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Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University
June 1, 2018
Inspectors' Accomplishments in Iraq, 2002-2003
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Hans Blix, executive chairman of the United Nations Monitoring,Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), sent the commission’s 13th quarterly report to the UN Security Council on May 30. Information from the report has been used to update and augment a summary of inspectors’ accomplishments in Iraq that appeared in the April 2003 issue of Arms Control Today.

The Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein continually stated that it had destroyed all of its prohibited weapons. However, Iraq’s UN-required declarations about its weapons programs never provided an adequate accounting of Baghdad’s weapons programs or proof that the weapons had been eliminated.

The May 30 report stated that inspections “contributed to a better understanding of previous weapons programmes,” but “the long list of…unresolved disarmament issues was not shortened either by the inspections or by Iraqi declarations and documentation.” The report added that, while Iraq “devoted much effort to providing explanations and proposing methods of inquiry” into outstanding disarmament issues, “little progress was made.”

UN weapons inspectors began their work in Iraq November 27 and left March 18. Iraq submitted a declaration containing information about its weapons of mass destruction December 7, as required by UN Security Council Resolution 1441. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducted 237 inspections at 148 sites, including 27 sites not previously inspected. UNMOVIC inspectors conducted 731 inspections at 411 sites, including 88 sites not previously inspected. Of those inspections, 22 percent were related to chemical weapons, 28 percent to biological weapons, and 30 percent to missiles. The remaining 20 percent were multidisciplinary inspections, involving experts from each disarmament area.

UNMOVIC carried out a total of eight aerial surveillance and monitoring missions by helicopter and 16 reconnaissance missions using U-2 and Mirage aircraft between mid-February and mid-March 2003.

Inspectors also conducted 14 private interviews with Iraqi scientists, out of 54 that they had requested, between January and March 2003. Iraq provided 31 lists of Iraqi scientists to UNMOVIC, five of which contained the names of experts involved in the handling and destruction of prohibited weapons materials. Some of these scientists were involved in destroying anthrax—one of the most important outstanding disarmament issues—but inspectors were withdrawn before those scientists could be interviewed. UNMOVIC considered such interviews to be a critical source of information, especially when, as Iraq claimed, documentation did not exist to support Baghdad’s assertion that it had destroyed its prohibited weapons.

The IAEA found no evidence that Iraq was pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Based on information in the May 30 report and previously issued documents, UNMOVIC inspectors:

  • Supervised the destruction of 72 prohibited al Samoud-2 missiles and dozens of associated warheads. The May 30 report said Iraq destroyed 74 warheads and that 25 missiles and 38 warheads remained to be destroyed, but those numbers differ from previous UN statements.
  • Supervised the destruction of three al Samoud-2 missile launchers but said six remained to be destroyed.
  • Supervised the destruction of two casting chambers capable of producing motors for prohibited missiles.
  • Discovered 231 illegal Volga missile engines. Iraq had declared that it had imported only 131 such engines, but the report places the total number at 380.
  • Supervised the destruction of five engines—presumably Volga engines—for al Samoud-2 missiles. The May 30 report, however, stated that 326 remained to be destroyed and did not explain the apparent discrepancy between the number of engines imported and those slated for destruction.
  • Discovered 14 empty 122-millimeter rocket warheads that could be used to deliver chemical weapons. Iraq notified UNMOVIC that it had discovered another four warheads.
  • Supervised the destruction of 14 155-millimeter shells containing mustard gas that had been found by the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) in 1997 at a declared location. UNSCOM had emptied four of the shells but not destroyed them.
  • Discovered a component of a cluster sub-munition designed to deliver chemical or biological weapons.
  • Discovered fuel spray tanks modified for possible use in delivering chemical or biological agents.
  • Found and destroyed a small quantity of a precursor chemical for the production of mustard agent. The May 30 report stated the quantity was 500 milliliters, but a February UNMOVIC report placed the amount at one liter.
  • Verified Iraq’s declarations that it had reinstalled eight pieces of prohibited chemical equipment. UNMOVIC decided that Iraq should destroy the equipment, but the destruction was not carried out before UNMOVIC left the country.
  • Observed Iraqi efforts to recover physical evidence of 157 R-400 bombs, built for the delivery of biological agents, that Iraq claimed to have destroyed and apparently buried in 1991. According to the May 30 report, the excavations accounted for 104 bombs, which, combined with the 24 bombs excavated by UNSCOM at the same site, accounted for 128 munitions. The liquid contents of two bombs UNMOVIC excavated tested positive for anthrax.
  • Were unable to determine whether Iraq had pursued an unmanned aerial vehicle program to deliver chemical and biological weapons.
  • Discovered no mobile facilities for producing weapons.