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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report

 

Infrastructure—Research and Development

Reflecting the importance the Regime attached to industrial and scientific progress and aiming to recover from the war with Iran, Baghdad undertook in the mid 1990s a centralized, national effort to coordinate Iraqi industrial activities. By the late 1990s, fueled by resources available through the Oil-for-Food program, that effort underlay a specific initiative aimed at boosting the capabilities of Iraqi pesticide and pharmaceutical industries, including the capability to manufacture dual-use chemicals. Although ISG found no direct evidence linking dual-use chemical production to an active or latent CW program, research and development on types of specific chemicals linked to Iraq’s CW program raises concerns about the legitimacy of Iraq’s chemical plans.

Prior to 1991, Iraq’s national research and development (R&D) capability was limited in scope, and efforts were largely concentrated in state establishments such as the Al Muthanna State Establishment (MSE) and at the university level.

  • Iraq’s industrial sector had limited capabilities for research, primarily because it had typically purchased turnkey facilities for industrial production from abroad.

After the Gulf war, Iraq’s ability to conduct R&D stagnated, and the majority of MSE scientists were deployed to operate factories or manage critical infrastructure problems caused by the war. The universities had no formal national R&D role and continued to operate their departments in a self-directed, isolated style.

  • The effects of sanctions and the prevailing international situation devastated the research community, preventing the intellectual capital of Iraq from participating in normal academic interaction.

In the 1994 timeframe, Saddam issued an edict that all Iraqi universities address problems experienced in the military and industrial sectors, according to an Iraqi academic scientist. Prior to this, universities were not obligated to conduct applied research for either sector.

In subsequent years, and in part triggered by the surge of state funding from the OFF program, Iraq was able to begin implementing Saddam’s edict and utilizing the intellectual capital of Iraq to help solve some of the shortages which had plagued Iraq’s industrial and military sectors.

  • An upturn in the economy after years of sanctions allowed Iraq to reevaluate its research efforts and initiate a series of projects to enhance its industrial base.

Creation of the Iraqi Industrial Committee

Saddam ordered the creation of the Iraqi Industrial Committee (IIC) in September 1995 to coordinate Iraqi industrial activities after Husayn Kamil fled the country according to documents. After the defection, Saddam assumed the role of Prime Minister as well as president of Iraq, and began attending the weekly ministers meetings. He ordered the establishment of the IIC and a similar Economic Committee to prevent the weekly meetings from becoming too detailed, according to interviews with Huwasyh.

  • The RCC issued a decree formally setting up the Industrial Committee and charged it to deal with all scientific, technical, and industrial matters affecting the entire Iraqi industrial sector, according to interviews with Huwaysh and Ja’far.
  • Ja’far indicated that the IIC commissioned a program aimed at developing an indigenous production capability for strategically important chemicals for domestic consumption that were difficult to import under UN sanctions

The IIC’s membership included the heads of Iraq’s military and civilian industrial ministries and sectors:

  • Members included the Head of MIC, the Minister of Industry and Minerals (MIM), the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MHESR), the Minister of Oil, and the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC), according to multiple reports.
  • Saddam appointed Minister of Oil Amer Rashid as the first IIC chairman, and he was followed by the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Abd Al-Khaliq al-Ghafur in 1996 or early 1997. Abd al-Tuwab Huwaysh later assumed the role of chairman of the IIC—as well as being a Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, according to documents signed by Huwaysh and other reporting.
  • Dr. Ja’far, as the Senior Advisor to the President, was appointed as an independent member of the IIC. He was neither subordinate to a ministry nor to the IIC chairman—instead he reported directly to Saddam’s personal Secretary, Abd Hamid Mahmud, according to interviews with Dr. Ja’far. Ja’far also was made chairman of the Research and Development Committee and the Technology Transfer Committee, which was later subordinated to the IIC.

The Power of the IIC

ISG judges that the IIC had significant influence over Iraq’s chemical infrastructure, industry, and research, even though it had not been constituted with that aim in mind. In effect, the IIC was the driving force behind an extensive, centralized national infrastructure improvement effort apparently focused on developing the pesticide and pharmaceutical industries and improving self-sufficiency, based on interviews with IIC officials and documentation.

