What Happened to Those Chemical Weapons?

We now what happened to some of them, at least, because of a Project Harmony document translated by Joseph Shahda. The document is dated September 2002, six months before the Iraq war began. If I’m not mistaken, it is addressed to Uday Hussein himself, and it concerns a quantity of chemical weapons (or the materials for such weapons) that were buried to preserve them from discovery by U.N. inspectors, and apparently forgotten:

In the Name of God The Most Compassionate The Most Merciful
The Republic of Iraq
The Presidency of the Republic
Saddam Feedayeens
The Supervisor of Saddam Feedayeens


The Respected Supervisor of Saddam Feedayeens
Subject: Information
Salute and regards Sir

We received information that state the following:

1. A team from the Military Industrialization Commission when Hussein Kamel Hussein was conducting his responsibilities did bury a large container said that it contains a Chemical Material in the village (Al Subbayhat) part of the district of Karma in Fallujah in a quarry region that was used by SamSung Korean company and close to the homes of some citizens.

2. The container was buried using a fleet of concrete mixers.

3. Before the departure of the international inspectors in 1998 a United Nations helicopter flew over the region for two hours.

4. A large number of the region residents know about this container from the large number of machines used to hide it then.

5. It was noticed a non ordinary smell in the region.

6. No official visited the burial site through out the years which give the impression that it is not currently known by the Military Industrialization Commission.

7. Positions for the air defense were digged in the region that surrounds the quarry place without them knowing anything about the container. Also next to it are important headquarters like (Saddam factories-The warehouses of the Commerce ministry- Headquarters of Mujaheeden Khlaq).

Please your Excellency review and order what is appropriate Sir… With regards

Moohsen Abdel Karim Mahmood
General Relations


The CIA describes Iraq’s Military Industrialization Commission as “the key organization through which WMD activities were funneled under Husayn Kamil.” It seems clear that the chemicals in question were buried to preserve them for future use after U.N. inspections had terminated. If the writer of this letter was correct, and MIC had forgotten the existence of this particular site, a logical inference would be that this was one of a number of instances where the Iraqi government buried chemical weapons underground, rather than destroying them as it claimed to have done.

We don’t know yet what Uday Hussein ordered done with this particular cache, if anything. Nor do we know whether the chemicals are still there. And, of course, it is always possible that the intelligence related in the letter could be incorrect, even though the letter on its face seems credible. But this document appears to provide at least a partial answer to the question of what happened to the substantial volume of chemical weapons that the U.N. reported as unaccounted for.

The further question, of course, is what ultimately happened to this and, presumably, other buried caches? Are they still there? Were they dug up and moved? Or destroyed? Destruction seems the least likely alternative; why would Saddam’s regime go to the trouble of digging up the chemicals and destroying them (as it claimed to have done years earlier) without taking credit for it with the U.N.? But if the chemicals were still there as of late 2002, why weren’t they used in the ensuing war?

As we’ve said before, no single document or handful of documents will answer the important questions that still exist regarding Iraq’s WMD programs. But this one seems particularly significant.


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