Iraq: A Chronology of UN Inspections

An ACA Special Report

In April 1991, as part of the permanent cease-fire agreement ending the Persian Gulf War, the UN Security Council ordered Iraq to eliminate under international supervision its biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons programs, as well as its ballistic missiles with ranges greater than 150 kilometers. The Security Council declared that the comprehensive economic sanctions imposed in 1990 on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait would remain in place until Baghdad had fully complied with its weapons requirements.

Baghdad agreed to these conditions but for eight years deceived, obstructed, and threatened international inspectors sent to dismantle and verify the destruction of its banned programs. This systematic Iraqi effort to conceal and obscure the true extent of its weapons of mass destruction programs began almost immediately, when Baghdad lied about the status of its programs in its initial declarations and obstructed an inspection team. Iraq continued to harass, hinder, and frustrate inspectors until late 1998, when the inspectors withdrew from Iraq just hours before the United States and the United Kingdom launched three days of military strikes against Iraq for its noncooperation. Since that time, Iraq has permitted only limited inspections of declared nuclear sites but has not yet allowed the return of intrusive inspections to verify that it has lived up to its commitment to get rid of its prohibited weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.

The inspectors’ job was hampered not only by Iraq but also by key countries on the Security Council whose support for the inspections waned. As time passed, the combination of unending confrontations between weapons inspectors and Iraqi officials; the reported growing humanitarian toll of sanctions on Iraqi civilians; and the economic costs of forgoing exports, imports, and energy deals with a former trading partner, undermined the willingness of China, France, Russia, and others from enforcing the inspections and sanctions regimes against Iraq. Quarrels erupted between these countries, which were sympathetic to Iraq and claimed that it had sufficiently disarmed, and the United States and the United Kingdom, both of which repeatedly contended Baghdad had not fulfilled the obligations laid out in the cease-fire agreement.

Shortly after leaving Iraq in 1998, weapons inspectors of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), which was tasked with overseeing the destruction of Iraq’s chemical, biological, and missile programs, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), responsible for uncovering and dismantling the Iraqi nuclear weapons program, described their work as unfinished. The IAEA made much more progress than UNSCOM, but both sets of inspectors left Iraq with unanswered questions about Baghdad’s proscribed weapons.

UNSCOM reported numerous discrepancies, particularly with regard to biological weapons, between what Iraq claimed it had and evidence discovered by weapons inspectors. For four years, Baghdad denied the very existence of its biological weapons program. When Iraq finally did acknowledge having such a program, UNSCOM officials judged its declarations so insufficient—an assessment shared by independent experts—that the UN team claimed it could not even form a baseline by which to measure its progress in revealing and abolishing Iraq’s germ warfare program. More headway was made in the chemical weapons and missile areas, but by 1998 UNSCOM contended that key issues remained unresolved. For example, Iraq had failed to account for thousands of chemical warheads that it claimed, without any proof, to have used, lost, or unilaterally destroyed.

Iraq also sought to mislead the IAEA, but IAEA inspectors were largely successful in obtaining a relatively complete picture of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program and dismantling it. The IAEA, which removed from Iraq all known fissile material that could be used to make weapons, reported in February 1999 that there were no indications that meaningful amounts of weapon-usable material remained in the country or that it possessed the physical capability to produce significant amounts of such material indigenously. But the IAEA cautioned that because nuclear weapons material or infrastructure could be hidden, it could not verify with absolute certainty that Iraq had no prohibited materials.

A UN panel of experts tasked in 1999 with reporting on the results of the UNSCOM and IAEA efforts concluded that “the bulk of Iraq’s proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated,” but the experts emphasized that important issues remained unresolved. They further warned that, if weapons inspectors were kept outside Iraq, the risk that Iraq might reconstitute its programs would grow, and the initial assessments from which inspectors had been working would be jeopardized. The experts said the status quo was unacceptable, and they called for re-establishing an inspection regime in Iraq that was “effective, rigorous and credible.”

Following is a year-by-year summary of major events in Iraq and an assessment of what arms inspectors accomplished and what remains undone in Iraq.

A Chronology of UN Inspections

Pre-Persian Gulf War

Despite signing treaties forbidding the development or use of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, Iraq initiates programs to acquire such weapons. Iraq repeatedly violates the international norm against using chemical weapons during its eight-year war with Iran, which began with Iraq’s invasion of Iran in September 1980. Iraq also uses chemical weapons against some of its own villages, most notably against Halabja in a March 16, 1988, attack that kills an estimated 5,000 people. In addition to its chemical weapons program, Iraq is also suspected by some countries of pursuing nuclear weapons, prompting Israel in June 1981 to bomb and destroy Iraq’s Osiraq nuclear research reactor, which it acquired from France. The attack reportedly leads Iraq to intensify its illegal effort to acquire nuclear weapons.


