Al ‘Ubaydi. Moreover, he initially expected the sanctions would last no more than three years, and many Iraqis doubted the sanctions would be so comprehensive, according to several interviews with former officials. 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 BW potential by enhancing dual-use facilities.
The advent of postwar UN inspections posed serious problems for Iraq, and in a bid to hide the true uses of the remaining plant and equipment the Regime ordered a large scale deception effort, involving cleaning existing plants to remove traces of BW activity, hiding relevant documents, destroying existing stocks of agent, and concocting a cover story for ongoing BW-related work at Al Hakam. Immediately Iraq scoured the principal facilities to remove evidence of an offensive BW program. The production plant was vigorously decontaminated, research papers altered, evidence hidden or destroyed and the BW cadre agreed to provide false accounts of past events and future intent. In the summer of 1991, on the orders of Husayn Kamil relayed through Ahmad Murtada, Dr. Rihab ordered that all documents associated with the BW program be destroyed and all production activities at Al Hakam be stopped. She claims to have collected all documents, kept a few, and destroyed or buried the rest. She ordered all BW scientists from Al Salman and Al Hakam to sign a legal document stipulating, under the threat of execution, a prohibition on speaking to UN inspectors about the production of, or progress on, any BW agent.
- After that order, the person in charge of physical security at Al Hakam witnessed Dr. Rihab remove about 20 to 25 electronic media disks (floppy disks) from her office.
- In late 1991, Saddam Husayn’s Secretary, ‘Abd Hamid Mahmud Al Khatab Al Tikriti, asked Husayn Kamil if Iraq would declare the BW program to the UN. Husayn Kamil indicated that it would not be necessary and the he would order the scientists to hide all evidence of the program in their homes. Husayn Kamil arranged the collection of all documents relating to WMD and directed the Special Security Organization (SSO) to conceal them. This was to facilitate the reconstitution of WMD programs after the UN departed. There is some uncertainty whether these documents are the same as those handed to the UN in 1995 from Husayn Kamil’s chicken farm.
Saddam also authorized Husayn Kamil to destroy, unilaterally, Iraq’s stocks of BW agents. There were three distinct phases of destruction, including clean up and sterilization of facilities including Al Salman, Al Hakam, Al Manal and Al Safa’ah; destruction of munitions by TRC and Al Muthanna personnel; and neutralization and dumping of bulk BW agent. According to some accounts given by former Iraqi officials, the clean up of the Al Hakam site began in May 1991. Other accounts give the order as sometime in the summer of 1991. In any case, Dr. Rihab ordered MIC to sanitize Al Hakam to destroy any traces of botulinum toxin and anthrax. The Al Hakam site was sanitized, which entailed the sanitization of all surfaces, drains, equipment and sewers using formalin, alcohol and potassium permanganate.
ISG, however, continues to harbor doubts regarding Iraq’s destruction of bacterial reference strains and isolates. According to Dr. Rihab, she destroyed these materials in early 1992, but ISG can verify neither that the materials were destroyed nor the other details of Dr. Rihab’s account. She maintains that she gave a small box containing no more than 25 vials of lyophilized bacterial pathogens, including those obtained from the American Type Culture Collection to the IIS in mid-1991 for safekeeping. Allegedly, Husam Muhammad Amin Al Yasin, who would eventually become the director of the National Monitoring Directorate (NMD), returned the box to her in early 1992. She also claimed that she asked former TRC head Ahmad Murtada what to do with the vials. Murtada took the matter to Husayn Kamil, who ordered the vials destroyed. Dr. Rihab claims she did this by injecting the vials with Dettol™ and then autoclaving the vials. According to UNSCOM data, all ATCC ampules were accounted for and there should have been no remaining unopened vials from ATCC after the first UNSCOM BW inspection.
ISG judges the Regime took these steps with the aim of restarting the BW program in the future. In 1993, Husayn Kamil reportedly announced in a speech to WMD scientists that Iraq’s WMD programs would resume and expand when UN inspectors left. Al Hindawi recounted to ISG a conversation he had with ‘Amir Al Sa’adi about the future of the BW program following the first Gulf war. Al Sa’adi referred to Husayn Kamil’s intent as “His Highness had a broad vision of the future.” Al Hindawi interpreted this to mean that Husayn Kamil intended to reactivate the program later.
Even as Baghdad took steps to hide its remaining BW infrastructure and cover the traces of its previous program, the Regime sought to continue a covert BW development effort under the cover of civilian research. In April 1991, Dr. Rihab personally briefed Saddam Husayn on the plan to convert Al Hakam for the production of biopesticide. In that same month, MIC and Saddam Husayn decided to develop programs for SCP and biopesticide, using Bt as the cover.
