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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal

Chronology of Events Leading
To the U.S.-led Attack on Iraq

Released by the Bureau of Political Military Affairs
January 8, 1999

1988 | 1990 | 1991 | 1992 | 1993 |
1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 |

March 16, 1988:
Saddam Hussein uses nerve gas to attack Kurds.

In the northern Iraq town of Halabja, nearly 5,000 men, women and children are killed. Scientists believe that those not killed in surrounding areas are still suffering the effects of the nerve gas.

August 2, 1990:
Iraq invades Kuwait.

Hundreds of Kuwaiti citizens and soldiers are killed and thousands are taken prisoner. Iraq seizes and confiscates billions of dollars worth of Kuwaiti property. [Note: Today more than 600 political and opposition leaders as well as military POWs are still counted missing.]


January 17-February 28:
Operation Desert Storm.

Iraqi forces are driven out of Kuwait by an American-led international coalition, including British, Egyptian, French, Kuwaiti, Saudi, and Syrian forces. Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait set fire to more than 500 Kuwaiti oil wells as they flee, causing vast environmental destruction. Iraq fires more than 39 SCUD missiles into Israel; a single SCUD missile attack kills 28 American service men and women and wounds 98.

April 3:
United Nations Resolution 687 specifies cease-fire conditions.

The Resolution mandates that Iraq respect the sovereignty of Kuwait; declare and destroy, remove, or render harmless all ballistic missile systems with a range of more than 150 kilometers; confirms that Iraq must repatriate all Kuwaiti and third-state nationals and extend complete cooperation to the Red Cross in these efforts; and create a compensation fund, financed by Iraq, to meet its liability for losses, damages, and injuries related to its unlawful occupation of Kuwait.

June 17:
United Nations Special Commission is established to monitor Iraqi disarmament.

June 23-28:
Iraq violates cease-fire agreements and UN Resolution 687.

For the first time, Iraqi troops fire shots to prevent UNSCOM/IAEA inspectors from intercepting Iraqi vehicles carrying nuclear-related equipment. Equipment is later found and destroyed under cease-fire rules.

July 18-20:
Iraqi ballistic missile concealment revealed.

UNSCOM discovers and destroys undeclared decoy missiles and launch support equipment.

August 2-8:
Iraqi biological program revealed.

UNSCOM uncovers a major biological program, including seed stocks of three biological warfare agents and three potential warfare strains.

September 6-13:
Iraq blocks UNSCOM's use of helicopters to conduct inspections.

October 11:
UN Resolution 715 approves plans for on-going monitoring and verification of Iraqi weapons program.

The Resolution establishes that Iraq must cooperate fully with the UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors.

1991 through 1993:
The Security Council concluded that Iraq was in material breach on seven occasions. On most occasions, Iraq eventually ceased its objectionable activities without a resort to the use of force by UNSC members. In mid-January 1993, however, the P-3 used force to compel Iraq to allow UNSCOM to fly its fixed-wing aircraft in Iraq and to end its violations of the DMZ.

November 1993:
Iraq finally accepts UN Resolution 715.


October 6:
Iraq threatens to cease cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA, and moves troops toward the border with Kuwait.

October 14:
Iraq announces that as of October 12 it had withdrawn its troops to their previous positions.

October 15:
UNSC adopts UNSCR 949 condemning Iraq's large-scale deployment of military units toward the Kuwaiti border and demanding their complete withdrawal. The UNSC also demands that Iraq not re-deploy these troops to the south and that Iraq cooperate fully with UNSCOM.


April 6-7:
A seminar of international biological weapons experts convened by UNSCOM concludes that Iraq has an undeclared full-scale biological weapons program.

May 1-3:
A seminar of international chemical weapons experts convened by UNSCOM concludes that Iraq has not adequately disclosed its past chemical weapons programs.

July 1:
As a result of UNSCOM's investigations, Iraq admits for the first time the existence of an offensive biological weapons program (but denies weaponization).

