Countries of Proliferation Concern

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chapter 4

Since the end of the cold war and the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threat no longer focuses solely on two superpowers but includes a host of nations, among them China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Libya, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and Syria. Figure 3.2 and Figure 3.1 (both in Chapter 3) show the countries actively involved in developing biological and chemical weapons. Although several countries including the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China reduced stockpiles from 1986 to 2002, significant stores of these weapons remain in these countries. North Korea's declaration of an active nuclear weapons program in late 2002 is an illustration of the gravity of this transnational threat.

Many nations are also working to develop missile systems capable of carrying nuclear weapons. (See Figure 4.1.) Figure 4.1 and Table 4.1 list the differing ranges of such missiles. In a June 2000 address to the Asia Society, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Robert J. Einhorn called the proliferation of WMD and their missile-delivery systems the gravest threat to world security.

This chapter provides an overview of the nuclear, chemical, biological and conventional weapons programs and capabilities of selected nations. It also presents a more detailed examination of the history of Iraq's weapons development, program, and capabilities as well as the events in Iraq that led to its invasion by the United States in March 2003.


One of the five nuclear weapons states of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), China has been developing WMD since 1955. It conducted its first nuclear test in 1964 and maintains a nuclear arsenal that consists of missiles and various other munitions. China's missile collection includes intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs),


Missiles, by range and country of possession, 2004
source: "Table 1. Missiles by Categories of Range," in Missile Survey: Ballistic and Cruise Missiles of Foreign Countries, Congressional Research Service, March 5, 2004, (accessed September 23,2004)
Intercontinental and/or submarine-launched ballistic missiles (>5,500 km)China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, North Korea (Taepo Dong 2 or Taepo Dong ICBM)
Intermediate-range ballistic missiles (3,000–5,500 km)India, Iran, possibly North Korea
Medium-range ballistic missiles (1,000–3,000 km)Israel, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran
Short-range ballistic missiles (70–1,000 km)Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Libya, Netherlands, North Korea, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Korea, Syria, Taiwan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Yemen.

submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and theater missiles, according to inventories compiled by the Arms Control Association (a nonpartisan organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies). The country is estimated to possess around four hundred nuclear warheads, and maintains missiles targeted at the United States and Taiwan. Currently, China and Russia are the only two potential U.S. adversaries with the capability of deploying missiles that can target and reach U.S. cities. China has, however, repeatedly pledged a "no first use" policy with its nuclear forces, meaning it would only use nuclear weapons to retaliate for an offensive nuclear attack.

Development of improved missile systems is a high priority for China. In December 2002 it successfully tested a DF-21 medium-range missile (1,800 kilometers or approximately 1,100 miles) with multiple warheads. Testing


of multiple warheads on the DF-31, a missile under development with a range of eight thousand kilometers (nearly five thousand miles), is expected.

China agreed to the NPT in 1992 and pledged not to export assembled ground-to-ground missiles (missiles originating from a land-based launcher and directed toward another land-based target) two years later. In 1996 it signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), stating at the time that former chemical weapons production facilities in China had the ability to produce warfare agents such as mustard and lewisite, but that all chemical weapons stockpiles had been destroyed. The U.S. government remains skeptical about the veracity of these claims. U.S. defense officials also question China's claim that it does not possess biological weapons agents, despite the fact that China signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1984.

According to China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, August 8, 2003), China has repeatedly ignored promises it has made about not selling WMD, particularly missile technology, to other countries. At the close of 2004, the Bush administration had imposed sanctions against Chinese companies on at least eight occasions for transfers related to ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, and cruise missiles to Pakistan and Iran. It is widely accepted among analysts, and documented in Arms Control Association (ACA) fact sheets, that China directly assisted Pakistan's short-range ballistic missile and medium-range ballistic missile programs with raw materials and technical expertise, and also provided short-range ballistic missiles to Iran and intermediate-range ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI is a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 by CNN founder Ted Turner and former Senator Sam Nunn that seeks to strengthen global security by reducing the risk of use and preventing the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons) reports that China has also entered into governmental nuclear cooperation agreements with about twenty countries. These agreements are exclusively limited to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and contain clauses that guarantee against the re-transfer of material or equipment by either country without prior consent by the other country and require adequate physical protection on all imported material and equipment in the territory of either country.


Although Egypt has historically been an ally of the United States in the Middle East, it remains on the American list of countries to monitor for WMD proliferation. In its Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 January through 30 June 2001 (Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2001), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) warned the U.S. Congress about Egypt's continued purchase of missiles and technology from North Korea and its ongoing acquisition of various weapon systems. Egypt began its nuclear program in the 1950s with assistance from, first, the Soviet Union and, later, the United States. It also produced its own Scud-B and Scud-C missiles, along with a host of rockets, to deliver WMD. Egypt agreed to the NPT in 1981 and has also called for the creation of a Middle Eastern nuclear weapon-free zone.

