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[casi] CIA Says There are no chemicals in "chemical warheads" found in Iraq,0,564422


CIA: No Chemicals in Iraqi Warheads

By Knut Royce

January 18, 2003
Washington - The CIA believes that 11 of 12 chemical warheads discovered
Thursday in Iraq by UN weapons inspectors never contained lethal chemicals
and a former inspector said the incident probably has little significance in
demonstrating Iraqi noncompliance with a UN mandate to destroy weapons of
mass destruction.
The Iraqis "don't normally fill [the warheads] until they are ready to fire,"
said a senior administration official familiar with the CIA's reports on the
discovery of the shells and artillery rockets. "And these rockets haven't
been fired, so there may be no trace of chemicals in them."
He said the United States was awaiting UN test results on the warheads,
discovered at a munitions depot 90 miles southwest of Baghdad.
The official said that this particular lot of 122-mm warheads and rockets,
configured by the Iraqis to launch the nerve agent sarin, had been purchased
by the Iraqis from Egypt in the 1980s. He said Italy also had sold Iraq
122-mm rockets and launchers during the Iraqi war with Iran. The United
States, which saw Iran as the worse of two evils, also collaborated with the
Iraqi military at the time.
One Defense Department official said the finding did not come as a great
surprise, mainly because Iraq was known to have had such shells during the
Persian Gulf War 12 years ago.
"There's really not much new there; that's what you'd expect to find if you
were an inspector looking for something," the official said. "Now you've got
to find the [chemical] agent or proof of the agent."
Raymond Zilinskas, a former UN inspector in Iraq who directs a chemical and
biological nonproliferation program in California, said that the warheads are
"such a small quantity that I can't believe people would think this is really
a smoking gun, as long as they were not filled."
Had they recently been filled, however, Iraq "would probably be in material
breach," because it has declared that all chemical weapons have been
destroyed. A "material breach" of UN demands is widely seen as a trigger for
U.S. forces to attack Iraq. On Friday, the White House characterized the
warheads find only as "troubling and serious."
Zilinskas, who runs his program at the Monterrey Institute of International
Studies, said Iraq has "kind of a mania for record keeping." Nevertheless, he
said, after the numerous wars and insurgencies since the 1980s, Iraq, which
also has hundreds of tons of conventional munitions, could well "lose a case
here or there of chemical weapons."
But the senior administration official said Iraq has claimed it destroyed
15,000 of the chemical rockets and shells, yet has produced no records for
the claimed destruction. "There's an open question about them," he said. "Now
we know where at least 11 of them were. The question now is, is there another
bunker somewhere with 14,989 of them?"
He said Iraq normally does not store the chemicals inside the warheads
because they can leak. "So they store the chemicals separately, and when they
get ready to fire them they put the chemicals in [the warheads]," he said.
There can be exceptions. Inspectors in the 1990s discovered a dozen 155-mm
shells filled with mustard gas. The UN later asserted that Iraq had failed to
account for 550 mustard gas shells it claimed had been lost in 1991.
The CIA believes Iraq has secretly stocked "at least 100 metric tons and
possibly as much as 500 metric tons" of chemical warfare agents, according to
a report it prepared in October. Even at the high end this would pale by
comparison to the thousands of tons Iraq had before Desert Storm in 1991 and
the subesequent mandated destruction of its chemical weapons.
Nonetheless, U.S. officials suspect Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been
careful to keep the elements of chemical or biological weapons separate, to
make them harder to detect and destroy.
"If you're going to try to keep a program hidden, one of the techniques is to
keep the pieces handy so when you need to do it, you can do it on very short
notice," one official said yesterday. "The fact that they have unused shells,
[means] they have the potential of filling them in short order."
The Telltale Tip
Unlike conventional munitions, warheads that are designed to carry chemical
weapons have a special nozzle and reservoir that allow the toxic agent to be
put in - a giveaway to UN inspectors. Facts about the 12 warheads found in
How It Works:
Chemical agent (1) is placed into warhead via filling nozzle (2). When shell
arrives at target, fuse (3) detonates charge (4). Blast shatters shell casing
(5), releasing toxic agent.
SAKR Series Artillery Rocket
Caliber: 122 mm
Range: 22 miles
Length: 8.5 feet
Origin: Egyptian
(Soviet-based design)

Copyright  2003, Newsday, Inc.

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