Germ Gambits: The Bioweapons Dilemma, Iraq and Beyond

Germ Gambits: The Bioweapons Dilemma, Iraq and Beyond

Germ Gambits: The Bioweapons Dilemma, Iraq and Beyond

Germ Gambits: The Bioweapons Dilemma, Iraq and Beyond


Arms control and nonproliferation treaties are among the fingers in the dike preventing the unthinkable nuclear, biological, and chemical catastrophe. For decades the ability to ascertain whether states are hiding germ weapons programs has been nonexistent because the 1975 bioweapons ban has no inspection measures. Yet, in 1995 a small United Nations inspection corps pulled off a spectacular verification feat in the face of concerted resistance from Iraq's Saddam Hussein and popular skepticism that it was even possible to conduct effective biological inspections. Working from sketchy intelligence- and hampered by the Iraqis' extensive concealment and deception measures- the inspectors busted open Iraq's cover stories and wrested a confession of biowarfare agent production from Baghdad. This rigorously researched book tells that compelling story through the firsthand accounts of the inspectors who, with a combination of intrepidness, ingenuity, and a couple of lucky breaks, took the lid off Iraq's bioweapons program and pulled off an improbable victory for peace and international security. The book concludes by drawing lessons from this experience that should be applied to help arrest future bioweapons programs, by placing the Iraq bioweapons saga in the context of other manmade biological risks, and by making recommendations to reduce those risks.

While written as an engaging, analytical historical narrative that explains what the biological inspectors knew, when and how they knew it, and how they outmaneuvered the Iraqis, this book's real contributions are the inspectors' blueprint to "get it right" with regard to the verification challenges associated with the bioweapons ban, and the author's roadmap to address the overall biological threats facing the world today.


The decision in April 1991 by the United Nations (UN) Security Council that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction should be eliminated is an event in history with only one precedent, the decision under the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 that Germany, defeated in the First World War, should be fully disarmed. in the end the mission to disarm Germany failed, due to Germany’s systematic obstruction of the efforts by the Allied Control Commission, responsible for implementing the provisions of the Treaty.

The disarmament of Iraq was the major component of Security Council Resolution 687(1991), constituting the ceasefire in the 1991 war between Iraq and a coalition led by the United States in support of the liberation of Kuwait.

The Special Commission, unscom, set up by the Security Council to oversee the disarmament of Iraq was, like the Control Commission, faced with systematic obstructions. However, as we now have learned, unscom overcame a multitude of challenges. When it effectively ended its operations in Iraq in late 1998, unscom had thoroughly cleansed Iraq of its prohibited biological and chemical weapons, equipment, and installations, as well as its means of delivery, including relevant missiles. Also, nuclear weapons capabilities had been eliminated in cooperation between unscom and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Action Team, specially created for the purpose of taking care of Iraq’s nuclear capability.

The by far most difficult task for unscom, embodied in its mission, was to identify and eliminate Iraq’s clandestine biological weapons (BW) program.

This is the story of how this was done. Amy Smithson has approached her task of telling that story in a way that penetrates the complexities; clarifies the . . .

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