Iraq Concealment

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August 11, 2008

… For the past two years the Commission has undertaken a series of investigations and has acquired evidence of a systematic, centrally controlled mechanism within Iraq, tasked with concealing material and activity proscribed by Security Council resolutions.

It is important to understand how concealment activities in the past have undermined overall Commission verification work and, obviously, how ongoing concealment affects monitoring confidence.

An examination of the events between April and July 1991 shows that Iraq carried out significant concealment efforts aimed at disguising from the Commission and IAEA the true extent of its proscribed activities.

The high-level decision to withhold declaring major proscribed programs, as well as to retain capability in these programs despite UNSCOM/IAEA inspections, was reflected in the initial Iraqi declarations made to the Commission in April 1991. These declarations under-stated Iraq’s operational ballistic missile force, as well as stocks of chemical weapons and agent. Offensive BW work was also concealed.

The Commission concluded that investigating concealment was essential following the defection in August 1995 of Hussein Kamal, the former head of Iraq’s Military Industry. In its subsequent disclosure, Iraq misled the Commission concerning the extent of its past proscribed progress. In fact, retained significant quantities of proscribed material and related documentation, much of it alleged to have been stored at Hussein Kamal’s Haidar Chicken Farm, demonstrated how much the Commission had been deceived by Iraq. Therefore the Commission needed to know how Iraq carried out these deceptions, and whether they were continuing in the post August 1995 period.

As noted earlier, analysis of the content and circumstances of the Haidar Farm documents concluded that significant areas of documentation were missing and likely still retained in Iraq.

More significantly, the Commission concluded that a program of concealment, run at a very senior level in Iraq, must have operated successfully for over four years without detection by the Commission.

Despite Iraqi efforts to portray this concealment effort as the actions of a single man (i.e., Hussein Kamal), the evidence indicated that the concealment effort was more pervasive, and in fact dominated Iraqi policies towards the Commission, the IAEA and the Council during the period between April 1991 and August 1995.


Al Atheer

An illustrative piece of evidence of Iraqi concealment is the so-called “Al Atheer” document. This document was discovered among the thousands of pages of documents recovered at Haidar Farm in 1995. It is dated 4 April 1991, and describes concealment activities undertaken at the Al Atheer Plant, a facility dedicated to the design and manufacture of a nuclear weapon.

This document details directives from a “high-level Committee” (not an individual) to the Al Atheer facility, on how to conceal its true activities. Such actions were not limited to nuclear activity at Al Atheer, but covered all proscribed weapons disciplines. The Commission and IAEA did discover, at an early stage, some Iraqi deception. IAEA inspection teams in June of 1991 discovered equipment and material related to nuclear weapons enrichment programs at a military facility in Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad. While Iraq succeeded in blocking the teams access to this material the team was able to gather photographic evidence of the existence of undeclared equipment on 28 June 1991.

As a result, by Iraq’s own admission, (made in 1996) a special High Level Committee was formed on 30 June 1991 to address the issue of retained proscribed material and weapons. This Committee, chaired by Tariq Aziz, allegedly decided that Iraq had to declare its nuclear program to the Commission and the IAEA. This decision was made on 7 July 1991 and a declaration was provided to the Executive Chairman and IAEA Director General on that date.

In addition, we understand it was the High Level Committee which decided to undertake the secret unilateral destruction briefed earlier.

It was not until March 1992 that Iraq admitted to the Commission its unilateral destruction activities of July 1991. According to Iraq, this activity was done in secret and therefore no documents or other supporting evidence exist to back up Iraq’s claims. The Commission was asked to accept at face value Iraq’s declaration that it alone had accounted for these materials.

Nevertheless, the Commission tried to establish a material balance based on the new information Iraq provided. While much was unverifiable, the Commission in June 1995 was in a position to consider the possibility of transferring the Missile and CW files over to monitoring regime. An implicit deal was struck with Iraq that if the June report of the Commission was adequately positive, Tariq Aziz would provide the Commission with some facts concerning Iraq’s hitherto undisclosed BW program. It is worth recalling that in July 1995 Iraq’s President threatened to cease cooperation with the UN if no progress was made toward lifting sanctions. Foreign Minister Sahhaf stated a deadline of 31 August that year for the Council to act. Iraq made an admission of an offensive BW programme in July 1995. But even then said, deceptively, that Iraq never weaponized the agents and destroyed all agents before the Gulf War.

