U.S. Report Finds Iraqis Eliminated Illicit Arms in
By DOUGLAS JEHL
Published: October 7, 2004
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 - Iraq had destroyed its illicit weapons stockpiles
within months after the Persian Gulf war of 1991, and its ability to
produce such weapons had significantly eroded by the time of the
American invasion in 2003, the top American inspector for Iraq said in a
report made public Wednesday.
The report by the inspector, Charles A. Duelfer, intended to offer a
near-final judgment about Iraq and its weapons, said Iraq, while under
pressure from the United Nations, had "essentially destroyed'' its
illicit weapons ability by the end of 1991, with its last secret
factory, a biological weapons plant, eliminated in 1996.
Mr. Duelfer said that even during those years, Saddam Hussein had aimed
at "preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass
destruction when sanctions were lifted.'' But he said he had found no
evidence of any concerted effort by Iraq to restart the programs.
The findings uphold Iraq's prewar insistence that it did not possess
chemical or biological weapons. They also show the enormous distance
between the Bush administration's own prewar assertions, based on
reports by American intelligence agencies, and what a 15-month inquiry
by American investigators found since the war.
Mr. Duelfer said he had concluded that between 1991 and 2003, Mr.
Hussein had in effect sacrificed Iraq's illicit weapons to the larger
goal of winning an end to United Nations sanctions. But he also argued
that Mr. Hussein had used the period to try to exploit avenues opened by
the sanctions, especially the oil-for-food program, to lay the
groundwork for a plan to resume weapons production if sanctions were
In addition, the report concluded that Mr. Hussein had deliberately
sought to maintain ambiguity about whether it had illicit weapons,
mainly as a deterrent to Iran, its rival.
The American inspector presented his conclusions to Congress on
Wednesday, including highly charged public testimony before the Senate
Armed Services Committee.
With Iraq figuring prominently in the last dash toward the presidential
election, Democrats argued that the report had undermined the
administration's case for war, while the White House and its Republican
allies called attention to elements in the report that highlighted
potential dangers posed by Mr. Hussein's government.
"There is no doubt that Saddam was a threat to our nation, and there is
no doubt that he had W.M.D. capability, and the Duelfer report is very
clear on these points,'' said James Wilkinson, a White House deputy
national security adviser, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass
The three-volume report, totaling 918 pages, represented the most
authoritative attempt so far to unravel the mystery posed by Iraq
between 1991 and 2003, beginning with the point after the Persian Gulf
war when Iraq still possessed chemical and biological weapons and an
active nuclear-weapons program. The conclusions suggest that the main
war aim cited by the White House in March 2003 - to disarm Iraq, which
American intelligence agencies said possessed chemical and biological
weapons and was reconstituting its nuclear program - was based on an
outdated view of Iraq's weapons stockpiles.
At the time of the American invasion, Mr. Duelfer said in the report,
Iraq did not possess chemical and biological weapons, was not seeking to
reconstitute its nuclear program, and was not making any active effort
to gain those abilities. Even if Iraq had sought to restart its weapons
programs in 2003, the report said, it could not have produced militarily
significant quantities of chemical weapons for at least a year, and it
would have required years to produce a nuclear weapon.
"Saddam Hussein ended the nuclear program in 1991 following the gulf
war,'' Mr. Duelfer said in the report. It said American inspectors in
Iraq had "found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the
After a closed briefing by Mr. Duelfer to the Senate Intelligence
Committee, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the top
Democrat on the committee, described the report as "a devastating
"The administration would like the American public to believe that
Saddam's intention to build a weapons program, regardless of actual
weapons or the capability to produce weapons, justified invading Iraq,''
Mr. Rockefeller said in a statement. "In fact, we invaded a country,
thousands of people have died, and Iraq never posed a grave or growing
In accounting for what happened beginning in 1991, Mr. Duelfer said Mr.
Hussein made a fundamental decision after the Persian Gulf war to get
rid of Iraq's illicit weapons and accept the destruction of its
weapons-producing facilities as part of an effort to win an end to
sanctions imposed by the United Nations to achieve those ends.
Although Mr. Duelfer concluded that Mr. Hussein had intended to restart
his programs, the report acknowledged that that conclusion was based
more on inference than solid evidence. "The regime had no formal written
strategy or plan for the revival of W.M.D. after sanctions,'' it said.
The report notes that its conclusions were drawn in part from
interrogation of Mr. Hussein in his prison cell outside Baghdad. Mr.
Duelfer, a special adviser to the director of central intelligence, said
he had concluded that Mr. Hussein had deliberately sought to maintain
ambiguity about whether Iraq possessed illicit weapons, primarily as a
deterrent to Iran, Iraq's adversary in an eight-year war in the 1980's.
It was not until a series of meetings in late 2002, just months before
the American invasion, that Mr. Hussein finally acknowledged to senior
officers and officials of his government that Iraq did not possess
illicit weapons, Mr. Duelfer said.
The report said American investigators had found clandestine
laboratories in the Baghdad area used by the Iraqi Intelligence Service
between 1991 and 2003 to conduct research and to test various chemicals
and poisons, including ricin. As previously reported, it said those
efforts appeared to be intended primarily for use in assassinations, not
to inflict mass casualties.
Mr. Duelfer said in his report that Mr. Hussein never acknowledged in
the course of the interrogations what had become of Iraq's illicit
weapons. He said that American investigators had appealed to the former
Iraqi leader to be candid in order to shape his legacy, but that Mr.
Hussein had not been forthcoming.
The report said interviews with other former top Iraqi leaders had made
clear that Mr. Hussein had left many of his top deputies uncertain until
the eve of war about whether Iraq possessed illicit weapons. It said he
seemed to be most concerned about a possible new attack by Iran, whose
incursions into Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 were fended off
by Baghdad partly with the use of chemical munitions.
Mr. Duelfer said Iraq had tried to maintain the knowledge base necessary
to restart an illicit weapons program. He said Iraq had essentially put
its biological program "on the shelf," after its last production
facility, Al Hakam, was destroyed by United Nations inspectors in 1996,
and could have begun to produce biological questions in as little as a
month if it had restarted its weapons program in 2003.
But the report said there were "no indications'' that Iraq was pursuing
such a course, and it reported "a complete absence of discussion or even
interest in biological weapons'' at the level of Mr. Hussein and his
aides after the mid-1990's.
The report will almost certainly be the last complete assessment by the
team led by Mr. Duelfer, which is known as the Iraq Survey Group. But he
said he and the 1,200-member team would continue their work in Iraq for
the time being. He said the team had not completely ruled out the
possibility that some Iraqi weapons might have been smuggled out of Iraq
to a neighboring country, like Syria.
The report did revise several earlier judgments, including a report by
the Central Intelligence Agency in May 2003 that said mysterious
trailers found in Iraq after the American invasion in 2003 were intended
for use in a biological warfare program. Mr. Duelfer said that the
trailers could not have been used for that purpose, and that their
manufacturers "almost certainly designed and built the equipment
exclusively for the generation of hydrogen,'' upholding claims by Iraqi
officials that linked the trailers to weather balloons used for