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IISS Releases Report on Iraq

Aired September 9, 2002 - 5:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: An independent group is releasing a new report on Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction.
We want to go live now to London to hear the news conference from the International Institute of Strategic Studies.

Listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOHN CHIPMAN, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STRATEGIC STUDIES: ... work on the preparation on this dossier in the month of June. By then it had become evident that the increased attention to the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs to develop nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, as well a ballistic missiles, was crying out for a net assessment of this kind.

This dossier is a result of intensive work over eight weeks that has drawn on many sources. All of you have received today a copy of the final dossier. In addition, we have provided a document providing key extracts from each chapter in the document.

You will see that on each page of the dossier that does not carry a table or a graphic. There is a pull that extracts the main argument on the page. Read sequentially, these provide a quick summary of the highlights.

Finally, we have replicated from page 74 of the dossier a table that summarizes our net assessment of Iraq's current capabilities. A copy of the statement from which I am now reading will be available at the end of this press conference.

I should say I'm delighted to be joined today by the editor of the dossier, Dr. Gary Samore, our senior fellow for non-proliferation, and by Dennis Gormley, our consulting senior fellow for defense policy and technology, and both will be very pleased to take your questions after my statement.

Our objective has been to assess as accurately and dispassionately as possible Iraq's current WMD capacities. The task is challenging. Although U.N. inspections of Iraq produced a tremendous amount of material on the development objectives and relative capabilities of Iraq's WMD and missile programs, Iraq made every effort to obscure its past, obstruct dismantlement of its present assets and retain capabilities for the future.

Since Iraq forced inspections to end in December 1998, it has become more difficult to learn about its activities and assess its capabilities.

Questions include the extent to which Iraq has taken advantage of the absence of inspectors to begin reconstituting its programs, the extent to which Iraq has been able to obtain vital foreign assistance through cracks in the sanctions regime, the degree to which Iraq has been able to conduct activities that will have evidenced sophisticated surveillance techniques and the degree to which information gathered from defectors on Iraq's programs can safely be relied upon.

Recognizing these difficulties, the ISS set out to build its assessment on a strong foundation of technical expertise. We have drawn on recognized technical experts with long field experience in UNSCOM and IAEA inspections to provide initial drafts on Iraq's nuclear, biological, chemical and ballistic missile programs.

We have applied our own extensive expertise and those of many other experts in scrutinizing each draft. Each chapter covers the historical development of Iraq's technical capabilities through to the end of the Gulf War. The dossier then assesses the disarmament achievements and the kind of activity that Iraq was able to conceal or continue during the inspection period that ended in December 1998. We then carefully analyze what Iraq may have been able to accomplish in each of these key weapons areas since December 1998.

Our report begins by recalling the relevant Security Council resolutions that followed the cessation of hostilities at the end of the Gulf War. Established -- U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, passed on 3rd April 1991, established the formal cease-fire between coalition forces and Iraq.

Key amongst the cease-fire terms was a prohibition against Iraq retaining, acquiring or developing WMD and long range missiles.

In addition, there was a demand that Iraq unconditionally accept the destruction, removal or rendering harmless of its WMD under international supervision. Iraq was required to submit within 15 days a declaration of all WMD sites and items. In the period that followed passage of the resolution, Iraq did everything in its power to avoid these and other obligations placed upon it.

From the start of the inspections by UNSCOM in 1991 through to the demise of UNSCOM in 1998, Iraq practiced a series of measures designed to prevent the U.N. inspectors from finding the full range and extent of its prescribed WMD and missile programs. Indeed, this activity was so intense that UNSCOM had to set up a special unit to counter Iraq's efforts. While there were notable successes in defeating Iraq's concealment efforts, many others failed.

The UNSCOM experience demonstrates that no on site inspections of Iraq's WMD programs can succeed unless inspectors develop an imaginative and carefully coordinated counter-concealment strategy. On December 17, 1999, one year after UNSCOM left, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1284 reaffirming all previous UNSC Council resolutions disbanding UNSCOM and establishing the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMVIC. Iraq has continued to reject Resolution 1284 on the grounds that it does not set a clear timetable or criteria for the lifting of sanctions.

If UNMVIC inspectors were ever to go to Iraq, it would take them time to develop and refine the unique inspection techniques required. In addition, it would take them considerable field experience to develop the necessary trade craft to deal with Iraqi obfuscation efforts.

Certainly the strength of Baghdad's commitment to possess WMD is measurable, in part, by its efforts to resist unfettered U.N. inspections.

The dossier then goes on to analyze Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons programs. It carries an extensive examination of Iraq's programs to produce highly enriched uranium through various enrichment technologies, first electromagnetic separation and then gas centrifuge.