  • The IIC actively allocated research in Iraq, including work at universities, state companies and government research centers. Government ministry research resources, including the MIC’s, were distributed by the IIC according to official reporting.
  • The MHESR was the primary channel for recommending industrial research to universities and educational research centers in Iraq, according to the same reporting. However, the Ministry could not dictate to universities what type of research to conduct—instead, universities chose their own research based on their capabilities, according to different official reporting.

Source Note: Principal source for IIC activityDr. Ja’far Dhia Ja’far

Interviews with Dr. Ja’far Dhia Ja’far provide the basis of the majority of information ISG has obtained on key IIC projects such as the National Project for Pharmaceuticals and Pesticides (NPPP) and the National Project for Active Chemical Materials, and their execution. Dr. Ja’far was founder of the Iraqi nuclear program, Director of the Office of the Presidential Advisor, and Chairman of the IIC’s Research and Development and Technology Transfer Committees. A very capable technocrat, Dr. Ja’far had unparalleled access as Director and supervisor of the NPPP and Chair of IIC’s Research & Development Committee, which had oversight responsibilities for chemical research. Dr. Ja’far indicated he had near total control over the implementation of the NPPP. Much of Dr. Ja’far’s information has been corroborated by documents and other officials including high-ranking employees from MIC and MHESR.

The IIC’s Master Plan for Self-Reliance: The List of 1,000 Chemicals

IIC placed greater emphasis on the synthesis of active chemical compounds than on novel R&D, because Iraq was highly dependent on foreign supplies of these materials for production of pharmaceuticals and pesticides. Several ad hoc panels drawn from the IIC’s Research and Development Committee selected the final “List” of approximately 1,000 chemicals for initial R&D to assess the feasibility of scaled up production.The feasibility research was referred to as “phase 1”. According to an Iraqi academic scientist, around 15 items on the List of 1,000 chemicals were so-called “first order emergency” or top priority compounds. There were also second-order emergency compounds and a third-order tier.

The IIC distributed the final list of chemicals to Iraq’s industrial Ministries, State companies, research centers, and universities, and instructed these organizations to bid on research contracts for the chemical research and development projects for which they were best equipped to complete. IIC’s Research and Development Committee identified the entities best suited for each project and awarded the contracts.

The IIC’s Program for the Indigenous Production of Chemicals appears to have evolved into a nation-wide, pan-industry, pan-academia merit-based competition for project ideas and project implementation. According to official reporting, the work stimulated by the IIC’s Technology Transfer Committee, a committee involved in promoting private-sector and university research, was scientifically credible and was selected on merit.Progress on the Program for the Indigenous Production of Chemicals was largely limited to economic feasibility studies and small scale laboratory research, until approximately early 1999, according to Ja’far.

  • The Presidential Diwan reviewed and approved the final list and allocated approximately one million dinars (approximately $US 500) per project (note—in 1998, $1 is 2000 dinars). The IIC only planned to select a fraction of the 1,000 chemicals for scale-up after the review and recommendation process was complete.
  • Studies included requirements for infrastructure, equipment, manpower, and chemical precursors, according to different reporting.

Dual-Use Chemicals on the List of 1,000 Chemicals

Past Iraqi use of three of these chemicals—thionyl chloride, thiourea, and DCC—in its former VX program raises questions about their legitimacy. Thionyl chloride and thiourea were used in a VX production route that resulted in a product with higher purity for the Iraqis which we assess could have been successfully stabilized with DCC. However, we found no information linking this research to a CW program.

  • Imad Husayn al Ani, Iraq’s former program director for VX, stated in an interview in 2003 that plans to produce thiourea and DCC, both of which he was unaware, indicated unequivocally that the Regime intended to reconstitute the V-series nerve agent program.
  • ISG has been unable to establish why thiourea and DCC were considered strategic chemicals. There were no constraints on Iraq’s importation of thiourea and no identified industrial products or processes in Iraq that require DCC for their manufacture. In addition, Mosul University had not determined the economic benefit of producing DCC.
  • All three compounds were, however, part of Iraq’s former VX program. Two of the compounds are directly applicable to an experimental VX synthesis route which yielded higher purities for Iraq than the two main VX production routes which it declared
  • Thionyl chloride is a chlorinating agent used by Iraq in its former CW program. Iraq could have selected alternative chlorinating agents for production that are not controlled for importation or production for legitimate manufacturing purposes.

