Deployment and Destruction
In June 1991, we received reliable intelligence indicating that Iraq had produced and hidden bulk biological warfare (BW) agent and biological weapons, to include bombs and missile warheads, at Al Aziziyah Firing Range, Airfield 37, Al Dijjili, Al Mansuriyah, and At Taji. In addition, bulk agent was stored at Ar Rashidiyah and the military’s electronic warfare unit 114. As of an August 1991 report, the weapons were reported to be still hidden underground and had not been bombed or damaged during the war. No hidden filled weapons were ever found by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM).
After Husayn Kamil’s defection in August 1995, Iraq admitted to an offensive BW program, which included deployment of biological munitions. Iraq admitted that bombs and missile warheads had been filled at Al Muthanna with anthrax, botulinum toxin, and aflatoxin in December 1990 and deployed in early January 1991 to four locations: Al Aziziyah, Airfield 37, an abandoned railway tunnel near Al Mansuriyah, and along the banks of the Tigris Canal. Note that these locations closely matched the 1991 reporting we had received, with three sites being identical. Differences in the other sites could be due to a number of factors, including inaccuracies in the intelligence information, different names for the same location, or undeclared deployments by Iraq.
Al Husayn Warheads
Iraq declared that 10 Al Husayn ballistic missile warheads were stored during the war in the Mansuriyah railway tunnel and 15 in pits next to the Tigris Canal–16 reportedly filled with botulinum toxin, five with B. anthracis, and four with aflatoxin. UNSCOM 126 was the first team to visit these sites–neither of which were in likely military locations. Iraq stated that the warheads were hidden at these sites in order to escape potential bombing.
- Iraq claims that in the summer of 1991 the warheads from the Tigris Canal were transported to Zaghareet, northwest of Baghdad, and chemically neutralized with either sodium hypochlorite or formalin and potassium permanganate. The warheads in the railway tunnel were similarly neutralized in place, and all warheads were moved to Al Nebai for explosive destruction.
- Destruction was said to have been carried out in a pit dug for the destruction of conventional missiles, including airframes, engines, and launchers. Plastic explosives were placed, the warheads were sprayed with gasoline, and the charges were detonated.
UNSCOM 126 visited Al Nebai but was unable to verify any specific indications of warhead destruction, let alone BW warhead destruction. The site has been used to destroy numerous types of weapons, and the Iraqis and UNSCOM teams have excavated the area repeatedly from 1991 to 1998. The number of missile warheads destroyed by Iraq in this location is still unclear. However, recent testing of warhead fragments from one of the destruction sites has shown evidence for the presence of B. anthracis genetic markers, one of the agents filled into warheads and claimed by Iraq to have been destroyed here, indicating that some fragments of B. anthracis DNA survived the decontamination procedures. There is no indication from these results that live agent survived the decontamination procedures or was released during the destruction of the munitions.
The other primary weapon in Iraq’s declared BW arsenal was the R-400A aerial bomb. This is a parachute-retarded bomb with a capacity of approximately 100 liters of liquid agent. According to Iraq the bombs designed for filling with B. anthracis or botulinum toxin were coated internally with epoxy resin and painted with a black stripe along the side to distinguish them from uncoated bombs designed for filling with aflatoxin or chemical agents (designated R-400). Iraq declared that during the war, it deployed BW-filled R-400A bombs to Al Aziziyah and Airfield 37. In total, 100 R-400A bombs were supposedly filled with botulinum toxin, 50 filled with B. anthracis, and seven filled with aflatoxin. The weapons were shrouded and covered with earth. The bombs remained buried until the summer of 1991 when the order was given to destroy all remaining agent and munitions. The bombs from Airfield 37 were moved to Al Aziziyah, where together the contents were chemically inactivated and the shells were explosively destroyed.
- Iraq declared that, for each bomb filled with either B. anthracis or botulinum toxin, one liter of formalin was added and that the bombs were left for 24 hours, potassium permanganate was then added, and tests for toxicity were finally conducted.
