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– Lisa Beyer
Bloomberg News
August 27, 2018
Contrasting Views on Iraq's WMD
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Paul Kerr

This material is adapted from the public version of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s WMD Capabilities; CIA Director George Tenet’s Feb. 5 speech at Georgetown University; March 2003 and December 2003 reports from the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission; a March report from the IAEA; congressional testimony from former Iraq Survey Group adviser David Kay; and a Feb. 13 interview Kay gave to the Associated Press.

The Intelligence Community: October 2002

Chemical
Iraq has begun renewed production of chemical warfare agents, probably including mustard, sarin, cyclosarin, and VX. Iraq probably has stocked a few hundred metric tons of chemical weapons agents.

Biological
All key aspects of Iraq’s offensive biological weapons program are active and most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Persian Gulf War.

Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating biological weapons agents and is capable of quickly producing and weaponizing a variety of such agents, including anthrax.

Baghdad has established a large-scale, redundant, and concealed biological weapons agent production capability, which includes mobile facilities.

Nuclear
Most analysts assess Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. If Baghdad acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material from abroad, it could make a nuclear weapon within a year. Without such material from abroad, Iraq probably would not be able to make a weapon until the last half of the decade.

Iraq’s aggressive attempts to obtain proscribed high-strength aluminum tubes are of significant concern. All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a gas centrifuge enrichment program. Such programs can produce fissile material for use in nuclear weapons. Most intelligence specialists assess this to be the intended use, but some believe that these tubes are probably intended for conventional weapons programs.

Delivery Systems
Iraq maintains a small missile force and several development programs, including for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that is probably intended to deliver biological warfare agents.

Gaps in Iraqi accounting to UN inspectors during the 1990s suggest that Saddam retains a covert force of up to a few dozen SCUD-variant Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs) with ranges of 650 to 900 km.

Iraq is deploying its new al-Samoud and Ababil-100 SRBMs, capable of flying beyond the UN-authorized 150-km range limit.

Iraq is developing medium-range ballistic missile capabilities.

UN Inspectors: March 2003

Chemical
Inspectors found no proscribed activities, or the result of such activities.

Biological
Inspectors found no proscribed activities, or the result of such activities. UN inspectors discovered no mobile facilities for producing weapons.

Nuclear
UN inspectors found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.They found no indication of resumed nuclear activities in new or reconstructed Iraqi buildings, or any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites. The UN found no indication that Iraq attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment.

Delivery Systems
UN weapons inspectors ordered Iraq to destroy its al Samoud missiles because their design was inherently capable of ranges greater than UN-permitted ranges. Baghdad was in the process of doing so when the invasion began. There was no evidence that Iraq was actually modifying the missiles to achieve a prohibited range. UN inspectors had not yet decided if the al-Fatah missiles, the most recent version of the Ababil, exceeded permitted ranges and they were still investigating Iraq’s UAV program as of the March 2003 invasion.

Postwar Inspections: February 2004

Chemical
Iraq did not have a large, ongoing chemical weapons program after 1991. Iraq’s large-scale capability was either reduced or destroyed by U.S. military actions during the 1990s, UN sanctions and inspections.

Biological
Iraq after 1996 focused on maintaining smaller, covert capabilities that could be activated quickly. Iraq concealed relevant equipment and materials from UN inspectors. Iraq had a prison laboratory complex that was possibly used in human testing of biological weapons agents. Additionally, Iraq had a clandestine network of laboratories and facilities. Iraqi scientists conducted some research that was possibly applicable to biological weapons.

The trailers discovered in spring 2003 were not intended for the production of biological weapons.

Nuclear
According to some Iraqi scientists and government officials, Iraq remained committed to acquiring nuclear weapons. Iraq began several small dual-use research initiatives in 2000, but there is no evidence that the research was applied to weapons production.

Iraq took some steps to preserve some technological capability from its previous nuclear weapons program. Several Iraqi scientists preserved documents and equipment from their pre-1991 research. There are indications that Iraq was interested, beginning in 2002, in reconstituting a centrifuge enrichment program. The use of the aluminum tubes is still undetermined, but experts agree that there was no centrifuge program.

Delivery Systems
Iraq was conducting R&D on several different projects designed to produce missiles with ranges exceeding the UN- permitted range. Iraq attempted to acquire technology from North Korea for surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 1,300 km and land-to-sea missiles with a range of 300 km. No such transfers actually occurred.

Unspecified sources have said Iraq ordered the development of ballistic missiles with ranges of at least 400 km and up to 1,000 km. It is unclear how far work on these had progressed. Iraq had two cruise missile programs.

However, Iraq halted engine development and testing on the second and disassembled the test stand in late 2002 before testing was complete. Iraq had several UAV programs. A prototype of one flew well beyond its permitted range during a 2002 test flight. Whether these vehicles were intended to deliver chemical or biological weapons is unknown.

CIA Director George Tenet: Feb. 5, 2004

Chemical
Saddam had the intent and capability to quickly convert civilian industry to chemical weapons production. Saddam had rebuilt a dual-use industry.

Biological
Iraq intended to develop biological weapons. Research and development (R&D) work was underway that would have permitted a rapid shift to agent production if seed stocks were available. The United States does not know if production took place. No biological weapons have been found.

Iraq after 1996 further compartmentalized its program and focused on maintaining smaller covert capabilities that could be activated quickly to surge the production of biological weapons agents.

There is no consensus within the intelligence community today over whether trailers discovered in Iraq in spring 2003 were for the production of biological weapons agents or hydrogen for the production of biological weapons agents or hydrogen.

Nuclear
Saddam Hussein did not have a nuclear weapon, but he still wanted one and Iraq intended to reconstitute a nuclear program at some point. There is no clear evidence that the dual-use items Iraq were attempting to acquire were for nuclear reconstitution.

Delivery Systems
U.S.-led inspectors have found an aggressive Iraqi missile program concealed from the international community. Iraq had plans for liquid propellant missiles with ranges of up to 1,000 kilometers.

Iraq had new work underway on prohibited solid propellant missiles. Iraq was in secret negotiations with North Korea to obtain some of its most dangerous missile technology.

The U.S.-led inspectors detected development of prohibited and undeclared UAVs, but the jury is still out on whether Iraq intended to use its newer, smaller UAV to deliver biological weapons.