Egypt is one of the first countries to have trained its own military in chemical weapons defense, and it reportedly used mustard gas against northern Yemen during the mid-1960s. Its chemical weapons arsenal is believed to include mustard and phosgene, which are deliverable through missile warheads, rockets, mines, and artillery shells. Egypt's development of chemical weapons and its refusal to sign the CWC are considered a direct response to the development of an Israeli nuclear program. It has nevertheless officially pledged not to acquire and produce chemical warfare agents.

Information on Egypt's biological weapons program is limited. It signed the BTWC on April 10, 1972, and declares that it does not have biological weapons capabilities. On the other hand, Egypt has a strong technological base and the necessary resources for developing a significant biological weapons program, and its past efforts have been linked to developing biological agents such as plague and the encephalitis virus. According to the NTI, Israel has charged Egypt with conducting research to weaponize anthrax, plague bacteria, botulinum toxin, and Rift Valley fever virus. The Egyptian government vehemently denies these allegations.


India is one of the most recent entrants into the nuclear weapons arena. The NTI reports that India tested its first nuclear device in 1974 and performed five additional underground nuclear weapons tests in May 1998. India, one of a handful of states that refuses to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, has a strong nuclear power program, for which it receives assistance from a host of countries. It has developed ballistic missiles and advanced conventional weapons to serve as delivery modes for its nuclear warheads. Prithvi series missiles have ranges between 150 and 250 kilometers (ninety-three to 155 miles). The Danush is a naval version of the Prithvi with a range of 250 kilometers (155 miles). The Agni I is said to have a range of 700 to 750 kilometers (435–466 miles), while the Agni II is reported to have a range of 1,500 kilometers (932 miles). In September 2003 India announced plans to develop an Agni III missile with a range of three thousand kilometers (1,864 miles).

India ratified the CWC in 1996 and declared an existing stockpile of chemical weapons. Under terms of the CWC, it must destroy this weapons stockpile by 2007. There is little information on whether India has offensive biological weapons capabilities, although it possesses a strong civilian biotechnology infrastructure. India has been a signatory of the BTWC since 1974.


A threat to the United States since the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979, Iran is believed to have developed an active WMD program to counter the Israeli threat, as well as to discourage opponents and establish regional dominance in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea. Iran agreed to the NPT in 1970, but concerns remain that Iran is covertly developing a nuclear weapons capability under the guise of building and running nuclear power plants to generate electricity. The NTI reported that in late 2002 American intelligence established via satellite photographs that Iran was secretly building and operating two nuclear facilities—a uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water production plant near Arak. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which conducts inspections under the NPT, admitted that Iran had delayed IAEA inspections of those two plants. In February 2003 an IAEA delegation visited the plant at Natanz and IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei confirmed that the Natanz facility was enriching uranium, a key component in nuclear weapons development.

In the summer of 2004 concern about Iran's nuclear intentions renewed when it was learned that the country had resumed building centrifuges and restarted equipment used to make uranium hexaflouride gas, both of which are necessary to build nuclear weapons. Iran had promised Britain, France, and Germany to suspend building centrifuges to demonstrate its intent to cooperate with the IAEA. In April 2004 Iran resolved to cooperate fully with the IAEA, claiming that it had suspended enrichment programs and agreeing to an IAEA inspection. A June 2004 IAEA resolution rebuked Iran for failing to be forthcoming about its nuclear program. The United States had been pushing the IAEA to bring its concerns before the UN Security Council. A war of words ensued, with Israeli officials threatening a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear sites, and Iran announcing that any preemptive strike would be met with an attack on Israeli nuclear plants. Figure 4.2 shows where Iran's nuclear facilities are located.

In August 2004, amid escalating tension over its nuclear program, Iran announced that it had carried out a field test of its new Shahab-3 missile, with an estimated range of eight hundred miles. The missile is capable of hitting targets in Israel and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf region. With North Korea's aid, Iran has been developing missiles for many years. Based on old Russian designs, and updated by both North Korea and Iran, the missiles already developed and stockpiled are capable of reaching at least five hundred kilometers (311 miles), with the potential to go up to four thousand kilometers (2,485 miles). (See Figure 4.3.)

Iran is one of the few countries that has had chemical weapons used against it (by Iraq, in the 1980–88 war). The United States claims that Iran has been working on developing a chemical weapons program since the war with Iraq. According to the NTI, Iran's chemical weapon arsenal may include sarin, mustard, phosgene, and hydrocyanic acid. According to U.S. government estimates, Iran has the capacity to produce 1,000 metric tons of chemical agents per year and may have a stockpile of at least several thousand metric tons of weaponized and bulk chemical agents. Iran ratified the CWC in 1997 and strongly denies the existence of a chemical weapons program. In 2003 the CIA reported (Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 January through 30 June 2003, Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, November, 2003) that Iran was actively pursuing contacts with Chinese companies to acquire the technology and expertise to produce its own nerve agents. Iran also ratified the BTWC (in 1973) but is believed to retain the resources and expertise to conduct an offensive biological weapons program. The United States asserts that Iran may have produced small quantities of biological weapons including mycotoxins, ricin, and the smallpox virus.