August 8:
General Hussein Kamel leaves Iraq for Jordan. Kamel was the Minister of Industry and Minerals and former Director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Corporation, responsible for all of Iraq's weapons programs. Iraq blames the concealment of the following data on General Kamel:

August 17:
Iraq admits a far more extensive prohibited biological weapons program than previosly admitted, including weaponization, and withdraws its third Full, Final, and Complete Disclosure for revision.

Iraq also admits having achieved greater progress in its efforts to indigenously produce long-range missiles than had previously been declared.

August 20:
Iraq provides to UNSCOM and the IAEA previously concealed information: 680,000 pages of documents, computer disks, videotapes, and microfilm, related to its prohibited weapons programs which subsequently leads to further disclosures by Iraq concerning the production of the nerve agent VX (the most advanced, deadly, and long-lasting chemical agent) and Iraq's development of a nuclear weapon.

UNSCOM conducts an investigation which confirms that Iraqi authorities and missile facilities have been involved in the acquisition of sophisticated guidance and control components for proscribed missiles.

The Government of Jordan intercepts a large shipment of high-grade missile components destined for Iraq, which denies it had sought their purchase. However, Iraq acknowledged that some of the components were already in Iraq. UNSCOM retrieves additional similar missile components from the Tigris River. The components allegedly had been disposed of there by the Iraqis involved in the covert acquisition.


UNSCOM teams are denied immediate access to five sites designated for inspection. The teams enter the sites after delays of up to 17 hours.

March 19:
UNSC issues a Presidential statement terming Iraq's behavior a clear violation of Iraq's obligations under relevant resolutions.

UNSCOM supervises the destruction of Al-Hakam, Iraq's main facility for the production of biological warfare agents.

June 12:
UNSC Resolution 1060 terms Iraq's actions a clear violation of the provisions of UNSC Resolutions. It also demands that Iraq grant immediate and unrestricted access to all sites designated for inspection by UNSCOM.

UNSC issues a Presidential Statement demanding that Iraq allow UNSCOM to remove the destroyed missile engines from its territory.


January 10-15:
UN Special Commission's UNSCOM-171 chemical inspection team catches Iraqi chemical weapons (CW) leadership open deception.

Iraq asserts that its VX nerve agent program failed in the research and development stage, while UNSCOM international experts agree that Iraq had in fact achieved the ability to mass-produce the persistent VX nerve agent that is ideal for use in SCUD missiles aimed at cities. The inspectors conclude that Iraq has retained and concealed, since 1991, this advanced part of its CW capability.

February 23:
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz and UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekeus of Sweden sign a joint statement in Baghdad witnessing Iraq's agreement to removal from Iraq of remnants of some 134 SCUD long-range missile motors (with key components stripped by Iraq and still unaccounted-for).

This removal had been blocked by a November 18, 1996 Aziz-Ekeus letter, which led both to a December 17 Ekeus-Aziz letter speaking of UNSCOM concerns that "Iraq still possesses a force of operational missiles proscribed by Security Council resolution 687" and to a December 30, 1996 UNSC presidential statement that said, "the Council deplores the refusal by Iraq" to let UNSCOM remove these remnants for analysis at laboratories of its choice.

March 7-20:
UNSCOM-182 team, focused on evidence of concealed missiles, components and documents, is delayed for up to 3 hours at Baghdad and Tikrit sites labeled "presidential" by Iraqis.

The Iraqis then follow Ekeus modalities at the Baghdad site (security service offices) and invite only the chief inspector into the Tikrit site (farm storage buildings). With these delays and limitations, the team finds nothing of concern, but does not claim blockage.

June 4:
Iraqis manhandle an UNSCOM photographer while airborne in an UNSCOM (Chilean) helicopter, and grab at the fuel control.

June 5:
An Iraqi grabs at an UNSCOM helicopter control stick.

June 7:
An Iraqi puts a foot on the UNSCOM helicopter collective control, and Iraqi helicopters fly in front of UNSCOM helicopters to block them--including overlapping of rotors within 8 feet.

June 10 & 12:
Iraq denies UNSCOM-194 access to three different sites.