- Dr. Bilal told ISG, “Al Hakam was kept as potential for the BW program in the future.” He described that they decided they must do everything to preserve it and stated that the entire bio-insecticide and SCP effort at Al Hakam was a “100% cover story” created by ‘Amir Rashid. Dr. Rihab also stated that the intent to produce the SCP and bioinsecticide Bt at Al Hakam was “to cover the equipment.”
ISG judges that in the wake of Desert Storm and destruction of much of the BW effort, Iraq’s strategic objective was to give the appearance of cooperating with UNSCOM while preserving the intellectual capital amassed in prior years on BW.The Bt and SCP programs offered an effective justification that allowed Iraq to keep the Al Hakam site with its extensive equipment and skilled scientists in one place. Dr. Bilal related that after they created the cover story for Al Hakam, an economic study of Single Cell Protein (SCP) was conducted highlighting that Al Hakam’s production capacity was only kilograms while Iraq’s calculated “legitimate” SCP need was 70 tonnes per year.
- Nasr Al Hindawi advocated the development of SCP at Al Hakam. The idea was endorsed because of his reputation in SCP production that was expected to provide credibility for the program to outside observers. Using SCP as an alternative feedstock, however, required very large rates of annual production (hundreds of tonnes) as well as large quantities of scarce methanol and ethanol for growth media.
- Dr. Rihab was not interested in SCP. The production of Bt pesticides was a convenient cover. The assertion that Al Hakam had been involved in biopesticide production before 1991 provided what they hoped to be a plausible explanation that enabled Iraq to avoid declaring production of anthrax. She enlisted the support of Dr. Jabbar Farhan ‘Abd-al-Razzaq Al Ma’dhihi from the TABRC who had conducted research on Bt to assist in the development of biopesticide production.
Ostensible biopesticide production at Al Hakam required both an expansion of the facilities and collaboration with the IAEC’s TABRC. The cover story did not fit the limited capabilities that resided at Al Hakam: the production capacity of the plant was far too little to be convincing that it really was for commercial SCP purposes. Realizing this, Baghdad began to expand production capacity in 1993. Simultaneously, collaboration on biopesticide production with experts from TABRC generated processes and capabilities that would be directly relevant to any future Iraqi BW effort.
- Iraq expanded Al Hakam’s water and electricity utilities; a move ISG assesses would have significantly expanded the site’s potential to support planned biopesticide and SCP production, and also sought to transfer to Al Hakam any and all usable equipment to support the proposed biopesticide and SCP activity. For example, after UNSCOM’s first visit to Al Hakam in September 1991, Al Hakam acquired a 1,500-liter fermentor and a dryer from Al Muthanna in order to strengthen the cover story. Additionally, Baghdad sought to acquire necessary equipment to pursue BW-related work at Al Hakam. In 1995, for example, Iraq attempted to purchase two turnkey 50 cubic meter fermentor plants from a Russian Company that purportedly had expertise in botulinum toxin production. Iraq negotiated a deal with that Russian Company for equipment and assistance. A team of Iraqi scientists and technicians traveled to Russia. The deal fell through because the company did not receive an export license.
Collaboration with TABRC brought together groups of experts and organizations whose work had direct bearing on future BW work. Jabbar Al Ma’dhihi, Head of TABRC, for example was instrumental in designing the process that resulted in reconfiguring Al Hakam to produce Bt bioinsecticide. Dr. Al Ma’dhihi also developed a novel solution to Iraq’s need for BW growth media. Unlike traditional bacterial growth media, Al Ma’dhihi’s creation was cheap and of domestic origin—made from waste products from food and agricultural processes. He noted that his media induced near 100% sporulation rates in Bt with little or no additional additives or intensive monitoring of the fermentation process. In ISG’s view, this media would probably be a suitable media for anthrax spore production. Rihab, herself, has conceded that this media may support growth and sporulation of anthrax and admitted that the use of this media would make monitoring difficult.
- Separately, Dr. Rihab described the purpose of her group’s research into alternative media, which was to circumvent the effects of sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Nasir Al Hindawi worked on alternative media for Brucella. Mosul University, worked on plants as a source of peptone media for anaerobic organisms. Some of the plant media was purportedly suitable for growing pathogens such as Clostridium botulinum. Rihab was angry that Mosul’s research might attract UNSCOM attention.
A strategic objective from the earliest days of the BW program was to produce dry agent. Dr. Rihab was aware that liquid agent had a relatively short shelf life and this was demonstrated to her when in 1991, she found that liquid BW agent recovered from bombs and bulk storage containers “was ruined.” She therefore found the work at TABRC on drying Bt by Dr. Al Ma’dhihi of great interest. Al Ma’dhihi was able to dry Bt at bench-scale and was working toward pilot-scale levels. This technology was directly applicable to drying anthrax although safety precautions would have been necessary.
