Biological Weapons:An Insidious WMD

Kalpana Chittaranjan,Research Officer,IDSA


Recent newspaper reports indicate that biological weapons (BW), popularly known as the "poor man's nuke," are increasingly being sought by different governments as an alternative or in addition to nuclear weapons (NW) as weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Two examples include those of Israel and Iraq. The Sunday Times reported that Israeli F-16 fighters have been equipped to carry both chemical and biological weapons that have been manufactured at a secret biolocial institute in the Tel Aviv suburb of Nes Ziona.1 Earlier in the year, the Chief UN Inspector, Richard Butler, the Executive Chairman of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) which had been created after the Gulf War to supervise the destruction of Iraq's stockpile of biological and chemical weapons as also delivery missiles and to ensure that the country could not produce such weapons, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council (UNSC) stated that Iraq under Saddam Hussein, still hid data on biological weapons.2

What are biological weapons? When looked at from a military perspective, it is the deliberate use of diseases to attack and affect an adversary's military force, population, crops, and/or livestock.3 Biological warfare agents fall under two basic categories: (a) microorganisms, which are living organic germs (eg., Bacillus Anthracis); (b) toxins, which are the byproducts of living organisms, or effectively natural poisons (eg., botulism or botulinum toxin which is a byproduct of growing the microorganism Clostridium Botulinum).4 Micoorganisms consist of bacteria, which are tiny, single-celled living organisms; and viruses which are very small elements of hereditary material, surrounded by a protective protein coat, which cannot replicate except inside a living cell. Toxins are chemical substances which are not always derived from living organisms. Examples of biological agents which can be used against people include Coxiella Bumetti (Q-fever), Francisella Tularensis (Tularaemia) and Bacillius Anthracis (Anthrax).

List I5

Biological Weapon Agents

Agent Type Symptoms/effects Mortality Onset

Causative Agent (if untreated)



Bacllius anthracis Cough, difficulty 95-100% 2-4 days

(anthrax) breathing, exhaustion,

toxaemia, cyanosis,

terminal shock

Francisella tularensis Muscle ache, chills, 30-40% 2-4 days

(tularaemia) cough, acute respiratory

distress, exhaustion,


Coxiella burnetti Fever, pains, headache 0-1% 15-18 days



Venezuelan equine Joint pain, chills, headache, 0-2% 2-5 days

encephalitis nausea, vomitting with

(VEE diarrhoea, sore throat



Botulinum Toxin Nausea, weakness, 60-90% 0-5.3 days

(botulism) vomitting, respiratory paralysis

BW Use (Past/Present/Alleged)

Biological weapons have been in sporadic use over the centuries. There are many examples of using natural diseases in war to place an adversary in a position of disadvantage and dumping bodies into water supplies is one way of causing them. As far back as two thousand years ago, the Romans fouled many of their enemy's water sources by throwing the corpses of dead animals in the wells.6 It was as early as 1346 AD that Tartars held the walled city of Kaffa under siege and catapulted plague-infested bodies into the city. The consequent illness resulted in the capitulation of Kaffa.7 Some medical historians even speculate that the event ended up as the bubonic plague epidemic that spread across medieval Europe between 1347 and 1351, which killed 25 million people.8 Three centuries later, during the French and Indian War, in an apparent altruistic overture, the English offered blankets to the Indians who were holding Fort Carillon. The blankets had been exposed to the smallpox virus because the English suspected the native Indian tribes of being loyal to the French. The English attacked and defeated the incapacitated force of the Indians after the latter began falling ill and the epidemic spread. The former succeeded in gaining control of Fort Carillon and renaming it Fort Ticonderoga.9 In an effort to contaminate the water supply of the Union forces, the Confederate soldiers shot and dumped in them horses and other farm animals, during the American Civil War.10