Israel has the most sophisticated conventional and nuclear weapons program in the Middle East, largely because it has received considerable financial assistance from the West. Nevertheless, Israel has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and has chosen to pursue a nuclear option because it does not believe that the United States would effectively protect it in the case of a first-strike WMD attack from its immediate neighbors. Even though Israel considers the United States a strong ally, it is firmly independent and believes that it can rely only on itself for protection. Israel's geographic location makes it vulnerable to attacks by Arab neighbors. Israel has not overtly declared its nuclear capability, but there is little disagreement among experts that Israel has a well-developed nuclear program, based outside the town of Dimona. In the late 1990s, U.S. intelligence estimated that Israel could possess as many as seventy-five to 130 nuclear weapons. Estimates from other observers ranged as high as four hundred. (See Figure 4.4.) In July 2004 IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei visited Israel; however, Israeli officials contend that they will not consider disarmament until a comprehensive Middle Eastern peace is obtained, and they will not permit IAEA inspection of the Dimona nuclear complex.

Little has been published about Israel's biological and chemical weapons capabilities. However, Israel has not signed the BWC, and the NTI reports that neighboring states allege that Israel has an active biological weapons program. According to the Federation of American Scientists, Israel's offensive biological and chemical warfare program is located at Ness-Ziona. Although Israel signed the CWC, as of 2004 it had not ratified the convention. Several reports published by scientists working at the Department of Pharmacology in the Israel Institute for Biological Research at Ness-Ziona described nerve agents, and in 1992 a plane crashed en route to Ness-Ziona



that contained fifty gallons of a chemical precursor of a sarin nerve agent.


For many years Libya was motivated to engage in aggressive pursuit of WMD in response to Israel's nuclear program and the nation's desire to assume a more prominent role in regional politics. Libya used chemical weapons in the 1987 conflict in Chad, and stockpiled nuclear weapons technology for many years. Once considered a serious danger to the Middle East because of its support of terrorist organizations and pursuit of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, Libya took a dramatic turn in 2003. Following the fall of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime, Libya began to quietly negotiate with the United States and Britain to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons in exchange for normalized relations with the West. By December it had agreed to end all of its WMD programs and allow international inspectors into the country. As part of the agreement, Libya also agreed to eliminate ballistic missiles with a range over three hundred kilometers (186 miles), abide by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guidelines, and sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

According to Disarming Libya: Weapons of Mass Destruction (Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, April 22, 2004), Libya's development of nuclear weapons was farther along than the United States or Britain had believed. Libya possessed a large number of centrifuges required to enrich uranium for weapons use as well as weapons design information. "The design closely resembles a 1960s vintage Chinese nuclear warhead," the report stated. In January 2004 it was revealed that both Libya and Iran had received nuclear development assistance from Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan's leading nuclear scientist. Destruction or removal of Libya's WMD capabilities began in January 2004 with the removal of 55,000 pounds of documents and components to the United States. In March 2004 more than a thousand tons of missile and centrifuge parts, missile launchers, and related equipment were shipped out.


North Korea poses a serious threat to the peace of Asia. An isolated nation with a large military, it has a


North Korea's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and missile programs, January 2001
IAEA = International Atomic Energy Agency
CTBT = Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
CWC = Chemical Weapons Convention
SRBM = Short Range Ballistic Missile (Range: 1000 kilometers or less)
MRBM = Medium Range Ballistic Missile
ICBM = Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (Range: greater than 5,500 kilometers)
MTCR = Military Technology Control Regime
NPT = Nonproliferation Treaty
NBC = Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical
source: "North Korea: NBC Weapons and Missile Programs," in Proliferation: Threat and Response, U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, January 2001, (accessed September 23, 2004)
NuclearPlutonium production at Yongbyon and Taechon facilities frozen by the 1994 Agreed Framework; freeze verified by IAEA.
Believed to have produced and diverted sufficient plutonium prior to 1992 for at leastone nuclear weapon.
Concerns remain over possible covert nuclear weapons effort.
Ratified the NPT; later declared it has a special status. This status is not recognized by the United States or the United Nations. Has not signed the CTBT.
BiologicalPursued biological warfare capabilities since 1960s.
Possesses infrastructure that can be used to produce biological warfare agents; may have biological weapons available for use.
Acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.
ChemicalBelieved to possess large stockpile of chemical precursors and chemical warfare agents.
Probably would employ chemical agents against U.S. and allied forces under certain scenarios.
Has not signed the CWC.
Ballistic missileProduces and capable of using SCUD B and SCUD C SRBMs, and No Dong MRBM.
Successfully launched variant of Taepo Dong 1 MRBM in failed attempt to orbit satellite. (August 1998)
Developing Taepo Dong 2 ICBM-range missile; agreed to flight test moratorium on long-range missiles in September 1999; reaffirmed in June 2000.
Remains capable of conducting test.
Not a member of the MTCR.
Other means of delivery availableLand- and sea-launched anti-ship cruise missiles; none have NBC warheads.
Aircraft: fighters, bombers, helicopters.
Ground systems: artillery, rocket launchers, mortars, sprayers.
Special Operations Forces.

highly developed nuclear weapons program and has constructed missiles capable of hitting targets in neighboring countries, including the United States. Table 4.2 demonstrates North Korea's pursuit of various NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) weapons and missile programs. North Korean nuclear research harks back to the 1960s, when the country established a research reactor with the help of the Soviet Union. It signed the NPT in 1985, but there were discrepancies between its nuclear declarations and the results of IAEA inspections. North Korea agreed to halt its nuclear program in 1994 when it entered into an agreement with the United States, which pledged to help it develop civilian nuclear energy. North Korea nullified this agreement in 2002, when it revealed its uranium-enrichment program for nuclear weapons.

