An independent British think tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), says Iraq could build such a weapon within a matter of months if it were able to obtain the necessary radioactive materials. The IISS report, released on 9 September, also concludes Iraq probably has large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, as well as a small number of long-range missiles.
The IISS special publication, Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Net Assessment, makes the following conclusions about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:
- 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.
- It could divert domestic civil-use radioisotopes or seek to obtain foreign material for a crude radiological device.
- Iraq has probably retained substantial growth media and BW agent (perhaps thousands of litres of anthrax) from pre-1991 stocks.
- The regime is capable of resuming BW Agent production on short notice (in weeks) from existing civilian facilities.
- It could have produced thousands of litres of anthrax, botulinum toxin and other agents since 1998.
- Iraqi production of viral agents is unknown as is the question of whether the regime possesses small pox.
- Iraq has probably retained a few hundred tonnes of mustard and precursors for a few hundred tonnes of sarin/cyclosarin and perhaps similar amounts of VX from pre-1991 stocks.
- It is capable of resuming CW production on short notice (months) from existing civilian facilities.
- It could have produced hundreds of tonnes of agent (mustard and nerve agents) since 1998.
- Iraq has probably retained a small force of about a dozen 650km range al-Hussein missiles.
- These could strike Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran and Kuwait. Could be armed with CBW warheads.
- Iraq does not possess facilities to produce long range missiles and it would require several years and extensive foreign assistance to construct such facilities.
- Iraq may, in addition, have a small number of al-Samoud missiles with ranges of up to 200km able to strike Kuwait but only if deployed within the southern no fly zone.
- It is capable of manufacturing rudimentary CBW warheads; its development of more advanced designs is unknown.
- Iraq can convert civilian vehicles to provide mobile launchers for its ballistic missiles.
The report’s author, Gary Samore, said the argument for taking action against Iraq now was stronger than it was before the Persian Gulf war because Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had proved in the 11 years since that he will not respond to political and military pressure.
The IISS Director Dr John Chipman underlined that both options under discussion held risks. “Wait, and the threat will grow. Strike, and the threat may be used,” he said.