International Handbook on Chemical Weapons Proliferation

By Gordon M. Burck; Charles C. Flowerree | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Chemical Weapons in the Iran-Iraq War

During the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq used CW agents on the largest scale seen since WWI, used them as much against its own citizens (the Kurds) as against the Iranians, used nerve gas for the first time in any war, and was the first "Third World" country to develop and utilize a full offensive and defensive CW capability. Although use in the first years of the war was experimental or mistakenly reported, use after late 1983 increased as production facilities came on line. The United Nations made a series of investigations, starting in 1984, which compiled convincing proof of the Iraqi attacks. In 1988, after the most publicized attack of the war -- on Halabja -- Iraqi official admitted that they had used CW agents, although continuing to allege that Iran had done so first. And in April 1990, President Saddam Hussein proclaimed that Iraq had possessed a new CW munition since 1988 that would be used to retaliate for any nuclear attacks on Iraq or other Arab countries.

This chapter gives two analyses of the Iraqi CW capability and concludes with a look at the verbal war of mutual accusations between Iran and Iraq. The first and principal analysis covers the "non-use" parts of the outline to be used for other country reviews (described in Chapter 3), concentrating on the alleged and demonstrated means by which Iraq acquired CW munitions and production facilities.

The second analysis describes Iraq's chemical war against Iran, covering general military capabilities, motivations for originating and continuing the use of chemicals, the situations where CW agents were used, including both reasoning and outcomes, world response to the use of chemicals, and a summary (albeit necessarily still preliminary) consideration of the overall effect of chemicals on the war. The military utility of CW agents and the political costs of acquiring and using them are important considerations for any effort to ban chemical weapons.

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