In this century, there has been some evidence of biological warfare in World War I.11 What is interesting to note is that while an armistice ended the "Great War" in November 1918, it could not halt the ravages of an influenza virus that in the course of a single year, beginning in the spring of 1918, managed to invade the entire world and kill 20 million of its inhabitants. Though this strain of influenza was identified less than three years ago, the origins of the virus and the reasons for its unusual virulence are still unknown.12 This killer flu was not thought to be a deliberate act of war but, nonetheless, it demonstrated its potent capacity for mass death. The inter-war years saw a new interest in the use of disease as a weapon and it was paradoxical that the two most active programmes during these years started as a result of an international initiative to ban biological warfare agents. Japan and Britain had robust biological programmes as early as 1932 and 1934, respectively. Evidence exists that Japan tested biological warfare agents on prisoners of war and the population of China.13 Debris that was infested with fleas that carried the plague was dropped over 11 cities in mainland China which resulted in a bubonic plague epidemic in China and Manchuria.14 Though these attacks caused casualties, the weapons did not function reliably which resulted in minimal strategic impact on the war.15 The Japanese programme had been extensive and included research on weaponising the plague, anthrax, cholera, typhoid and paratyphoid fevers.16 Britain tried to develop its own BW capability by conducting tests on an island off the north-west coast of Scotland called Gruinard. Their development and testing efforts were concentrated on the lethal effects of anthrax. British scientists used sheep as victims to evaluate the effectiveness of the disease and thousands of them were literally infected with anthrax. The island could not be effectively decontaminated after the testing programme stopped and, consequently, Gruinard is still considered contaminated, which demonstrates the persistence of anthrax as a biological weapon.17 British BW development efforts were soon combined with the Canadian and American. Though the Allies had maintained operational plans to employ BW during World War II, there is no evidence to indicate they were actually used on a large scale. However, there is strong evidence to show that Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi security service, was assassinated with a grenade that had been contaminated with the biological warfare agent—typhoid fever.18

In 1978, while walking to the BBC in London where he broadcast to his homeland from Radio Free Europe, Georgi Markov, a popular writer and exile from Bulgaria suddenly felt a sharp pain in his leg. When he turned around, he confronted a man picking up an umbrella. The man apologised and went away. That night, Markov fell ill and died several days later. A small metal pellet coated with ricin, a bilogical toxic substance derived from the castor oil plant, was found during the autopsy.19

An outbreak of human anthrax in the Soviet city of Sverdlorsk in April 1979 was linked to a suspected BW facility. In 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin admitted that the Soviet Union had maintained an offensive BW research programme.20 In 1995, allegations continued that the Government of Myanmar was using biological weapons on the Thai-Myanmar border against the Karen ethnic minority,21 but these allegations could not be confirmed. It was in August 1993 that the initial allegation had been made and the disease described was similar to cholera or shigella. The symptoms that had been present in those affected in 1993 reappeared in 1994 in people living in another area, 100 km south of Bilin.22 On March 20, 1995, the Sarin (a CW nerve gas) attack on the Tokyo underground by the Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) group headed by its religious cult leader, Shoko Asahara, resulted in 12 people dead and 5,500 injured. Before this, members of this religious sect had reportedly experimented with biological agents by releasing small quantities of the lethal biological agent "anthrax" in Tokyo with no obvious lethal effect.23

In a news-item telecast by CNN,24 it was reported that the Cuban government had accused the US government of carrying out biological warfare against it by aerially spraying biological agents over farmers' crop fields in Central Cuba, thus, completely destroying vegetables that were eaten by caterpillars. The USA denied that the plane in question sprayed BW agents. Cuba alleged that a US anti-narcotics fumigation plane flying from Florida to Grand Cayman crossed Cuba with Cuban authorisation on October 21, 1996. A Cuban civilian aircraft observed the US plane spraying unknown substances intermittently. On December 18, the first signs appeared of a plague of Thrips Palmi, a polyphagous insect pest. Cuba stated that Thysanoptera, to which thrips belong, lives on plants and while this particular insect was indigenous to Asia and exotic to Cuban territory, since 1985, its presence has been noted on several Caribbean islands. Other parts of Cuba had been affected by January 1997 and the Cuban government reported that by October of that year, 20,000 tonnes of produce had been lost to Thrips Palmi. The US explanation that the pilot had used the smoke generator of his aircraft to signal his presence to the Cuban pilot and that the tanks of the sprinkling system had carried extra fuel for the long flight was dismissed by Cuba.25 It formally rejected the US version of the incident in a letter dated June 27, 1997.26 Earlier, the USA was accused by Cuba of waging biological warfare, in a note to the UN Secretary-General, on April 28.27 A formal consultative meeting (closed session) which began in Geneva on August 25, 1997, failed to resolve Cuba's claim, after three days of talks, because, according to its Chairman, British Ambassador Ian Soutar, "it was not possible to draw a direct causal link" between the overflight and the outbreak. Soutar was mandated, in the meeting, to further investigate the allegation and prepare a report by the end of 1997.28

Russia is reported to have developed a genetically engineered variant of anthrax that is totally resistant to all known antibiotics.29 In April 1997, in an incident which raised fears of BW terrorism in the USA, a package with a broken petri dish and a note indicating that the dish contained anthrax and plague was left outside the Washington headquarters of B'nai B'rith, a Jewish organisation. Tests later proved negative for a variety of BW agents.30 All these incidents of use and alleged use prove that BWs are increasingly being considered as an alternative form of inflicting death, either on a mass scale or to achieve a particular objective.

