The UnAustralian

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
How Many Chemical and Biological Weapons Should Iraq Have?

One of the most widely used rationales for attacking Iraq was the existence of large amounts of weapons of mass destruction (ie. chemical, biological and nuclear weapons + delivery mechanisms). Now that the Ba'athist regime has been defeated, and inspections are being carried out, things should get interesting. I can see three possible scenarios occuring:

1) No WMD found, and no evidence of a program to develop them (unlikely, but possible).
2) Limited numbers of WMD, as ex-Australian intelligence officer Andrew Wilkie suggested (most likely in my humble opinion).
3) Evidence that Iraq had an hidden efficent chemical and/or biological weapon program, with stockpiles of weapons.

When trying to assey which scenario is correct, it is important to note just how many potential WMD precersors the weapon inspectors claimed Iraq couldn't account for.

From this British Labour party summary we get the following (concentrating on the weapons themselves, not the missiles):

550 shells filled with mustard gas unaccounted for.

Around 350 R-400 bombs (capable of delivering chemical or biological weapons) unaccounted for. Photographic evidence contradicts Iraqi claims that all R-400A (marked as filled with botulinum toxin and anthrax) were destroyed in July or August 2001.

Iraq has just admitted (in the "Air Force Document") that there are a further 6,500 chemical weapon filled bombs (could contain up to 1,000 tonnes chemical warfare agents) now unaccounted for.

UNSCOM found evidence that contradicted Iraqi claims that they never weaponised VX. UNMOVIC "cannot exclude" that Iraq has retained VX capability.

No adequate evidence to support declared amounts of precursors for of Tabun, Sarin, Cyclo-Sarin and VX.

80 tonnes of mustard gas unaccounted for: Iraqi documents show "could be substantially higher".

Undocumented programmes: inadequate records for production of and research into VX, Sarin, Soman, mustard gas.

"Strong presumption that about 10,000 litres of anthrax was not destroyed and may still exist".

Undeclared growth media capable of producing an estimated: 6-16,000 litres anthrax; 3-11,000 litres botulinum toxin; up to 5,600 litres of clostridium perfringens.

Insufficient or destroyed records for production of botulinum, research into aflatoxin, research into economic weapons, indications of interest in other programmes. Cannot rule out possibility that complete list of biological warfare agents has not been declared by Iraq, or that Iraq conducted research into biological warfare-related genetic engineering.

Likewise, this CIA report (from October 2002) finds the following:

Iraq probably has concealed precursors, production equipment, documentation, and other items necessary for continuing its CW effort.  Baghdad never supplied adequate evidence to support its claims that it destroyed all of its CW agents and munitions.  Thousands of tons of chemical precursors and tens of thousands of unfilled munitions, including Scud-variant missile warheads, remain unaccounted for.

UNSCOM discovered a document at Iraqi Air Force headquarters in July 1998 showing that Iraq overstated by at least 6,000 the number of chemical bombs it told the UN it had used during the Iran-Iraq War?bombs that remain are unaccounted for.

Iraq has not accounted for 15,000 artillery rockets that in the past were its preferred means for delivering nerve agents, nor has it accounted for about 550 artillery shells filled with mustard agent.

Iraq probably has stocked at least 100 metric tons (MT) and possibly as much as 500 MT of CW agents.

So if Iraq still had a substantial WMD program (scenario 3), it is resonable to expect that very large quantities of weapons and precursors should be found. If the Iraqi program was "fragmented and contained" (scenario 2) then small quantities of weapons should be found.

Now we just have to wait and see.
| 6:01 PM