On August 2, Iraq invades Kuwait and is immediately condemned by the UN Security Council. The Security Council calls for Iraqi forces to withdraw unconditionally from Kuwait and imposes an arms embargo and economic sanctions that cut off all trade with Iraq except for the import of foodstuffs in humanitarian circumstances and items with medical purposes. Within a week of the invasion, the United States begins deploying military forces to Saudi Arabia. Iraq continues to defy UN demands to withdraw its forces from Kuwait, and on November 29 the Security Council approves Resolution 678, authorizing countries to use “all necessary means” to force Iraqi compliance if its troops do not return to Iraq by January 15, 1991.


The January 15 deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait passes without action by Baghdad. A U.S.-led coalition initiates an air offensive January 17 against Iraq and its forces in Kuwait, followed by a ground attack on February 24 that drives Iraqi forces out of Kuwait within four days. A cease-fire is declared February 28.

On April 3, the Security Council adopts Resolution 687, mandating that Iraq eliminate all of its biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons programs as well as all of its ballistic missiles capable of traveling more than 150 kilometers. The resolution requires that the United Nations establish a special commission, UNSCOM, to verify that Iraq’s biological, chemical, and proscribed missile programs are eliminated, and the IAEA is charged with doing the same for Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. Pledging to review the situation every 60 days, the Security Council declares that the sanctions imposed on Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait will remain in effect until the country complies with its disarmament obligations.

Iraq accepts the terms of this resolution three days later and provides initial declarations on the extent of its proscribed programs April 18, although it will revise all the declarations several times when confronted with evidence discovered by inspectors disproving its claims. UNSCOM later finds that Iraqi officials initially decided to report only their least modern weapons and to keep indigenous production capabilities and documentation secret so they could resume the programs.

Weapons inspections under the direction of Hans Blix, director-general of the IAEA, and Rolf Ekeus, executive chairman of UNSCOM, start in May and June and almost immediately face Iraqi obstructionism. Iraq is caught moving prohibited items away from inspection sites and denies access to other facilities. The Security Council responds August 15 with Resolution 707, the first of many resolutions condemning Iraqi noncooperation with weapons inspectors. In addition to describing Iraq as being in “material breach” of its commitments, the resolution further demands that Baghdad provide inspectors with “immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access” and supply new “full, final and complete disclosure” of all its weapons programs subject to elimination.

Iraq ignores the demands, and in September it temporarily blocks UNSCOM’s use of helicopters in the inspection process. A four-day standoff also ensues over the Iraqi confiscation of documents seized by inspectors, which are returned only after the Security Council threatens military action. The next month, the Security Council passes Resolution 715 demanding again that Iraq unconditionally carry out its obligations and “cooperate fully” with weapons inspections. This resolution also formally approves IAEA and UNSCOM plans for ongoing monitoring and verification to determine that once Iraq disarms, it does not reconstitute its weapons programs. Baghdad rejects the plans and does not accept them until November 1993.

Despite Iraq’s concerted efforts to thwart weapons inspectors, they succeed in starting destruction activities, and the IAEA begins shipping Iraq’s weapons-usable material out of the country.


Weapons inspections and destruction activities continue without Iraq’s full cooperation, leading the Security Council in February to charge Iraq again with being in material breach of its obligations. This is the first of three such statements during the year. Iraq subsequently admits to having had more ballistic missiles and chemical weapons than it had previously acknowledged but claims that it unilaterally destroyed most of these items—a violation of the requirement that the destruction process be supervised by independent inspectors. Weapons inspectors later determine that Iraq unilaterally destroyed weapons to make it more difficult for inspectors to establish a comprehensive picture of its arms programs.

While actively obstructing inspectors, Baghdad seeks to preserve a veneer of compliance between May and June by submitting separate “full, final and complete disclosures” on its relevant weapons programs. Each declaration is subsequently found to be incomplete, particularly the biological weapons disclosure, in which Baghdad claims to have had only a “defensive” program. Iraq will eventually revise all disclosures several times.

Iraq refuses for three weeks in July to allow weapons inspectors inside the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture, which is suspected of housing documents detailing Iraq’s ballistic missile programs. A deal is eventually brokered allowing inspectors into the building, but no British, French, or U.S. inspectors are permitted to participate in the inspection, creating what some consider a bad precedent that allows Iraq to dictate the composition of inspection teams. During the standoff, the United States threatens to use force to gain entry, but the Security Council does not, revealing growing differences among Security Council members about enforcing Iraq’s disarmament.

Weapons inspectors make additional headway during the year, destroying key nuclear facilities, as well as chemical weapons and related production capabilities. The year, however, concludes with Iraqi officials verbally threatening the lives of the weapons inspectors.


