Did Iraq Have Chemical Mines?
Before the Gulf War, DIA assessed that Iraqi ground forces possibly had chemical mines. This assessment was based on two events. In the first, a Canadian soldier assigned to a UN peacekeeper force after the Iran-Iraq war thought he identified a mine that the Iraqis had filled with chemical warfare agent. The mine was in an Iraqi conventional minefield along the Iran-Iraq border. However, it was recovered and positively identified as being conventional. The second circumstance that caused concern in the US intelligence community began with an explosives shortage in Italy in the mid-1980s that led to production of mine bodies which were left unfilled. There were concerns in the US that these mine bodies would be filled with chemical warfare agents by nations such as Iraq as Iraqi forces fielded many Italian produced mines. This proved to be unfounded as post-war inspection and destruction of chemical weapons by UNSCOM revealed no Iraqi chemical mines.
After the war, over 3.5 million mines were collected inside Kuwait and destroyed. None were found to be chemical. Additionally, many Iraqi documents were captured and translated. None discussed chemical mines except in theory.
One mention of chemical mines in captured Iraqi documents is an Iraqi engineering publication that discusses clearing an area of enemy chemical mines. The example chemical mine was a US M21 chemical mine.
Iraqi engineers strictly implemented doctrine on mine laying operations. A US expert on foreign mines has stated that he felt very safe in an Iraqi minefield due to the discipline of Iraqi engineers in following doctrine. Minefield density was consistent and followed the pattern shown in Figure 11. Three anti-personnel mines are placed one meter from an anti-tank mine, facing the enemy. Each anti-tank mine is separated by four to five meters. This doctrine was consistently followed during the Gulf War across the entire 400 kilometers of minefields. In traveling 300 kilometers of this front, the US expert found no boobytraps or chemical mines and he was specifically looking for signs. According to this expert, the Iraqis followed doctrine by the book, and any inclusion of chemical mines would be along this doctrine. There would not be unique events of a few chemical mines interspersed among the 3.5 million conventional mines.
Lastly, it was his expert opinion and that of a colleague that chemical mines are "a dumb way to disperse chemicals." The problem with a chemical mine is that it does not adequately disperse chemical warfare agents into the environment. Artillery and aircraft-delivered munitions that are exploded above ground are considerably better.
Chemical Mines of Other Nations
Several nations have experimented or deployed chemical mines. In the 1960s, the US experimented with a 2-gallon VX-filled mine referred to as the M23. Over 43,000 were produced and are currently awaiting destruction.
During World War II, Germany had an ambitious chemical mine production program. Over 200,000 chemical mine bodies were made. After the war, the US Occupation Forces destroyed over 55,000 mustard-filled mines and the remaining unfilled mine bodies. Additionally, chemical land mines that the Germans had captured from Hungary were also destroyed.
Interestingly, the Soviet Union has not declared a chemical land mine capability. In 1987, the Soviet Union held an "open house" at their chemical facility at Shikany. They publicly declared and displayed their chemical inventory. This inventory did not include chemical landmines.
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