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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraq Survey Group Final Report



Iraq’s capability to produce CW munitions on a large scale ended with Desert Storm. However, Iraq retained the ability to retool existing factories to produce new munitions, and would have relied on basic fabrication techniques to weaponize agent if it had chosen to do so.

  • Most of the Iraqi modifications for chemical delivery consisted of simple machining and/or welding of aluminum or steel.
  • Although much of the Iraqi infrastructure to fill CW munitions was destroyed, the technology was basic and we judged it could be quickly recreated.
  • The performance of the modified weapons was usually sub-optimal by Western standards, reflecting the simplicity—or crudeness—of Iraqi design approaches. However, the performance was usually good enough to meet minimum requirements.

Suspect Munitions Activities

A number of unusual and unexplained items found at Taji ammo depot could have been used for either conventional or CW weaponization. All Iraqi CW weaponization experts who were asked by ISG were unfamiliar with these items, and although they could have been intended for CW delivery, the items represented crude prototypes and concept components that were found at a non–Al Muthanna bunker.

  • In January 2003, UNMOVIC found several suspect items at the Taji ammunition depot, including six unfilled CW 122mm rocket warheads and munitions base plates of varying sizes.
  • A number of scientists who were involved with Iraq’s CW weaponization projects did not recognize the 76mm, 115mm and 183mm base plates, shown to them in photographs. They speculated that these base plates could have been used for CW munitions.
  • A former Iraqi CW munitions researcher offered a dissenting opinion by claiming the thread type on the base plates would not be sufficient to keep the munitions from leaking. Furthermore he claimed that the 183mm base plate found could not have been for a chemical munitions because Iraq did not work on munitions this large.
  • No other significant munitions components of these sizes have been found to date. ISG therefore is unable to satisfactorily to conclude the munitions type and caliber.

In September 2003, a senior official at the Al Nu’man cluster bomb production facility gave ISG a 3.5-liter CW submunitions he claimed had been held by a factory worker in his private residence to keep it from being looted. The Al Nu’man facility historically had been involved in attempts to develop chemical capable submunitions, which had been a focus of Iraqi pre–Desert Storm munitions development work.

Disposition of CW Munitions Post-1991

ISG expended considerable time and effort investigating longstanding Iraqi assertions about the fate of CW munitions known to have been in Baghdad’s possession during the Gulf war. We believe the vast majority of these munitions were destroyed, but questions remain concerning hundreds of CW munitions.

Since May 2004, ISG has recovered dozens of additional chemical munitions, including artillery rounds, rockets and a binary Sarin artillery projectile (see Figure 5). In each case, the recovered munitions appear to have been part of the pre-1991 Gulf war stocks, but we can neither determine if the munitions were declared to the UN or if, as required by the UN SCR 687, Iraq attempted to destroy them. (See Annex F.)

  • The most significant recovered munitions was a 152mm binary Sarin artillery projectile which insurgents had attempted to use as an improvised explosive device.
  • ISG has also recovered 155mm chemical rounds and 122mm artillery rockets which we judge came from abandoned Regime stocks.

The 1991 Decision To Destroy Undeclared Weapons

An IAEA inspection led by Dr. David Kay in late June 1991 triggered Iraq’s decision to unilaterally destroy the undeclared weapons that had been concealed from the UN, according to multiple senior Iraqi officials. Dr. Kay’s inspection team was blocked from sites in Abu Ghurayb and Fallujah. The Iraqis fired warning shots over the inspectors’ heads, but Dr. Kay and his group brought back video tapes and photos that indicated Iraq was hiding undeclared uranium enrichment equipment from the inspectors.