Factors Responsible for Spread of BW

Who would want to possess BW and why? How does it compare with other WMD? The answers provide an insight into why the proliferation of BW is today a very real threat to global arms control and why urgent remedial measures are required towards its non-proliferation. Unimaginable catastrophe can be created through a biological attack. The US Congress' former Office of Technological Assessment estimated that 100 kg of anthrax, released from a low-flying aircraft over a large city on a clear, calm night, could kill 1-3 million people. Casualties from a one-megatonne hydrogen bomb would be about the same. When disseminated as an aerosol, anthrax spores (analogous to microscopic seeds) are inhaled deep into the victim's lungs and travel to the lymph nodes, were they germinate and multiply. Potent toxins are then secreted by the bacteria which gives rise in about three days to a devastating illness. Only antibiotics administered intravenously before the onset of acute symptoms can ensure that the victims have a chance of survival.31 When one considers that it is possible to deliver BW via a water supply with research having shown that it is feasible that drinking 100 ml of water from a reservoir of some 5 million litres capacity would cause serious infection or toxification if as little as 1/2 kg of salmonella, 5 kg of botulinum toxin, or 7 kg of staphylococcal enterotoxin has been introduced,32 it becomes clear why possessing BW seems such a viable proposition to vested interests that/who are inimical to world peace and stability. In the preceding example, to achieve the same effect with chemicals, 10 tonnes of potassium cyanide would be required.33 Thus, much smaller quantities of biological weapons would be required to cause the same damage as much larger amounts of chemical weapons.

Since microorganisms are the basic material for BW, a fundamental concern is how easily this material can be produced. Also, weight-for-weight, BW agents can be hundreds to thousands of times more potent than chemical agents and can cause a variety of symptoms. A potential proliferator would find that BW provide a much cheaper route to WMD capability considering that NW are very expensive and that a BW is much more lethal than an equal quantity of CW. Almost all the technologies and materials required to produce BW are dual-use in nature and are widely available for commercial purposes. As an example, pharmaceutical production techniques can be adopted to produce biological agents. BW, like CW programmes, are much easier to conceal from international inspectors.

The specialised skills required for BW agent production are knowledge of microbiology and the fermentation process but such skills are now becoming increasingly widely available in the scientific and medical industry and open literature well describes new fermentation techniques. In addition, biological warfare agents can be cultivated by processes similar to those used for commercial biological products. Seed cultures for producing bacteria can be purchased from commercial vendors (for example, Iraq purchased cultures from the USA) or extracted from natural sources, including animals. Most of the equipment used in cultivating BW agents is also commercially available for producing beer, food products, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, biopesticides and other similar products. Computer-controlled fermenters, centrifugal separators and freeze- and-spray dryers are included in such equipment. As was the case in Iraq, biological agents can also be grown using laboratory glassware.

Among others, continuous-flow fermenters with computer controls, real-time sensors, feedback loops, which are modern methods using more advanced technologies, have vastly improved the productivity of firms manufacturing bacteriological products while also reducing the size of both the facilities required and the necessary capital investment. Recombinant-DNA techniques, similarly, have made possible the production of militarily significant quantities of certain lethal toxins. Though knowledge of how to manipulate new techniques to mass-produce classical biological warfare agents such as anthrax and botulinum has now spread well beyond the industrial countries, they, however, remain at the vanguard of the biotechnology revolution with their continuing efforts to manipulate genes and alter the genetic composition of cells. The announcement, in early 1997, by a Scottish team of embryologists and biologists led by Dr Ian Wilmut that they had cloned "Dolly", the first sheep/mammal to be formed out of adult body parts, i.e., from cells that are not embryonic, is an example.