At the beginning of the year, Iraq refuses to allow UNSCOM aircraft to fly into the country, an action the Security Council deems a material breach and threatens might result in “serious consequences” for Baghdad. Iraq also steps up military activities along the Kuwaiti border and in the two no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq that the United States and its allies imposed on Iraq after the Persian Gulf War.

U.S.-led coalition forces carry out air strikes against Iraqi air defenses, radar and communication facilities, and nuclear-related sites in January, prompting Baghdad to temper its military activities and rescind its decision to block UNSCOM aircraft. Iraq soon resumes its belligerent behavior, however, aiming anti-aircraft weapons at UN helicopters and then initially rejecting inspectors’ efforts in June to install monitoring cameras at missile launch sites.

Also in June, the United States launches a limited cruise missile attack against Iraq in response to an alleged plot to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush.

Near the end of the year, Iraq permits the monitoring cameras to be installed and makes additional conciliatory steps, naming previous foreign suppliers of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs and formally agreeing to the IAEA and UNSCOM monitoring and verification plans originally approved in October 1991 by the Security Council.


In February, the IAEA ships Iraq’s last quantities of highly enriched uranium, which can be used to produce nuclear weapons, to Russia. The first half of the year is marked by relative cooperation from Iraq and statements of progress by weapons inspectors. But in September, Iraq sets an October 10 deadline for sanctions to be lifted, warns that it will cease cooperation with weapons inspectors if the Security Council does not drop sanctions, and moves its military forces toward Kuwait. The Security Council deems Iraq’s ultimatum unacceptable and approves Resolution 949, demanding that all Iraqi forces return to their original positions and that Iraq fully cooperate with UNSCOM. Iraq withdraws its forces, and weapons inspections continue.


Under increasing pressure from some countries, particularly China, France, and Russia, to ease the sanctions imposed on Iraq to address worsening humanitarian problems in the country, the Security Council on April 14 unanimously approves the so-called oil-for-food program, which permits Iraq to sell up to $1 billion of oil every 90 days to buy food, medicine, and other civilian goods. The revenue from the sale of oil is kept in an escrow account controlled by the United Nations to prevent Iraq from purchasing items with potential military uses. Despite its significant economic hardship Iraq does not embrace the plan for more than a year, accepting it only in November 1996.

Confronted by evidence uncovered by weapons inspectors, Iraq admits for the first time on July 1 that it had an offensive biological weapons research and development program, but it denies having ever produced actual weapons. That same month, Baghdad issues another ultimatum, saying that it will end all cooperation with weapons inspectors if sanctions are not lifted by the close of August.

Iraq changes its tack, however, after the August 8 defection of Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, who directed Iraq’s illicit weapons programs. In the following weeks, Iraqi officials take inspectors to Kamel’s farm, revealing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents that detail Iraqi weapons efforts. Iraq claims Kamel was pursuing the weapons on his own initiative. Kamel returns to Iraq months later and is killed.

Through a combination of Iraqi declarations and analysis of the recovered documents, weapons inspectors learn that Iraq had weaponized biological agents, had a more advanced indigenous ballistic missile program than previously believed, had produced more chemical weapons than disclosed earlier, and had initiated a crash program in 1990 to try to acquire a nuclear weapon in less than a year. In addition, an ongoing covert Iraqi operation to obtain banned missile gyroscopes is exposed in November.


In March, Iraq delays weapons inspectors’ visits to five different sites, drawing condemnation from the Security Council. Three months later, Iraq again denies weapons inspectors access to sites they want to inspect. The Security Council responds June 12 by passing Resolution 1060, which demands yet again that Iraq provide inspectors unhindered access but which stops short of authorizing or threatening the use of force to support the inspectors. Iraq blocks another inspection the following day, leading the Security Council to criticize Iraqi cooperation again, even though some Security Council members are beginning to voice reservations about what they consider UNSCOM’s confrontational tactics.

UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekeus travels to Baghdad June 19-22 to work out how inspections of “sensitive” Iraqi sites will be conducted, but within weeks Iraq prevents weapons inspectors from searching several such sites. The Security Council again tells Iraq in August that it is violating its obligations. Before the year closes, Iraq rejects efforts by weapons inspectors to remove remnants of destroyed missiles for outside, independent analysis, resulting in yet more Security Council criticism of Iraq’s behavior.


After a three-month standoff, Iraq allows UNSCOM to remove destroyed missile parts from the country for outside analysis in March. The following month, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asserts that the United States opposes automatically lifting the sanctions on Iraq once it has been disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction. She clearly implies that the United States will work to keep sanctions in place until Saddam Hussein no longer rules Iraq, effectively removing the only inducement for Iraqi cooperation with weapons inspections. Albright’s declaration contradicts Resolution 687, which states that the sanctions will be reviewed every 60 days and lifted once Iraq disarms.