  • Dr. Kay’s inspection and the international uproar surrounding it caused consternation and a measure of panic in the Regime’s leadership, particularly Husayn Kamil, and Saddam appointed a high-level committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq ‘Aziz to deal with inspection matters, according to multiple sources.
  • A senior Iraqi scientist who directed the destruction of chemical and biological munitions contends that the decision to destroy the hidden materials was made at the end of June 1991. David Kay’s inspection and the ensuing controversy prompted Iraqi concerns about renewed war with the United States, according to Dr. Mahmud Firaj Bilal. Amir Rashid contacted Dr. Bilal and ordered that all hidden chemical and biological munitions be destroyed within 48 hours. When Bilal responded that this was impossible, Rashid directed that Bilal use the resources of the Iraqi Air Force and the surface-to-surface missile force to accomplish the task. Dr. Bilal gathered his colleagues from Al Muthanna State Establishment, went to the locations of the stored munitions, and began the destruction.
  • Iraq declared some of the unilateral destruction–missiles and chemical munitions–to UNSCOM in March 1992 but continued to conceal the destruction of the biological weapons program.

Iraq Unilateral Weapons Destruction in 1991

Iraq completed the destruction of its pre-1991 stockpile of CW by the end of 1991, with most items destroyed in July of that year. ISG judges that Iraq destroyed almost all prohibited weapons at that time.

  • ISG has obtained no evidence that contradicts our assessment that the Iraqis destroyed most of their hidden stockpile, although we recovered a small number of pre-1991 chemical munitions in early to mid 2004.
  • These remaining pre-1991 weapons either escaped destruction in 1991 or suffered only partial damage. More may be found in the months and years ahead.

Post-OIF Insurgent Attempts to Tap Chemical Resources

A group of insurgents began a nascent CW effort without CW scientists or industrial-scale chemical supplies. After OIF, a group of insurgents—referred to as the al-Abud network—assembled key supplies and relevant expertise from community resources to develop a program for weaponizing CW agents for use against Coalition Forces. The al-Abud network in late 2003 recruited a Baghdad chemist—who lacked the relevant CW expertise—to develop chemical agents. The group sought and easily acquired from farmers and local shops chemicals and equipment to conduct CW experiments. An investigation of these CW attempts suggests that the al-Abud network failed to produce desired CW agents, however it remains unclear whether these failures derive from a lack of available precursors or insufficient CW expertise.

Destruction of Chemical Munitions, Bulk Agent, and Precursors

ISG interviewed Dr. Mahmud Firaj Bilal, the Iraqi scientist who supervised the destruction of Iraq’s undeclared chemical munitions, along with a number of Iraqi higher officials who were knowledgeable of the weapons destruction. Although other sources have corroborated parts of Dr. Bilal’s account, ISG’s understanding of Iraq’s chemical and biological warfare agent unilateral destruction is heavily dependent on Dr. Bilal’s information, which is a weakness in our analysis. Nevertheless, as with Iraq’s long range missiles, we obtained a reasonably coherent account of the disposition of the CW munitions, though we were not able physically to verify the story. The UN has, however, verified some of it.

  • Iraq likely destroyed all 20 concealed CW Al Husayn missile warheads in the summer of 1991, according to Dr. Bilal based on UN-sponsored excavations. All were “binary” GB/GF nerve agent warheads filled with a mixture of isopropanol and cyclohexanol and MPF.
  • Al Muthanna had dispersed approximately 1024 CW R-400 bombs along various Iraqi airbases. Iraq did not declare some of these to the UN and unilaterally destroyed them in situ. The UN holds these as accounted for, although they were unaware that a small percentage of them were used on the Shia in March 1991 according to multiple sources.
  • Iraq disposed of 1.5 tons of spoiled bulk VX nerve agent at the Al Muthanna State Establishment dumpsite.
  • Dr. Bilal also stated that Iraq destroyed the following chemical agent precursors:
    • 157 tons of the VX precursor phosphorus pentasulfide (P2S5) destroyed by mixing it with soil at Saqlawiyah, northwest of Fallujah. UNSCOM-sponsored excavations accounted for about this amount.
    • 55 tons of the VX precursor choline destroyed at Qasr al-‘ashiq near Samarra’.
    • 10 tons of the mustard precursor thiodiglycol destroyed by burning at Saqlawiyah. This precursor was never declared to the UN and had been stored in the city of Samarra’. When the rest of the unilateral destruction took place, no one remembered this stock until a month after the rest of the chemical destruction. This realization triggered its destruction.
    • Al Muthanna State Establishment gave cyclohexanol, isopropanol, and isopropylamine to various industries for use as solvents.
  • Iraq also destroyed a quantity of empty aerial bombs intended for CW use and empty 122-mm CW rockets.
  • Bilal insisted that Iraq’s CW “Full, Final, and Complete Declaration” is completely accurate regarding the unilateral destruction of CW munitions.

