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

By Anthony H. Cordesman | Go to book overview

Chapter 18

Iraq’s Past and Future Biological Weapons Capabilities

At the time of the cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq was reaching the point where it would have been able to employ biological weapons against Iran if the war had continued. Its capabilities steadily improved between August, 1988 and August, 1990, and Iraq had a major biological weapons program ready to use against the UN Coalition at the time of the Gulf War. It had at least 90,000 liters of Botulinum toxin and 8,300 liters of Anthrax, as well as large stocks of an agent that causes cancer. It had loaded both Botulinum and Anthrax on Scud missile warheads and aerial bombs. Iraq was also experimenting with infectious agents and mycotoxins. These programs were initially centered around Al-Kindi and Salman Pak, but were moved to Al-Hakam and other facilities before the war, and were extensively dispersed before the fighting began. 1

The activity was completely clandestine, and Iraqi biological weapons initially did not receive the same attention that the world gave to Iraq’s other weapons of mass destruction after the end of the Gulf War. In fact, the full scale of Iraq’s efforts only became apparent when new evidence surfaced in September, 1995. This comparative lack of attention is evident in the relatively limited number of biological weapons inspections that UNSCOM conducted relative to its chemical and nuclear weapons and ballistic missile inspections during the period between the cease-fire in 1991 and late 1995. 2

Since that time, UNSCOM has changed its priorities. It has had good reason to do so, since biological weapons can be as effective as small nuclear weapons. One US study of the Gulf War notes that

Experimental data indicate Botulinum toxin is about 3 million times more potent than the nerve agent Sarin. A Scud missile warhead filled with Botulinum could contaminate an area of 3,700 square kilometers (based on ideal weather conditions and an effective

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