Evidence gathered by US teams suggests that Iraq had little or no capacity to produce chemical warfare agents because of damage inflicted by US air strikes and years of sanctions, the leader of a US-led search for banned weapons told Congress.
David Kay, the former UN weapons inspector who leads the Iraq Survey Group, said his team found no evidence to confirm pre-war intelligence reporting that Iraqi military units were prepared to use chemical warfare agents against US forces.
In a report to House of Representatives and Senate intelligence committees that was released in declassified form, Kay said his group found no weapons stock.
He could not say whether any existed before US and British forces invaded Iraq in March or whether they still exist undetected.
Nevertheless, Kay said his team had uncovered dozens of WMD-related program “activities” and significant amounts of equipment that had been concealed from UN weapons inspectors.
They also found evidence that large amounts of records were systematically destroyed both before and after Saddam Hussein’s fall.
Among his conclusions:
# Ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had not given up his aspirations and intentions to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
# The Iraqis were well advanced in developing missiles with ranges at least up to 1,000 kilometers (620 miles), well in excess of the 150 kilometer (90-mile) range allowed under UN sanctions.
# There was “at a minimum clandestine ongoing research and development activities” related to chemical and biological weapons within the Iraqi Intelligence Service.
But US inspectors found no evidence that Iraq took significant steps after 1998 to build nuclear weapons or produce fissile materials, although it did try to preserve some technological capability from its pre-1991 nuclear weapons program, Kay said.
And little evidence has been found that Iraq had an active chemical warfare program at the time of the war, according to Kay’s report.
“Multiple sources with varied access and reliability have told ISG that Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled CW program after 1991,” he said.
“Information found to date suggests that Iraq’s large scale-capability to develop, produce and fill new CW munitions was reduced # if not entirely destroyed – during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections,” he said.
He said the group has just begun to survey the Iraqi chemical industry to determine if equipment and bulk chemicals were available to produce chemical warfare agents.
“We have also acquired information related to Iraq’s CW doctrine and Iraq’s war plans for OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom), but we have not yet found evidence to confirm pre-war reporting that Iraqi military units were prepared to use CW against coalition forces,” he said.
“Our efforts to collect and exploit intelligence on Iraq’s chemical weapons program have thus far yielded little reliable information on post-1991 CW stocks and CW agent production,” it said.
It noted, however, that Iraqis stored unmarked chemical munitions with conventional munitions, and that there are vast uninspected munitions storage dumps in the country where chemical rounds could be hidden.
Only 10 of at least 130 ammunition storage dumps in the country have been examined, he said.
On biological warfare, Kay said the group had been unable to corroborate the existence of a mobile biological weapons production effort.
The discovery of two trailers in northern Iraq was touted by President George W. Bush as evidence of the regime’s involvement with biological warfare agents.
But Kay said the ISG has “begun to unravel a clandestine network of laboratories and facilities within the (Iraqi) security service apparatus” that was previously unknown and had never been declared to the United Nations.
“We are still working on determining the extent to which this network was tied to large-scale military efforts or BW terror weapons, but this clandestine capability was suitable for preserving BW expertise, BW capable facilities and continuing” research and development, he said.
Iraqi scientists revealed that they conducted overt research on nonpathogenic organisms that served as surrogates for pathogenic agents, including anthrax, and developed ways to improve fermentation and spray drying that could be applied to anthrax, he said.