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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Post-War Nuclear Assessments
Iraq Survey Group Findings

The Iraq Survey Group (ISG) released its conclusions regarding Iraqi weapons on September 30, 2004. In its report, ISG concluded that, contrary to Intelligence Community's (IC) National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), that Iraq had not reconstituted its nuclear weapons program since 1991. It found no evidence of enrichment attempts or further weapon designs. The only uranium stores found by ISG were those already declared to the IAEA.

Although it had not reconstituted its nuclear program, Iraq's nuclear ambitions had not disappeared. ISG claimed that Saddam saw Iraq's nuclear program as a logical result of scientific and technical progress and was unconvinced by the notion of non-proliferation. He considered nuclear programs a symbol of a modern nation, indicative of technological progress, a by-product of economic development, and essential to political freedom at the international level (what he described as "strategic balance"). He wanted nuclear weapons to guarantee his legacy and to compete with powerful and antagonistic neighbors; to him, nuclear weapons were necessary for Iraq to survive. His primary goal was, however, to escape the economic sanctions that hurt his financial situation. Public relations campaigns to end sanctions were one of his means to end sanctions, including information regarding sanctions' detrimental effects on children.

Evaluating Prewar Intelligence

Aluminum Tubes

Reports regarding Iraq's attempts to procure 81mm-diameter aluminum tubes was the central piece of evidence presented by the Intelligence Community in support of its prewar estimate that Iraq had reconstitutied its nuclear program. In its report, however, ISG stated that the tube question was best explained by Iraq's efforts to produce 81-mm rockets. ISG conducted numerous interviews related to Iraq's interest in acquiring these tubes-information that regularly pointed toward similar tubes being used in the Nasser-81 ground-to-ground rocket system, though the report indicated that their application in a centrifuge was not impossible. Ja'far Diya' Ja'far's, an Iraqi nuclear expert, study for IAEA inspectors apparently acknowledged it was possible to make a centrifuge from the tubes, although he thought doing so was impractical. Dr. Mahdi Shukur Al 'Ubaydi, the head of the pre-1991 centrifuge program, similarly did not consider it reasonable that Iraq could have pursued a centrifuge program based on 81-mm aluminum tubes.

One prewar concern was that the tubes' specifications were too demanding when compared to previous Iraqi 81mm rockets. Indeed, indigenous rocket fabrication utilized rockets with much looser specification and were stored in much worse conditions than the imported tubes. Although ISG stated that that could be a sign that the imported tubes were not intended for rocket use, ISG also provided an alternative explanation for this inconsistency in the form of bureaurocratic inefficiency and fear of Senior officials in charge of the rocket program. On Fear of being held responsible for the cost of rejected tubes, components, or rockets reportedly affected the lead production engineer and his decision to tighten tube specifications for the rocket program. A reportedly such punitive accountability practices were common for engineers or managers in Iraq when projects failed. With the high number of procured tubes involved, the cost to reimburse MIC would be excessive, probably leading to individuals being imprisoned until the debt could be repaid.

Dual-Use Equipment

Magnet Production Beginning in 2000, Iraq began to seek magner production lines for what it claimed to be normal military and industrial uses, specifically for production of ring magnets in the Saham Saddam Missile and for field telephones. ISG was unable to refute this claim, as Al Tahadi (the magnet production site) was heavily looted after Operation Iraqi Freedom, and no documents or equipment remained at the site. This facility, ISG noted, would have helped preserve skills necessary in centrifuge magnet production. Indeed, one pre-1991 Iraqi centrifuge design investigated included use of magnetic bearings to support the rotor. The pre-1991 Iraqi nuclear program was able to successfully test a magnetically supported rotor. Iraq purchased Aluminum-Nickel-Cobalt (AlNiCo) and Cobalt-Samarium (CoSm) ring magnets for their pre-1991, magnetic-bearing centrifuge program. Centrifuges could be designed to use a variety of ring magnets of different dimensions and materials.

