Background on Iraq’s Chemical Weapons Program

During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), Iraq developed the ability to produce, store, and use chemical weapons (CWs). These chemical weapons included mustard blister agent (H), and G-series nerve agents like Tabun (GA) and Sarin (GB). The Iraqis also had munitions filled with White Phosphorus and riot control agents. These agents were built into various offensive munitions—122mm unguided artillery rockets, 130mm and 155mm artillery shells, 250 and 500 kilogram aerial bombs, and warheads on the Al Husayn (SCUD) missile.[2]

In 1990-91, US intelligence assessments indicated that Iraqi aircraft would most likely use 250 and 500 kilogram bombs to deliver chemical agents. During the Iran-Iraq war, fighter-attack aircraft dropped mustard-filled and Tabun-filled 250 kilogram bombs and mustard-filled 500 kilogram bombs on Iranian targets. Other reporting indicates that Iraq may have also installed spray tanks on an unknown number of helicopters or dropped 55-gallon drums filled with unknown agents (probably mustard) from low altitudes.[3]

By the start of the Gulf War, the Intelligence Community (IC) had judged that the Iraqis were using certain types of bunkers for CW and biological weapon (BW) storage, including what analysts dubbed "S-shaped" and "12-frame" bunkers.[4] After the war, the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) investigated Iraq’s CW and BW storage sites. They found that Iraq had stored chemical weapons in a variety of bunkers, and often in open storage. The IC has determined, based on these reports and other post-war information, that their pre-war assessments of Iraq’s CW and BW storage practices were unreliable. However, because the An Nasiriyah Southwest (SW) Ammunition Storage Point (ASP) possessed one S-shaped and four 12-frame bunkers, it was considered a suspect CW or BW storage site.[5]


Figure 2. Selected Iraq CW production and storage locations[6]


Background on Iraq’s Biological Weapons Program

Prior to the Gulf War, Iraq was assessed to have a mature biological warfare (BW) program that had researched and produced several infectious agents to include botulinum toxin, the causative agent of botulism; Bacillus anthracis, the causative agent of anthrax; and Clostridium perfringens, the causative agent of gas gangrene.[7] By 1991, US agencies had identified several of Iraq’s BW associated facilities.[8] The An Nasiriyah SW ASP was included among these facilities because it possessed four 12-frame bunkers.


Figure 3. An Nasiriyah SW ASP


An Nasiriyah SW ASP Description

Built in the late 1970s, the An Nasiriyah SW ASP is located southwest of the city of An Nasiriyah and approximately 8 km to the northeast of Tallil Air Base (Figure 2). It is similar to the Khamisiyah ASP, which is located approximately 25 km to the southeast, in area and number of storage buildings.[9] The An Nasiriyah SW ASP (Figure 3) includes both above-ground storage buildings and specialized munitions storage bunkers in two separately fenced areas. The western section was primarily used to store army munitions and contained four 12-frame bunkers. The eastern section was primarily used to store air force munitions and contained one S-shaped bunker. Many of An Nasiriyah’s storage buildings were partially-buried, reinforced concrete bunkers. Others were above-ground structures built of brick and tin. Aerial munitions stored at this ASP supported Tallil Air Base and its fighter-attack aircraft.

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