Although North Korea's deputy foreign minister admitted to a U.S. official that his country did, in fact, possess a nuclear weapon, the question has still not been answered officially. The U.S. National Intelligence Council estimated in December 2001 that North Korea had already produced one, possibly two, nuclear weapons. In January 2003 North Korea announced its intention to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In June 2003 it openly announced its intention to build a nuclear deterrent force. Since late 2003 North Korea has engaged in talks with the United States, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea in an effort to end its nuclear weapons program. However, by the close of 2004 no progress had been made despite U.S. insistence on dismantling the North Korean nuclear program before addressing its economic and security concerns.

North Korea also has a full-scale missile program. It successfully developed a series of Scud missiles and flight-tested an ICBM in 1998. Figure 4.5 and Figure 4.6 show the ranges of North Korea's existing short- and mediumrange missiles, as well as the potential range of long-range missiles it is developing. In 2004 Jane's Defense Weekly reported that North Korea was deploying a new land-based ballistic missile with a range of 2,500–4,000 kilometers (1,553–2,485 miles) and a sea-based missile with a range of at least 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles). Both missiles can carry nuclear weapons and are capable of striking the United States. North Korea's stockpile of approximately six hundred ballistic missiles reportedly includes about a hundred medium-range No-Dong missiles. These missiles could reach an estimated 1,300 kilometers (808 miles).

North Korea has refused to sign the CWC and is believed to maintain a significant chemical weapons capability. The NTI reports that North Korea has twelve chemical weapons facilities—where raw chemicals, precursors, and actual agents are produced—and six major storage depots. Its stockpile of chemical weapons is said to include sarin, phosgene, and mustard, as well as several types of delivery munitions. The NTI estimates North Korea's chemical weapon production capacity as about 4,500 tons per year with the potential to triple in wartime.

North Korea signed the BTWC in 1987, but U.S. officials suspect that it is secretly developing biological weapons agents, including the bacterias that cause anthrax and plague.


Pakistan has pursued various NBC weapons and missile programs. In 1998 it became the world's seventh nuclear power. Pakistan officially developed its nuclear weapons program in response to a perceived threat from India. It received significant scientific and technical assistance from China and North Korea. As part of an aid package involving


some $3 billion over five years, Pakistan agreed in 2003 to cease nuclear proliferation and assist the United States in its war on terrorism. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the scientist who was instrumental in making Pakistan a nuclear power, was revealed in early 2004 to have been selling nuclear equipment and expertise to Iran and Libya. His black market operations extended worldwide and made him a wealthy man. Authorities in Pakistan declined to imprison Khan, who is considered a national hero, but he will be under virtual house arrest for the remainder of his life. Pakistan has a small number of ballistic missiles capable of reaching India, most of which are said to be reverse-engineered—copied from a functional device by breaking it down to its components—from Chinese and North Korean missiles. Among the short-range missiles in Pakistan's arsenal are the solid-fuel Hatf-2 and Hatf-3 and the Shaheen-1. Figure 4.7 shows the ranges for Pakistan's ballistic missiles.

Pakistan signed the CWC in 1993 and ratified it in 1997, but there is little information, if any, on declared chemical weapons agents. While its biotechnology infrastructure is not as developed as that of India, Pakistan has well-established laboratories capable of carrying out biological weapons research. It signed the BTWC in April 1972 and ratified it in 1974.


Syria hosts a nuclear research center that operates under IAEA safeguards at Dyr al-Jajar and has been a signatory


to the NPT since 1968. Like other countries in the region, Syria's primary impetus for acquiring WMD is to counter Israel's nuclear and much greater conventional military strength. Table 4.3 shows Syria's NBC weapons and missile programs. Its missile program can be traced back to the early 1970s. In the early years of the twenty-first century it possessed one of the largest collections of ballistic missiles in the Middle East, although the range of most of the missiles is estimated to be limited to five hundred kilometers (310 miles). The newer Scud D missile, first test-fired in September 2000, has an estimated range of seven hundred kilometers (441 miles). Over the years it has relied on the Soviet Union, Iran, and North Korea to help develop its missile program. Syria has several hundred Scud C,

Scud D, and SS-21 SRBM missiles. At least some of this arsenal is fitted with chemical-weapon warheads.

According to NTI reports, Syria is also believed to harbor an extensive collection of chemical weapons, including a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin. It allegedly received assistance from Egypt in the chemical weapons arena before the 1973 war against Israel. Syria is not a signatory to the CWC. The country did, however, sign the BTWC in 1972. There is no definitive evidence of a Syrian biological weapons program, but the country has an extensive biotechnology and pharmaceutical infrastructure that employs many dual-use items that could be diverted to a biological weapons program.


