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Iraq's ballistic missile programme offers a textbook example of the way in which the transfer of technology between nations has enabled developing nations previously reliant on potentially uncertain supplies of entire missile systems from abroad to establish autonomous production capabilities. And whilst Iraq was able to develop such an advanced ballistic missile programme only because of the resources it was prepared to devote to the task, the ease with which it was able to acquire foreign expertise, equipment and technology and the speed with which this programme advanced provides an ominous model for future proliferation patterns amongst other rogue regimes.
Using oil revenues to fund a huge missile technology procurement network and exploiting tacit Western backing for Iraq in its war against Iran, Saddam Hussein found that he was able to obtain almost any missile technology, either legally or illegally. He also had no difficulty in recruiting thousands of skilled foreign engineers and technicians. During the 1980s, Iraq established formal contacts with Brazil, China, Egypt, France and the Soviet Union, facilitating the sale of missile technology, joint research programmes and the education of specialist Iraqi personnel. Iraq also reached covert agreements to circumvent international arms control regimes such as the MTCR, with Argentina, Brazil, East Germany, Libya and South Africa.
Iraq also received extensive assistance from Western companies, for whom Iraq represented a lucrative market, often with the tacit co-operation of their governments. An Austrian company, Consultco, designed Iraq’s enormous Sa’ad 16 complex near Mosul which designed and produced modified Scuds, conventional munitions and chemical weapons, as well as housing parts of Iraq’s nuclear programme. West German companies also played a key role in the construction and equipping of this complex. The UK Department of Trade and Industry issued hundreds of export licenses for sensitive military technology sales to Iraq in the latter half of the 1980s, many of which were actively opposed by, or concealed from, the Ministry of Defence. Similarly, export licenses were issued in the United States for military technology sales to Iraq despite the opposition of the Department of Defense. Moreover the British, French, Italian, German and US governments all assisted in financing military contracts between private companies and Iraq despite the existence of self-imposed ‘embargoes’ on the sale of such equipment.
Where such tacit government co-operation was not forthcoming, Iraq found no difficulty in disguising the true purpose of its activities. Iraq either deceived the vendor about the real end-use of the equipment to be exported (the sections of barrel for the Gerald Bull-designed ‘Super Gun’ were described as oil piping when they were intercepted by British Customs officials), or persuaded the vendor to co-operate in circumventing export regulations. Iraq disguised other deals through the creation of State Agencies such as the ‘Technical Corps for Special Projects’, which concluded deals with foreign suppliers whilst masking their status as branches of the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialisation. Another Iraqi strategy was to purchase Western companies in order to obtain key military technologies (as with Iraq’s purchase of the British machine tool company Matrix Churchill) or set up front companies abroad that were able to evade restrictions on exports to Iraq. Where none of these methods proved fruitful, Iraq’s extensive network of intelligence agencies either stole military technologies to order from foreign companies or recruited agents from third-party countries to obtain such technology on Iraq's behalf.

Al Hussein and Al Hijarah

The basis of Iraq's missile programme lies in 820 Scud B SRBMs and between 20 and 36 Transporter- Erector- Launchers (TELs) it received from the Soviet Union following a deal signed in 1974.
The Iran-Iraq War provided the stimulus for Saddam Hussein to embark on his ambitious programme to extend the range of his ballistic missile arsenal. Tehran, some 500 km from the Iraqi border, was outside the 300 km range of the unmodified Scud B. Efforts to extend the standard Scud B's range began in the early 1980s as project 144, and in August 1987 Saddam announced that it had successfully tested a longer-range Scud, the Al Hussein, over a range of more than 500 km.
Because Iraq launched no long range missile attacks on Iran between August 1987 and February 1988, Saddam's claims were viewed with scepticism by Western observers. But following Iran's attack on Baghdad with three of the Scud Bs it had imported from North Korea on February 29 1988, it rapidly became apparent that Saddam had spent the intervening months quietly building up a sufficient stockpile of Al Hussein to make a major strategic impact on the course of the Iran-Iraq War. Over the following three weeks, in what became known as 'The War of the Cities', Iraq fired 189 Al Husseins at Tehran, Isfahan and Qom, causing 8,000 casualties, some 2,000 of which were fatalities. The psychological effects of these attacks on ordinary Iranians were considerable - nearly a quarter of the population of Tehran fled the city, and the attacks were one of the factors contributing to Iran's decision to sue for peace in July 1988.
The Al Hussein also gave Iraq the ability to hit much of Israel, and Saddam clearly believed that he could repeat the strategic success of his attacks on Iran by forcing Israel to retaliate against Iraq and turning Western - particularly American - public opinion by causing substantial casualties to allied forces. But despite firing some 90 missiles, largely Al Husseins, at targets in Israel and Saudi Arabia, the ability of the coalition forces to take effectiveness countermeasures, particularly the appearance for the first time of active missile defences in the form of the US-manufactured Patriot missile defence system, meant that this strategic gambit proved to be a failure.
Analysis of the Al Husseins fired during the Gulf War revealed that its 600 - 650 km range had been achieved by reducing the warhead weight to around 500 kg to allow an increase in fuel capacity. CEP of the Al Hussein was poor, however, with reports putting it at between 1 km and 3.2 km. The missile could be mounted on an Al-Waleed TEL, a modified Scud B MAZ 543P TEL or a Daimler-Benz trailer known in Iraq as the Al Nida. It also became clear after the Gulf War that two further variants of the Al Hussein, the Al Hussein ‘Short’ and the Al Hijarah, had also been developed by Iraq.
The Al Hussein could be deployed with both conventional HE and binary chemical warheads. In 1995, UNSCOM confirmed that Iraq had also developed biological warheads for the missile, the first developing nation to have achieved such a feat of weaponization. U.N. sources reported that 25 such warheads had been discovered. The Al Hussein was also envisaged as the delivery system for the 'crash programme' nuclear weapon that Iraq embarked upon following its invasion of Kuwait in 1990, although the one tone weight of such a warhead would have limited the missile's range to some 300 km.
After the Gulf War, Iraq declared that it still possessed 51 Al Husseins, 30 of which were armed with CW warheads, six TELs and 32 fixed launch platforms. UNSCOM later reported that Iraq destroyed 78 Al Husseins and the U.N. a further 44. Taking into account the number of Al Husseins fired at Iran during the 1988 ‘War of the Cities’, it can be estimated that Iraq converted a total of some 400-450 Scud Bs to Al Hussein specification.
Although it had been thought that all Iraq's Al Hussein TBMs were converted from Russian-supplied Scud Bs, the UN Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) have gradually uncovered a missile infrastructure and production base far larger and more advanced than had been believed prior to the Gulf War. Most significantly, UNSCOM revealed in 1996 that Iraq had developed the capability to produce both airframes and engines for the Al Hussein. Thus the total number of Al Husseins built could have been considerably higher than at first thought, accounting for many of the 85 Scud-type TBMs that UNSCOM now believes Iraq has retained. Coupled with the 12-16 TELs that Iraq is also believed to have hidden, these missiles represent a continuing threat to the security of the Middle East.