When the Iraqis question if UNSCOM is trying to investigate Iraq's admitted concealment mechanism, the chief inspector confirms that this is precisely the focus of the inspection, because Iraq refuses to explain massive amounts of hidden data (e.g., few files from the Ministry of Defense or the Military Industries Commission ever released to UNSCOM--and the three truckloads of documents released at the Hussein Kamel farm obviously having been screened carefully by Iraq to include little useful information) and apparent hidden weapons.

In the June 10 incident, the team is allowed entry after 7 hours, finding the suspected prohibited weapons-procurement facility to be, following "massive cleaning" in front of the inspectors, "completely cleared out."

June 12:
A team is blocked on a road and simply told it may go no further toward what Iraq claims to be a "presidential" site, even though the chief inspector says his team has no interest in any palaces. Later that day, another team is denied access to a previously inspected Republican Guard site.

June 13:
The Security Council causes a presidential statement to be released that "deplores" the incidents of June 4, 5 and 7, for "endangering the helicopters and their crews," calling on Iraq to "put an end to all such actions."

June 18:
Ekeus briefs the Council that the team witnessed Iraqis burning, shredding, and fleeing with stacks of documents while the team was blocked--part of an overall pattern of obstruction.

June 21:
The UNSC unanimously adopts Resolution 1115: (1) condemning Iraq's refusal of access as "clear and flagrant violation" of relevant resolutions, (2) suspending sanctions reviews until after UNSCOM's October six-month report to the Council, and (3) expressing the "firm intention...to impose additional measures" if Iraq does not comply.

July 1:
Richard Butler of Australia replaces Rolf Ekeus as Executive Chairman of UNSCOM.

September 17:
Security Council press statement says the Council views "in the gravest terms"

(1) Incidents on September 13 outside a 10x3-km. military base, including vehicle movements inside the site while an UNSCOM team was blocked outside, in-flight manhandling of an UNSCOM photographer, and interfering with safety of flight--thus invalidating the inspection; and (2) incidents on September 15 outside a 4x1.5-km. Republican Guard base, including vehicle movements while a team was delayed for 3 hours.

September 27 & 29, and October 1:
UNSCOM-207 team is blocked at three security-service/concealment-mechanism sites termed by Iraq as "presidential/residential."

Access is gained to sites declared "sensitive" by Iraq under the Ekeus modalities, but the team finds clear evidence of recent sanitizing and a lot of obvious lying by Iraqi spokesmen.

October 23:
UNSCR 1134 is adopted (10-0-5, with abstention by China, Egypt, France, Kenya, Russian Federation).

It condemns the repeated refusal of the Iraqi authorities to allow access to sites designated by the Special Commission and decides that such refusals to cooperate constitute a flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions.

October 29:
In a letter dated October 29, Tariq Aziz informs the president of the Security Council that beginning on October 30 Iraq is "not to deal with Americans working with the Special Commission. ...[and] We also demand that all the aforementioned persons leave Iraq within seven days from that date."

In following days, Iraq in fact refuses to allow UNSCOM inspectors of American nationality to either inspect or arrive in Iraq on UNSCOM aircraft, then delays the expulsion order while a 3-member UN delegation sent by the Secretary-General visits Baghdad for talks. The Americans are then forced by Iraq, during the night of November 12, to drive overland to Amman. UNSCOM/IAEA immediately draw down to caretaker status. Iraq calls for cessation of all UNSSCOM U2 surveillance flights.

November 13:
UNSCOM Executive Chairman withdraws the majority of UNSCOM personnel, leaving no inspection or monitoring capability other than remote cameras inside Iraq.

November 20:
Iraq accepts the return of UNSCOM personnel and promises full compliance.

December 12-16:
Iraq refuses to allow inspections from a new category of sites they call "Presidential and Sovereign."

December 22:
Council presidential statement "stresses that failure by the Government of Iraq to provide the Special Commission with immediate, unconditional access to any site or category of sites is unacceptable and a clear violation of the relevant resolutions."


Iraq continues to refuse access to eight so-called 'presidential sites.'

