With the ongoing War in Iraq, this country is at the spotlight of international concern. Although no weapons of mass destruction were found when the US invaded Iraq in 2003, Iraq has an undisputed history of possessing WMD. It is uncontested that Iraq at one point possessed large quanties of chemical weapons and used them against its own civilian population. Iraq also possessed a secret nuclear program that came very close to developing a workable bomb.
During the Iran-Iraq war between September 1980 and 1988, Iraq's use of chemical weapons become widely known. At first, Iraq's invasion of Iran seemed to be successful, but soon Iran went on the counteroffensive and regained territory. In 1982, Iraq began using chemical weapons to prevent advances by Iran's military and to augment its desperate military force. Its use of chemical weapons, including nerve gas, continued throughout the war. In 1987 and 1988, Iran retaliated with its own chemical weapons. By this time, many analysts believed that Iran could produce hydrogen cyanide, phosgene gas, or chlorine gas and was attempting to produce nerve gas.
The Iran-Iraq war ended in a stalemate, but Saddam Hussein then turned on the Kurds, a minority inside Iraq that to this day wants independence. He slaughtered thousands of them with poison gas. The Kurds, of course, had no means of retaliation.
Anfal ("The Spoils") is the name of the eighth chapter of the Koran. It is also the name given by the Iraqis to a series of anti-Kurdish military actions by the Iraqi government which lasted from February 23 to September 6 of 1988. In addition to mass summary executions and destruction of 2000 Kurdish villages, the Iraqis, lead by Ali Hassan al-Majid, engaged in the widespread use of chemical weapons, including mustard gas and sarin nerve gas.
The Iraqi regime was the first in history to attack its own civilian population with chemical weapons. On April 15, 1987, Iraqi aircraft dropped poison gas on the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) headquarters at Zewa Shkan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) headquarters in Segalou and Bergalou. The next afternoon, chemicals were dropped on the undefended civilian villages of Sheikh Wasan and Balisan, killing over 100 innocent people, mainly women and children. In the largest chemical attack of all, the March 16 bombing of Halabja, between 3200 and 5000 residents died. Over the next 18 months, there were 40 documented chemical attacks on Kurdish targets.
US President George W. Bush justified the invasion of Iraq by claiming that Saddam Hussein possessed untold amounts of weapons of mass destruction. The intelligence later turned out to be flawed, but the American people were still scared over the 9/11 terrorist attacks and were prepared to go to war to eliminate terrorism.
Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people.
President George W. Bush, 17 March 2003
Poison gas was one of the WMD's that Iraq was accused of hoarding prior to the US invasion in 2003. The only weaponized gas found was one artillery shell filled with nerve gas that an Iraqi guerilla tried to convert into a roadside bomb, evidently believing that it was filled with high explosive. The shell had been scheduled to be disposed of with the rest of Saddam's chemical weapons stock but apparently got lost among the hundreds of thousands of high explosive shells buried every few miles in Iraq.
Prior to the Gulf War, Iraqi scientists had gone through several designs for a fission bomb based on implosion. They had overcome some of the obstacles to a workable device, but still had a while to go. A group of nuclear weapons designers met in 1992 to assess the progress of Iraq's nuclear program. The designers concluded that Iraq's program, on its present track, was 3 years away from a working bomb. However, several other experts believe Iraq could have produced an operational nuclear weapon in as little as 6 to 24 months had they seized foreign-supplied HEU and focused their efforts.
After 20 years of working for Saddam Hussein developing a nuclear weapon, Khidir Hamza escaped from the service of the dreaded dictator. In his book published in 2000, Saddam's Bombmaker, he recounts his life in Saddam Hussein's inner circle and his daring flight to the West.
In 1971, on the order of Saddam Hussein, we set out to build a nuclear bomb...
From the beginning, Saddam was ambitious. He set a production target of six bombs a year, which meant that Iraq would have surpassed China as a nuclear power by the end of the 1990's...
We had a vast number of people working in the clandestine nuclear effort. At its peak in 1993-1994, the bomb program employed more than two thousand engineers...
How close did we get to perfecting a nuclear bomb? Very. We had a device capable of producing a nuclear explosion equivalent toa few kilotons of TNT...
In any case, I have no doubt that Iraq is pursuing the nuclear option...
This is a frightening prospect...
Khihir Hamza, Saddam's Bombmaker, page 333
Chapter 34, p161.