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Al Abbas

The Al Abbas was the second Scud-derived TBM developed by Iraq. First flight tested in April 1988, the missile had a warhead weight reduced to 300 kg and a further increase in liquid fuel capacity to give a range of some 900 km. CEP was reported to be no better than 3 km. The missile was launched from the same Al-Waleed TEL as the Al Hussein.
No Al Abbas TBMs were fired during the Gulf War, suggesting that development had halted around 1990 due to the poor performance of the system. Iraqi technicians were reported to have concluded that an upgraded version of the Al Hussein with improved motor performance and higher energy liquid fuel would give greater range with a larger payload than could be achieved with the Al Abbas.

Longer Range Systems: Al Abid, Tammouz I and Badr 2000

Saddam's ballistic missile programme was remarkable in that he was able to embark upon multi-stage designs only five years after setting out to acquire a longer-range Scud capability. On 5 December 1989 Iraq launched a 25 meter long rocket that it claimed was the first stage of a multi-stage Space Launch Vehicle (SLV). Known as the Al Abid (or Al Aabed), this first stage used five clustered Al-Hussein motors and reached an altitude of 12,000 metres (40,000 ft) during the test. A video of the launch released by the Iraqis showed a three stage system and although the second and third stages of the system were later revealed to have been dummies, it is believed that the second stage was intended to be a further Al Hussein motor with the third stage derived from a Soviet-supplied SA-2 Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM). The Al Abid would thus have weighed some 48 tonnes and carried a payload of some 750 kg, sufficient to deliver a chemical or small nuclear warhead, over a range of at least 2,500 km.
Although development of the Al Abid was never completed, it used proven booster technologies and clustering techniques and could have been expected to enter service in the mid-to-late 1990s had the Gulf War not intervened. Work on the programme has been terminated by post-war UN efforts, but reports suggest that members of the Al Abid team have moved to Libya to work on a long-range delivery system that may incorporate elements of the Iraqi design.

Tammouz 1

On December 14 1989, days after the Al Abid test, Iraq announced the existence of a second long-range system, the Tammouz I. Like the Al Abid, it utilised Iraq's modified Scud technology for the first stage and was intended to use a modified SA-2 SAM sustainer as a second stage. Despite Iraqi claims to the contrary, the Tammouz was never tested and was still in the development stage when the Gulf War broke out.
Both the Al Abid and Tammouz programmes drew considerably on foreign expertise, particularly from a Brazilian specialist, Major General Hugo de Oliveira Piva. Formerly director of Brazil’s Aerospace Technology Centre and the leader of Brazil’s programme to convert the Sonda IV sounding rocket into a nuclear-capable IRBM, Piva and a 23-man team were hired by Iraq in the late 1980s and were reported to have been assisted by the 'Super Gun' designer Dr Gerald Bull. Piva’s team left Iraq on the eve of the 1990 Gulf War, but it is interesting to note that he has since reportedly offered their services to Iran.