However, in August 1995 the defection of Hussein Kamal occurred. Immediately, the entire basis upon which the Commission was conducting its assessments and analysis was undermined. It became clear that Iraq’s declaration of March 1992 was itself a fraud; everything had NOT been declared to the Commission; everything had not been destroyed.

Examples of the types of prohibited activities the Commission learned about which took place after the March 1992 declaration and the unilateral destruction are:

  • the covert G-l program, to convert surface-to-surface missiles to a proscribed surface-to-surface role, including secret flight tests and an undeclared facility to support this (1993-1994);
  • covert efforts to reverse engineer SCUD-type missile-guidance gyroscopes, using personnel and facilities monitored by the Commission. The programme incorporated covert procurement activities undeclared to the Commission, and the use of retained gyroscopes and material of a proscribed nature (1993-1994);
  • covert ballistic missile research programs, to include systems of ranges vastly exceeding the 150 kilometer limit set by Security Council resolution 687 (up to 1995);
  • deception efforts designed to keep secret from the Commission proscribed program activity, to include:
  • Iraq’s ability to reverse engineer and produce an indigenous SCUD missile;
  • Iraq’s VX chemical weapons production capability;
  • the true extent of Iraq’s large-scale offensive biological weapons programs;
  • secret crash weaponization programs in the nuclear field, as well as entire enrichment efforts (such as the centrifuge program).

The Commission’s analysis found that there had been a systematic program designed to collect, sort and divert certain critical components and material away from destruction and into hiding from the Commission.

Partial unilateral destruction was used by Iraq to disguise this diversion. Iraq initially only declared the diversion of the material discovered by the Commission at the Haidar Chicken Farm. However, the Commission was able to uncover other examples of diversion undeclared by Iraq. For example, at the villa of one Major Izzadin, production tools and components related to the indigenous SCUD production program, were hidden.

The Izzadin Villa case illustrates Iraq’s deceptive presentation of unilateral destruction that took place in July 1991. Major Izzadin al-Majid, an officer of the Special Republican Guard, was tasked by his higher authorities in July 1991 to receive a shipment of production equipment and critical components related to Project 1728, Iraq’s indigenous SCUD engine development programme, which had been diverted from secret destruction. He was ordered to hide these materials on the premises of his private Villa in the west Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib. These materials remained hidden until March 1992, when the Special Republican Guard again retrieved these materials and took them away to another location. Iraq did not declare this activity to the Commission; it was acquired from other sources and subsequently confirmed.

An investigation into the Izzadin Villa incident by the Commission prompted Iraq to declare that the deception was ordered by Hussein Kamal. Iraq stated the material came from a declared unilateral destruction site at Al Alam, a dry riverbed or wadi just north of Tikrit. It was here, according to Iraq, in July of 1991 that some ten truckloads of material from the indigenous SCUD production programme, were taken for explosive destruction. These details were significantly different from the information that had been obtained by the Commission about the Izzadin Villa.

When the Commission investigated the Iraqi version of events, it found activity of a scale much larger than that declared by Iraq. Between 1-7 July 1991, during the same time period declared by Iraq as that in which retained undeclared proscribed material was being collected at holding points throughout Iraq for unilateral destruction, the Commission discovered that there had been at Al Alam not 10 vehicles, but over 100 vehicles. Bear in mind that this was the week after inspectors caught the Iraqis with concealed nuclear material at Abu Graib. These vehicles stayed at Al Alam up until 18 July. No destruction activity was observed at Al Alam until 22 July, well after the vehicles in question had been dispersed.

Iraq has been made aware of this information by the Commission, but has denied that any such secret unilateral destruction activity ever took place. The Commission’s attempts to investigate the activity at Al Alam, to include document searches of Governmental and Security organizations in the Tikrit region, revealed a total lack of documentation concerning vehicle movement of this scale in the Tikrit area during this period. However, the investigation did reveal that convoys under the control of Special Security were able to move without documentation, and could pass through the myriad of checkpoints without hindrance.

Nevertheless, Iraq denies that Special Security organizations had any role in the activities associated with unilateral destruction. Evidence available indicates otherwise.

This review indicates some key problems. The unilateral destruction events of July 1991, upon which the all-important material balance of proscribed items is based, is not as depicted by Iraq. There was diversion of material, as shown by the Izzadin Farm incident. The possibility of a much greater diversion of material exists, as shown by the movement of over 100 vehicles in Al Alam in July 1991 and subsequent inability to locate the materials involved.

