Detailed Preliminary Assessment of Chemical Weapons Findings

Iraq’s Chemical Warfare Program - Annex F


Chemical Munitions—Other Finds


Beginning in May 2004, ISG recovered a series of chemical weapons from Coalition military units and other sources. A total of 53 munitions have been recovered, all of which appear to have been part of pre-1991 Gulf war stocks based on their physical condition and residual components.

The most interesting discovery has been a 152mm binary Sarin artillery projectile—containing a 40 percent concentration of Sarin—which insurgents attempted to use as an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The existence of this binary weapon not only raises questions about the number of viable chemical weapons remaining in Iraq and raises the possibility that a larger number of binary, long-lasting chemical weapons still exist.

  • ISG has no information to indicate that Iraq produced more binary Sarin rounds than it declared, however, former Iraqi scientists involved with the program admitted that the program was considered extremely successful and shelved for future use. According to the source, General Amer al-Saadi sought to downplay its findings to the UN to avoid heightened attention toward the program.

Under UN Security Resolution 687, Iraq should have destroyed or rendered harmless all CW munitions, but we cannot determine without additional information whether the rounds we have recovered were declared or if their destruction was attempted.

  • An Iraqi source indicated that when weapons were forward-deployed in anticipation of a conflict, the CW weapons often became mixed in with the regular munitions, and were never accounted for again. Another source stated that several hundred munitions moved forward for the Gulf war, and never used, were never recovered by retreating Iraqi troops. A thorough post-OIF search of forward depots turned up nothing—if the weapons were indeed left behind, they were looted over the 12 years between the wars.
  • Iraq’s unilateral destruction of weapons in 1991 was far from perfect—a February 2003 UNMOVIC inspection at the Al Azziziyah Firing Range to attempt to account for 157 R-400 bombs by inspecting the debris turned up 8 bombs that had survived the 1991 explosions. So it is possible that Iraqi—or even UN—explosion pits could have been looted of a few surviving munitions.
  • Because of poor Iraqi inventory accounting, simple pilferage before or after the 1991 Gulf war could have resulted in some lost munitions.

May 04: 155mm Chemical Munitions Used as an Improvised Explosive Device

Military units recovered a 155mm artillery round near Baghdad International Airport. Analysis of the residue at the bottom of the round by ISG field labs returned positive indications for sulfur mustard CW agent. The lab results, type and condition of the round, and the lack of markings indicate it is an Iraqi CW-filled 155mm round left over from the pre-1991 Iraqi program. The lack of a driving band makes it difficult to determine whether the round was fired, where it was acquired, andsuggests the band probably was looted (see Figure 1).


Historical context: Iraq purchased thousands of empty 155mm artillery rounds designed to disseminate smoke chemicals. The original markings were generally painted over and the munitions filled with CW agent mustard. Over 10,000 of these rounds were destroyed under UN supervision, but they have not all been accounted for.

One of the key UN unresolved issues involves 550 mustard-filled rounds. An ISG investigation into this issue yielded inconsistent information about the final disposition of the 550 shells, with one official claiming they were retained for future use. The ISG has not been able to confirm these claims.

16 May 2004: 152mm Binary Chemical Improvised Explosive Device

A military unit near Baghdad Airport reported a suspect IED along the main road between the airport and the Green Zone (see figure 2). The munitions were remotely detonated and the remaining liquid tested positive in ISG field labs for the nerve agent Sarin and a key Sarin degradation product.

The partially detonated IED was an old prototype binary nerve agent munitions of the type Iraq declared it had field tested in the late 1980s. The munitions bear no markings, much like the sulfur mustard round reported on 2 May (see Figure 3). Insurgents may have looted or purchased the rounds believing they were conventional high explosive 155mm rounds. The use of this type of round as an IED does not allow sufficient time for mixing of the binary compounds and release in an effective manner, thus limiting the dispersal area of the chemicals.


Historical context: Iraq only declared its work on binary munitions after Husayn Kamil fled Iraq in 1995, and even then only claimed to have produced a limited number of binary rounds that it used in field trials in 1988. UN investigations revealed a number of uncertainties surrounding the nature and extent of Iraq’s work with these systems and it remains unclear how many rounds it produced, tested, declared, or concealed from the UN.

