Iraqi Weapons Capabilities: A Report from the "Janes" and ISIS

Dr. John Chipman

Dear Friends,

Below is independent information on Iraq's capabilities regarding weapons of mass destruction.

Reports from the various "Jane's" journals concerning the world's weaponry are very widely accepted as highly accurate and not biased by governmental or political or ideological commitments.

Shalom, Arthur

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center

Terry Gross on the National Public Radio Program "Fresh Air" had two editors from Jane's Information Group talk about the war on terrorism and the potential attack on Iraq. Charles Heyman is the editor of Jane's World Armies and the author of The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom. Alex Standish is the editor of Jane's Intelligence Digest. (Jane's is a subscription supported institution — no access unless you ante up $730!)

Listen (about 30 min.) at:


Iraq does not have the ability to project a nuclear weapon (if it had one) against its neighbors. Has residual biological and chemical stocks (perhaps enhanced) from the Gulf War, very few means to project them into the region. Difficult to use effectively. Must have large artillery & huge stocks, especially of chemical weapons. Could reach Israel from western Iraq, an obvious threat.

No credible evidence of massive rebuilding of biological and chemical facilities dismantled under U.N. inspection during the 90's. Recent report suggesting that Saddam is 6 months away from a nuclear weapon has been misrepresented by the Bush administration. Report actually said that he was 6 months to 2 years away before the Gulf War. Recent statement by International Atomic Energy Agency report indicated that they do not believe Saddam has any residual nuclear capability.

International Institute for Strategic Studies (which Alex/Jane's agrees with) report concluded that without outside help, Saddam was years away from developing a nuclear weapon (see below).

With help and with the delivery of some plutonium, a nuclear weapon could be made in a matter of months. But that depends on what you're talking about. If you mean a dirty bomb, then an undergrad student in physics anywhere in the world would do, with the right mix of knowledge, equipment and materials. Designing a nuclear missile to be delivered against a neighbor at some distance is another story. No evidence Saddam is close to having such a device.

Prior to Gulf War was 6 months to 2 years away. But the bulk of enriched plutonium and uranium had to be surrendered as part of the U.N. regime which was imposed. International Atomic Energy Agency (of the U.N.) does not believe that Saddam has any residual nuclear capabilities.

Excerpts from Press Statement
International Institute for Strategic Studie

Dr John Chipman, IISS Director
Monday, 9 September
Arundel House, London

... Nuclear Weapon

The IISS Dossier then goes on to analyse Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons programmes. It carries an extensive examination of Iraq's programmes to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) through various enrichment technologies, first electro-magnetic separation and then gas centrifuge.

On the eve of the Gulf War, Iraq was on the verge of producing significant amounts of HEU that would have allowed it within two to three years to produce its first nuclear weapon. Had the Gulf War not intervened, Iraq could have accumulated a nuclear stockpile of a dozen or so weapons by the end of the decade.

The Gulf War heavily damaged Iraq's nuclear facilities. By the end of inspections in 1998, the IAEA was confident that Iraq's indigenous nuclear weapons programme had not produced more than a few grammes of weapons useable nuclear material.

At the same time, Iraq's nuclear potential was not completely eliminated. Most importantly, the scientific and technical expertise of Iraq's nuclear programme survived, and Baghdad has tried to keep its core nuclear teams in place working on various civilian projects.

Since 1998, Iraq has had more opportunities to reconstitute elements of its nuclear programme and to keep these activities secret. Iraq could have completed the necessary theoretical modelling and practical testing of critical nuclear weapons components. Our report covers this in detail. As for production of indigenous material, Iraq could take a number of measures to hide a 1000 machine centrifuge plant from surveillance, but it would be more difficult to acquire foreign materials, equipment and components without detection. It is unlikely that Iraq could have completed a facility for the production of nuclear weapons-useable material in only a few years.

Our net assessment of the current situation is that:

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.