- Dr. Al Ma’dhihi used bentonite provided by Al Hakam. The particle size was of 1 to 10 micrometers and Al Ma’dhihi realized that this was too fine for agricultural work. However, such technology is applicable to BW.
Dr. Rihab was pleased with the biopesticide formulation Al Hakam produced. Al Hakam produced approximately 40 tons of dry formulated product each year from 1992 to 1996. In about 1994, Al Hakam slowed down the production of Al Nasr in order to improve the formulation for the farmers. However, there was disagreement among the developer, producers, and end-users on the utility and use of the Al Hakam’s dry Bt product called Al Nasr (or “Victory”). Farmers found it cumbersome to use, having to apply it by hand one plant at a time; spraying the product as a liquid slurry by mixing it with water was not successful. Al Hindawi stated, “The Bt produced there was not very popular with the farmers and was not a profitable endeavor.” The former minister of agriculture corroborated this view.
- Dr. Al Ma’dhihi, the developer of this product, explained that it was intended to be used by sprinkling the dry material directly on to plants. He commented that farmers did not like the product because the powder was too fine; it aerosolized into a cloud when applied and did not form an adequate residue on the plants.
- Those who produced Al Nasr, Dr. Rihab and Mr. Thamir ‘Abd-al-Rahman thought otherwise on the use and value of the product. They both described mixing the dry powder with water to form a slurry and spraying the product using hand sprayers. They thought the product was well received.
ISG’s assessment is that whatever the intention of Iraq’s Bt drying technology it was more applicable to BW than biopesticides.ISG has learned more about the potential use of Iraq’s biopesticide program for prohibited purposes from other sources.
- It was reported, but not confirmed, that researchers from the BW program at Al Hakam used other organisms to model work with anthrax after 1991.
- The former chief anthrax technician stated to ISG that the Al Hakam Bt fermentation line would fully support anthrax production. If virulent anthrax isolates were available, it would take by his estimate, one week to redirect the line to begin production of anthrax. He noted however that attempting to dry anthrax using the Al Hakam equipment was highly hazardous without respiratory protection or containment around the spray dryer.
In early 1995, UN inspectors confronted Iraq with evidence of imports of bacterial growth media in quantities that had no civilian utility within Iraq’s limited biotechnology industry, a step that ultimately led to the unraveling of Iraq’s cover story regarding continuing BW-related activity. On 1 July 1995, Iraq acknowledged that it used this growth media to produce two BW agents in bulk, botulinum toxin, and Bacillus anthracis spores, between 1988 and 1991. This precipitated Iraq into preparing a Full Final and Complete Disclosure (FFCD). Iraq presented the draft version in July 1995. A final version followed on 4 August 1995, only to be declared void less than two weeks later after Husayn Kamil fled to Jordan.
Most of what ISG knows about Iraq’s BW endeavors dates from the period August 1995 to early 1996. After his departure officials denounced “the traitor” Husayn Kamil and blamed him for Iraq’s failure to disclose the BW program earlier. Tariq ‘Aziz claims he persuaded Saddam Husayn to make a full disclosure of Iraq’s BW efforts to the UN. For a short while information flowed freely and Iraq released a considerable quantity of documents on its WMD programs in anticipation that this would lead to the lifting of sanctions. (However, in the biological field there were only around 200 items, including notebooks, papers, receipts, photographs, videotapes and journal reprints. For a program that had already lasted more than 20 years this was a modest collection.) As a consequence of the disclosures, the UN supervised the destruction of Al Hakam and disablement of FMDV in June 1996.
Iraq’s disclosures on its covert BW program almost certainly were tied to the disintegration of the economy, which had hit rock-bottom by late 1995 as a result of UN-mandated economic sanctions. ISG judges that Saddam was willing to risk an element of Iraq’s WMD program in a bid to gain economic and sanctions relief. Getting out from under sanctions, by this time, was an overarching Regime objective. BW research at the time offered no real capability but nevertheless posed the risk of a potential embarrassment that could only get in the way of sanctions relief.
- After a series of drafts, Iraq submitted a new “Full, Final and Complete Declaration” (FFCD) on 22 June 1996. This initiated a series of UN inspections to verify the details and resulted in another FFCD, submitted in September 1996, and a further FFCD in September 1997. Despite these revisions, the new FFCDs did not supply any substantially new information and therefore did not meet UN requirements. The UN was unable to verify the contents of the documents in spite of two Technical Evaluation Meetings between Iraq and the UN in March and April 1998, and July 1998.
