News

IRAQ DISCLOSES BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS CAPABILITIES

By Mary Frances Tracy

History is frequently repeated, and Saddam Hussein’s latest disclosure of defiant violation of the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council resolutions forbidding Iraq to possess or develop weapons of mass destruction is simply another example of this fact. As reported by Robin Wright in the Los Angeles Times, 6 Sep 95, Iraq has provided their most comprehensive disclosures about the extensive biological weaponry capabili- ties within the Iraqi borders. The disclo- sures are coming on the heels of the defection to Jordan of Iraq’s top arms procurer, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel al-Majid, son-in-law of Saddam Hussein. These disclosures are being revealed following five years of Iraqi government insistence that there was no biological weapons program.

The U.N. is reporting Iraq’s disclosure as one of the most sophisticated in the history of biological warfare. The viruses and toxins being developed were instruments of war representing innovative thinking and involving a large monetary investment. For instance, over 150 scientists and senior technicians were involved in the biological weapons program.

The type of biological weapons under development included viruses and incapaci- tating agents, which were intended to seriously incapacitate rather than kill enemy troops. This logic is based on the fact that wounded soldiers would require longer care on the part of the enemy, and would be a bigger drain on their resources.

Also reported by Robin Wright in the Los Angeles Times were some of the various viral agents accessible for use by the Iraqis including hemorrhagic conjunctivitis, a highly transmittable virus, which in the best case, causes temporary blindness and in the extreme case, causes the eyes to bleed. Another virus in development would cause chronic diarrhea which is incapacitating to troops and deadly in children. The third virus reported was camel pox which causes lesions. All of these viruses have never been proposed for use as biological warfare agents. The mycotoxin admittedly produced by Iraq was yellow rain. This causes the lungs to bleed and usually brings death. The most unusual agent tested in Iraqi laborato- ries was a wheat-cover smut, which produces a purplish-black growth on the grain stem, and kills the entire plant.

U.S. News & World Report, 11 Sep 95, also reported that Rolf Ekeus, U.N. Disar- mament Chief, learned that Iraq had produced tons of deadly substances. These included 1,500 gallons of anthrax toxin which was loaded into 50 bombs and 10 missile warheads. Botulinum toxin, which attacks the nerves and chokes its victims to death, was produced in the massive quantity of 3,000 gallons and poured into 100 bombs and 15 missile warheads and sent to airfields. The Iraqis have also produced more than 78 gallons of a bacterium that causes gangrene. Another deadly agent, the toxin ricin, which is derived from beans of the castor-oil plant, had been tested in artillery shells. The Los Angeles Times also reported that the Iraqi facility at Al Fallujah, which currently extracts castor oil, is supposedly dedicated to making brake fluid.

U.S. News & World Report, 11 September 1995, stated that additional Iraqi centers allegedly dedicated to biological and chemical weapons development included Muthanna, Salman Pak, Al-Kindi, and Al Hakam.

Why is Saddam Hussein now revealing more information on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction? According to Time magazine, 4 Sep 95, the motivating issue is the relief of sanctions placed on Iraq following the Persian Gulf War.

The U. N. sanctions ban nonhumanitarian trade and clamp an embargo on arms sales to Baghdad. With the U. S. presidential election season at hand, Iraq believes Mr. Clinton would never go along with the U.N. decision to lift the embargo for fear of appearing “soft”. Therefore, to hopefully eliminate the sanctions before the point of no return, Iraq has promised “100%” cooperation with the U.N. However this cooperation and promise of disclosure has been voiced by Iraq before, so, will history repeat itself?


October 1995
The CBIAC NEWSLETTER is a quarterly publication of the Chemical Warfare/Chemical and Biological Defense Information Analysis Center (CBIAC). The CBIAC is a Department of Defense (DoD) Information Analysis Center (IAC), administratively managed by the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) under the DoD IAC Program.