- Bombs that were filled with aflatoxin were decontaminated by the addition of bleach.
- The decontaminated bombs were rolled into a pit, burster charges were inserted, demolition charges were placed, the pit was doused in diesel oil, and the explosives were detonated. After each explosion, the fragments were collected and placed in the pit. This was repeated until all bombs were destroyed. The pit was back-filled and not disturbed.
Excavations of Intact R-400s
On 14 and 15 February 1997, UNSCOM 173 supervised excavations of the pits at Al Aziziyah where the Iraqis declared the R-400A BW bombs were explosively destroyed. In addition to many remnants, the team discovered three intact R-400A aerial bombs (see figure 4). These bombs were partially filled with a liquid suspected to be decontaminated BW agent. Two of the three bombs were marked with a black stripe, signifying a “special weapon” or biological weapon. The third bomb contained no outside markings but was suspected of containing aflatoxin.
Samples were taken and analyzed by bacteriological, immunological, and molecular biological methods, and all three bombs tested positive for the presence of botulinum toxin or for C. botulinum, the organism that produces the toxin. All bomb samples tested negative for other BW agents, including B. anthracis, aflatoxin, and ricin.
The existence of these bombs containing a BW agent–albeit mostly inactivated–refutes the Iraqi claim that scrupulous attention to detail was observed during the destruction of these weapons. It appears that the Iraqis attempted to explosively destroy all the bombs at once and used insufficient explosive charges to accomplish their mission. This “discovery” is not considered an issue for Iraqi compliance because the bombs were uncovered in the pits where Iraq claimed they were unilaterally destroyed. The UNSCOM inspection team concluded that it was not possible to determine the exact number of R-400 munitions destroyed at Al Aziziyah due to Iraq’s continued use of the site to destroy various sorts of unwanted munitions.
Testing of Agents and Delivery Systems
Iraq has admitted conducting open-air tests of several biological agents or simulants in conjunction with several types of delivery devices (see table). All tests with agents reportedly occurred at least a half a year or more before Desert Shield, and it is unlikely that any of the testing could have affected Coalition forces.
Iraqi-Declared Open-Air Testing of Biological Warfare Weapons
|Test Location (Date of Test)||Agent||Munition|
|Al Mahammadiyat (3/88)||Bacillus subtilis(a)||LD-250 bomb (cap. 65 liters)|
|Al Muhammadiyat (3/88)||Botulinim Toxin||LD-250 bomb (cap. 65 liters)|
|Al Muhammadiyat (11/89)||Bacillus subtilis||Sakr-18 122 mm rocket (cap. 8 liters)|
|Al Muhammadiyat (11/89)||Batulnum Toxin||Sakr-18 122 mm rocket (cap. 8 liters)|
|Al Muhammadiyat (11/89)||Aflatoxin||Sakr-18 122 mm rocket (cap. 8 liters)|
|Khan Bani Saad (7/88)||Bacillus subtilis||Aerosol generator: MI-2 helicopter (with modified agricultural spray equipment)|
|Al Muhammadiyat (12/98)||Bacillus subtilis||R-400 bomb (cap. 85 liters)|
|Al Muhammadiyat (12/98)||Botulinum Toxin||R-400 bomb (cap. 85 liters)|
|Al Muhammadiyat (12/98);||Aflatoxin||R-400 bomb (cap. 85 liters)|
|Jurf Al Sakr Firing Range (9/89)||Ricin||155 mm artillery shell (cap. 3 liters)|
|Abut Obeydi Airbase near Al Kut (12/90)||Water||Modified F1 drop tank (cap. 2,200 liters)|
|Abut Obeydi Airbase near Al Kut (12/90)||Water and potassium permanganate||155 mm artillery shell (cap. 3 liters)|
|Abut Obeydi Airbase near Al Kut (12/90)||Water and glycerin||155 mm artillery shell (cap. 3 liters)|
|Abut Obeydi Airbase near Al Kut (12/90)||B. subtilis and glycerin||155 mm artillery shell (cap. 3 liters)|
|(a) Bacillus subtilis is commonly used as a stimulant for B. anthracis.|
Spray Tank Testing
In early 1991, we received information that a new, unmanned, remotely piloted “dirty” MiG-21 was tested in January 1991. The MiG was to carry a tank of “dirty chemical liquid” that would be disseminated by spray action.