The mechanism used by Iraq to accomplish this diversion and safeguard these materials is also under question. Despite Iraq’s claims to the contrary, it is clear to the Commission that Special Security played a major, if not leading, role in the diversion and safeguarding of proscribed material during the May-July 1991 period. Iraq has only recently admitted that elements from the Special Republican Guard did in fact play a minor, supporting role in the concealment events of May-July 1991. Analysis by the Commission concludes that this role was of a much greater scope, and involved the most senior elements of Special Security.

Why is this important? Iraq wants the Commission to come to closure on its accounting of Iraq’s proscribed material and activities. Iraq bases its accounting on unverifiable declarations including Iraq’s statements concerning unilateral destruction. Iraq claims there are no supporting documents just as it did prior to the Hussein Kamal defection after which 150 boxes of documents were provided.

The Commission believes that a verifiable baseline of data from which to calculate a reliable material balance cannot exist without a full accounting for the disposal of Iraq’s proscribed equipment, material and programs. The existence of a systematic mechanism of concealment, combined with serious doubts about the veracity of Iraqi declarations regarding the disposal of its proscribed material, makes such an acceptance of Iraq’s position on unilateral destruction problematic.

The Commission has attempted to rectify its doubts through engagement with the Iraqis. However, Iraq has refused to discuss certain aspects of the concealment mechanism issue, and refuses to provide basic documentation to back up its claims concerning unilateral destruction and related concealment activity. This has left the Commission with no choice but to carry out on-site inspections of facilities and sites it believes to be associated with concealment mechanism activity. While the results of these inspections, which were often blocked or delayed by Iraq, thus limiting their effectiveness and credibility, provided additional circumstantial information which reinforced the Commission’s concerns about the continued existence of a concealment mechanism. Moreover, these inspections have come at a considerable political cost, and have resulted in serious confrontations between the Commission, the Council and Iraq.

The Commission also has serious concerns about the current status of Iraqi involvement in activity of a proscribed nature, and the continuation of a systematic mechanism for concealment today–these concerns were underscored by the revelations, in November 1995 (i.e., AFTER the events of August 1995) that Iraq had undertaken a clandestine effort to acquire guidance and control equipment of foreign origin which was clearly of a proscribed nature. This activity, the so-called Gharbiah affair, caused the Commission alarm, and raises concern about whether or not there were, or are, any other activities of this nature ongoing in Iraq without the knowledge of the Commission. It is for reasons such as this the Commission must have complete confidence that concealment is no longer taking place in Iraq today. An important element in establishing this level of confidence is the identification by the Commission of the scope and activities of past concealment efforts, and clear verifiable evidence that such efforts have been terminated.

And thus the quandary. The Commission has serious concerns over the verification of Iraq’s declarations concerning its disposal of proscribed weapons and activity. Iraq says it cannot provide documentation to verify its assertions. Inspection activity designed to address these concerns have been both inconclusive and Iraq has adopted a confrontational attitude towards such inspections.

Positive steps Iraq could take to address this issue could include:

Provide access to or hand over documentation that would verify Iraq’s declarations concerning both unilateral destruction and the existence of a mechanism of concealment as being correct and complete.

Examples of such documentation could include the following:

  • Presidential or High-level Directives concerning the decision to mislead the Commission about Iraq’s proscribed programs and activity in April-May 1991
  • Presidential or High-level Directives concerning the establishment of special groups to conceal material from the Commission in May-June 199l, to include Orders from the Special Republican Guard assigning identified personnel to special tasks associated with Concealment
  • Situation reports concerning the events at Abu Ghraib and Fallujah in June 1991
  • Presidential Directive issued on 30 June or 1 July 1991 concerning cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA; and the Directive ordering the formation of the High Level Committee on 30 June, as well as all minutes relating to meetings held by this Committee and any directives or resolutions issued by this Committee
  • Presidential or High-level Directives concerning the activities associated with unilateral destruction, to include initiating directives and policy memoranda outlining the purpose and goals of unilateral destruction
  • Report of the Investigation conducted into the Haidar Chicken Farm and the defection of Hussein Kamal

All of these things have been asked for repeatedly from Iraq. So far Iraq has refused to hand over claiming, they simply don’t exist.

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