During the 1980s Iraq invested heavily in nuclear, biological, chemical, and missile programs in an effort to deter enemies and gain preeminence in the Persian Gulf. By the start of the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq had developed and refined plans for nuclear weapons. NTI reports speculate that in 1991 Iraq was just three years away from constructing a nuclear weapon. At the end of the Gulf War, the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) was mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 687 to assist the IAEA to verify and dismantle all of Iraq's non-nuclear WMD capabilities.


Syria's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and missile programs, January 2001
NPT = Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
BWC = Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
CWC = Chemical Weapons Convention
MTCR = Military Technology Control Regime
CTBT = Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
NBC = Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical
source: "Syria: NBC Weapons and Missile Programs," in Proliferation: Threat and Response, U.S.Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, January 2001, (accessed September 23, 2004)
NuclearIs not pursuing the development of nuclear weapons.
Ratified the NPT; has not signed the CTBT.
BiologicalPossesses adequate biotechnical infrastructure to support limited biological warfare program.
Believed to be pursuing biological agent development, but no major agent production effort likely is underway.
Signed but not ratified the BWC.
ChemicalPossesses and is capable of delivering nerve agents; may be developing more advanced VX nerve agent.
Making improvements to chemical infrastructure.
Has not signed the CWC.
Ballistic missilesMaintains and is capable of using force of SCUD B, SCUD C, and SS-21 missiles.
Producing SCUD Cs with North Korean assistance.
Making improvements to missile production infrastructure.
Not a member of the MTCR.
Other means of delivery availableLand- and sea-launched anti-ship cruise missiles; none have NBC warheads.
Aircraft: fighters, helicopters.
Ground systems: artillery, rockets.

In the seven years from 1991 to 1998, UNSCOM accounted for 817 of 819 ballistic missiles and uncovered and destroyed a vast undeclared WMD arsenal, including forty-eight Scud missiles, three thousand tons of precursor chemicals, 690 tons of chemical weapons agents, 38,537 munitions, and a biological weapons facility at al-Hakam.

Although it was established as a verification unit dealing with a sovereign state's most sensitive security matters, evidence that UNSCOM was being used by the CIA to gather military intelligence eventually led to its demise following the Desert Fox air strikes of December 1998. Desert Fox was a joint air attack by U.S. and British forces against Iraq's "nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors," as President Bill Clinton explained in a televised address to the nation on December 16, 1998.

On December 17, 1999, UN Security Council Resolution 1284 replaced UNSCOM with a newer verification unit called the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspections Commission (UNMOVIC), led by former IAEA director Hans Blix. Iraq did not accept the new inspectors, and demanded that sanctions against the country be lifted before inspections could resume. The United States refused to lift the sanctions until Iraq demonstrated its complete destruction of all WMD.

In 2002 the United States once again focused its attention on Iraq, a longstanding concern because of its consistent attempts to establish NBC and missile programs. (See Table 4.4.) In November 2002 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1441, which called for the return of UN inspectors to Iraq in order to determine if Iraq had renewed its secret WMD programs since 1998. That year members of the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) and the IAEA Action Team had been prohibited from entering Iraq and conducting regular monitoring and verification tasks.

Even as the inspectors were allowed to begin their new mission in late 2002, unanswered questions remained: During the four years that UN arms inspectors were not allowed into the country had Iraq resumed development of WMD capability or had Iraq more or less remained benign because of its economic plight, the result of extensive multilateral sanctions? The answers vary: Some observers contended that the ongoing sanctions had damaged the Iraqi people and the domestic economy, that UNSCOM had already uncovered all of Iraq's WMD capability, and that the UN should have lifted the embargo before any inspection teams were allowed in. Supporters of arms inspection, on the other hand, maintained that substantial Iraqi WMD capability still remained unaccounted for and that there needed to be further verification that Iraq had met all disarmament conditions before sanctions were eased.

Background: The Sources of U.S. Information on Iraqi WMD Capability

Iraq was extremely careful to conceal its WMD procurement activities, and had it not been for the defection and disclosures of two high-ranking Iraqi officials, Dr. Khidir Hamza (in 1994) and General Hussein Kamel (in 1995), much would still remain concealed.

Hamza obtained his training in the United States, receiving degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Florida State University, and began working for the Iraqi nuclear program in 1970. He eventually became the director of Iraq's nuclear weapons program, making him the highest-ranking scientist to defect.

