Iraqi Chemical & Biological Weapons (CBW) Capabilities [Updated September 4, 1998]   [open pdf - 48KB]

Since 1991, the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) has destroyed over 38,000 filled and unfilled chemical weapons (CW) munitions, 690 metric tons of CW agents, 3,000 metric tons of CW precursor chemicals, and over 400 pieces of CW production equipment. The Iraqi government maintains that all its chemical and biological weapons (CBW) arsenal and production capability has been destroyed either by UNSCOM or in 1991 by the Iraqis themselves in unauthorized activities which violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 687. UNSCOM maintains that Iraq has not provided verification of this destruction, and has a substantial record of deception and omission in its CBW declarations to the United Nations. British and U.S. intelligence reports in February 1998 and the UNSCOM report to the Security Council in April 1998 assert that Iraq has not accounted for and may still possess a significant CBW capability, including: 500-700 mustard agent artillery shells, over 150 bombs filled with BW agents, and 45 CBW missile warheads. In addition, UNSCOM believes that Iraq manufactured over 200 metric tons of the persistent nerve agent VX, but has accounted for only 3.9 tons. Growth medium sufficient to produce 16,000 liters of anthrax has also not been accounted for. These reports are based on defector debriefings, records of purchases, and Iraqi documents. U.N., British, and U.S. officials believe that without continuous U.N. monitoring, Iraq would be capable of restoring its CBW production within months. Owing to obstruction of UNSCOM inspections, the question of airstrikes against suspected CBW sites has arisen, but lack of certainty about targets and concerns about collateral casualties have inhibited action. Potential casualties from the purposeful of use of CBW were estimated by the Office of Technology Assessment, using a Washington DC scenario, to range from several hundred to several million, depending on the agent used and weather. A glossary of CBW terms is appended to this report. This report will be updated only to reflect substantial new information. For additional information, see CRS Issue Brief 92117 Iraqi Compliance with Cease-fire Agreements, by Kenneth Katzman.

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CRS Report for Congress, 98-129
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