BW as Option for Terrorists

Biological and toxin weapon agents have been given the appellation of "poor man's atomic bomb"34 and there is increasing concern that these weapons might be used by terrorists, including "state-sponsored" terrorism or for sabotage purposes.35 The prospect of terrorists acquiring an atom bomb is less than the possibility of their manufacturing or stealing biological weapons.

Compared with nuclear weapons, biological materials are more easily produced (or stolen), more difficult to detect, and usable against any target in which air can circulate. As has been mentioned, they are also less expensive to produce than nuclear weapons, less likely to be detected and potentially more reliable (since they can be field-tested with only a moderate risk to the group concerned). Unlike conventional weapons, they are not detectable by traditional anti-terrorist sensors, are easier to disguise, move and introduce into the target area, and permit the possibility of anonymous attacks.

Although chemical and biological agents have certain similarities—both are capable of airborne dispersal and are primarily effective against living organisms, whether humans, animals or plants— biological agents have several attractions. They are much more potent on a weight-for-weight basis than chemical warfare agents since under favourable environmental conditions they multiply and replicate in their victim.

Terrorists might also be attracted by the prospect of using much smaller, and less costly, amounts of biological agents to inflict a much larger number of casualties (whether fatal or incapacitated) over a greater area. If intent upon sabotage or widespread and indiscriminate contamination, they might wish to exploit the difficulty of detecting biological agents as well as their ability to pose a more extensive downwind threat than they could ever do with chemical agents. Whereas the typical downwind hazard distance for a chemical agent is about one kilometre, it is some hundreds of kilometres for biological agents, assuming comparable and favourable meteorological conditions. Chemical agents, especially nerve agents, tend to act more rapidly than biological agents, are less susceptible to sunlight, temperature and other environmental factors, and cannot cause epidemics in man which are appropriate to their (terrorists') missions. They could use either live pathogens, such as anthrax, or toxins such as botulinal toxin or ricin, which are inanimate and cannot multiply.

Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention

The "Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction," better known as the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention or by its acronym BWC, was negotiated from 1969-1971, opened for signature on April 10, 1972, at London, Moscow and Washington DC., and entered into force on March 26, 1975, with 43 member countries, upon ratification by the three depository states—the USA, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom.36

The treaty has 15 Articles and prohibits the development, production, stockpiling or acquisition by other means or retention of microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin and method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification of prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes, as well as weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict. The destruction of the agents, toxins, weapons, equipment and means of delivery in the possession of the parties, or their diversion to peaceful purposes, should be effected not later than nine months after the entry into force of the convention.37

Summary of Articles of BWC38

1. No state to develop, produce, stockpile, or acquire biological agents, etc.

2. Each state to destroy existing stocks.

3. No transfer.

4. States parties required to take measures to prohibit domestic work.

5-7. Consultation, referral to Security Council, assistance to state which is attacked.

8. 1925 Geneva Protocol still in effect (covers use).

9. Obligation to pursue chemical weapons treaty.

10. Use for peaceful purposes.

11-15. Amendment, duration (unlimited), entry into force, reviews, depositing.

As of January 1, 1997, the BWC had 140 member countries that had signed and 18 countries that had signed but not ratified.39 India ratified the BWC on July 5, 1974.40

History: The origin of the BWC can be traced back to the "Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare," better known as the 1925 Geneva Protocol which was signed at Geneva on June 17, 1925 and entered into force on February 8, 1928. The Protocol banned the use of "bacteriological methods of warfare." In conjunction with a ban on chemical weapons, efforts to ban the production of biological weapons took up many years of discussion in a variety of fora. The prevailing opinion had been that the possession of chemical and biological weapons should be prohibited simultaneously. The "Report on Chemical and Bacteriological (Biological) Weapons and the Effects of Their Possible Use" was issued by the UN Secretary General in 1969. The report concluded that these weapons might have irreversible consequences for human beings and the environment. In 1970, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published the "Report on Health Aspects of Chemical and Biological Weapons," which also pointed out that the effects of use of chemical and biological weapons are subject to a high degree of uncertainty and unpredictability. However, several Western countries sponsored the proposal that there should be a ban on biological weapons only and their main reason for separate treatment of these two categories of weapons was that a ban on biological weapons did not require intrusive verification and, therefore, could be concluded quickly, without serious risks which was not the case with chemical weapons. This method of approach was adopted by the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) and its successor, the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD), where the negotiations were taking place. On July 10, 1969, the UK had submitted a draft to the ENDC calling for the elimination of biological weapons only, which was supported by the USA.