UNSCOM Executive Chairman visits Iraq to seek compliance. The U.S. leads a coalition effort to prepare a military strike on Iraq.

February 23:
To avert a crisis, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan visits Iraq.

The UN and Iraq sign an MOU in which Iraq reconfirms its acceptance of all relevant UNSC resolutions and its intention to allow full access to sites by UNSCOM and IAEA.

July 18:
During the UNSCOM-244 sensitive-site inspection at Iraqi air force headquarters, Iraq refuses to let UNSCOM chief inspector copy a list of chemical munitions expended during the Iran-Iraq War. Later, Tariq Aziz tells Butler Iraq will never let UNSCOM have that document.

August 5:
Iraq suspends its cooperation with the Special Commission in its current form and with the International Atomic Energy Agency. It allows monitoring to continue.

August 6:
In an August 6 statement to the Security Council, before its own statement to the media, Kofi Annan said:

August 6:
Security Council press statement [characterizes Iraqi position as] "totally unacceptable."

September 9:
Security Council unanimously passes UNSCR 1194, which:

October 26:
Butler letter to UNSC president reporting the unanimous results of the Oct 22-23 meeting on VX of 21 experts from 7 countries (China, France, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, U.K., U.S.) states:

October 31:
Iraq unilaterally decides that all UNSCOM activities will cease. IAEA will be allowed to continue its monitoring activities, provided that they are independent from UNSCOM.

October 31:
Security Council press statement:

November 6:
The Security Council passes UNSCR 1205, condemning the Iraqi decision, and reaffirming the Council's willingness to conduct a comprehensive review once Iraq complied with Resolution 687.

November 9-12:
UNSCOM weapons inspectors depart Iraq.

U.S-led coalition begins building military force in the Gulf. Secretary General Annan decides not to travel to Iraq. A military strike against Saddam is threatened.

November 14:
After U.S. planes were in the air, Saddam pledges to allow the resumption of inspections.

A U.S.-led coalition promises unannounced military strikes if Saddam violates his pledge to cooperate fully with UNSCOM inspectors.

November 18:
UN weapons inspections resume.

November 20:
Iraq objects to UNSCOM Executive Chairman Butler's demand for documents on chemical and biological weapons programs.

November 23:
Iraqi helicopter buzzes inspectors from less than 10 meters above ground.

November 26:
Iraq blocks access to a facility controlled by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), which has acknowledged in principle UNSCOM's right to inspect.

December 4:
An UNSCOM inspection team was delayed from commencing its inspections because they wanted to begin on a Friday.

December 9:
Iraq bars inspectors from entering a Baath Party regional headquarters office. Iraq removes files and equipment from the office.

December 11:
An UNSCOM chemical team was denied access to a site. The Iraqis claimed the Muslim Sabbath as its justification.

December 15:
Executive Chairman Butler issues report that Iraq has not met its promises of cooperation.

December 17:
U.S.-British air strikes begin shortly after midnight local time.

Unresolved weapons issues:

Biological Weapons. After 4 1/2 years of claiming it had conducted only "defensive research" on biological weapons Iraq finally declared in 1995 that it had produced 0.5 million liters of refined and unrefined agents such as anthrax, botulinum toxin, aflatoxin, and ricin. But Iraq may have produced substantially greater amounts--three to four times higher in some cases--of these agents.

This judgment is based on the large discrepancy between the amount of biological growth media Iraq procured and the amount of agents that were or could have been produced. Iraq's accounting of the amount of agent it produced and the number of failed batches is seriously flawed and cannot be reconciled on the basis of its Full, Final, and Complete Declarations (FFCDS).

Of the 31,000 kg. of biological weapons growth media that Iraq imported, Baghdad has not accounted for about 3,500 kg. If kept dry, such media probably would still be useable for BW agent production.

Iraq has admitted that it filled Scud missiles, bombs, and munitions with some of these agents. It is not known how much remains of this offensive capability because Iraq has shown the UN no hard evidence to support claims that it destroyed all of its BW agents or filled delivery systems in 1991.