Baghdad soon steps up its obstructionist activities. Iraqi officials in June jeopardize the safety of weapons inspectors by grabbing at the controls of UNSCOM helicopters while they are airborne, and Iraq blocks access to several sites. The Security Council responds June 21 by adopting Resolution 1115, which condemns Iraqi actions. In order to punish Iraq, the resolution also suspends the council’s usual 60-day review of sanctions. Australian Ambassador Richard Butler becomes UNSCOM executive chairman July 1, replacing Swedish Ambassador Rolf Ekeus.

Another round of Iraqi noncooperation begins in September, highlighted by Iraq barring weapons inspections at locations it describes as “presidential sites.” The Security Council responds October 23 with Resolution 1134, which again demands that Iraq cooperate with weapons inspectors, but the message sent is significantly weakened by the fact that five Security Council members—most notably China, France, and Russia—abstain from the vote.

Days later, Iraq, perhaps bolstered by the evident rift in the Security Council, announces it will not deal at all with U.S. weapons inspectors, orders them to leave the country, and then blocks inspection teams including US inspectors. UNSCOM and the IAEA withdraw most of their inspectors in response, and the Security Council calls on Iraq November 12 to rescind its decision and refrain from imposing any conditions on inspectors.

The United States builds up its military forces in the region and threatens action, but its aggressive stance is not backed by the Security Council. Averting a possible US attack, Russia negotiates the return of all inspectors to Iraq November 20. In spite of its pledge to cooperate with inspectors, Baghdad informs UNSCOM in mid-December that the so-called “presidential sites” are still off-limits to inspections. The Security Council replies that Iraq’s declaration is unacceptable.


Iraq continues to block inspections at the eight locations it labels as presidential sites and refuses another inspection elsewhere, charging that too many US and British inspectors are on the team. In February, as Iraq stands firm on barring visits to presidential sites and a U.S.-led military buildup continues in the region, both the United States and Britain release reports detailing what weapons and equipment they believe Iraq is still hiding. With the prospect of renewed hostilities looming, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan travels to Iraq and reaches an agreement February 23, which reiterates that weapons inspectors are to have unfettered access in Iraq but which also spells out special procedures for inspecting presidential sites. At the end of the same month, Security Council members agree to increase the amount of oil Iraq can export to a little more than $5.2 billion every six months.

Inspectors visit the presidential sites in March and April without incident, and the Security Council issues a May statement expressing satisfaction with Iraq’s recent cooperation. Some Security Council members want to officially declare Iraq disarmed of its nuclear weapons and relax IAEA inspections, but the United States and Britain resist, claiming there are still unanswered questions. At the same time, UNSCOM holds that there has been little recent progress in resolving outstanding issues in the biological, chemical, and missile areas.

To Iraq’s dissatisfaction—as well as to that of its supporters on the Security Council—the IAEA reports at the end of July that it cannot close Iraq’s nuclear file, and on July 29 the council rejects a Russian proposal to stop investigating Iraq’s nuclear program. A few days later, UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler tells a top Iraqi official that UNSCOM’s inspections also need to continue.

On August 5, Iraq announces that it is suspending cooperation with UNSCOM and IAEA inspections. The Security Council condemns Iraq’s decision the next day and one month later passes Resolution 1194, calling for Iraq to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors. The resolution does not brandish a stick but a carrot, holding out the possibility of a comprehensive review of Iraq’s disarmament progress—a condition Iraq had long demanded—after it readmitted inspectors. On October 30, the Security Council approves a plan to conduct the review, but Baghdad declares the next day that in addition to not allowing inspections, it would no longer permit UNSCOM and IAEA activities to conduct less intrusive monitoring activities intended to determine Iraq’s continued compliance with its disarmament obligations. The Security Council condemns the move November 5 amid US and British preparations to punish Iraq with military strikes.

With a U.S.-British attack imminent, Iraq announces November 14 that it will cooperate with inspectors. Baghdad’s cooperation is short-lived, however, and the IAEA and UNSCOM withdraw their personnel from Iraq December 16, just hours before the United States and the United Kingdom begin three days of air strikes, during which Baghdad declares that weapons inspections are finished. The attacks surprise other Security Council members, some of whom condemn the action.


Amid news reports and allegations that the United States used UNSCOM weapons inspections to collect intelligence for its own purposes, the Security Council authorizes a review of UN policy toward Iraq, including the status of Iraq’s disarmament. The panel charged with assessing Iraq’s disarmament reports at the end of March that “the bulk of Iraq’s proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated,” but it also notes that “important elements still have to be resolved.” The panel acknowledges that reaching absolute certainty that Iraq has completely disarmed is unattainable and recommends focusing on resolving a few key outstanding issues. To achieve this objective, the panel calls for a reinforced monitoring and verification system that should, “if anything,” be more intrusive than the previous system. The panel also cautions that the longer weapons inspectors are kept out of Iraq, the greater the risk that Iraq might reconstitute its programs.

