UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UNSCOM and the Iraqi Biological Weapons Program

Iraq had a comprehensive and well-advanced offensive biological weapons programme, ranging from research and development on a variety of bacteriological agents, viruses and toxins through the production, weaponization and military deployment of biological and toxin weapons. [S/1995/1038]

The Security Council required Iraq to unconditionally accept the destruction, removal or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of all biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities (para. 8 (a) of resolution 687 (1991)). To that end, Iraq was required to submit to the Secretary-General, within 15 days of the adoption of resolution 687 (1991), a declaration of the locations, amounts and types of all items mentioned in the biological area (para. 9 of resolution 687 (1991)). Iraq was further required to agree to urgent, on-site inspection by the Special Commission of its biological capabilities, based on Iraq's declarations and the designation of any additional locations by the Special Commission itself (para. 9 (i) of resolution 687 (1991)). Other acts required of Iraq included the yielding by Iraq of possession to the Special Commission for destruction, removal or rendering harmless of all biological items.

Monitoring in the biological area began in full on 4 April 1995, preceded by a four-month interim monitoring phase. The scope of activities and sites to be encompassed by the monitoring needed to be broad because of the inherent dual-use nature of biological technology and the ease with which civilian facilities can be converted for biological weapons purposes. The Commission was compelled to cast a wider net in the biological field because of Iraq's incomplete disclosure of the full extent of its past biological warfare activities. [S/1995/864] The task which faced UNSCOM required it to monitor throughout Iraq sites and facilities with equipment capable of producing proscribed weapons as well as to watch for clandestine sites that may have been created for proscribed activities. Thus, for the monitoring system to be effective, it had to cast a broad net and cover major facilities where biological warfare agents could be produced. However, such agents could also have been clandestinely produced by Iraq in such facilities as breweries, and even university microbiology laboratories containing permitted dual-use equipment. Therefore, those facilities also had to be covered. The biological monitoring group consisted of a total of 11 inspectors from 9 States. Iraq provided semi-annual declarations for 91 sites. There were 1,335 items of tagged equipment [up from 893 in 1997] under monitoring by the Commission's biological monitoring team. As with the chemical monitoring group, the biological monitoring group continued to find dual-use materials which should have been declared by Iraq.[S/1998/920]

As of 1995 79 sites throughout Iraq were included in the biological monitoring and verification regime. These sites are comprised of:

  • Five sites known to have played a significant role in Iraq's past biological weapons program;
  • Five vaccine or pharmaceutical facilities;
  • Thirty-five research and university sites which have significant technology or equipment;
  • Thirteen breweries, distilleries and dairies with dual-purpose capabilities;
  • Eight diagnostic laboratories;
  • Five acquisition and distribution sites of biological supplies/equipment;
  • Four facilities associated with biological equipment development;
  • Four product development organizations.

Of these sites, 9 were category A (most intense monitoring), 15 are category B, 10 category C and 45 category D. The monitoring concept that was implemented by the Commission included: equipment inventory at all sites where dual-purpose equipment is located; notifications by Iraq of transfer, modification and acquisition of such equipment; placement of cameras at selected sites to observe change in activity or use of equipment; routine inspections of sites by a Baghdad-based monitoring team, primarily on a no-notice basis, and on a variable frequency; and identification of factors related to "break-out" scenarios at sites and of their possible role in proscribed activities. [S/1995/864]

Initially Iraq denied having ever had any offensive biological weapons program or activities.

In autumn 1994, a thorough review was conducted by UNSCOM of all information and data obtained through inspections, technical talks with Iraq and interaction with supporting Governments. This included an attempt to create a material balance of equipment and complex growth media acquired by Iraq. The review reinforced the suspicion that the Al Hakam factory was a biological warfare agent production facility and that other sites were also involved in a biological weapons programme. Based on the results of that review, inspections, including interviews with more than 50 Iraqi personnel, were carried out. These enabled UNSCOM to arrive at a firm assessment that Iraq's declarations in the biological area at that time were fundamentally wrong and misleading as it was attempting to hide a full-scale biological warfare program, including weaponization. The Commission came to the unequivocal conclusion that Iraq had in fact produced biological weapons, that its biological programme was offensive in nature, that Al Hakam had been constructed as a dedicated biological warfare agent research and production facility and had been operational before January 1991, and that additional sites, including Muthanna, a known chemical weapons establishment, were involved in the programme. The Commission confronted Iraq in February 1995 with these assessments. In response, Iraq continued to deny flatly and categorically any biological weapons activities. [S/1996/848]