General Hussein Kamel was in charge of the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization, the primary agency responsible for secretly developing Iraq's WMD, and was married to one of Saddam Hussein's daughters. In 1995 Kamel defected to Jordan, and panicked Iraqi officials, fearing Kamel's disclosures, hastily provided IAEA inspectors with more than 140 boxes of documents detailing matters related to the Iraqi nuclear program. Kamel left Jordan and returned to Iraq after Saddam Hussein promised him asylum. However, within days of


Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and missile programs, January 2001
IAEA = International Atomic Energy Agency
NPT = Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
CTBT = Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
UN = United Nations
BWC = Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
UNSCOM = United Nations Special Commission
CWC = Chemical Weapons Convention
SRBM = Short Range Ballistic Missile (Range: 1000 kilometers or less)
MTCR = Military Technology Control Regime
NBC = Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical
UAV = Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
source: "Iraq: NBC Weapons and Missile Programs," in Proliferation: Threat and Response, U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, January 2001, (accessed September 23, 2004)
NuclearHad comprehensive nuclear weapons development program prior to Operation Desert Storm. Infrastructure suffered considerable damage from Coalition bombing and IAEA dismantlement.
Retains scientists, engineers, and nuclear weapons design information; without fissile material, would need five or more years and significant foreign assistance to rebuild program and produce nuclear devices; less time would be needed if sufficient fissile material were acquired illicitly.
Ratified the NPT; has not signed the CTBT.
BiologicalProduced and weaponized significant quantities of biological warfare agents prior to Desert Storm.
Admitted biological warfare effort in 1995, after four years of denial;claimed to have destroyed all agents, but offered no credible proof.
May have begun program reconstitution in absence of UN inspections and monitoring.
Acceded to the BWC.
ChemicalRebuilt some of its chemical production infrastructure allegedly for commercial use.
UNSCOM discovered evidence of VX persistent nerve agent in missile warheads in 1998, despite Iraqi denials for seven years that it had not weaponized VX.
May have begun program reconstitution in absence of UN inspections and monitoring.
Has not signed the CWC.
Ballistic missilesProbably retains limited number of SCUD-variant missiles, launchers, and warheads capable of delivering biological and chemical agents. Retains significant missile production capability.
Continues work on liquid- and solid-propellant SRBMs kilometers) allowed by UNSCR 687; likely will use technical experience gained for future longer range missile development effort.
Not a member of the MTCR.
Other means of delivery availableLand-launched anti-ship cruise missiles; air-launched tactical missiles; none have NBC warheads; stockpile likely is very limited.
Air systems: fighters, helicopters, UAVs.
Ground systems: artillery, rockets.

returning, he was executed. Much of the information the United States obtained about possible Iraqi WMD programs came from these two men.

The Nuclear Weapons Program

Under the leadership of then vice-president Saddam Hussein, Iraq began developing a nuclear program in the early 1970s, concentrating its efforts on acquiring nuclear technology abroad. Because Iraq was a signatory to the NPT, it was legally prohibited from developing nuclear weapons, so its efforts had to occur secretly. As a result, Iraq had some trouble acquiring the materials it needed to develop a successful weapons program, particularly fissile materials. It bought the Tamuz-1 (or Osirak) 40-megawatt test reactor from France in 1975, which used weapons-grade uranium and could produce weapons-grade plutonium. However, in 1981, just before Osirak was ready to produce enough plutonium to test the IAEA safeguards, Israel destroyed it. By 1990 Iraq had begun a program to chemically process unirradiated and irradiated research reactor fuel to recover a significant quantity of highly enriched uranium for a low-yield nuclear device. However, the project did not come to fruition because the research center at Tuwaitha—the site of Iraq's covert fuel development activities—was destroyed in the January 1991 Desert Storm bombings.

There has been much debate as to how far along Iraq was in developing a nuclear weapon at the time of the Persian Gulf War. One thing is clear, though, from the documents obtained after General Kamel fled Iraq: The Iraqi nuclear program was plagued by bitter infighting, mismanagement, and a lack of infrastructure. At the same time, the documents made it clear that Iraq would go to any lengths to pursue nuclear technology. If Iraq had not invaded Kuwait and in turn been attacked by a UN coalition force led by the United States in the early 1990s, it is highly probable that it could have developed a small nuclear armory by the late 1990s.

The Chemical Weapons Program

Unlike its nuclear and biological programs, Iraq could not easily conceal its chemical weapons capability from the rest of the world because it had used such weapons in the past, against Iran and against Kurdish rebels during the Iran-Iraq war (1980–88). It first used riot-control agents during the early part of the war. By 1984 Iraq progressed to the use of mustard gas and tabun, and later still it added nerve agents such as sarin and cyclosarin. The infamous attack against the Kurdish town of Halabja remains one of the deadliest chemical weapons attacks on a civilian population. On March 16, 1988, Iraq used an amalgam of chemical weapons, including sarin, tabun, and VX, against the Iraqi Kurds seeking their independence, killing approximately five thousand civilians. According to the Federation of American Scientists, Iraqi use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war occurred in three distinct phases:

  1. 1983–86: Chemical weapons played a defensive role, deflecting Iranian human-wave assaults (volunteers seeking martyrdom deployed in masses before the Iranian troops). Around 5,500 Iranians were killed by tabun-filled aerial bombs, and approximately sixteen thousand were killed by the blister agent mustard gas.
  2. 1986–early 1988: Iraq used chemical weapons to disrupt offensive Iranian maneuvers.
  3. Early 1988–conclusion of war: Iraq integrated its nerve agent strikes into its overall offensive, which later that year led to a cease-fire.

