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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Biological Weapons Program
2003 Prewar Assessment

In the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the Intelligence Community (IC) judged that all key aspects - R&D, production, and weaponization - of Iraq's offensive BW program were active and that most elements were larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf war. To support the assessment that Iraq's offensive BW program was larger and more advanced than it was before the Gulf War, and that Iraq had biological weapons, the NIE made the following assessments:

  • Baghdad had transportable facilities for producing bacterial and toxin BW agents.
  • Baghdad was able to renovate and expand its fixed dual-use BW agent production facilities.
  • IC assessed that Iraq had some BW agents and maintained the capability to produce a variety of BW agents.
  • In the absence of UN inspectors, Iraq probably intensified and expanded research and development in support of Iraq's BW program. Baghdad probably developed genetically engineered BW agents.
  • We assess that Baghdad also has increased the effectiveness of its BW arsenal by mastering the ability to produce dried agent.
  • Iraq's capability to manufacture equipment and materials . . . and to procure other necessary, dual-use materials . . . makes large-scale BW agent production easily attainable.
  • The nature and amounts of Iraq's stored BW material remain unresolved by LJNSCOM accounting.
  • We judge that we are seeing only a portion of Iraq's WMD efforts, owing to Baghdad's vigorous denial and deception efforts.

The October 2002 NIE, although expressing similar views to earlier intelligence regarding Iraqi BW, expressed far greater levels of certainty in its conclusions than did previous estimates. Many of the uncertainties that were expressed in all previous IC assessments about what was known about the BW program were not contained in the NIE's text. The starkest shift was the judgment that "Baghdad has. . . biological weapons." All previous assessments had stated that Iraq could have biological weapons. The other significant change was the assessment that all key aspects -- R&D, production, and weaponization22 - of Iraq's offensive BW program were active and that most elements were now larger and more advanced than they had been before the Gulf War.

In addition to having greater levels of certainty, the 2002 NIE represented an upward shift in estimates of Iraqi capabilities that began in a December 2000 IC report to the National Security Council. The central reason for the upward shift in estimates was new reporting of mobile BW production facilities, which first came to IC's attention in reports beginning in January 2000 from a source codenamed Curveball, transferred through a foreign liason. The alleged mobile production facilities were, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell, one of the "most worrisome" assessments made by in the NIE. Reports regarding these facilities were eventually discredited after the war. Information on these facilities can be found by following this link.

The renovation and expansion mentioned above centered around the renovation and expansion activity at three fixed, dual-use facilities: the Amiriyah Serum and Vaccine Institute, the Fallujah III Castor Oil Plant, and the Dawrah Foot and Mouth Disease Vaccine Production Plant. Increased activity and construction at Iraq's Amiriyah Serum and Vaccine Institute observed since at least 2000 suggested to analysts that more than pharmaceutical production or distribution was taking place. Of particular concern was the plant's new storage capacity, which greatly exceeds Iraq's needs for legitimate medical storage. The Fallujah III Castor Oil Plant, which was damaged during Operation Desert Fox in 1998 because it was assessed to be involved in the production of the biotoxin ricin was rebuilt by early 2000. Although allegedly for break fluid production, the bean mash left over after oil is extracted contains the BW ricin. The al-Dawrah Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) Vaccine Facility is one of two known Biocontainment Level-3-facilities in Iraq with an extensive air handling and filtering system. Iraq admitted that before the Gulf war Al-Dawrah had been a BW agent production facility. UNSCOM attempted to render it useless for BW agent pro-duction in 1996 but left some production equipment in place because UNSCOM could not prove it was connected to previous BW work. In 2001, Iraq announced that it would renovate the plant in order to produce vaccines for a reported foot and mouth outbreak. IC analysts did not include this medical explanation in the NIE, believing that it was merely a cover story since Iraq could easily import all the foot-and-mouth vaccine it needs through the UN.