In March 1995, Iraq officially submitted a new full, final and complete disclosure in the biological area which, like its original FFCD in May 1992, and other declarations since the adoption of resolution 687 (1991), adhered to the position that Iraq had had only a very small defensive biological research program conducted by 10 people from 1985 until the autumn of 1990. [S/1995/864] It is stated to have produced only 10 basic research papers on various aspects of three bacteria (B. anthracis, C1. botulinum and C1. perfringens). It is further claimed that no decision had been taken as to the longer-term direction of the programme until the program's discontinuation in autumn 1990. [S/1995/284]

Iraq acknowledged that it procured, through the Technical and Scientific Materials Import Division (TSMID),very large quantities of complex growth media in 1988 but failed to provide an accounting for the purposes of this importation and for the use of a significant portion of it. Iraq claimed that, while the media was imported by TSMID, the import was on behalf of the Ministry of Health for the purposes of hospital diagnostic laboratories. This importation of media by types, quantities and packaging is grossly out of proportion to Iraq's stated requirements for hospital use. Iraq explained the excessive quantities imported and the inappropriate size of the packaging as being a one-of-a-kind mistake and attempted to justify the import as appropriate and required for medical diagnostic purposes. However, for hospital diagnostic purposes, only small quantities are needed. According to Iraq's declarations, which were imprecise and changing, over the period 1987-1994 Iraq's total hospital consumption of all such media was less than 200 kg per annum. But in 1988 alone, TSMID imported nearly 39,000 kg of such media, which has a manufacturer's guarantee of 4 to 5 years. A further incongruity was that, of all the types of media required for hospital use, only a select few were "mistakenly" imported by TSMID in large quantities. These did not include those most frequently used in hospitals. Furthermore, the packaging of TSMID imports was inconsistent with declared hospital usage: diagnostic assays use very small quantities of media and so, because the media deteriorates rapidly once a package has been opened, media for diagnostic purposes is normally distributed in 0.1-1 kg packages. However, the media imported by Iraq in 1988 was packaged in 25-100 kg drums. This style of packaging is consistent with the large-scale usage of media associated with the production of biological agents. The types of media imported are suitable for the production of anthrax and botulinum, known biological warfare agents researched by Iraq in its declared biological military program. [S/1995/284]

Iraq acknowledged the purchase by TSMID in 1989 of four filling machines, ostensibly for a biopesticide project at the Salman Pak site. Until this acknowledgement, Iraq, while declaring Salman Pak to be the site of its biological military research programme, had not declared any biopesticide activity there. Filling machines, while having many uses, are required for filling bacterial warfare agent into munitions or containers. TSMID procured a spray dryer in 1989. Again, it was claimed that this was for the above-mentioned biopesticide project at Salman Pak. This spray dryer had technical specifications which provided a capability of drying the bacterial slurry resulting from the fermentation process to produce dry matter with particle sizes in the range of 1 to 10 m. This particle size is associated with efficient dispersion of biological warfare agents, not with the production of biopesticides. Furthermore, dry bacterial matter is easier to store for longer periods. Such spray dryers, therefore, would be a crucial component in acquiring an indigenous capability to produce viable and durable biological weapons. TSMID attempted to order various named and virulent anthrax strains, known to be particularly appropriate for biological warfare purposes. Iraq flatly denied this, despite confirmation to the Commission by the potential supplier. [S/1995/284]

The March 1995 FFCD was so contrary to the information in the Commission's possession that UNSCOM saw no merit in initiating verification of the document. The stalemate continued through June, but with promises from Iraq of information about its biological weapons program to be provided only in late June or early July, if Iraq at that time concluded that there were indications that progress was being made towards the reintegration of Iraq into the international community. [S/1995/864]