Recovery and Transition 1996-2003
With the bulk of Iraq’s BW program in ruins, Iraq after 1996 continued small-scale BW-related efforts with the only remaining asset at Baghdad’s disposal— the know-how of the small band of BW scientists and technicians who carried out further work under the auspices of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. By 1996, the combination of the destruction wrought during Desert Storm and the deliberate destruction of key BW facilities and equipment under UNSCOM supervision left Iraq with few physical remnants of its BW program. Numerous other dual-use biological facilities were subject to routine UN monitoring.
- Many of the key scientists went to work for the NMD. Others pursued advanced degrees in Iraq’s universities or went into the private sector; or work at other government agencies, e.g., TABRC; while at least some continued to conduct small-scale biological research and development in disperse locations under the control of the IIS.
- ISG is uncertain what the function of the multiple IIS laboratories was, and who the scientists were (see also CW section, Annex I). Some of the work conducted there was probably a continuation of the work at the Al Salman laboratories after their destruction in the Gulf war in 1991 and that would include forensic related work. Other objectives were probably to develop poisons for assassination or debilitation. Whether any of the research was directly related to military development of BW agents is uncertain; the nature of some of the reported work would have had direct application to dissemination of ricin.
Dr. Rihab hypothesized to ISG that if a BW program had existed in Iraq prior to OIF, it would probably have been conducted in secret within the intelligence community.However, ISG’s inspection of assorted equipment and sites has not uncovered evidence of either the true nature of IIS laboratories or conclusive links between these laboratories and Iraq’s BW effort. ISG notes, in any case, that the tactic of using IIS and covert laboratories has historical precedence dating back to the program’s origins in the 1970s, when the IIS provided the BW program with security and participated in BW-related research. Reverting to this practice would minimize the evidence available to inspectors. It would also leave the known and acknowledged BW workers free to deal with the UN inspection regime. However, it would require another cadre of scientists other than ones known to the UN to conduct this kind of research. The discovery of multiple IIS clandestine laboratories after OIF lends some credence to this assessment.
- There is information that suggests that up to 5 IIS laboratories operated in the greater Baghdad area at various times up until OIF.
- ISG found a possible DGS laboratory in Baghdad that contained a variety of chemicals but no laboratory equipment. Residents in the building alleged that the laboratory was a biological one. The investigating team found several DGS administrative documents, some of which were from employees requesting approval for danger pay for their hazardous work with biological and radioactive materials.
- Information collected at the time of OIF led to the discovery of assorted laboratory equipment purportedly used by a suspect BW scientist at a Mosque in Baghdad.
- A clandestine laboratory was identified by an ISG team at the Baghdad Central Public Health Laboratory in the summer of 2003. According to an employee of the laboratory, the IIS operated a laboratory at that location for several years. In advance of a 1998 UNSCOM inspection, secret documents were removed and stored at the Director’s house. In December of 2002, the laboratory was emptied of all equipment and documents.
- A former IIS chemist indicates this five-story building and adjacent warehouse complex comprises the M16 training center at Djerf-al-Nadaf, SE of Baghdad. A former member of the NMD reported this site as one of the three IIS locations with equipment and activities intentionally not declared to the UN. Neither UNSCOM nor UNMOVIC were aware of their existence and had not visited these facilities. He believes the building contained a biological laboratory for unspecified work. Site exploitation revealed a modern building that probably housed both offices and at least one laboratory on the first floor. The building was completely looted, with very few remnants of equipment, materials, or documents. Neighbors indicated that the IIS removed everything from the site just before the war.
- According to a former mid-level BW scientist, Iraq conducted tests on prisoners using aflatoxin in 1994 at an undeclared clandestine facility. A former member of the NMD indicated he visited the facility in 1997 or 1998 to survey the equipment for possible declaration to the UN; he was told on-site that none of the equipment or activities there would be declared.
- ISG also has evidence that, possibly as recently as 1994, an IIS chemist who immigrated to Iraq from Egypt, Dr. Muhammad ‘Abd-al-Mun’im Al Azmirli (now deceased), experimented on prisoners with ricin resulting in their deaths.
- In the chemical field, ISG learned that, in the 1970s, the former IIS Directorate of Science and Technology, M9 (which later transformed into M16) used this approach for research into lethal agents. The IIS used a succession of four clandestine laboratories in At Taji and Baghdad between 1996 and 2003 to research and develop chemicals. It also included testing of chemicals on small animals like mice, rabbits and rats.
- Additional reporting, though unconfirmed, indicates that M16 also conducted BW related research at two covert laboratories. In the early 1990s, Saddam tasked the IIS to do small-scale BW work in covert laboratories concealed within legitimate facilities. Further unconfirmed reports indicated the IIS conducted BW and CW experiments and stored WMD precursor materials in residences and warehouses around Baghdad until at least April 2003.
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