UNSCOM had verified or accepted some of what Bilal said about munitions destruction, but other parts of the story remain unverified.

  • Iraq presented supporting documents on the unilateral destruction of 527 R-400 CW bombs and UNSCOM observed remnants of bombs consistent with the declared quantity.
  • When considered with the number of declared BW Al Husayn warheads (25), the total number of undeclared “special warheads” was 45. In the period from 1992 to 1998, UNSCOM recovered and accounted for remnants of 43-45 special warheads. In 1997-1998, UNSCOM recovered the remnants of three additional training warheads. Iraq provided supporting documents on the overall accounting for special warheads and on the unilateral destruction of 45 warheads. We cannot be sure, however, that there were only 45 “special” warheads in Iraq’s inventory.
  • UNSCOM was not able to verify the quantity of VX destroyed, nor were they able to verify the destruction of all VX precursor chemicals.
  • UNSCOM was not able to verify the destruction of unfilled 250 gauge aerial bombs, unfilled R-400 aerial bombs, and unfilled 122-mm rockets.

The destruction years ago of the bulk of Iraq’s CW munitions not withstanding, ISG remains concerned about the status and whereabouts of hundreds of CW artillery rounds. Previous assertions that the munitions were all destroyed have been undermined by reporting that the munitions remain intact in an unknown location.

In the 5 January 1999 Compendium, UNSCOM assessed that Iraq had not adequately accounted for 550 mustard-filled artillery rounds it claimed to have lost. This issue first surfaced in 1996 because of discrepancies in Iraq’s accounting of weapons holdings, and was investigated but not resolved by UNSCOM (see the January 1999 UN compendium for details). ISG conducted extensive interviews with high- and mid-level Iraqi officials to determine the final disposition of the 550 mustard-filled rounds—which would be highly toxic, even now—cited by the UN as an unresolved disarmament issue, and found inconsistencies in the story among witting high-level officials. Most officials recounted the story of accidental destruction in a fire in Karbala, reporting provided to the UN after Iraq’s investigation of this issue prior to 1998, while the former MIC director, Huwaysh, claims the rounds were retained for future use.

  • In a 7 August 2003 debriefing, Huwaysh said that as of early 2003, all 550 mustard rounds were kept by the SRG at Suwayrah, probably the former location of the II RG Corps Headquarters, just north of the Shaykh-Mazar ammunition depot.
  • According to Huwaysh, the matter was discussed by the Higher Committee on Monitoring Inspections and a decision was made to declare the shells, which was done just prior to OIF.
  • Amir Rashid admitted that the Higher Committee discussed the shells in February or March 2003. Rashid said the discussion focused on the connection between the burned mustard shells at the Fallujah proving ground and other shells that reportedly burned on a trailer near Karbala after the 1991 Gulf War.
  • General Hussam Amin did not remember any discussions of Suwayrah and mustard shells. According to Amin, in early 2003, General ‘Amir Al Sa’adi explained to him that the mustard shells were destroyed on the trailer near Karbala.

VX Weaponization

Iraq had not adequately addressed VX production and weaponization activities—a point on which Iraq’s denials were contradicted by UNSCOM findings. ISG investigations into Iraq’s work with VX reveals that Iraq did weaponize VX in 1988, and dropped 3 aerial bombs filled with VX on Iran. The bombs, originally declared to be part of a storage stability trial, were in fact dropped on an undisclosed Iranian location in 1988.


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