After intensive inspection efforts and accumulation of further findings by UNSCOM, on 01 July 1995, Iraq finally admitted for the first time that it indeed had had an offensive biological weapons program from April 1986 to September 1990. While acknowledging an offensive program that included the production of large quantities of two warfare agents at the Al Hakam facility, Iraq nevertheless firmly denied weaponization of these or any other biological warfare agents. In the second half of July, Iraq prepared a draft FFCD which contained many areas in which Iraq's disclosures were inconsistent with UNSCOM's information or where information was missing or unclear. These deficiencies followed a pattern: they appeared to be designed to deny information that would either provide evidence of weaponization or reveal military connections with the biological weapons program. There was also a strong suspicion that Iraq's new accounts of agent production and complex growth media consumption were manipulated to provide what Iraq hoped would pass as a credible accounting for the missing media. On 04 August 1995 Iraq officially submitted its FFCD, which was consistent with Iraq's oral presentation of 01 July and the July draft FFCD. [S/1995/864]

The weaponization and the broader scope of the biological warfare programme was disclosed only in August 1995, after the departure from Iraq of Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamel, former Minister of Defence and Minister Supervisor of the Military Industrialization Corporation. [S/1996/848] On 17 August 1995 Iraq informed UNSCOM that the full, final and complete disclosure of 04 August should not be considered valid. Iraq then presented a vastly different account of Iraq's past biological warfare program that included weaponization, additional agents and additional sites involved in the program. [S/1995/864]

After 1995 UNSCOM said that it consistently found indications, both physically and on paper, that Iraq had acquired supplies, equipment, and material for its BW program. It also produced various types of agent as well as munitions for these agents. Evidence presented by UNSCOM in this area indicated that it was probable that portions of Iraq's biological weapons program remained intact.

On 22 June 1996, the Government of Iraq submitted a declaration which it stated to contain its official FFCD on the proscribed biological weapons program. This document of 622 pages was essentially a copy of the May 1996 draft. [S/1996/848] According to Iraq, all biological warfare munitions, agents and documents related to the proscribed biological warfare activities had been destroyed unilaterally, even though such action, if it occurred, would have been in violation of the directives of the Security Council.[S/1997/774]

Iraq requested that its biological weapons Full, Final and Complete Disclosure of September 1997 be assessed, again, by international experts during a special meeting for that purpose which was held in Baghdad in July 1998. International experts assembled by UNSCOM had examined Iraq's biological weapons declarations on three previous occasions and expressed the unanimous view that Iraq's disclosures were incomplete, inadequate and technically flawed. The UNSCOM Executive Chairman proposed that the July 1998 meeting focus primarily on the material balance of biological weapons produced and disposed of by Iraq. Iraq agreed to this proposal. [S/1998/920]This required the following key elements of the material balance to be considered and analysed :

  • growth media such as yeast extract, casein or thioglycollate
  • microorganisms
  • production of bulk BW agents microorganisms or their toxins
  • production of munitions
  • the union of bulk biological or toxin agents with munitions to make BW weapons
  • the destruction of unused bulk agents and munitions
  • ultimately the use or destruction of the weapons

Iraq declared that it had produced and filled with biological weapons agents special warheads for the Al Hussein missiles and R-400 aerial bombs. Iraq also disclosed the development of biological weapons spray tanks and some other weapon systems for the delivery of biological weapons agents.[S/1998/920] Iraq did not provide any evidence to support its account of what agents were filled into munitions, the quantity of agents consumed in the filling process, and the quantity and type of munitions filled with each agent. Within the overall production figures of CW and BW R-400 bombs, it is not possible to determine how many weapons were filled with particular biological weapons agents.[UNSCOM 03 June 98]