US President Richard Nixon renounced the development, production and stockpiling of BW, irrespective of a possible international agreement and announced his intention to ratify the Geneva Protocal on November 25, 1969. On February 14, 1970, the US government formally renounced also the production, stockpiling and use of toxins for war purposes. It stated that military programmes for biological agents and toxins would be confined to research and development for defensive purposes. Later, the USA and the Soviet Union agreed on a text banning production of biological weapons, which was submitted to the CCD and subsequently to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The UNGA approved a resolution commending the convention on December 16, 1971. As stated previously, the BWC was opened to all states for signature on April 10, 1972. It entered into force on March 26, 1975, after ratification by US President Gerald Ford.

The BWC Review Conferences: The BWC, which has an unlimited duration, called for only one review, which was held from March 3-21, 1980. A UN resolution in November 1982 called on the signatories to establish compliance procedures. The Second Review Conference met in Geneva from September 8-26, 1986. This conference, which was generally positive, strengthened the procedures for consultation in the case of compliance concerns. The participating states tried to strengthen the convention by establishing several politically binding confidence-building measures (CBMs), including annual declarations of high-containment biological facilities designed for work with dangerous microorganisms, and reports of unusual disease outbreaks. It also called for a meeting of experts which worked out CBM details from March 31 to April 15, 1987, in particular, a call for annual exchanges of data about biological research.

As there is no penalty for failing to file declarations and no central secretariat urging countries to do so, fewer than half of the states that are party to the BWC have participated in the CBMs. The BWC Third Review Conference was held from September 9-27, 1991. During this conference, it was decided that future review conferences would be held every five years at least. The 1991 Review Conference recognised the need for stronger measures and mandated the convening of an ad hoc group of government experts (also known as the "verification experts" or VEREX group) to identify and examine potential verification measures from a scientific and technical viewpoint. Eventually, twenty-one measures were identified and grouped in two categories. Surveillance of scientific publications, data declarations, notifications of activities, remote sensing, and environmental sampling and analysis were included as possible "off-site" measures while possible "on-site" measures included scientific exchanges, visual inspections, interviews, identification of relevant equipment, sampling and analysis and continuous monitoring with cameras or other sensors.41 Four meetings were held by VEREX in Geneva (March 30-April 10, 1992; November 23 to December 4, 1992; May 24 to June 6, 1993; and its final session from September 13 to 24, 1993 where it submitted its consensus final report to all BWC member states). In the report, the experts found that because of the dual-use nature of BW-related facilities, equipment and materials, no single measure could fulfill all of the mandated criteria for a stand-alone verification measure. The group, however, concluded that some measures, used singly or in combination, could strengthen the regime by helping to differentiate prohibited from permitted activities, thus reducing ambiguities about issues of compliance.42 In September 1994, a special conference of BWC states parties met at Geneva to consider the VEREX final report and decide on further actions. It was agreed that an ad hoc group would be established "to consider appropriate measures, including possible verification measures, and draft proposals to strengthen the convention."43 Between 1995 and 1996, the Ad Hoc Group (AHG) held five meetings but it was unable to complete its mandate of providing draft proposals prior to the Fourth Review Conference which was held from November 25 to December 6, 1996.

Article I, which defines the basic prohibitions, or the "scope" of the convention, Article IV, which addresses national implementation measures, Article V, which deals with the consultative process for problems arising from treaty implementation and Article X, which concerns cooperation among states-parties for peaceful purposes were the key issues at the Fourth Review Conference.44 The conference was unable to achieve a consensus for setting a deadline for the AHG's work, but agreed that it (AHG) should intensify its work so as to try and complete it possibly before the commencement of the Fifth Review Conference which is scheduled for 2001 AD.

The AHG established its work programme for 1998 with an intensified schedule of 11 weeks of negotiations divided into four sessions. In his State of the Union message in January 1998, US President Bill Clinton called upon the international community to act to prevent the use of disease as a weapon of war or terror by strengthening the BWC with a new international inspection system to detect and deter cheating.45

While addressing the XIIth Group Session of the AHG at Geneva, US Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, and Director, US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, John D.Holum stated that the USA believes that four principles are essential for the AHG to successfully conclude negotiations for a legally binding Protocol to the Convention. Holum said :

* "First, there must be legally binding, mandatory declarations to provide transparency about activities of potential relevance to the Convention. Transparency must be unambiguous so all can understand what is expected of them. We must all accept that they are a binding obligation, in contrast to voluntary undertakings.