Iraq started producing blister agents in 1981 and disclosed in 1995 that it had a stock of 2,850 tons of mustard gas. The nerve gases sarin and tabun were not produced until 1984, and the program itself faced several problems with stabilization and storage. In 1995 Iraq declared that it had produced more than 210 tons of tabun and 790 tons of sarin. However, it is believed that the quality of these agents was relatively poor. In addition, UNSCOM destroyed about thirty tons of tabun, thirty tons of sarin, and six hundred tons of mustard gas during 1992 and 1994.

Iraq also focused on developing the deadly nerve agent VX, importing about five hundred tons of precursor chemicals (chemicals used in the production of a CW agent) between 1987 and 1988. Iraq admitted to filling aerial bombs with VX, but the program itself was unsuccessful and was eventually abandoned in late 1988. Iraq was accused by the British of developing Agent-15, an incapacitating gas.

Because of the deceitful nature of many declarations Iraq submitted to the UN, the entire scope of Iraq's chemical weapons program was never fully determined. Based on information provided by Iraq, the program did not heavily rely on domestic resources—munitions for the program were procured from abroad through legal or illegal means. Through 1997 UNSCOM helped destroy approximately 38,000 filled and unfilled munitions. Citing UNSCOM reports, the Federation of American Scientists claimed, in the article "UNSCOM and Iraqi Chemical Weapons" posted on their Web site (, that the Iraqi chemical weapons program included the use of "binary artillery munitions and aerial bombs, chemical warheads for short-range missiles, cluster aerial bombs, and spray tanks." Dr. Hamza stated that Iraq was fully capable of rebuilding its chemical weapons facilities.

Western intelligence reports corroborated Dr. Hamza's statements, strongly indicating that Saddam Hussein was rebuilding and stockpiling Iraq's chemical weapons arsenal. Satellite images revealed that the Republican Guard (a unit within the Iraqi military) had shifted weapons, including tons of precursor chemicals for VX, to new hiding places, which included schools and hospitals. Evidence also suggested that Iraq was working on rebuilding chemical facilities that were destroyed during the bombings. Furthermore, the U.S. State Department asserted that Iraq had failed to account for 1.5 tons of VX, one thousand tons of mustard gas, and fifty-five munitions containing mustard gas during the UN inspections.

The Biological Weapons Program

The Iraqi biological warfare program, begun in 1974, was comprehensive and included a range of agents, such as botulinum toxin, anthrax, ricin, and others. Iraq legitimately acquired much of its seed stock from U.S. and European suppliers under the guise of laboratory research. The American Type Culture Collection in Rockville, Maryland, provided Iraq with most of its anthrax strains. Bacteria came from Bedford, England, as well as Fluka Chimie, a Swiss firm. The NTI reports that by 1990 the biological weapons program had produced twenty-five missile warheads and 166 aerial bombs filled with anthrax, botulinum toxin, or aflatoxin.

By 1997 UNSCOM determined that seventy-nine sites were providing active support to the Iraqi biological weapons infrastructure. The main facilities were located at al-Salman and al-Hakam. Al-Salman conducted experiments on the effects of agents and toxins on larger animals, such as sheep, monkeys, and dogs, in the laboratory and in the field. There were rumors that human subjects were used, but this has never been confirmed. Al-Hakam was initially overlooked because its plain and insecure appearance belied the activities that occurred in the facility. It took UN inspectors four years to discover that Al-Hakam was an integral part of the weapons program, where researchers carried out work on anthrax, botulinum toxin, and aflatoxin.

Iraq also had several medical, university, and veterinary facilities that conducted biological research and may have been involved in a covert biological weapons program. Iraq retained the laboratory equipment, know-how, and means for delivering agents after the Gulf War. Speculation about Iraqi capabilities and programs abounded. In 2000 the United Kingdom theorized that Iraq could resurrect its biological weapons program in a matter of months and that at its peak production, could have produced 350 liters of weapons-grade anthrax per week.


Although missiles are not direct constituents of WMD capability, they play a significant role in the delivery of these deadly weapons. UN Security Council Resolution 687 called for the destruction of all Iraqi long-range missiles, forbidding Iraq to have any missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometers (93 miles). Yet a 1999 intelligence report from the White House to Congress indicated that Iraq might have retained seven or more complete missile systems and their components. In 1995 Iraq was caught trying to smuggle gyroscopes (part of the missile's onboard guidance system) in from Russia to bolster its missile capabilities. The Center for Nonproliferation Studies concluded that Iraq still retained certain components of its missile systems and might have started work on al-Hussein and Scud missiles within a year after inspections stopped.

Operation Iraqi Freedom

By 2002 the administration of President George W. Bush had become concerned that Iraq was developing WMD and that it might supply such weapons to terrorist organizations. U.S. and other intelligence agencies believed that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons and was actively trying to develop nuclear weapons. President Bush called for stronger action to force Iraq to disarm and to allow the resumption of inspections.