  • Growth media. The material balance in this area as declared by Iraq was full of uncertainties. The acquisition of media by Iraq cannot be verified. The figures presented in the full, final and complete disclosure for media consumed in the production of biological weapons agents have little or no supporting evidence. The international expert team assessed that the material balance for the growth media could not be verified. [S/1998/920] Substantial quantities of microbial growth media are not reported and/or not included in the material balance. Iraq did not report all of the purchases of growth media for the BW program imported by Iraq's main procurement agency for the BW program, the Technical and Scientific Materials Import Division (TSMID). For example, the quantity of yeast extract [known to UNSCOM] imported for Iraq's BW program by TSMID and not reported by Iraq is sufficient for 3 to 4 times more anthrax production than declared by Iraq in the FFCD. On 29 May 1998, Iraq stated that this is due to confusion on the part of UNSCOM between media ordered for the Forensic Laboratory versus for the BW program. Because the import has not been acknowledged, this media has not been accounted for by Iraq in its material balance calculations. Even among the growth media reported by Iraq, there were unresolved discrepancies in accounting for consumed media, lost/stolen/discarded media and media remaining after bulk agent production ceased. [UNSCOM 03 June 98]
  • Biological weapons agents -- The level of production of bulk biological weapons agents remained unverifiable. The international experts came to the conclusion that the material balance of biological weapons bulk agents, including those weaponized, could not be verified. It is not possible to determine if biological weapons agents produced were dried to enhance storage stability. [S/1998/920] Iraq has not provided a credible accounting of bulk agent production. No production documents have been provided to support Iraq's statements on production of anthrax spores, botulinum toxin and spores, gas gangrene spores or aflatoxin. Iraq has stated that the production figures are only estimates. Explanations offered for not using fermenters at various time periods, or for relatively high production failure rates, or for fermenters being unused are not consistent with information available to UNSCOM. The Technical Evaluation Meeting (TEM) between UNSCOM international experts from 15 countries and Iraq convened in Vienna concluded that there is an unexpected and unexplained discrepancy between production capability and stated agent production. Iraq maintained that it was difficult if not impossible to provide any verifiable account for bulk production of BW agents because relevant documents had been unilaterally destroyed rather than made available to UNSCOM. [UNSCOM 03 June 98] The FFCD does not adequately support the actual production quantities of the four BW agents( Clostridium perfringens (Gas gangrene), Clostridium botulinum (botulinum toxin), Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) and aflatoxin) acknowledged to be intended for weaponisation. Iraq maintained that the core document for production data was the "1990 Al Hakam Report" and that production was based on availability of equipment and personnel as well as the filling requirements for weapons. Iraq claims that there was no strategic plan or a co-ordinated effort for agent production. Iraq has contended in the FFCD that the BW program turned to existing fermenters within Iraq only after external acquisition sources failed. Evidence does not support this as such existing sources were already obtained before external contracts were sought. Similarly, Iraq contends that initial production of botulinum toxin was dependent on availability of growth media. This is not supported by the evidence. Overall, the UNSCOM expert team considered that production equipment acquisition was better planned and co-ordinated than portrayed by Iraq. [UNSCOM 08 April 1998] UNSCOM experts' calculations of possible agent production quantities, either by equipment capacity or by growth media amounts, far exceeded Iraq's stated results. Significant periods when the fermenters were claimed not to be utilized are unexplained, especially for a periodafter August 1990, when Iraq's BW production facilities were ordered to operate at their maximum capacity. Stated low productivity of readily available equipment has not been adequately explained. The idle times for fermenter utilization and low productivity are technically not credible. [S/1997/774]
  • Aflatoxin Production Declared production of the biological warfare agent aflatoxin was inaccurate and could not have occurred using the process stated by Iraq. In its June 1996 FFCD, Iraq claimed that, in September 1990, it had zero balance on hand, having produced only 410 litres of aflatoxin that were nearly totally consumed by weapons field trials. Careful analysis by UNSCOM showed that the quantity produced would have been inadequate for the declared number of field trials. Iraq claimed to have produced 1,782 litres of aflatoxin for filling weapons from 1 October to 31 December 1990. Given the facilities, equipment and personnel available, such large production would not have been possible. A new account of aflatoxin production and weaponization is contained in the September 1997 FFCD, but the changes are not adequately explained or supported by documentary evidence. The new account is no more credible than the June 1996 version.[S/1997/774]
  • Field Trials Iraq's biological warfare field trials were underreported and inadequately described to allow for proper verification. Documents obtained by UNSCOM in August 1995 and interview statements of some Iraqi personnel involved in the trials provided details sufficiently different from the accounts given in the FFCD to conclude that there had been undisclosed field trials. The accounts of weapons field trials have a direct impact on the material balance of biological warfare agent production. Contrary to its own previous declarations, Iraq, in its September 1997 FFCD, denied a field trial with six R400 aerial bombs filled with botulinum toxin, simulant B or aflatoxin.[S/1997/774]