In early 1992, we received intelligence information that Iraq had developed a biological delivery system that could disperse up to 2,000 liters of biological agent from modified drop tanks attached to an Su-22 Iraqi fighter-bomber.(2) Reportedly, a mockup of the tanks was tested at Abu Obeydi Airbase near Al Kut in early summer 1990, using water and dye to examine the dispersal pattern. A plan was devised to attack Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with the biological-agent-armed Su-22 escorted by three MiG-21 aircraft, contingent on a trial raid using conventional weapons three MiG-21s. The information indicates the BW raid was canceled after the conventional mission was shot down. We have found no information to corroborate such an aerial attack or the destruction of these aircraft.
In August 1995, Iraq admitted to developing and testing a modified drop tank that could be fit to a manned or unmanned, remotely piloted fighter aircraft and that could disperse up to 2,000 liters of the BW agent anthrax. Iraq declared that tests using dyes and a simulant for anthrax were conducted in December 1990 and January 1991 at Abu Obeydi Airbase (see table). The Mirage F1 carrying the tank was reportedly destroyed by Coalition bombing days after the simulant test. Iraq claims four tanks were modified and the remaining three were destroyed unilaterally after the war. Iraq turned over a videotape showing the described simulant test (see figure 5).
There is no evidence to indicate that Iraq used any actual BW agents in its aerosol spray tank testing based on UNSCOM inspections of the Abu Obeydi Airbase and the Taji site, where the destroyed tanks were located.
Other Possible Spray Devices
Before the Gulf war and until today, Iraq has many devices that could potentially be used for dissemination of BW agents. These include agricultural sprayers–either airborne or ground vehicle borne. Although Iraq admitted modifying and testing agricultural spray devices on helicopters, we have no indication that Iraq weaponized any of these types of systems.
Other Iraqi-Declared Tests
Iraq declared that it conducted 10 other open-air weapons tests of biological agents or simulants. The only weapons tests performed with actual agents were concluded in 1989. These tests were conducted with relatively small amounts of agents more than a year before Desert Storm (except for the spray tank tests that did not use actual agent). It is very unlikely that any exposure of Coalition forces to agents could have resulted from Iraqi-declared BW-agent tests.
Additional Possible BW Tests in Iraq
In mid-1989, military reporting indicated that Iraq had been conducting tests of BW agents in the marshlands south of Al Chabaish (see figure 1). In two separate reports, a source reported that civilians had been moved out of the area in preparation for testing on the flora and fauna, and testing was begun and continuing, using thousands of army deserters located in the area as experimental subjects. The testing was reported to have been terminated in mid-1990.
The source who reported the activity was reliable; that is, we believe he accurately reported what he either observed or heard. He obtained information on the BW tests from a subsource, who had also reported reliably in the past. In this case, however, the information from the subsource about the testing was hearsay. Therefore, while we were convinced that the subsource did hear that the BW tests occurred, we had insufficient information to either confirm or deny the reports of the tests.
The Intelligence Community concluded that these reports had little merit. There was no other intelligence to substantiate the clandestine source’s reporting, and members of the Community had difficulty believing that Iraq would conduct BW field tests so close to populous areas. Most importantly, collection requirements, including the site name and coordinates indicating a possible BW test site, were issued to follow up on the initial reporting, and no corroborating intelligence could be found to support the claim of an Iraqi BW test site in the marsh lands south of Al Chabaish.