The NIE stated that Iraq had some BW agent and maintained the capability to produce B. anthracis, botulinim toxin, aflatoxin, Clostridium perfringerns (gas gangrene) and ricin toxin. IC analysts also stated that there was a 40-60% chance that smallpox was a part of the Iraqi offensive BW program. For its smallpox claim, the NIE cited various intelligence reports that indicated that Iraq probably had retained unauthorized stocks of Variola major virus, the causative agent of smallpox. Baghdad reportedly kept smallpox virus samples from its 1971-1972 outbreak. The NIE also provided a list of the viruses Iraq had reportedly researched: Bacillus anthracis (anthrax); Enterovirus 70 (acute hermorrhagic conjunctivitis); Botulinum toxin (botulism); Camelpox virus; Ricin; Rotavirus; Clostridium perfringens (gas gangrene); Vibrio cholerae (cholera); Yersinia pestis (plague); Clostridium tetani (tetanus); Brucella melitensis (brucellosis); Hemorrhagic fever viruses; Variola major virus (smallpox); Staphylococcal enterotoxins; Burkholderia mallei (glanders); Rickettsia prowazekii (typhus); Aflatoxin; Francisella tularensis(tularemia); Mycotoxins; Shigella dysenteriae (dysentery); and Tilletia species (wheat covered smut). Of these 21 agents, anthrax was the only battlefield BW agent that Iraq had produced and weaponized prior to 1991. One month after the NIE was published, the CIA presented another depiction of Iraq's biological agent research, which can be seen in the table at the bottom of the page.

The NIE assessed that in the absence UN inspectors, Iraq probably had intensified and expanded research and development efforts in support of Iraq's BW program, including genetically engineered BW agents. The text of the NIE said only that foreign government service reporting indicated that "biological research facilities are actively engaged in genetic engineering and biotechnology research and development." Eight Human Intelligence reports detailing Iraqi scientific work with various potential BW agents provided further insight into the BW program. One report detailed experiments to genetically alter anthrax and plague to increase the bacteria's resistance to antibiotics and environmental factors. This conclusion concurred with UNSCOM's final report, which was submitted to the UN Security Council in 1999, stating that "Iraq has a broad based research community in Universities, Medical and Agricultural Institutes, covering microbiology, biological processing, materials science, genetic engineering, pathology, biological production, munitions and weapons." Another Human Intelligence source reported that Iraq may have tested BW agents at a facility near the Qadisiyah Reservoir in western Iraq. The report detailed the use of BW on 1,600 death row inmates taken from Baghdad prisons.

The NIE assessed that Iraq had increased the effectiveness of its BW arsenal by "mastering the ability to produce dried agent." The IC assessed that Iraq had both liquid and dry BW agents. As the NIE pointed out, the ability to produce dry BW agents is significant because it allows the agent to be disseminated over a much wider area than wet agent. This judgement was the result of 14 human intelligence reports. Six of the reports described existing Iraqi dual-use drying and milling equipment, while the other eight reports described Iraqi attempts to acquire such equipment. Only one report, from the former Iraqi chemical engineer, Curveball, connected the drying capability to BW efforts. Curveball claimed that the mobile production facilities were able to dry BW agent for dissemination.

The NIE also assessed that Iraq had both attempted to import dual-use eqipment and increased its indigenous capabilities. IC provided 19 reports that it claimed demonstrated efforts to import BW related equipment. Only one of the reports, however, directly indicated an intent for BW use, and only one report described a successful procurement attempt. One such effort reportedly involved attempts to procure a "jet mill" capable of grinding hundreds of kilograms of biological material per hour to one to ten microns "the ideal particle size range for BW agents." With this procurement and others detailed, CIA analysts acknowledged that legitimate civilian purposes existed for each piece of equipment, although the NIE stated definitively that they were intended for Iraq's offensive BW program. The only report indicating indigenous equipment production for Iraq's post-1991 came from Curveball, who indicated that the fermentation tanks used in the reported mobile production facilities had been made in Iraq.

Accounting discrepencies also led the IC to conclude that Iraq still maintained BW stockpiles. This judgement was influenced by Iraq's 1995 declaration that it had an offensive BW program and had made 30,000 liters of concentrated biological weapons agents. UNSCOM, however, estimated that Iraq's production of anthrax spores and botulinum toxin could have been two to four times higher than claimed by Baghdad, indicating that Iraq could still possess BW stockpiles. The NIE also described Iraq's failure to provide adequate proof that it destroyed 157 aerial bombs it had filled with BW agent and four aerosol spray tanks it had produced using modified Mirage F-1 fuel drop tanks. UNSCOM also indicated that about 20 mobile double-jacketed storage tanks, which it judged might contain previously produced agent, remained unaccounted for.

Many of the IC's judgements regarding Iraq's BW program were influenced by Iraq's prior denial and deception (D&D) and reports indicating continuing D&D programs. The NIE stated that "Iraq uses codewords to compartmentalize BW program elements, conceal acquisition of BW-related equipment, and impair Western attempts to monitor Iraqi technology acquisition." The NIE cited the use of the codeword "project 600" for BW activity at Iraq's Abu Ghurayb facility, which was in use before the 1991 Gulf War. The Committee was provided with six HUMINT reports concerning the use of codes.