  • Al Hussein missile warheads -- UNSCOM was not able to verify the biological weapons missile warheads material balance, including production and destruction. Iraq asserted that as many as 25 Al Hussein special warheads were produced for filling with BW agents. Iraq has provided different written accounts and oral accounts concerning the destruction of these 25 BW agent filled warheads it acknowledged having produced [UNSCOM 03 June 98]. Accounts have changed over time. One week after the end of the July 1998 meeting, a senior Iraqi official stated that instead of the declared five anthrax and sixteen botulinum toxin missile warheads, there had been in fact sixteen anthrax and five botulinum toxin missile warheads filled. The official insisted that this change in disclosure would not affect Iraq's declaration on the total quantity of biological weapons agents produced and weaponized. Iraq did not present any supporting documents or other specific evidence to substantiate the new statement. This new explanation contradicted all accounts of the unilateral destruction of special warheads, including those filled with biological warfare agents, that had been provided for the previous three years by Iraqi personnel directly involved in warhead filling and destruction activities. [S/1998/920]
  • R-400 aerial bombs -- Production documents were provided by Iraq to support R400-type aerial bomb production. However, numbers submitted by Iraq for the unilateral destruction of chemical/biological-warfare R400 bombs were such that it appeared that more munitions were destroyed than were produced.[S/1998/920] R400 quality control acceptance documentation by the Air Force has been provided for the period June to September 1990. There is no evidence that production ended in September, and during June through September 1990, 1359 bombs were produced, but Iraq asserts that only 1242 were delivered to Muthanna State Establishment, Al Hakam, or to the Air Force. Iraq states that the remaining 117 bombs were melted in 1991 and not filled with CW or BW agents. However, this account can not be verified. Iraq has provided some evidence of destruction. Physical evidence supports Iraq's account that some BW agent filled R400 bombs were destroyed at a firing range called Azzizziyia. However, laboratory analysis of the contents of three bombs recovered does not support Iraq's account of their filling. [UNSCOM 03 June 98] As determined by the team of international experts, none of the sub-components of the R-400 bombs material balance could be verified. No evidence existed as to the total number of weapons filled and no consistent explanation was provided for the allocation of biological weapons agents to weapons. [S/1998/920] A diary of a military officer was provided by Iraq as evidence of unilateral destruction of 157 bombs of R400 type. Interview testimony supports the assertion that at least some of the bombs were biological agent-filled. Excavation by the Commission of their destruction site has identified up to 25 destroyed R400 bombs, most with a black stripe allegedly indicative of a biological warfare bomb to be filled with either botulinum toxin (BTX) or anthrax spores. Further analysis revealed evidence of decontaminated BTX in two such bombs recovered relatively intact. What is still unknown is whether all of the R400 bombs were biological agent-filled or some were filled with chemical warfare agents; whether 157 R400 bombs was the total number of such bombs filled with biological warfare agents; and how many such bombs were produced for biological agent filling. [S/1997/774]
  • Drop tanks -- The modified drop tank -- a device to spray weapons-grade biological warfare agent from fighter aircraft -- appears to have been the most efficient for the delivery of biological warfare agents produced by Iraq. [UNSCOM 03 June 98] The development of the drop tank for dissemination of biological weapons agents appears to have been pursued with the utmost vigour by Iraq. The team of international experts assessed that the account in the full, final and complete disclosure of the drop tank project could not be verified. [S/1998/920]
  • Aerosol generator -- Aerosol generators for biological weapons agents were developed by Iraq by modification of helicopter-borne commercial chemical insecticide disseminators. A document was submitted by Iraq that reports the successful testing of such devices in August 1988. Iraq did not account for the final disposition of the devices produced. The expert team assessed that the account of the biological weapons aerosol generators could not be verified. [S/1998/920] Iraq has stated that the activity related to this aerosol disseminating device was not mentioned in the 1997 declaration because the effort was primitive and inconsequential [UNSCOM 03 June 98].

In June 1998 Iraq once again declared that the biological weapons program had been obliterated. It stated that it would not revise its declaration of full, final and complete disclosure. At that time UNSCOM proposed a shift in methodology to focus on the munitions end of the programme. [S/1998/529]

The international expert team at the July 1998 meeting concluded that Iraq's full, final and complete disclosure, in its totality, could not be verified. The team recommended that no further verification of Iraq's current biological weapons full, final and complete disclosure be conducted at the senior international expert level, until Iraq committed itself to provide substantive, new information. [S/1998/920]

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:44:33 ZULU