16 May 2004: 10 155mm Chemical Rounds

A military team interrupted a group of Iraqi individuals attempting to bury multiple projectiles at a location near Canal Road in Baghdad (see figure 4). The individuals fled the site when fired upon, and the military team captured multiple artillery rounds and other weapons at the site. ISG’s field labs tested the recovered 155mm rounds and found some trace amounts of sulfur mustard and sulfur mustard degradation products in a few of the rounds. Technical experts found that each round contained a ruptured burster tube—inconsistent with UN destruction practices—suggesting that either Iraq unilaterally destroyed the rounds or looters attempted to drain residual agent from them (see figure 5).


Historical context: Iraq declared in its 1996 Full, Final, and Complete Declaration (FFCD) that it produced 68,000 155mm sulfur mustard-filled rounds between 1981 and 1990. Of those produced, Iraq has not been able to account for the location or destruction of 550 155 mm shells. The bulk of 155mm destruction occurred between 1993 and 1994 and many of the log entries show that the mustard was partly polymerized, which is consistent with our findings in the recent sulfur mustard rounds.

16 June 2004: Two 122mm SAKR-18 Artillery Rockets

An Iraqi source turned over to Polish Forces two 122mm rockets obtained at the Khamisiyah Depot—a former CW storage site declared by Iraq to have housed 122mm filled rockets (see Figure 6). Details about the provenance of these rounds remain unclear but the source Sarin/Cyclosarin believes the missiles were housed in a bunker struck during the Gulf war and subsequently hidden in canals and lakes in the area. Analysis of the liquid residue revealed the nerve agents Sarin (GB) and Cyclosarin (GF) as well as a number of impurities and known degradation products of GB and GF. Given the age, leakage, decomposition of nerve agent, and small quantity of remaining liquid, these rounds would have limited, if any, impact if used by insurgents against Coalition Forces (see Figure 7).


Historical context: Iraq declared having produced the following numbers of 122mm nerve agent rockets, but made no distinction in its declaration about the type of sarin fill: GB, GF, or GB/GF mix. We suspect, based on data from the declaration and the UNSCOM 239 Report that GB/GF-filled rockets were included in the 1988 and 1990 declaration figures. Although the origin of these rockets has not been clearly stated, the Khamisiyah Ammunition Storage Depot where the rockets were found has a long history of CW storage, Coalition bombing, and UN investigation.

Origin of the Binary Sarin Round Used on BIAP

The binary chemical round detonated near the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) probably originated with a batch that was stored in a Al Muthanna CW complex basement during the late 1980s for the purpose of leakage testing. Iraq placed at least 12 filled binary Sarin munitions, either 152 or 155mm projectiles, in the basement of the Salah al-Din laboratory at the Al Muthanna CW complex, according to a report.

  • The same report claims that only 20-30 binary 152mm rounds were produced, and the program switched to 155mm rounds after the 152mm rounds were expended in testing. The report stated that all of the binary munitions with aluminum canister inserts (such as the one used on BIAP) should have been used in field testing, but some may have been set aside for leak testing at Al Muthanna.
  • A different report stated that as of 1988 no binary chemical rounds were stored at any other location besides the Salah al-Din laboratory, and that the rounds were kept in the basement to test for leakage and chemical degradation.
  • A third report speculated that binary rounds may either have been buried or moved to one of two bunkers in the mid-1990s when the UN ordered the Al Muthanna complex to relocate a large number of chemicals and munitions. The same report said that Salah al-Din al-Nu’aymi, the manager of the binary Sarin munitions project, frequently stored munitions he was working on but had not tested in the basement of his laboratory at Al Muthanna.
  • A fourth report said that 20-40 binary shells were kept in the “special stores” at Al Muthanna as of the late 80s, but the source believed that these had been destroyed by UNSCOM. ISG has been unable to verify from UNSCOM reports that any binary shells were destroyed at Al Muthanna.

The Technical Research Center (TRC) also worked on producing 152mm binary Sarin artillery shells, but we have no reason to believe that they possessed functional chemical munitions.

