America's Struggle with Chemical-Biological Warfare

By Albert J. Mauroni | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 16
Iraq's CB Warfare Program

To understand the threat CENTCOM faced in 1990, one must travel back in time to examine how Iraq grew to become the fourth-largest army in the world. Its ambitions to become the lead nation in the Middle East began in the early 1960s and grew in scope and power during the oil-rich decade of the 1970s. The war against Iran was perhaps a poor decision, based on Iraq's overinflated estimation of its military strength (the best equipment money could buy) and an underestimation of Iran's ability to counter the Iraqi offensives in 1980-82. However, the Iran- Iraq War did allow Iraq to test and develop its ability to use chemical agents against a modern (if ill-trained and ill-disciplined) army, the first case of documented chemical warfare since the Yemeni civil war in 1968.

The Iran-Iraq War provided a wake-up call for arm control groups; although the conflict initiated much debate about chemical warfare, no real sanctions from the global community came through. More to the point, it has been hotly debated whether the war showed that chemical munitions contributed to the success of any battles, whether chemical warfare merely preserved Iraq's army from falling to Iranian counteroffensives, or whether it was just another facet of an ugly war that had no real impact at all.


LOOKING FOR WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction began shortly after the success of the Nasser-influenced, army-led coup against King Faisal II on July 14, 1958. The Baath party officially took control of the Iraqi parliament from the Iraqi Communist party in 1963, with deputy secretary-general Saddam Hussein. The armed forces became the major force in Iraqi politics. In the early 1960s, Iraq began sending its officers to the Soviet Union for formal training, which included chemical defense training and offensive employment tactics. Diplomatic relations with the United States had been broken off since the U.S. government backed Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Saddam Hussein had become the moving force

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