Sunday, January 16, 2005

Dan Bartlett update

I'm reading through the Duelfer Report online (that's the only way I seem to read now) and I'm finding some interesting things. On the subject of moment's notice capability, I'd have to disagree with Bartlett's assessment that Iraq was ready to go ahead with chemical weapons production. While it was true that Saddam kept the know-how part of the equation with scientists, his entire capability was destroyed in 1991 after the Gulf War. Shortly after the Oil For Food program started in 1996, Iraq's economy began to turn around, especially in the area of chemical production (not the weapons kind). While this did allow for some procurement of illicit substances, there was no large-scale procurement of the necessary agents for chemical production (that's the weapons kind). Based on the corruption of the OFF and the rebuilt infrastructure, the ISG has estimates on how fast Iraq could turn around and produce offensive chemical weapons.

Iraq constructed a number of new plants starting in the mid-1990s that enhanced its chemical infrastructure, although its overall industry had not fully recovered from the effects of sanctions, and had not regained pre-1991 technical sophistication or production capabilities prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

  • ISG did not discover chemical process or production units configured to produce key precursors or CW agents. However, site visits and debriefs revealed that Iraq maintained its ability for reconfiguring and ‘making-do’ with available equipment as substitutes for sanctioned items.
  • ISG judges, based on available chemicals, infrastructure, and scientist debriefings, that Iraq at OIF probably had a capability to produce large quantities of sulfur mustard within three to six months.
  • A former nerve agent expert indicated that Iraq retained the capability to produce nerve agent in significant quantities within two years, given the import of required phosphorous precursors. However, we have no credible indications that Iraq acquired or attempted to acquire large quantities of these chemicals through its existing procurement networks for sanctioned items.
The report does go on to say that small-scale weaponization attempt may have been made, but that's still not the moment's notice weapons production that Bartlett would have us believe. We'll call it a draw, through.

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