Thionyl Chloride

ISG does not believe that the scale-up project extended beyond feasibility studies prior to OIF, and we are unsure of Iraq’s intended use thionyl chloride (SOCl2) given its many industrial uses and potential industrial value. A letter from the Office of the Presidential Advisor indicated that as of September 2002, the office had not yet received a report on pilot-scale research projects for 14 chemicals, including thionyl chloride.Thionyl chloride, a controlled CW precursor that Iraq had used as a chlorinating agent in its sulfur mustard and nerve agent production processes up until 1990, was part of the program for the indigenous production of chemicals. The IIC tasked the Jaber Bin Hayan State Company between 1996 and 1998 to research the small-scale production of thionyl chloride, according to reporting. According to official reporting, thionyl chloride production was reported to Iraq’s National Monitoring Directorate.

  • After Jaber Bin Hayan in 1998 achieved its objective of reaching 99.99 percent purity on the 50 milliliter scale, the company was charged in 2001 with outlining the feasibility of pilot-scale production—approximately 1,000 kilograms—according to official reporting and documents recovered from a MIC hard drive.
  • The same former CW official believed that Jaber Bin Hayan otherwise would have been an odd choice, mainly because its facilities and equipment are ill-suited to produce thionyl chloride compared to other MIC and MIM companies. The official opined that Jaber Bin Hayen was tasked because it employed two chemists who had worked on thionyl chloride at Al Muthanna in the pre-1991 CW program.
  • Reportedly, the thionyl chloride project was meant to support pharmaceutical production.

DCC

DCC was on the UN Good’s Review List, but is not restricted under the Chemical Weapons Convention Schedules of Chemicals or the Australia Group international export control Regimes, and is available on the international commercial market. ISG assessed the Iraqi domestic market for DCC was small at the time of OIF.

  • Mosul University accepted the DCC tasking from the IIC in July 1998, according to a Mosul University report to the IIC sent in 2001. Other reporting discussed their research results in synthesis and purification of DCC.
  • ISG discovered documents at the offices of the IIC in September 2003—which had been subjected to military action, looting, burning and deliberate destruction—outlining Iraq’s intent to investigate production of DCC.
  • According to a former high-ranking employee of the MHESR, the inclusion of DCC among the List of 1,000 chemicals for the IIC was common knowledge. He claimed that DCC is used in the synthesis of various compounds, and the scientists working on it would not be aware of its utility as a VX stabilizer even thought it was described as a potential VX stabilizer in the Iraqi Chemical Warfare FFCD.

Iraqis themselves differ over the economic rationale for DCC. DCC has several industrial uses as a dehydrating agent and acid scavenger and is used in the industrial production of peptides. A former Iraqi CW scientist familiar with legitimate lab-scale uses of DCC in the production of pharmaceuticals was not aware of a commercial reason for the use of large amounts in Iraq. However, Dr. Bilal, the former head of R&D for the CW program, stated that DCC was a dehydrating agent and thus would have applications in the pharmaceutical industry.

DCC did not move beyond laboratory research because Iraq did not have the raw materials to produce it, according to former high ranking employees of the MIC and MHESR. However, ISG recovered documents from the Technology Transfer Office that suggest DCC was planned by Al Majid State Company for later production.

  • In late 2002, the IIC asked the MIC if they had any companies capable of producing DCC. Al Basel, Ibn Sina, al-Qa Qa’a, Al Tariq, Jaber Bin Hayan, and Al Kindi all claimed they could not produce DCC with the materials they had on hand, according to a senior chemist from the MIC.
  • The Al Majid State Company was ready to transfer University of Mosul, Chemistry Department’s “cyclohexanol carbon 2 Aymayid” precursor project to formal production even though no economic benefit had been determined, according to final research evaluation documents from Dr. Ja’far’s office. ISG believes the “cyclohexanol carbon 2 Aymayid” is an odd notation or translation of N,N-dicylohexylcarbodiimide (DCC).
  • These documents also indicate that a precursor chemical in the DCC production process investigated by Mosul University and Baghdad University—cyclohexylamine —was researched for production.
  • Of the three suspect compounds mentioned here, DCC was the only one included in the set of Process Flow Diagrams (PFDs) provided by the
    Al Majid State Company for potential scale-up in the multi-purpose plant. This could be an indication of Iraq’s intent to produce DCC at a large scale, although we have no detailed information revealing the actual intended scale.