Badr 2000

Iraq also played a role in the Condor 2 programme initiated by in Argentina in 1982. A two stage, solid-fuelled missile intended to carry a 450 kg payload (possibly a nuclear warhead) at least 900 km, the project attracted co-funding from Egypt in 1984 and Iraq in 1985. In April 1990, under pressure from the United States, the Argentinean government announced that the project had been shelved due to rising costs. Egypt and Iraq were reported to have ceased their involvement at around the same time.
However since the Gulf War it has emerged that Iraq continued its development of the missile, known as the Badr 2000, until 1990, apparently with the assistance of Pakistani technicians. In 1995, reports appeared suggesting that Iraqi technicians are working in Libya to revive the programme or to integrate it with Libya's Al Fattah programme.

Current Iraqi Capabilities

Under the terms of the 1991 United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) has a mandate to destroy or make harmless “all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 km, and related major parts, and repair and production facilities.”
Iraq has consistently obstructed UNSCOM’s mission and it is clear that Iraq has gone to great lengths to conceal and retain both ballistic missiles and WMD warheads. As UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekeus said in testimony to the U.S. Permanent Senate Investigations Subcommittee, “I think that they put enormous value to the option of keeping or acquiring nuclear, biological (and) chemical weapons and the capability to deliver them.”
Although it is known that 820 Scuds were supplied to Iraq by the former Soviet Union in the 1980 and roughly how many have been fired in action, uncertainty still surrounds the exact number of Scuds fired by Iraq in testing. This difficulty in accounting for Iraq’s missile arsenal was compounded by the discovery in 1996 that Iraq had the capability to produce complete missile airframes and engines indigenously.
Public pronouncements from UNSCOM in October 1996 suggest that Iraq may have retained up to 85 Scud-type missiles in defiance of the terms of the Gulf War ceasefire. Israeli military sources, however, maintain that the number may be as many as 100. Yiftar Shafir, an analyst at Tel Aviv’s Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies, also estimated in June 1996 that Baghdad could still have around 100 Scuds, both the original 300-km range and the extended 600-km Al-Hussein version.
A senior Iraqi defector, General Wafiq al-Samerai, said in July 1996 that he believed that Saddam had retained some 40 Scud-type TBMs. He added that “He also has 255 containers of biological agents. In 230 the agent is in powder form, with no expiry date, and in 25 it is in liquid form, which will deteriorate.”

Post-War Ballistic Missile Development

Despite international sanctions, Iraq’s indigenous missile development programme has remained active. Iraq retains large numbers of Soviet-supplied SA-2 SAMs which can be converted in short-range ballistic missiles (indeed the Soviet manual for the SA-2 contains instructions as to how to achieve this). This practice has strong precedents. The Chinese CSS-8 TBM, sold to Iran, was developed from a Chinese-made version of the SA-2 and Croatia is working on a similar programme. Iraq also has experience in this area. Prior to the Gulf War the Al-Fahd programme was initiated to convert the SA-2 into a 300 km-range TBM, although the project was abandoned in the research and development phase. Given the availability of these SA-2s, considerable efforts have been made to try to ensure that Iraq does not resurrect the Al Fahad programme. Under the terms of the UNSCOM monitoring plan, Iraq is prohibited from using any engines from its Soviet-supplied SA-2 SAMs in ballistic missiles - indeed UNSCOM has tagged all known Iraqi SA-2s in order to ensure that they are not used in this way.
The current focus of Iraq's missile development efforts is the "Ababil 100" programme which, although based on the SA-2 propulsion system, has been designed from the outset as a surface-to-surface system using inertial guidance. The programme has two systems are under parallel development, both with design ranges no greater than the 150 km permitted under UN Resolution 687. The liquid-fuelled version is now known as the "Al Samoud" (and given the restriction on using SA-2 engines, any engines used in the programme must therefore be reverse-engineered Iraqi models), whilst the solid-fuelled version, which is reported to be proceeding more slowly, retains the name "Ababil 100". At the same time, Iraq has also been rebuilding its Saad-16 missile research facility at Al Kinde.
It is also clear that Iraq has sought to re-establish its covert procurement network in order to obtain missile technologies from abroad. In 1995, Iraq was able to smuggle gyroscopes from dismantled Russian ICBMs into the country. A second shipment of 115 gyroscopes were discovered in Jordan in October 1995. UNSCOM sources said that the gyroscopes were found to be incompatible with Iraqi missiles so they were discarded.

Iraqi Ballistic Missiles: an Assessment

Although the UN may have destroyed much of Iraq's ballistic missile infrastructure, it cannot destroy the mountain of knowledge and human expertise that grew up alongside it. Neither has the UN been able to eliminate completely Iraq's Pre-War missile inventory.
In the short term, then, Iraq will continue to pose a limited threat to the region with missiles that may be armed with WMD warheads. But given its past success at circumventing international controls, it would be foolish to believe that Iraq will not recover a substantial 300 - 600 km-range ballistic missile capability in the next ten years. Should these controls prove as porous as they have in the past, the legacy of Iraq's advanced pre-Gulf War programmes offers a strong indication that this threat may extend into the 2,000 - 4,000 km bracket, placing much of Europe, including the UK, at risk of attack by ballistic missiles armed with chemical and biological weapons.



Copyright Ranger Associates, Inc.

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