On the eve of the Gulf War, Iraq was on the verge of producing significant amounts of HCU that would have allowed it within two to three years to produce its first nuclear weapon.

Had the Gulf War not intervened, Iraq could have accumulated a nuclear stockpile of a dozen or so weapons by the end of the decade, that is, the end of the 1990s.

The Gulf War heavily damaged Iraq's nuclear facilities. By the end of inspections of 1998, the IAEA was confident that Iraq's indigenous nuclear weapons program had not produced more than a few grams of weapons usable material. At the same time, Iraq's nuclear potential was not completely eliminated. Most importantly, the scientific and technical expertise of Iraq's nuclear program survived and Baghdad has tried to keep its core nuclear teams in place working on various civilian projects.

Since 1998, Iraq has had more opportunities to reconstitute elements of its nuclear program and to keep these activities secret. Iraq could have completed the necessary theoretical modeling and practical testing of critical nuclear weapons components. Our report covers this in detail.

As for production of indigenous material, Iraq could take a number of measures to hide a 1,000 machine centrifuge plant from surveillance, but it would be more difficult to acquire foreign materials, equipment and components without detection. It is unlikely that Iraq could have completed a facility for the production of nuclear weapons usable material in only a few years since 1998.

Our net assessment of the current situation is that Iraq does not possess facilities to produce fissile material in sufficient amounts for nuclear weapons. It would require several years and extensive foreign assistance to build such fissile material production facilities. It could, however, assemble nuclear weapons within months if fissile material from foreign sources were obtained. And it could divert domestic civil use radioisotopes or seek to obtain foreign material for a crude radiological device.

The dossier then goes on to examine the much more difficult subject of biological weapons. In the mid-1980s, Iraq's B.W. program had picked up speed and by 1989 Iraq began to produce B.W. agent in volume. After its invasion of Kuwait, Baghdad stepped up a large scale B.W. agent production and assembled rudimentary B.W. munitions.

These weapons were distributed to military units, who were delegated to use them if coalition forces advanced on Baghdad or used nuclear weapons.

Most of Iraq's key B.W. facilities, which had been successfully hidden from Western intelligence agencies, escaped attack during the Gulf War. After U.N. inspections began, Baghdad continued to conceal it's B.W.. program until 1995. By the time UNSCOM's work ended in 1998, it was only able to account for a portion of Iraq's B.W. munitions, bulk agents and growth media.

Again, Iraq retains the expertise and industrial capability to produce agents quickly and in volume if desired. Moreover, Iraq has had a decade of experience countering intelligence and developing effective concealment methods.

Western intelligence agencies take seriously defector information to the effect that underground facilities have been built and that a fleet of mobile biological production laboratories deployed, though these are hard to confirm from other sources.

Iraq can certainly produce new stocks of bulk B.W. agent, including botulinim toxin and anthrax, with its existing facilities, equipment and materials. B.W. agent could be delivered by short range munitions, including artillery shells and rockets. Delivery by ballistic missile is more problematic given that much of the agent would be destroyed on impact and the immediate area of dispersal would be small. Civilian casualties could still be in the hundreds or the thousands.

Refurbished L29 trainer aircraft could operate as weapons carrying unarmed vehicles, UAVs, with a range of over 600 kilometers. Such UAVs in theory would be considerably more effective than ballistic missiles in delivering CBW. Commando and terrorist attack is, of course, also possible.

Our net assessment of the current situation is that Iraq has probably retained substantial growth media and B.W. agent, perhaps thousands of liters of anthrax from pre-1991 stocks. The regime is capable of resuming B.W. agent production on short notice, probably weeks, from existing civilian facilities. It could have produced thousands of liters of anthrax, botulinim toxin and other agents since 1998. Of course, the actual stocks cannot be precisely known.

Iraqi production of viral agents is unknown, as is the question of whether the regime possesses smallpox.

Compared to its efforts to acquire nuclear and biological weapons, Iraq's chemical weapons program was the first to reach full maturity and included riot control, blister and nerve agents in a variety of munitions, including missile warheads, aerial bombs, rockets and artillery shells. Iraq used chemical weapons extensively against Iranian troops from 1982 onwards and, indeed, Iraq emerged from the war with Iran with the largest and most advanced chemical weapons capability in the Middle East at that time.

Between 1988 and 1991, Iraq made further progress in developing binary chemical munitions, producing and weaponizing in advance nerve agent V.X. and developing an indigenous production base for key C.W. precursors.

The Gulf War, however, devastated Iraq's primary C.W. production facilities and a large portion of its stockpile of C.W. munitions.

COSTELLO: And you are listening to John Chipman, who is from the International Institute for Strategic Studies. This is an independent think tank that's nationally known and internationally known. He's talking about Iraq's nuclear and chemical weapons capability.

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