Carbon Fiber During 2001-2002, Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission (MIC) began a project to explore carbon fiber technology for use in the Iraqi Missile Program and was managed by the MIC-owned Al Rashid State Company. The material researched was specifically for use in the al Fat'h missile, and possibly the Al Naqwa anti-tank guided missile (ATGM). Carbon fiber production, though intended for missilies, had been used in Iraq's Pre-1991 nuclear program. In 1989, maraging steel cylinder fabrication proved difficult, and the Engineering Design Center (EDC) acquired a consignment of about 20 carbon fiber cylinders from a German supplier in 1990. Iraq used some of these cylinders to develop test machines for its centrifuge program. In addition, the EDC successfully produced two centrifuges using imported carbon fiber rotors and foreign assistance by mid-1990, one of which was tested with UF6 feed. In 1989, the EDC began seeking machinery and raw materials to establish an indigenous carbon fiber production capability in support of a centrifuge production effort. ISG found, however, that at the time of Operation Desert Storm, that Iraq did not have the ability to indigenously produce Carbon Fiber suitable for a gas centrifuge program. Although ISG indicated carbon's prior use in nuclear weapons, it found no indication that it was aimed at a nuclear reconstitution program or that the IAEC had any interest in the program.

Laser Research ISG found that the Iraqi government at the time of Operation Iraqi Freedom was supporting laser research and development work in military and industrial applications. No evidence of a renewed laser isotope separation (LIS) program to enrich uranium was found, however. ISG believed that only a few Iraqi scientists had the knowledge and experience to recommence an LIS project. Furthermore, the technology and infrastructure to support an LIS program did not appear to exist in Iraq. Since Desert Storm, various laser projects were relocated from the IAEC to universities and MIC. The non-LIS applications for Iraq's laser research included jamming, range finding, communications and guidance at Al-Razi. Also, according to the same scientist, one group at Al-Razi was working on a carbon dioxide (CO2) laser for an antimissile defense project. In addition, a knowledgeable source indicated to ISG that some of the important team members of the 1980s LIS team were working on the development of a copper vapor laser (CVL) in 1997 at Al-Razi-a technology with potential applications to LIS. Interviews with other scientists indicated that LIS work was not permitted on this project, and was thus not performed.

Rail Gun In 1999, Dr. Khalid Ibrahim Sa'id - the head of Iraq's pre-1991 nuclear weapons design and development program - initiated a project under the IAEC to develop a rail gun, an experimental device that, if further developed, could, in theory, have applications including nuclear weapons research and antiaircraft weapons. ISG determined that the rail gun project was aimed at providing Saddam with an anti-aircraft weapon to shoot down an enemy aircraft in the no-fly zone, which Saddam reportedly believed would render the no-fly zone ineffective and foster a change in political climate that would hasten the lifting of sanctions. Nevertheless, ISG acknowledged that the program preserved skills that could support a renewed nuclear weapons design effort. Another scientist in the program also acknowledged that one of Sa'id's goals for the project was to train a new generation of IAEC scientists in applied physics, which would certainly keep intellectual capital for any future nuclear program. ISG found only tenuous links, however, between the rail gun program and efforts at nuclear reconstitution.

Rotating Machine Department In 2002, a new MIC Saad Company called the Rotating Machinery Department sought to order various machine tools including machines for rotary balancing and spin testing, as well as a milling machine and a lathe. ISG was not able to find evidence that any of these materials were intended for nuclear reconstitution, and determined that they were not capable of such work. Although such machines could be used to balance equipment such as turbines, pumps, and compressors, they would also be applicable to developing skills useful for centrifuge design and testing. Iraq's pre-1991 nuclear program used rotary balancing machines, a technology used widely in industrial applications, in development of centrifuges for enrichment of uranium. ISG also discovered that the Rotating Machinery Department had sought a balancing machine, which, at the minimum, would have helped Iraq maintain important skills that could have been applied to a renewed centrifuge program. It is not clear whether this machine could balance centrifuge rotors, given that the machine specifications called for balancing much heaver components, up to 500 kgs. The balancing machine that was ordered by the Ibn Younis Center for the Rotating Machinery Department was never received.

