Iraq and the War of Sanctions: Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction

By Anthony H. Cordesman | Go to book overview

Chapter 11

The Scale of Iraq’s Programs and Competing Iranian and Israeli Efforts

The past may not always be a model of the future, but Iraq’s pre-Gulf War efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction were so massive that they serve as a powerful demonstration of Iraq’s commitment to proliferation. Table 11.1 provides a summary of the details of these Iraqi efforts, based largely on UNSCOM’s and IAEA’s disclosures. It then compares them with the efforts of Iran and Israel—efforts that any Iraqi regime is likely to see as a strong incentive for future proliferation. It also shows that Egypt, Libya, and Syria are significant proliferators. Iraq may or may not see such states as threats, but it definitely sees them as competitors in terms of prestige and status, and Iraq– Syria relations remain problematic at best.

It is clear from Table 11.1 that Iraq’s past efforts involved every type of weapon of mass destruction and involved major parallel efforts of industrial scale. UN experts have estimated that Iraq had 52 missile storage, assembly, and maintenance facilities, 13 facilities associated with biological weapons facilities, 48 facilities associated with chemical weapons, and 21 facilities associated with nuclear weapons at the time of Desert Storm. Even these totals, however, may be an undercount, and they symbolize the fact that the growing risk posed by proliferation is one of the most important lessons of the Gulf War. There is no way to assign a firm cost to this Iraqi effort, but US experts have privately estimated that Iraq may have spent as much as $10 billion during the period 1970–1991, and some experts indicate that it may have cost Iraq an average of nearly 1% of its GNP during these years.

Iraq’s efforts have always been founded on exploiting targets of opportunity, lies and deception, compartmentation, and duplication. Iraq has never made hard trade-offs between given paths to proliferation in the past, or adhered to any fixed plan, doctrine, or strategy. Like other authoritarian states, its leadership

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