* "Second, there must be means to get investigators on-site, quickly and with a mandate flexible enough to do their job efficiently. These mandates should include responding to legitimate concerns about possible use of biological weapons, or suspicious outbreaks that may be from unnatural causes, or inspecting suspect locations where there is real concern that activities in violation of the convention are being conducted. Investigations and visits must be conducted in ways to protect legitimate proprietary and national security sensitivities, but they also must be conducted vigorously, to provide confidence in compliance.

* "Third, there must be means to ensure that all sites whose activities merit declaration are in fact declared, and that the declarations are accurate. We cannot allow a proliferator the refuge of simply ignoring the international community and the norms of humanity by failing to provide complete or accurate information about relevant activities.

* "Fourth, there must be a professional organization to implement the Protocol. It must be talented, small, and cost-effective. We cannot afford a bloated, cumbersome bureaucracy—which would cost too much and have low operational effectiveness."46

Alleged Development, Possession and/or Use of Biological Weapons in Recent Years

Iraq's biological and toxin weapons programme has demonstrated that the danger of proliferation of these weapon agents is real.47 The country is subject to the obligations of United Nations Resolution 687.48 The recent report by the Executive Chairman of UNSCOM which was presented to the UN Security Council in October 1998, states:

"As mentioned in paragraph 8 of the present report, Iraq requested that its biological weapons full, final and complete disclosure of September 1997 be assessed, again, by international experts during a special meeting for that purpose which was held in Baghdad in July 1998. It should be noted that international experts assembled by the Commission had examined Iraq's biological weapons declarations on three different occasions and expressed the unanimous view that Iraq's disclosures were incomplete, inadequate and technically flawed....The international expert team at the July 1998 meeting concluded that Iraq's full, final and complete disclosure, in its totality, could not be verified. The team recommended that no further verification of Iraq's current biological weapons full, final and complete disclosure be conducted at the senior expert level, until Iraq commits itself to provide substantive, new information....The Commission's work designed to bring Iraq's prohibited weapons and related capabilities to final account has been significantly influenced by three Iraqi actions: a) The policy and practise of concealment; b) the actions collectively termed "unilateral destruction," by which Iraq secretly, and in contravention of resolution 687 (1991), destroyed weapons and related materials; c) the repeated denial of the existence of relevant documents on proscribed activities, with the exception of those Iraq unilaterally chooses to provide to the Commission. Collectively, these three elements have made the verification of the series of declarations provided by Iraq far more difficult than should have been the case. This has seriously delayed the Commission's work. Over time, the Commission has achieved improvements in its understanding in each weapons area, largely through forensic methods, which may have been unnecessary had there been the full disclosure by Iraq required by the Security Council."49

List II50

Key Elements of Iraq's Biological Warfare Programme Revealed by Iraq after the 1995 Defection of Hussein Kamel

Production Locations Al Hakam.

Dura Foot and Mouth Disease Institute.


Salman Pak.

Biological Warfare 19,000 litres of botulinum toxin.

Agents Produced 8,500 litres of anthrax.

2,400 litres of aflatoxin.

Testing Field trials of anthrax and botulinum toxin using aerial bombs.

Effects on animals observed—March 1998.

Live firings of 122-mm rockets with agent—May 1990.

Weaponisation Begun on large scale in December 1990.

Aerial bombs—166 filled with biological warfare agent.

Scud missile warheads—25 filled with biological warfare agent.

Efforts made in December 1990 to modify spray tanks to deliver 2,000 litres of anthrax; planned for use on aircraft or remotely piloted aircraft; not successful.

Biological weapons deployed to operational delivery sites in December 1990.