Iraq had medical, veterinary, and university facilities where biotechnical research and development could be carried out. Some of these facilities likely were staffed by former members of Iraq's biological warfare program. Much of the laboratory equipment was dual-use and could be used for biological agent development. Iraq had the equipment, raw materials, and know-how for bulk production of biological agents for weaponization and had the means of delivering the agents. With the equipment Iraq was known to possess, 350 liters of weapons-grade anthrax could be produced each week, according to Iraq's own production figures.

The capability to perform BW R&D existed at the University of Baghdad and other universities and at various pharmaceutical facilities. A BW agent production capability could have been re-established in a matter of weeks to months utilizing equipment at pharmaceutical facilities such as Samarra Drug Industries. Production, however, would be at a much reduced and limited capacity and unsafe compare to dedicated BW plants. In order to reproduce the entire BW system as it existed on 15 January 1991, including the facilities at Salman Pak, Abu Ghurayb, Taji, Latifiyah and all the destroyed bunkers, Iraq would have needed to spend 100-200 million dollars and 5-8 years. However, the complete BW system was a multi-facility R&D and production system with redundancy and back-up capabilities. Additionally, not all the bunkers would be required to store a militarily significant amount of BW agent. Iraq could have re-established a significant BW capability with dedicated labs, containment facilities, storage and filling capacity without duplicating the prewar system. Such a BW system without the prewar redundancy and back-up could have been built within 3-4 years for less than 100 million dollars. [GulfLINK]

C=Confirmed; P=Probable; S=Suspected
BW Agent (Disease) R&D Production Weaponization
Bacillus anthracis (anthrax)a C C C
Aflatoxins' C C C
Botulinum toxins' C C C
Ricin toxin' C C C
Clostridium perfringens (gas gangrene)' C C
Tilletia species (wheat cover smut)' C C
Yersinia pestis (plague) P P
Variola major virus (smallpox) P
Burkholderia mallei (glanders) P
Rickettsia prowazekii (typhus) S
Enterovirus 70 (acute hemorragic conjunctivitus)' C
Rotavirus` C
Staphylococcal enterotoxins P
Trichothecene mycotoxins° C
Brucella melitensis (brucellosis) P
Clostridium tetani (tetanus) P
Camelpox virus` C
Vibrio cholerae (cholera) P
Hemorrhagic fever viruses S
Shigella dysenteriae (dysentery) S
Francisella tularensis (tularemia) S

On 20 March 2006 it was reported that Naji Sabri, Saddam Hussein's last Foreign Minister, was a paid asset of French intelligence. As a senior member of Saddam's inner circle and a friend of his son, Qusay, Mr Sabri would have seemed an extraordinarily good source, but the US intelligence community did not trust him as a source. French intelligence and the CIA used a third-country intermediary to get information him before Saddam's government was toppled by American troops in March 2003. In September 2002, the French arranged a meeting between Sabri and a CIA intermediary while Sabri was attending a UN meeting in New York. At that meeting the Iraqi Foreign Minister provided intelligence on Iraq's weapon programs and Saddam's inner circles to the CIA. NBC reported the information was provided in exchange for a payment of $100,000. The Washington Post reported "It was never clear what he wanted," one former official familiar with the situation said of Sabri, "but we never paid him."

Sabri later broke off the secret contacts with US intelligence agents after refusing to accept the CIA's proposal, hoping for a public relations coup, that he defect to the United States and publicly renounce Saddam. But Sabri came from a prominent Iraqi family and defection was not an option. His brother was an Iraqi official that Hussein had previously killed because of suspected disloyalty.

Sabri reportedly told the CIA's middleman that no biological weapons were being produced or stockpiled, although research was under way. Sabri indicated to the CIA that Saddam had no significant, active biological weapons program.

Sabri, who now lives in Qatar, said: "The information carried by NBC are lies, totally fabricated and unfounded. .... After the lies about the weapons of mass destruction which do not exist and the alleged links with al-Qa'eda, it seems that this new lie is aimed at giving a new fake pretext to justify the crime of the century: the invasion of Iraq."

In a speech in February 2004, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet referred to Sabri, although not by name, when he said the CIA had obtained information from "a source who had direct access to Saddam and his inner circle." In that speech Tenet said that Sabri was characterized by CIA's foreign partners as an "established and reliable" source. Tenet said the " .... a source who had direct access to Saddam and his inner circle said: ... Iraqi scientists were "dabbling" with biological weapons, with limited success, but the quantities were not sufficient to constitute a real weapons program."

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Page last modified:
24-07-2011 04:43:29 Zulu