Months of debate ensue among Security Council members over how to resolve the Iraq situation. While the United States and the United Kingdom insist that Iraq fully disarm before sanctions are relaxed, China, France, and Russia contend that Iraq has already fulfilled the bulk of its disarmament commitments and that sanctions should be eased to induce Iraq to complete its final obligations. For its part, Iraq insists that sanctions must be lifted before inspectors can return.

The Security Council passes Resolution 1284 on December 17, creating a successor to UNSCOM—the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). China, France, and Russia abstain from the vote, revealing that divisions between Security Council members on Iraq still exist. The resolution erases the limit on the amount of oil Iraq can sell under the oil-for-food program and holds out the possibility that sanctions could be suspended for 120-day increments if Iraq cooperates with the new UN team, which is to be given unconditional and unrestricted access. The resolution also demands that within 60 days of their entry into Iraq, UNMOVIC and the IAEA draw up a list of key remaining disarmament tasks so that Iraq knows exactly what it must do to comply fully. Iraq rejects Resolution 1284.


An IAEA team returns to Iraq in January but only to conduct a regular inspection at a declared Iraqi nuclear site. As a state-party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Iraq is obliged to allow IAEA inspectors to visit declared sites at least every 14 months. The IAEA makes clear, however, that the limited inspections under the NPT are no substitute for its intrusive inspections in years past and that it cannot give assurances that Baghdad is not covertly seeking nuclear weapons.

The Security Council remains divided throughout the year on relaxing sanctions. Despite disagreements among Security Council members about the new inspection regime, Hans Blix, who previously served as head of the IAEA, is named to run UNMOVIC following a contentious appointment process. The council approves a UNMOVIC work plan, but no UNMOVIC inspector sets foot inside Iraq, which still opposes the return of weapons inspectors.


Seeking to bolster the Iraq sanctions regime, which has been weakened as countries and companies illegally buy oil from Iraq and export prohibited goods to the country, the United States and the United Kingdom suggest overhauling the sanctions to focus more on military and dual-use goods and less on civilian trade. The aim of the “smart sanctions” is to help insulate the sanctions regime from the charges that it has caused widespread humanitarian suffering in Iraq. Other Security Council members, however, are skeptical and favor a more general easing or elimination of sanctions.

A heated debate lasts until November 29 when all Security Council members approve Resolution 1382, which establishes a Goods Review List that is subsequently adopted in May 2002. The list includes items with potential military use that must receive UN approval before Iraq can import them; civilian goods are exempted. Under the new sanctions, UNMOVIC and the IAEA will review all proposed contracts with Iraq to search for items included on the Goods Review List. According to the plan, items not on the list with no military application will be approved, while items on the list will go to the sanctions committee for further review. Items that would likely be used for military purposes will be denied.


In his January State of the Union address, President George W. Bush labels Iraq a member of an “axis of evil,” along with Iran and North Korea. The president’s speech is the first of many statements by top US officials on the dangers posed by Iraq, many of which question the ultimate worth of arms inspections and advocate the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as the only way to guarantee that Iraq will not develop weapons of mass destruction in the future.

Less than two months after Bush’s speech, Iraqi officials meet with Secretary-general Annan and UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Blix to discuss arms inspections for the first time since 1998. UN officials fail to win the return of inspectors at this meeting or two subsequent ones that occur in May and July.

On September 12, amid increasing speculation that the United States is preparing to invade Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, President Bush delivers a speech to the United Nations calling on the organization to enforce its resolutions for disarming Iraq. Bush strongly implies that if the United Nations does not act, the United States will—a message that US officials make more explicit the following week.

Four days later, Baghdad announces that it will allow arms inspectors to return “without conditions.” Iraqi and UN officials meet September 17 to discuss the logistical arrangements for the return of inspectors and announce that final arrangements will be made at a meeting scheduled for the end of the month. The United States contends that there is nothing to talk about and warns that the Iraqis are simply stalling. The Bush administration continues to press the Security Council to approve a new UN resolution calling for Iraq to give weapons inspectors unfettered access and authorizing the use of force if Iraq does not comply.