Apart from Iraq, other countries alleged to be potential possessors of BW agents are China, India, Israel, North Korea,51 South Africa, Syria; "developers"—Libya; "potential developers"—Iran, Taiwan; "capable"—Belarus; "potentially capable"—Pakistan; or "possibly capable"—South Korea..52


Recognising the growing threat of biological weapons attack, the White House issued a statement on May 22, 1998, on the US government's preparedness for a bw attack against its armed forces or civilians. The statement said that an additional $1 billion for chemical and biological defence was added to the Five-Year Defence Plan; the Defence Department's vaccination programme against the lethal anthrax bacteria was being expanded to include all active and reserve American armed forces personnel apart from the troops of the Gulf region who were already in the programme; under the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Programme, military experts were participating in the training of emergency personnel in 120 US cities for response to a terrorist attack involving WMD; the Department of Defence had announced the selection of ten states in which National Guards units would be specially trained to assist state and local authorities to manage the consequences of an WMD attack.53

The number of countries with biological weapons is rising—the cost of stockpiling of biological weapons is small when compared with the cost of achieving nuclear capability, thus making the possession of BW seem attractive and viable for states and terrorist outfits that seek to develop BW or obtain the technical and manufacturing expertise to do so. Additionally, acquiring BW is relatively easy as almost all the technologies associated with it are widely available and used for legitimate purposes. Also, defensive biological programmes can provide cover for covert offensive BW programmes. These reasons make the production of BW difficult to detect. It is, therefore, imperative that the following preventive measures are taken to slow down and eliminate an arms race in BW: convincing non-BW states that their security interests are best served by not acquiring BW (dissuasion); attempting to limit a state's ability to obtain BW technologies or devices (denial); seeking to set limits on or eliminate BW through bilateral or multilateral agreements (specifically, the creation of an effective verification regime for the BWC) and the creation of international norms against proliferation—arms control); and punishing states who pursue acquisition of BW with trade or economic sanctions, publicising the names of companies and countries that assist in the acquisition of BW, and sharing intelligence (international pressure).


1. Khaleej Times, October 5, 1998.

2. International Herald Tribune, June 20-21, 1998.

3. Terry N. Mayer, Biological Weapons—The Poor Man's Nuke (Springfield, VA: US Dept. of Commerce, April 1995), p. 3.

4. Ibid.

5. The International Institute for Strategic Studies, Strategic Survey 1996/97 (London: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 32.

6. Charles Piller and Keith R. Yamamoto, Gene Wars, Military Control Over the New Genetic Technologies (New York: Beech Tree Books, 1988), p. 29.

7. Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman, A Higher Form of Killing (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982), p. 74.

8. Ibid., p. 9.

9. Kathleen C. Bailey ed., Director's Series on Proliferation (Springfield, VA: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, May 23, 1994), pp. 9-10, and Harris and Paxman, n. 7, p. 74.

10. Ernest T. Takafuji, Biological Weapons and Modern Warfare (The Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defence University, Fort McNair, Washington DC., 1991), p. 4.

11. Bailey, n. 9, p. 10.

12. John D. Steinbruner, "Biological Weapons: A Plague upon all Houses" Foreign Policy, Winter 1997-98, p. 85.

13. Sheldon H. Harris, Factories of Death, Japanese Biological Warfare 1932-45 and the American Cover-up, (New York: Routledge, 1994), pp. 113-131.

14. Mayer, n. 3, p. 6.

15. Jonathan B. Tucker, "The Future of Biological Warfare," The Proliferation of Advanced Weaponry (Washington DC: AAAS, 1993), p. 16.

16. John Cookson and Judith Nottingham, A Survey of Chemical and Biological Warfare (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969), p. 296.

17. Mayer, n. 3, pp. 6-7.

18. Harris, n. 7, pp. 88-93.

19. Jeanne McDermott, The Killing Winds: The Menace of Biological Warfare (New York: Arbor House, 1987), p. 156.

20. Jonathan B. Tucker, "Strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention," Arms Control Today, vol. 25, no. 3, April 1995, p. 9.

21. "Burma and Biological Weapons," Jane's Intelligence Review, vol. 7, no. 11, November 1995, p. 518.

22. Cited in SIPRI Yearbook 1996: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (London: Oxford University Press: 1996), p. 686.

23. n. 5, p. 32.

24. CNN News-Item, 0755 hours (IST), July 4, 1997.

25. Jean Pascal Zanders and John Hart, "Chemical and Biological Weapon Developments and Arms Control," SIPRI Yearbook 1998: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (London: Oxford University Press: 1998), p. 479.

26. Letter dated June 27, 1997, from the Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, UN Document A/52/213, June 27, 1997.

27. Note verbale dated April 28, 1997, from the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, UN Document A/52/128, April 29, 1997.