Iraq’s Declared Work With VX Nerve Agent

Iraq began research on VX in the 1980s but failed to declare any production or attempts to produce VX until August 1995. In its 1996 declaration, Iraq claimed to have unsuccessfully attempted large-scale VX production by two routes, and admitted researching two additional, experimental routes between 1984 and 1990.

  • Iraq initially declared production of 0.26 tons of VX, then modified its declaration several times to reach a total of 3.9 tons produced at Al Muthanna with available pilot-scale equipment. Iraq denied large-scale VX production or weaponization.
  • The two routes it claimed only to have researched, also known as Routes C and D, provided higher purity and yield than the two main routes, A and B. We judge that Iraq would have been more likely to continue work on one of these two routes.
  • DCC and other dehydrating agents cannot stabilize low purity (<90%) VX for long term storage.

Iraq claims not to have pursued routes C and D, primarily because it did not have access to key precursors and did not retain any prior stocks that would have been necessary to produce VX.

  • Iraq claimed to the UN that thiourea was unavailable or too expensive, but thiourea is not controlled and is available on the open market for relatively low prices.
  • Iraq claimed to have conducted minimal research into route C, but according to UNSCOM reporting, Iraq conducted over 100 experiments on route C.
  • Iraq had plans to procure a thiourea and nitrogen plant, both which are necessary for VX production via route C, according to UNSCOM reporting.

ISG during its investigation of the IIC program for strategic large-scale production noted three compounds—thionyl chloride, thiourea, and DCC—with direct applications to the Route C VX production process. The table below shows that this route, which utilizes two of the three chemicals for production, can address prior Iraqi deficiencies in VX purity and stability if yield and purity can be maintained in production scale synthesis.

Comparing routes investigated by Iraq
  Route A Route B Route C Route D
Purity 60-65% 50% 80-90% 90%
Yield 50-55% 30-35% 80% 90%
Starting reactant MPC MPC MPC MPC
Couple with choline choline thiocholine chlorocholine
Source of sulfur P2S5 P2S5 thiourea P2S5
Binary possible? yes yes yes No
Scale of declared production Large-scale Large-scale Research only Research only
* DCC and other dehydrating agents cannot stabilize low purity (<90%) VX for long term storage.


Thiourea

Thiourea is a readily available commodity chemical not normally associated with CW agent production. It is used in the synthesis of dyes, flame retardants, pesticides and pharmaceuticals. However, thiourea was used by Iraq in successful synthesis of VX prior to the Gulf war.

  • Methyl thiouracil, a thyroid medicine which requires thiourea for its synthesis, was a project under the NPPP according to documentary reporting.

Considering that thionyl chloride and thiourea are two of the precursors needed to synthesize VX using Iraq’s investigative pathway and that DCC could potentially stabilize the product of this synthetic route, ISG believes Iraq’s interest in these chemicals is suspicious. However, we note that these three compounds are a small part of the larger, more difficult organophosphorous synthesis component of VX production.

Chemicals From the List Move Toward Production

Although ISG has multiple HUMINT and documentary reports on the Program for the Indigenous Production of Chemicals and the NPPP, we have found no evidence that any of the programs reached a commercial production phase prior to OIF. Dr.Ja’far Dhia Ja’far could not recall which projects were accepted for scale-up or the intended end-users, but he also knew some of the compounds were dual-use and declarable to the UN and that the NMD did not declare all of the chemicals.

  • The Technology Transfer Committee awarded two contracts for the preparation of Process Flow Diagrams (PFDs) for the production plant required to produce the 100 strategically important chemicals to the IAEC and to the Al Majid Chemical Engineering Center in 2002.

Al Maijd and IAEC engineers designed a plant that could produce a year’s supply of each of the 100 chemicals using only 10 independent pilot-scale production lines.The engineers supplied Ja’far with process flow diagrams (PFDs) and piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs) for a plant.

  • Reportedly, the conceptual designs were given to Ja’far in late 2002.
  • Each production line was to be designed so that it was capable of producing multiple chemicals with only minor reconfiguration.

The multipurpose design is particularly interesting in the context of a statement made by General Faiz Abdullah Shahine—the last known director of the CW program—at a conference in 1989 or 1990 examining the future direction of Al Muthanna that “we cannot have a reactor for each unit. Even in the drug industry, they tend towards the multipurpose reactors. God willing, we will have 6 to 10 units… we must work in a manner compatible with our potentials.”

 



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