An Assessment of UN Accomplishments in Iraq


Biological Weapons

Iraqi Claims

  • Baghdad initially stated in April 1991 that it did not have biological weapons (BW) or related items. Over the next four years, Iraq held that its germ warfare research had been for defensive purposes only, not for an offensive capability.
  • On July 1, 1995, Iraq admitted for the first time that it had had an offensive biological weapons program, but it denied ever producing germ weapons.
  • After the August 1995 defection of Hussein Kamel, who directed Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, Iraq acknowledged for the first time that it had weaponized biological agents.
  • Iraqi officials gave conflicting accounts on how many and what types of biological weapons the country actually produced, although they say no more than 25 Al-Hussein missile warheads and 157
    R-400 aerial bombs were filled with biological agents.
UNSCOM Accomplishments
  • UNSCOM supervised destruction of Iraq’s key biological weapons production facility at Al-Hakam and destroyed some 60 pieces of equipment from three other facilities.
  • UNSCOM destroyed some 22 tonnes of growth media for biological weapons.
UNSCOM Findings and Assessments
  • UNSCOM reported that it could not confirm the number of biological weapons Iraq produced, but the inspectors asserted that evidence suggested that more than 200 R-400 aerial bombs had been available for germ weapons.
  • UNSCOM estimated that Iraq had understated its imports of growth media by at least 600 kilograms. UNSCOM assessed that at a total of at least 2,160 kilograms of key growth-media types had not been accounted for.
  • Iraq claimed to have produced four drop-tank weapons to be used with aircraft to deliver biological agents, but UNSCOM only accounted for three and no evidence was offered that only four had been manufactured.
  • UNSCOM could not account for 12 helicopter-borne aerosol generators that Iraq claimed to have made and then unilaterally destroyed.
  • Few documents related to the biological weapons program were recovered by UNSCOM, and noticeably absent were any documents on planning and production.
  • UNSCOM contended that the amount of biological agents produced by Iraq could be “far greater than those declared.”
  • In a final January 1999 report, UNSCOM concluded it had “no confidence that all bulk agents have been destroyed; that no BW munitions or weapons remain in Iraq; and that a BW capability does not still exist in Iraq.”
  • UNSCOM further added, “[I]t needs to be recognised that Iraq possesses an industrial capability and knowledge base, through which biological warfare agents could be produced quickly and in volume, if the Government of Iraq decided to do so.”
Key Outstanding Issues
  • Citing the lack of documentation and Iraq’s past incomplete and inadequate declarations on its biological weapons program, UNSCOM identified the key outstanding issue as nothing less than obtaining a full understanding of the scope of Iraq’s germ warfare efforts. This would require Iraq submitting a complete disclosure of its program and then having it verified by outside experts.
What the United States and the United Kingdom Charge
  • Both countries charge that Iraq has an active biological weapons program, citing its continued production of biological warfare agents, efforts to refurbish previous biological production sites, and attempts to procure dual-use equipment and materials that could be used in a weapons program.
  • In his September 12 speech to the UN General Assembly, President George W. Bush said, “Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.”
  • In a September 12 White House report, the administration further charged that Iraq is trying to get mobile biological weapons laboratories, and a September 24 report by the British government asserts that “recent intelligence confirms that the Iraqi military have developed mobile facilities.”
  • CIA Director George Tenet has said that Iraq possesses “an active and capable” biological weapons program.
  • A January 2002 CIA report also noted that Iraq is continuing work on its L-29 unmanned aerial vehicle program, which Baghdad is believed to have modified for delivery of chemical or biological agents.
  • The September British report described Iraq as having a “useable” biological weapons capability that could be deployed within 45 minutes.