28. SIPRI, n. 25, p. 480.

29. T. Cullen and C.F. Foss, eds., Jane's Land Based Air Defence 1997-98 (Coulsdon, Surrey: Jane's Information Group, 1997), p. 9.

30. SIPRI, n. 25, p. 481.

31. Jonathan B. Tucker, "Putting Teeth into the Biological Weapons Ban," Technology Review, January/February 1998, p. 38.

32. I. Malek, "Biological Weapons," in Steven Rose, ed., CBW: Chemical and Biological Warfare, (Boston, Beacon Press: 1969), p. 51.

33. Cookson and Nottingham, n. 16, p. 269.

34. Cited in SIPRI Yearbook 1994 (New York, Oxford University Press: 1994), p. 719.

35. US Congress, OTA, Technology Against Terrorism: Structuring Security, OTA-ISC-511 (Washington DC., January 1992), pp. 29-31, 35-44.

36. The Arms Control Reporter: A Chronicle of Treaties, Negotiations, Proposals, Weapons and Policy, (Massachusetts: IDDS, 1996), p. 701.A.1.

37. n. 22, pp. 778-779.

38. The Arms Control Reporter: A Chronicle of Treaties, Negotiations, Proposals, Weapons and Policy, (Massachusetts, IDDS: 1997), p. 701.A.6.

39. See "FACTFILE: Signatories to the Biological Weapons Convention," Arms Control Today, vol. 26, no. 10, January/February 1997, pp. 28-30.

40. Jozef Goldblat, Arms Control, p. 374. In a statement made on the occasion of the convention, India reiterated its understanding that the objective of the convention is to eliminate biological and toxin weapons, thereby excluding completely the possibility of their use, and that the exemption with regard to biological agents or toxins, which would be permitted for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes, would not in any way create a loophole in regard to the production or retention of biological and toxin weapons. Also, any assistance which might be furnished under the items of the convention would be of a medical or humanitarian nature and in conformity with the UN Charter. The statement was repeated at the time of the deposit of the instrument of ratification.

41. Tucker, n. 20, p. 10.

42. Ibid.

43. ACR, n. 36, p. 701.A.2.

44. For a comprehensive coverage of the Fourth Review Conference, see Graham S. Pearson, "The Fourth BWC Review Conference: An Important Step Forward," Arms Control Today, vol. 26, no. 10, January/February 1997, pp. 14-18.

45. ACDA's 1997 Annual Report, "II. Eliminating Chemical and Biological Weapons," Downloaded from <http:///> October 25, 1998.

46. Speech delivered by John D. Holum, Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs and Director, US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency to the BWC AHG Session XII at Geneva, Switzerland on October 6, 1998. Downloaded from "".htm.

47. See J.B. Tucker, "Lessons of Iraq's Biological Warfare Programme," Arms Control, vol. 14, No. 3, December 1993, pp. 229. For a comprehensive coverage of Iraq's biological weapons programme and UNSCOM's activities (upto April 1998), see Kalpana Chittaranjan, "Iraq's BW Programme: UNSCOM Stays On," Strategic Analysis, vol. XXII, no. 4, July 1998, pp. 623-634.

48. Under the terms of this 1991 Persian Gulf War Resolution, the UNSCOM is mandated to identify and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and long-range ballistic missile capability and to undertake ongoing monitoring and verification of Iraq's obligations not to reacquire such capabilities. For the text of the United Nations Security Council S/RES/687 (1991), April 3, 1991, see SIPRI, SIPRI Yearbook 1992: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (London: Oxford University Press: 1992), appendix 13 A, pp. 525-30.

49. UNSCOM Report-S/1998/920 (1998) 6 October 1998. Downloaded from website: <http//>.

50. Source: OSD, Proliferation: Threat and Response (Washington DC: DOD, November 1997), p. 33.

51. For a wider coverage of the North Korean BW arsenal, see Jospeh S. Bermudez Jr., "Exposing the North Korean BW arsenal," Jane's Intelligence Review, August 1998, pp. 28-29.

52. SIPRI, n. 34, pp. 715-716. See ACDA, n. 45 at <http// 7.htm> for status of Russia, Iraq, China, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Libya and Taiwan's compliance of the terms of the 1972 BWC.

53. "Fact Sheet: Preparedness for a Biological Weapons Attack," US Foreign Policy Agenda (New Delhi: Electronic Journal, USIS, September 1998), p. 36.