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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report


Command and Control

Preamble: Muddling Through After the Gulf War

ISG believes that two of Saddam’s primary goals after the war were to recover economically from war damage and to retain Iraq’s capability to reconstitute its WMD program after sanctions were lifted or became ineffectual, inspections were removed, and the threat of force abated. During the Gulf war in early 1991, Coalition Forces destroyed or extensively damaged most of Iraq’s CW infrastructure, including the agent and precursor production facilities at Al Muthanna. Given the Iraqi government’s possession of CW data and production experience, the preservation of intellectual capital would be key to the eventual restoration of a post-sanctions CW program, and the Regime took explicit steps to ensure the preservation of its body of CW scientists.

  • Many former employees of Al Muthanna were deployed to Al Tariq and worked there until OIF.
  • In some cases, CW experts were diverted to companies within the IIC or the MIM, according to interviews with multiple sources after OIF. Others were assigned to be instructors at chemical schools for defensive NBC work.

Of the approximately 200 former CW scientists—about 60 of whom are considered key CW experts from the Al Muthanna years—ISG attempted to contact close to 150 to determine their activities since 1991 and any efforts by the Regime to utilize their skills for CW-related efforts. ISG was able to identify initiallocation information for approximately 130 individuals, many of whom were not able to contacted.

  • Based on locations, employment, and availability, ISG experts were able to speak to nearly 30 former key-CW scientists, none of whom claimed to have been involved in CW-related activities after 1991 or to know any individuals suspected of involvement in such work.
  • With the exception of one instance, when former VX expert Imad Husayn Al-Ani was apporached by ‘Uday’s officer in 2003 with a request to make chemical agent, no other scientists claimed they had been contacted by Regime officials requesting assistance in CW work.

ISG Strategy To Evaluate Whether Iraq’s Chemical Industry Infrastructure Was CW-Ready

ISG’s strategy for assessing the capabilities of Iraq’s chemical infrastructure to support a CW program was based on a systematic evaluation of four components necessary to maintain such a program: raw material, equipment, expertise and Regime intent. During its investigations, ISG seized documents, conducted several site visits and interviewed high-ranking technocrats, former CW scientists, and prominent Iraqi academics to determine the extent, breadth, and coordination of Regime directed dual-use infrastructure development and chemical research and production.

  • To determine the availability of expertise required to contribute to a large-scale CW effort, ISG exploited sites, interviewed former CW scientists and analyzed documents on government-sponsored research.
  • ISG searched for chemistry technology necessary for production of key CW precursors, such as processes involving phosphorous and chlorine.
  • ISG used various historical intelligence reporting, open-source materials, and interviews with Iraqi scientists, and site visits to investigate Iraq’s chemical laboratories and industries, and information about Iraq’s CW agent production experts from 1991 to OIF.
  • Chemical plants that used or produced phosphorus compounds were a priority because Iraq’s ability to quickly recover a nerve agent production capability was dependent on its access to phosphorus-based compounds.

Overall, ISG’s efforts to uncover information on CW-germane research, development and infrastructure were complicated by uncooperative detainees, threats to some sources and extensive looting and burning of documents and facilities.

Iraq Could Maintain CW Competence With Relative Ease

The issue of retaining scientists in Iraq was a Regime policy. However, given the command economy in Iraq, which offered limited possibilities for work at private chemical companies, it is not surprising that most key personnel from the former CW program remained employed in the government chemical sector. Former CW scientists became heavily involved in rebuilding Iraq’s industrial infrastructure, and some experts were directed to work projects within various military organizations.

  • Saddam instructed Directors General of Iraqi companies and other state entities to prevent key scientists from the pre-1991 WMD program from leaving the country, according to Dr. Ja’far Dhia Ja’far.

Iraqi scientists and engineers could maintain a minimal CW production proficiency without engaging in CW-related R&D and production because they were already experienced in key CW agent production processes. Largely based on data available in previously published technical literature, Iraq had sufficiently developed processes to produce nerve, blister, and psychological agents.

  • For instance, Iraqi research on VX started in 1985 with a literature survey on the preparation and production methods of VX. Based on their literature review, the best and easiest method was chosen for the preparation of VX agent, according to Iraq’s CW Full, Final, and Complete Disclosure (FFCD) to the UN.
  • Iraq’s CW agent purity, formulation, and production standards in the 1980s program—although inferior to Western standards with the exception of its high-grade mustard—were “good enough” to produce harmful agent proven successful during previous use.

Inadequacies in Iraq’s pre-1991 CW program were probably caused by limited equipment and inferior precursor chemicals. Iraq could procure the materials to address these problems if sanctions were lifted, intrusive inspections removed, and threat of force abated.

  • In the case of VX, which Iraq claimed it abandoned because of lack of success at large-scale production according to Iraq’s FCCD, the scientists eventually became well aware of the factors resulting in unstable, poor quality (low purity) VX. (see discussion on VX in production section).
  • These factors included low purity and instability of precursors, reaction temperature control, inadequate vacuum systems, and inadequate size of separation vessels.


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