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

By Anthony H. Cordesman | Go to book overview

Chapter 17

Iraq’s Past and Future Chemical Weapons Capabilities

The preceding analysis of Iraq’s delivery systems helps illustrate the nature of Iraq’s strategic culture, the range of uncertainties that both Iraq and its potential enemies must deal with, and many of the reasons Iraq not only has persisted in proliferating since the Gulf War but is likely to do so in the future, even if Saddam is removed from power. Delivery systems, however, are only part of the story. There are additional lessons to be learned from Iraq’s chemical, biological, and nuclear warfare programs.

Iraq has produced thousands of tons of chemical weapons since the early 1980s. It used these weapons against the Iranians and the Kurds in the mid and late 1980s. It first used mustard gas against Iranian troops in 1983, using weapons produced in civil laboratories and facilities on a limited scale. It began to use Tabun nerve gas in 1984, and it dropped the first nerve gas bombs in modern warfare. While Iraq initially failed to be able to use chemical weapons in the direct support of ground operations, it developed the skills to do so by 1987, and chemical weapons played a major role in Iraq’s victories against Iran in 1987 and 1988. Iraq also used chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels and civilians after the war in late 1988 and in 1989. It has experience using chemical weapons in artillery shells, rockets, mortar rounds, bombs, and spray tanks. 1


IRAQ’S CHEMICAL WEAPONS PROGRAMS BEFORE THE IRAN-IRAQ WAR

It is not possible to establish a precise date when Iraq acquired chemical weapons, but it seems to have begun to seriously examine acquiring such weapons in the 1960s, and to have decided to create its own production facilities following the October War in 1973. There are some indications that it acquired

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