Chemical Weapons

Iraqi Claims

  • Following the Persian Gulf War, Baghdad initially declared it had 11,131 chemical weapons and warheads and 1,005 tonnes of stockpiled sarin, tabun, and mustard agents.
  • Iraq initially reported that there were 553 pieces of chemical weapons production equipment located at its 15 chemical weapons facilities.
  • Iraq claimed it had never successfully produced or weaponized the nerve agent VX.
UNSCOM Accomplishments
  • UNSCOM destroyed more than 38,000 filled and unfilled chemical munitions.
  • UNSCOM also oversaw the destruction of 690 tonnes of chemical warfare agents, more than 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals, and roughly 600 pieces of production equipment.
  • With varying degrees of confidence, UNSCOM further certified that another 34,000 special munitions and 823 tonnes of key precursors had been destroyed during the Gulf War and that Iraq had unilaterally destroyed another 13,660 special munitions and about 200 additional tonnes of key precursors after the war. UNSCOM also verified that more than 600 additional pieces of production and analytical instruments were no longer operational.
  • Inspectors also succeeded in uncovering Iraq’s VX program, which Baghdad had tried to conceal, as well as additional chemical weapons research and development projects on which Iraq had not volunteered information.
  • UNSCOM supervised the dismantlement of Iraq’s top chemical weapons complex, the al-Muthanna State Establishment, and put other sites under monitoring.
UNSCOM Findings and Assessments
  • UNSCOM admitted it could not verify that Iraq’s declarations about its total past procurement and production of chemical precursors and agents were true because of a lack of documentation and information on these activities from both Iraq and its foreign suppliers.
  • UNSCOM could not verify Iraq’s claim that it had unilaterally destroyed some 16,000 unfilled munitions.
  • Through its inspections process, UNSCOM believed it had developed a “good understanding of the extent” of Iraq’s chemical weapons projects that moved beyond the research and development stage and into production, but it admitted it did not have as clear of a picture on other, less advanced research and development programs.
  • UNSCOM also noted it had little information on actual Iraqi military plans, deployment, and use of its chemical weapons, making it difficult to say with certainty what types of and how many chemical weapons Iraq still had.
  • Inspectors also had little success in obtaining production manuals for precursors and weapons.
  • UNSCOM cautioned that the material balances it had developed with regard to Iraq’s chemical weapons program were based on Iraqi declarations, which could not be fully verified.
Key Outstanding Issues
  • Iraqi officials confiscated a document from inspectors that indicated Iraq had used 6,000 fewer chemical munitions than it had previously stated. UNSCOM identified the handover of this document, as well as an explanation for the discrepancy, as essential for determining the accuracy and validity of Iraq’s initial declarations on its chemical weapons.
  • Iraq claimed it lost 550 shells filled with mustard gas, but no evidence was found of these weapons.
  • About 500 R-400 aerial bombs, including 157 filled with biological agents, have not been accounted for.
  • Samples of warhead remnants left over from unilateral Iraqi destruction activities suggest that Iraq, despite its claims to the contrary, may have weaponized VX. Iraq admits to producing 3.9 tonnes of VX, but it has not accounted for its alleged unilateral destruction of 1.5 tonnes. UNSCOM declared Iraq must provide evidence to support its claims.
  • Iraq has not provided enough evidence to give UNSCOM confidence that all chemical weapons production equipment has been accounted for, particularly since Iraq successfully hid nearly 200 pieces of equipment for five years before UNSCOM discovered them.
What the United States and the United Kingdom Charge
  • President Bush charged in his September 12 UN speech that Iraq is “rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.”
  • The White House added in its September 12 report that Iraq is “seeking to purchase chemical weapons agent precursors and applicable production equipment, and is making an effort to hide activities at the Fallujah plant, which was one of Iraq’s chemical weapons production facilities before the Gulf War.”
  • The White House further claims that Iraq’s current production capacity for chlorine is in excess of civilian needs and that some chlorine imports are going toward military purposes.
  • In its September 24 report, the United Kingdom said its intelligence community believes that Iraq “retained some chemical warfare agents, precursors, production equipment and weapons from before the Gulf War. These stocks would enable Iraq to produce significant quantities of mustard gas within weeks and of nerve agent within months.”
  • London also said Iraq has built new chemical facilities that are “probably fully operational or ready for production.”
  • As with its biological weapons capability, Iraq also has “useable” chemical weapons that could be readied for use in 45 minutes, according to the British report.

Nuclear Weapons

Iraqi Claims

  • In its initial 1991 declaration, Iraq claimed that it had no nuclear weapons and no nuclear-weapon-usable material.
IAEA Accomplishments
  • Despite Iraqi concealment efforts, weapons inspectors developed what they claimed was a “technically coherent picture” of Iraq’s entire nuclear weapons program.
  • By February 1994, the IAEA finished a complete accounting of and removal of all weapon-usable nuclear material from Iraq, including the nearly 50 kilograms of highly enriched uranium that the IAEA reported Iraq had imported from France and the former Soviet Union.
  • The IAEA supervised or verified the destruction of all known facilities and specialized equipment used in Iraq’s nuclear weapons program.
IAEA Findings and Assessments
  • In a February 1999 report after leaving Iraq in December 1998, the IAEA declared that no evidence suggested Iraq had succeeded in producing nuclear weapons.
  • The same report concluded that IAEA activities “have revealed no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material, or that Iraq has retained any practical capability (facilities or hardware) for the production of such material.”
  • At the same time, the IAEA cautioned, “[A] statement by the IAEA that it has found ‘no indication’ of prohibited equipment, materials or activities in Iraq is not the same as a statement of their ‘non-existence.’”
  • The IAEA further noted it could not give absolute assurances that Iraq’s revised declarations about the past extent and state of its nuclear weapons effort were accurate.
Key Outstanding Issues
  • Iraq has failed to provide key technical documents, such as nuclear-weapon and gas-centrifuge design drawings.
  • Iraq has not provided the name or location of a foreign individual who allegedly offered to assist Iraq’s nuclear weapons program.
  • No evidence or documentation has been submitted by Baghdad to prove it abandoned its nuclear weapons program.
What the United States and the United Kingdom Charge
  • In his September 12 speech to the UN General Assembly, President Bush detailed a host of concerns about the status of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program, including that Baghdad retains the physical infrastructure as well as the personnel to build nuclear weapons. Bush said that Iraqi media has reported on “numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.”
  • Bush asserted that if Iraq succeeded in acquiring fissile material, the essential element for a working nuclear weapon, it could build a nuclear weapon “within a year.” The United Kingdom offered a slightly longer estimate of between one and two years.
  • If Iraq was unable to acquire fissile material from abroad but was able to subvert sanctions successfully, London projected that it would take Iraq at least five years to produce enough fissile material to make a nuclear weapon indigenously.
  • In its September 12 report, the White House declares, “Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.” As evidence, the Bush administration cites Iraq’s attempts to purchase thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which some US officials contend were going to be used in centrifuges to enrich uranium.
  • The United Kingdom further charged in its September 24 report that Iraq has sought to get “significant quantities” of uranium from Africa.
  • In addition to trying to procure technologies and materials that could be used in a nuclear weapons program, Iraq is “almost certainly seeking an indigenous ability to enrich uranium to the level needed for a nuclear weapon,” according to British intelligence.

