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

By Anthony H. Cordesman | Go to book overview

Chapter 12

Iraq’s Strategic Culture and Weapons of Mass Destruction

It is far easier to summarize what is known about Iraq’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction than it is to draw conclusions about the exact nature of its future strategy, development plans, doctrine, force plans, and war-fighting concepts. The sheer number of the Iraqi efforts listed in Table 11.1 demonstrate, however, that Iraq’s ‘‘strategic culture’’ supports massive, if not grandiose, covert efforts and sees arms control agreements largely as a series of constraints that must be dealt with as part of proliferation.

Iraq has never focused on one type of weapon of mass destruction or one type of delivery system. It has always sought a wide range of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and it has investigated a wide range of ways of employing them—ranging from short-range battlefield use to strategic attacks on cities. Iraq has never demonstrated that it links its development efforts to some specific employment doctrine, view of escalation, or some concept of deterrence, retaliation, and conflict termination. Instead, it has simply attempted to proliferate in every possible way, by all available means.

Iraq has also demonstrated that it is willing to take extreme risks with little warning. Iraq’s attack on Iran, its near-genocidal attacks on its Kurds, and its invasion of Kuwait were all high-risk steps taken with little warning by a small decision-making elite, and possibly by one man. All of these decisions seem to have been taken relatively quickly, and to have expanded in scope during the months or weeks between the initial decision to act and the actual execution. While Iraq was not indifferent to risk, it often proved willing to escalate in ways that neither its neighbors nor Western experts predicted.

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