  • According to the Iraqi FFCD, the TRC conducted lab experiments with 152mm binary munitions using a simulant to test the mixing of the binary components. No binary tests using chemical agent at the TRC were declared.
  • According to one report, the Iraqi Intelligence service officer Ali Muklif ran the binary program, and the deputy director of the Military Industrialization Commission, Amir al-Sa’adi, ordered the work. The report claimed that al-Sa’adi provided the TRC with chemicals and possibly 152mm rounds, but the report did not elaborate on the work performed by the TRC.

The disposition of the 152mm and/or the 155mm artillery projectiles after the Gulf war is unknown, although it is possible that the rounds remained at the Al Muthanna complex and were looted after OIF.

  • Even though Al Muthanna has been extensively investigated by UN and ISG teams, the complex covers 10 square miles, which makes it difficult to fully exploit. An ISG team that went to the site in January said that looters appeared to have been at several parts of the Al Muthanna complex.
  • Several parts of the Al Muthanna complex were bombed or in poor condition throughout the 1990s. These areas pose a health risk to exploitation teams, but looters have shown themselves to be less risk-averse than ISG personnel. It is possible that the round was removed from an area in Al Muthanna that was deemed unsafe to exploit.
  • An alternate explanation is that rounds were moved out of Al Muthanna and stored at a different location in the early 1990s, where it was later looted after OIF, although we have no reporting to substantiate this possibility.

The actual number of filled binary artillery shells produced by the Iraqi CW program during the 1980s is unknown, but we assess that only a handful of filled binary rounds would have existed after the Gulf war.

  • According to a report, the National Monitoring Directorate only asked for the number of binary CW rounds Al Muthanna tested, not the number it actually produced. The Iraqi FFCD from June 1996 states that 10-12 152mm and 160 155mm binary Sarin artillery shells were field-tested.
  • If the number of 152mm artillery shells produced by Al Muthanna was a few dozen, as was stated in the aforementioned sensitive report, then the shells which remained in the basement of the Salah al-Din Laboratory in the late 1980s may have been the only filled binary sarin rounds which existed at the time of the Gulf war.
  • Reporting states that the only 152mm binary Sarin rounds produced by Al Muthanna that were not destroyed in field tests were in the basement of the Salah al-Din laboratory. The report stated that at least 12 binary munitions were placed there, although they may have been 152mm, 155mm, or a mixture of both.

Historical context: Prior to the Gulf war, the Iraqis had stored SAKR munitions in bunkers at the Khamisiyah Depot and moved some of them to a nearby depression near a canal prior to the conflict to avoid combing. During the Gulf Conflict US ground forces captured the Khamisiyah Depot and blew some of the storage bunkers without knowledge of CW munitions there.

UN inspectors have since visited the site and UNSCOM’s figures for these 122mm munitions indicate that between 350 and 400 are not accounted for—almost certainly the rounds that remained in Building 71 after its demolition. Between 1991-1998 Iraqi’s looted the structure, and in doing so disposed of the contents, including weapons. The likelihood is that the rounds were chucked into nearby piles of earth, which were in turn covered by more debris.

25 June 2004: 17 Additional 122mm SAKR-18 Artillery Rockets. July 2004: 22 Additional 122mm SAKR-18 Artillery Rockets

An additional 17 rockets from the same cache described above (d) were identified at the Khamisiyah Depot by the same source. (See figure 8). Sixteen were returned to ISG for analysis and one was exploded onsite because it retained an intact rocket motor that posed safety concerns. Most of the rounds had been severed, exposed to heat, or were partially destroyed. Four intact rounds were separated for testing and returned a preliminary positive result for G-series nerve agent. None of these rounds retained a liquid fill line, suggesting the agent had degraded over time. 22 more rockets were discovered at Khamisiyah. 21 were in deteriorated condition with only one intact rocket with residual riot control agent present. (See figure 9).


Historical context: These 122mm SAKR-18 rockets were discovered at the Khamisiyah Depot. Please refer to the box above for relevant historical context.

Posted: Apr 23, 2007 01:01 PM
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2007 01:01 PM