Ballistic Missiles With a Range of 150 Kilometers
Or More

Iraqi Claims

  • Iraq initially declared that it possessed only 52 ballistic missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometers remaining after the Gulf War.
  • Iraq did not admit to having any forbidden indigenous missile programs.
UNSCOM Accomplishments
  • UNSCOM supervised or accounted for the destruction of 817 out of 819 proscribed ballistic missiles imported by Iraq before the start of its ordered disarmament.
  • All of Iraq’s 15 declared operational mobile missile launchers were destroyed or verified as destroyed by weapons inspectors.
  • A total of 56 fixed launch sites, including those under construction, were dismantled or certified as no longer operable by UNSCOM.
  • UNSCOM supervised the destruction of 50 missile warheads, including 30 chemical ones.
  • UNSCOM oversaw the destruction of 20 tonnes of main missile fuel and 52 tonnes of oxidizer.
  • UNSCOM further destroyed various facilities, equipment, materials, and components associated with Iraq’s indigenous efforts to produce two different types of ballistic missiles, named Al-Hussein and BADR-2000, and two different “superguns” designed to launch rocket-assisted projectiles more than 150 kilometers.
UNSCOM Findings and Assessments
  • Baghdad initially attempted to mislead UNSCOM substantially about its ballistic missile programs. Iraq decided to keep secret two-thirds of its operational missile inventory and to conceal its capabilities to produce outlawed missiles.
  • Iraq continued to work on its proscribed programs and even initiated new projects while inspectors were in the country. Most notably, Iraq attempted to import missile gyroscopes.
  • Iraq did not provide any information on how many surface-to-air missiles it converted to surface-to-surface missiles, even though UNSCOM destroyed nine such missiles.
  • Iraq did not turn over any records or documents on its missile warhead purchases or production and it has offered conflicting statements about its numbers of chemical and biological missile warheads.
  • Despite evidence that Baghdad ordered missile factories in 1988 to plan for the production of 1,000 Al Hussein missiles, it contended that not a single missile had been produced by January 1991.
  • UNSCOM asserted in its final assessment of January 1999 that it could not verify that Iraq had unilaterally destroyed all of the components and capabilities it had claimed to.
Key Outstanding Issues
  • The actual number of missile warheads produced for carrying chemical and biological agents has not been determined. Iraq claimed that none of the warheads it destroyed unilaterally had been filled with chemical agents, but sampling of the warhead remnants suggest otherwise, casting doubt on Iraq’s statements about how many “special” warheads it produced.
  • Iraq needs to provide evidence on where it hid special warheads before destroying them.
  • Iraq has not accounted for 50 conventional warheads it claimed to have unilaterally destroyed.
  • Baghdad has not supported its claim to have unilaterally destroyed more than 500 tonnes of liquid missile propellants.
  • No evidence has been provided by Iraq to verify that seven indigenously produced missiles were destroyed. It is also unclear how many more missiles Iraq made domestically.
  • Iraq has not accounted for its reported unilateral destruction of key components for indigenously produced ballistic missiles.
What the United States and the United Kingdom Charge
  • President Bush charged in his September 12 speech to the UN General Assembly that Iraq possesses a “force” of missiles capable of striking targets 150 kilometers away and that it is “building more long-range missiles [so] that it can inflict mass death throughout the region.”
  • The White House’s September 12 report on Iraq’s prohibited capabilities further contended that Iraq is enhancing a missile engine test site for use in testing proscribed missile engines and rebuilding a facility previously used to build motors for one of Iraq’s indigenous ballistic missile efforts.
  • The United Kingdom claimed in its September 24 report that Iraq is working illegally to extend the range of its ballistic missiles to over 1,000 kilometers, an effort at which London believes Iraq could succeed within five years even if sanctions remained in force and were effective.
  • Iraq is also illicitly seeking to buy chemical propellants for its ballistic missiles abroad, according to the British report.
  • London asserts Iraq has rebuilt “much” of its missile production infrastructure.
  • The United Kingdom further believes that Iraq retained up to 20 proscribed Al-Hussein missiles.