Given its past history of deception and concealment, it was difficult to simply accept declarations of innocence from Iraq at face value. Its refusal to allow inspectors back into the country had also created significant doubt about the credibility of its claims. Compliance with UN inspection requirements would have likely resulted in a lifting of sanctions, but Iraq failed to do so consistently, despite the economic cost. Estimates are that Iraq lost over $120 billion because of the sanctions. Nevertheless, many argued that there was no solid evidence that Iraq was lying about having ended its WMD programs.

In October 2002 the U.S. Congress issued the Iraq Liberation Act (Public Law 105-338) authorizing the use of force against Iraq should it become necessary. In November 2002, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Security Council Resolution 1441, which found Iraq to be in violation of several earlier UN resolutions and demanded that Iraq allow inspections to resume.

Iraq agreed to the resolution, and later that month UNMOVIC inspectors entered the country for the first time in four years. Four months of inspections failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq had resumed its WMD programs, but the United States, the United Kingdom, and a number of other countries remained convinced that Iraq was a threat. On March 17, 2003, when the United States issued an ultimatum to Iraq, giving Saddam Hussein and his two sons forty-eight hours to leave the country peacefully, the UN inspectors were withdrawn. On March 20, 2003, the United States and its allies attacked.

The invasion of Iraq met with light military resistance and took only a few weeks to secure the capital city of Baghdad. In July 2003 Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed in a gun battle with allied forces in the city of Mosul. Saddam Hussein was captured in December 2003 and is slated to stand trial in 2005. In June 2004 Iraqi sovereignty was handed over to a civilian interim government that scheduled democratic elections for 2005. A U.S.-led weapons inspection effort, the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), began searching Iraq for WMD beginning shortly after the invasion. Their final report, Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD (Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, September 2004), concluded that there were no WMD in Iraq.


The decision to invade Iraq was based on four assumptions:

  1. Saddam Hussein's regime was on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons and had already amassed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.
  2. Hussein's regime purportedly had significant links with al Qaeda and may have been involved with the attacks of September 11, 2001.
  3. Following the fall of Hussein's regime, there would be celebration and rapid, peaceful democratization.
  4. The democratization of Iraq would catalyze similar transformations in the region and there would be a new willingness among Arab governments and people to make peace between Israel and a Palestinian state.

Although the first two assumptions were stated by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and repeated by other members of the Bush administration, both proved to be false. The fall of Saddam Hussein was well received by some Iraqis but angered others, and was followed by postwar chaos, violence, unemployment, and power shortages. At the end of 2004 it was too early to tell if the fourth assumption would prove true. Critics have suggested that the U.S. invasion of Iraq may actually hinder progress toward enduring peace in the Middle East.

The invasion purchased freedoms for the people of Iraq that they could not have had without Hussein's fall, but costs for both the United States and Iraq have been steep. Lawrence Lindsey, former head of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, projected a financial toll of about $200 billion by the end of fiscal year 2004. The loss of human lives has also exceeded expectations. By December 2004 there were more than 1,100 American military deaths and more than eight thousand wounded. Iraqi losses were much greater—according to a study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Columbia University School of Nursing, and Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad conducted in September 2004, more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed than would have been expected had the invasion not occurred. The American military was expected to remain in Iraq for an extended period to oversee the country's transition to stability. However, the new government's reign appeared tenuous. Weekly and sometimes daily terrorist actions, including car bombings and kidnappings, were taking place as of December 2004.

Even before the invasion, some political dobservers discounted the fear of Iraq's WMD and purported links to terrorists as the rationales for the U.S. invasion. They contend that the United States' prime motivation was to establish dominance over the main oil-producing region of the world—the Mideast. Mark Dunlea, chair of the New York State Green Party articulated this opinion in February 24, 2003 (, when he said, "Oil isn't the only motivation, but it's a major reason President Bush plans to launch an invasion of Iraq. While the White House and its apologists deny it regularly, the evidence is clear that the Bush Administration and American oil companies are trying to win control over the world's second largest source of oil." The failure to find any WMD in Iraq after the invasion strengthened such criticism.

Conversely, some observers persist in believing that Iraq may have had WMD capabilities. Although large stockpiles of weapons materials were never found, they observe that smaller items were found, including a centrifuge used in enriching uranium for use in nuclear weapons. The centrifuge was buried in the backyard of an Iraqi scientist, confirming how easy it is to hide the components of a weapons program. In August 2004 the ISG announced that before the invasion the Iraqi Intelligence Service had replaced guards at the Iraq-Syria border with their own agents to allow trucks to pass through unhindered. The cargo of these trucks was not known, but the ISG suspects that they may have been carrying WMD materials to Syria. In its final report, the ISG stated that Saddam Hussein wanted to re-create his country's WMD programs, especially chemical weapons and ballistic missiles, as soon as sanctions against Iraq could be ended.

It is unlikely that lingering doubts about Iraq's WMD capabilities will be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties; however, it is important to observe that to a significant extent, doubts and speculation prompted the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This observation underscores the vital role of intelligence in national security programs and also challenges governments to exercise caution when gathering, communicating, and confirming international intelligence.