Retaining Knowledge Base

Starting around 1992, Iraq transferred many scientists from the defunct nuclear weapon program into several Iraqi scientific establishments. We have not found clear indications of the intent behind these personnel moves, but some of the work they pursued would have inherently preserved skills that could be applied to possible future nuclear weapon work. In the immediate aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, Iraq also tried to save some of its equipment and capability from the PC-3 program as part of a denial and deception effort. In some cases, preservation of the equipment and capability may have been intended for eventual reconstitution of a nuclear program but also were used to support other nonuclear programs.

Starting in 1999, Saddam incrased his interest in the IAEC, scheduling regular meetings. In addition, during the last two years before Operation Iraqi freedom, the IAEC received increased publicity for its achievements and a larger budget, prompting many former PC-3 scientists to want to return to the IAEC from the MIC. This was partlydue to the perceived improvements in conditions and salary increases. More money also became available to the IAEC through direct funding by Saddam, overriding a budget concern from his finance minister.

Although not engaged in nuclear research, Iraq's universities played a part in preserving knowledge base from which Iraq could reconstitute its nuclear program. Since Operation Desert Storm, the IAEC had lost personnel and transfered former dual-use equipment to universities. The historical relationship between former PC-3 scientists and Iraqi universities suggests that some nuclear-weapons-related research could have taken place within the universities, although ISG has uncovered no direct information that such work was under way. A number of highly placed individuals in the former Regime have stated that no nuclear-weapons-related research took place at universities. However, some research activities display obvious dual-use application to nuclear weapons development, including Laser research (see above) and vacuum research relevant to EMIS.

Since Operation Iraqi Freedom, two scientists from Iraq's pre-1991 nuclear weapons program emerged to provide ISG with uranium enrichment technology and components, which they kept hidden from inspectors. In August 2003, a former EMIS scientist told ISG during an interview that he had taken material and equipment that was related to EMIS and hid them in various places near his home in the 1990s. The scientist had not been specifically told to do this but believed his supervisors were cognizant of his actions. He chose items to hide that could be used in future reconstitution of the EMIS program. The former head of Iraq's pre-1991 centrifuge program also retained prohibited documents and components in apparent violation of the Regime's directives. Though this activity was isolated, it also had the potential to contribute to a possible restart of Iraq's uranium enrichment programs.

Uranium Production and Possession

After conducting interviews with prominent Iraqi scientists, including Ja'far Diya' Ja'far - head of the pre-1991 nuclear program - ISG concluded that Iraq neither sought foreign sorces of uranium nor attempted to reconstitute domestic uranium production after the Gulf War. Regarding the alleged Niger-uranium connection, Ja'far claimed that Iraq only had two contacts with Niger since 1998, both in non-nuclear functions. In the first meeting, Iraq's Ambassador to the Holy See traveled to Niamey to invite the President of Niger to visit Iraq. The second contact between Iraq and Niger occurred when a Nigerian minister visited Baghdad around 2001 to request assistance in obtaining petroleum products to alleviate Niger's economic problems. During the negotiations for this contract, Ja'far claimed that the Nigerians did not offer any kind of payment or other quid pro quo, including offering to provide Iraq with uranium ore, other than cash in exchange for petroleum. ISG recovered a copy of a crude oil contract dated 26 June 2001 that, although unsigned, appeared to support this arrangement. ISG also uncovered a document indicating that Iraq turned down an offer from a Ugandan businessman to purchase uranium (see below for the document). Domestically, as a result of Desert Storm and IAEA inspection efforts, Iraq's indigenous yellowcake production capability appeared to have been eliminated. Iraq's main plant for yellowcake production prior to 1991 was at Al-Qa'im. The plant was designed, erected, and commissioned by Mechim Company of Belgium during the period 1982 to 1984. Using phosphate ore from the Akashat mine and the Prayon process, the first batch of yellowcake was delivered to the IAEC in December 1985 with approximately 168 tons delivered through 1991. Bomb damage in 1991 destroyed the uranium extraction facility at the Al-Qa'im Superphosphate Fertilizer Plant. In 1991, inspectors found that Al-Qa'im had been heavily damaged in the war and the structure was unsafe. Visits to the site in interim years did not reveal any attempt to reestablish the plant to produce yellowcake.