Conflicting Iraqi accounts have prevented UNSCOM from confirming that Iraq unilaterally destroyed two of the 45 declared Scud BW/CW missile warheads and 157 aerial bombs.

Chemical Weapons. Continued gaps and inconsistencies in Iraqi declarations strongly suggest Baghdad retains an unknown quantity of chemical weapons, production equipment, and related precursors. Baghdad has not supplied adequate evidence to support its claims that it destroyed all such material.

Iraq has declared that since the end of the Iran-Iraq war it produced four metric tons of VX, 100-150 metric tons of G-agents such as sarin, and 500-600 metric tons of mustard. But, on the basis of public UNSCOM reports and plenary meetings and unaccounted-for CW precursors, we estimate that Iraq could have produced as much as an additional 600 metric tons of these agents.

The production and weaponization of VX--the most advanced, deadly, and long-lasting chemical agent--is especially troubling. As in the case of BW, after 4 1/2 years denying that it had produced any significant amount of VX agent, Hussein Kamil's defection in 1995 forced Baghdad to reveal its program. A panel of international experts under UNSCOM auspices has confirmed the findings of a U.S. laboratory that VX degradation products were present on remnants of Iraqi missile warheads. Iraq has denied that it successfully weaponized VX in missile warheads.

After extensive excavation and testing efforts, UNSCOM has not accounted for two of the 45 CW/BW missile warheads that Iraq says it destroyed unilaterally. There is evidence that Iraq had perhaps as many as 25 more than the 45 declared warheads. Moreover Iraqi dissembling has prevented UNSCOM from accounting for 15,000-25,000 CW artillery rockets, at least 2,000 aerial bombs, and 15,000 artillery shells. Recent evidence also suggest that Iraq retains an offensive CW capability.

An Iraqi Air Force document discovered by the inspectors in July 1998 suggests Baghdad grossly overstated to UNSCOM the number of chemical munitions it used during the Iran-Iraq war. This implies that much more remains of Iraq's CW munitions stockpile.

Ballistic Missiles. After an exhaustive study, UNSCOM has reported that it can account for all but two of the original 819 Scud missiles Iraq acquired from the Soviet Union. But significant discrepancies in Iraqi accounting suggest that Iraq retains a small missile force and an undetermined number of warheads and launchers. Iraq has not explained the disposition of important components that may have removed from missiles before their destruction.

UNSCOM has not verified Baghdad's claims that it unilaterally and secretly destroyed the Scud airframes, engines, and warheads it produced before the war. This was the main outstanding missile issue before 5 August. These components constitute a major contribution to Iraq's covert Scud force.

Iraq's Al Samoud and Ababil-100 missile programs--within the UN-allowed 150 km. range limit--serve to maintain production expertise within the constraints of UN sanctions. Iraq is flight-testing the Al Samoud, which UNSCOM describes as a scaled-down Scud. Iraq probably will begin converting these efforts into long-range missile programs as soon as sanctions are lifted.

Nuclear Weapons. Iraq may currently be incapable of producing fissile material in sufficient quantities to produce nuclear weapons, but continued Iraqi nuclear weapons research that would be difficult to detect even under strict monitoring cannot be ruled out. Members of Iraq's large cadre of nuclear engineers, scientists, and technicians may be pursuing theoretical nuclear research.

Iraq continues to withhold significant information from the IAEA about enrichment techniques, foreign procurement, weapons design, and the role of Iraq's security and intelligence services in obtaining external assistance and coordinating postwar concealment. Iraq continues to withhold documentation on the technical achievements of its nuclear program.

Baghdad has not fully explained the interaction between its nuclear program and its ballistic missile program.

To date, Iraq has not provided the IAEA with documentary evidence of a political decision to discontinue the nuclear weapons program. Iraq is obligated to enact penal laws to prohibit all natural and legal persons under Iraq's jurisdiction or control from undertaking anywhere any activity that is prohibited for Iraq by relevant Security Council resolutions or by the IAEA's Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Plan. Although Iraq has acknowledged these obligations, to date Iraq has not yet satisfied this requirement.

[End of Document]

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