The following is an archived copy of a message sent to the CASI Analysis List run by Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of Cambridge Solidarity with Iraq (CASI).

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [CASI Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [casi-analysis] Chemical weapons find claim

[ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]

Hi Peter,

Glen Rangwala has compiled a very thorough 'claims and evaluation of
Iraq's proscribed weapons', available on

I paste the section on mustard gas below

Per Klevnäs



State Department, 12 September 2002, p.9: "Iraq has not [..] accounted
for about 550 artillery shells filled with mustard agent." (repeated in
CIA, October 2002, p.10).

State Department, 19 December 2002: "In January 1999, the UN Special
Commission reported that Iraq failed to provide credible evidence that
550 mustard gas-filled artillery shells... had been lost or destroyed.
[...] Again, what is the Iraqi regime trying to hide by not providing
this information?" (partially repeated in White House, January 2003, p.6).

Secretary Powell, 5 February 2003: "Saddam Hussein has never accounted
for vast amounts of chemical weaponry: 550 artillery shells with mustard

State Department, 27 February 2003: "UNMOVIC has reported that Iraq
failed to provide evidence to account for 1,000 tons of mustard gas, 550
mustard gas-filled munitions [..]".

EVALUATION. A "blister agent", mustard has a longer shelf-life than
G-series nerve agents. As the final assessment report from UNSCOM recorded:

     "a dozen mustard-filled shells were recovered at a former CW
storage facility in the period 1997 - 1998 [..]. After seven years, the
purity of mustard ranged between 94 and 97%."

     (Enclosure 1 to the Annex of the Letter to the President of the
Security Council, 29 January 1999, S/1999/94, para.33; at:

However, mustard has a high volume-to-effectiveness ratio. As the IISS
record in the strategic dossier, at p.43:

     "large amounts of mustard are necessary for effective military
operations. Roughly, one tonne of agent is needed to effectively
contaminate 2.6 square kilometres of territory, if properly disseminated."

Iraq declared that it filled approximately 13,000 artillery shells with
mustard prior to 1991. UNSCOM accounted for 12,792 of these shells, and
destroyed them in the period of 1992-94. However, Iraq also declared
that 550 mustard-filled artillery shells had been lost in the aftermath
of the Gulf War; it later (in March 2003) claimed that this figure was
arrived at by way of approximating the amount used, for which reliable
records are not available, and thus the quantity unaccounted for is
simply a result of the use of unreliable approximations. UNMOVIC report
that the 550 artillery shells would contain between them "a couple of
tonnes of agent" ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues", 6 March 2003, p.76).
The extent to which these - if they still existed - could constitute an
ongoing danger should be assessed in light of the need to deploy large
amounts of mustard for effective use.

Iraq has also cooperated in the destruction of remaining mustard items.
10 artillery shells were found by UNSCOM but were not destroyed before
UNSCOM withdrew in 1998. As requested, Iraq kept these shells at
al-Mutanna facility, where they were identified by UNMOVIC on 4 December
2002. On 11 February 2003, UNMOVIC reported:

     "An UNMOVIC chemical team went to Al Mutanna, approximately 140 km
north of Baghdad in preparation for the beginning of the process of
destroying 10 155mm artillery shells and four plastic containers filled
with mustard gas. The destruction process will begin tomorrow and is
expected to last four to five days to complete. UNMOVIC chemical
inspectors will work with an Iraqi team in the destruction process.
These artillery shells were scheduled to be destroyed by the United
Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in 1998 but the plan was halted when
UNSCOM withdrew from Iraq."

Technical problems were subsequently reported, but destruction continued
from 25 February 2003, and was completed by 5 March 2003.

With regard to the "1,000 tons of mustard gas", referred to by the State
Department on 27 February 2003, this seems to be an exaggeration. The
only mustard that is unaccounted for except for the artillery shells is
the discrepancy revealed in the Air Force document between the aerial
bombs that Iraq claims it used in the Iran-Iraq war and the lower figure
for those used in that document (see above). As Hans Blix said (quoted
above), the total amount of chemical agents in these bombs could be
around 1,000 tonnes. However, a considerable proportion of this would be
made up of Sarin and Tabun bombs, agents that would not have lasted for
more than a few months, and not mustard.


Peter Kiernan wrote:

> [ This message has been sent to you via the CASI-analysis mailing list ]
> [ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]
> Dear list,
> Reports have come out today that dozens of mortar shells in southern Iraq have been found by 
>Danish forces "Which could contain chemical weapons according to inital tests" according to the 
>BBC. The story goes on to say that the shells have been buried for at least ten years, and were 
>probably left over from the Iran-Iraq war. The shells also "showed traces of blister gases, a 
>group of chemical compounds which include mustard gas." These reports are at this stage sketchy 
>and conclusions are awaiting final tests, the results of which won't be known for a couple of days.
> This finding is not dramatic at all, but does anyone know anything about the "shelf life" of 
>these chemical compounds. For instance, would they still be usable? The Danish army has said "most 
>were wrapped in plastic bags, and some were leaking," and they don't appear to have been in any 
>usable state, but I'm not well informed on this. If anyone can point me in the right direction I 
>would greatly appreciate this, I doubt very much if this is a "smoking gun," but I just want to 
>get the right information.
> thanks,
> Peter Kiernan
> _______________________________________
> Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list
> To unsubscribe, visit
> All postings are archived on CASI's website at

Sent via the CASI-analysis mailing list
To unsubscribe, visit
All postings are archived on CASI's website at

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]