ISG determined that Iraq had not attempted to reconstitute any Electromagnetic Isotope Separation (EMIS)program after 1991, although many of the former EMIS engineers and scientists still worked for either the IAEC or MIC in roles that could preserve their technical skills. These technical skills, if maintained, would have helped build the foundation for a future nuclear weapons program and would have allowed scientists to reenter a nuclear program further up the learning curve. Equipment and components from Iraq's pre-1991 EMIS enrichment program remained in Iraq after 1991. ISG has not discovered any effort by the Iraqi Regime to use these items to reconstitute an EMIS enrichment program. The pre-1991 EMIS project required several types of components and equipment, such as power supplies, ion sources, control systems, magnet field coils, magnets, magnet poles, return iron, ovens (for vaporizing the UCl4), vacuum systems (pumps, liners, vacuum chambers, piping), and material collector assemblies. In the early 1990s, IAEA inspectors collected and either destroyed or had the equipment transferred from the various EMIS facilities (i.e., Tuwaitha, Tarmiya, Ash Sharqat, Al-Jazira) to Ash Shaykhili and Al-Nafad (open area adjacent to Ash Shaykili) for storage.

During investigations of sites associated with Iraq's pre-1991 nuclear weapons program, ISG found no evidence of any centrifuge activity or uranium procurment. ISG searched the following facilities:

  • Ash Shaykhili Storage Facility
  • Al Karama State Company [Al-Waziriya Site (al Samud Factory), Khadimiyah Site (Ibn Al-Haytham), Al-Fatah Factory (Al Quds Factory)]
  • Basdr and Umm Al-Marik State Companies (Khan Azad Military Production Plant
  • Al-Tahadi State Company
  • Salah al-Din State Company (Samarra Electronics Plant)
  • Al-Nida State Company
  • Nassr State Company (Taji Steel Fabrication Plant)
  • Ur State Company (An-Nasiriyah Aluminum Fabrication Plant)
Declared Iraqi International Uranium Purchases
Country Organization/
Time-frame Uranium Form Amount Comment
Portugal Emprese National de uranio EP 20 Jun 1980 “Yellowcake” 138.098 tons (uranium content approximately 103 tons) IAEA notified through “ICR” report (29 Jun 80) (not subject to safeguards according to INFCIRC/153 corrected.)
17 May 1982 “Yellowcake” 148.348 tons (uranium content approximately 110 tons) No IAEA notification (not subject to safeguards according to INFCIRC/153 corrected.)
31 May 1982
20 Jun 1982
Italy SNIA-TECHINT through CNEN 12 Dec 1979 “Depleted” uranium dioxide 6,005 kg Under IAEA safeguards
12 Dec 1979 “Natural” uranium dioxide 4,006 kg
12 Dec 1979 “Natural” uranium dioxide(pellets & fuel rods) 500 kg
18 May 1982 “Low-Enriched” uranium dioxide (2.6% 235U) 1,767 kg
Niger ONAREM (Office National Des Resources Minieres) 08 Feb 1981 “Yellowcake” (uranium content 199.9 tons) IAEA notified (not subject to safeguards according to INFCIRC/153 corrected.)
18 Mar 1981 No IAEA notification (not subject to safeguards according to INFCIRC/153 corrected.)
Brazil Through CNEN (Commisao Nacional de Energia Nuclear) Sep 1981 “Natural” uranium dioxide 7,964 kg No IAEA notification
Jan 1982 “Natural” uranium dioxide 21,000 kg

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 04:44:48 ZULU