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CBW Events is a project to create a record of events to enable and encourage understanding of how policies on the issues relating to chemical and biological warfare (CBW) are developed.

CBW Events -- recent/notable additions/updates include: (these links will each open in a new window)


CBW Events -- May 2015 selections

Each month, entries for a few anniversaries of notable events in the history of CBW are posted. All will appear in the relevant final versions of the chronologies.

20 years ago | 25 years ago | 30 years ago | 45 years ago | 55 years ago

20 years ago:

14–17 May 1995     In Iraq, UNSCOM Vice Chairman Charles Duelfer accompanied by two chemical-weapons experts, meets with the Director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission, General Amer Mohammad Rasheed al-Ubeidi, and other officials mainly for the purpose of resolving remaining doubts about the accounting for imported VX precursors [see 10 April] in the light of the amended "full, final and complete disclosure" of past CW programmes which Iraq had furnished on 25 March.[1] Unidentified intelligence sources are being quoted as saying that as much as 400 tons of VX precursor material could have gone missing.[2] Earlier in the month UNSCOM had convened an international seminar of CW experts to assist in its review of the FFCD, presenting participants with Iraqi declarations and with other information available to UNSCOM. The seminar had identified four areas of special concern, the first and foremost being the VX programme.[3]
     A secondary purpose of the mission is to press Iraq to respond to UNSCOM concerns about past BW programmes, especially as regards the accounting for the large tonnage of imported biological growth media [see 14 April]. Duelfer tells reporters that his mission has been "partially successful" and that UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekéus will be travelling to Baghdad later in the month to try to obtain more answers.[4] It later transpires that Iraq agreed that it would provide further written information on its past CW programmes during the forthcoming visit by the Chairman, but that it would provide no further information in the BW area until UNSCOM had agreed that all other areas were closed.[5]
     Meanwhile, Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Said al-Sahaf has been giving interviews saying that the remaining BW concerns are "trivial".[6]
     [1] Evelyn Leopold (from UN New York), "Iraq may be hiding chemical weapon elements", Reuters, 11 May 1995; Ninth report of the Executive Chairman of the Special Commission established by the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 9(b)(i) of Security Council resolution 687 (1991), on the activities of the Special Commission, as annexed to UN document S/1995/494, dated 20 June 1995.
     [1] Evelyn Leopold (from UN New York), "Iraq sanctions retained; new chemical arms suspected", Reuters, 12 May 1995.
     [2] Stephen Black, "UNSCOM activities in Iraq in 1995", in J B Poole & R Guthrie (editors), Verification 1996: Arms Control, Peacekeeping and the Environment (VERTIC and Westview, 1996) pp 192-207.
     [3] [No author listed] (from Baghdad) Agence France Presse, 0829 GMT 17 May 1995, as in FBIS-NES-95-095, 17 May 1995, p 36; [No author listed] (from Baghdad), "Iraq fails to give full account on chemical, germ warfare: UN", Agence France Presse, 1534 GMT 17 May 1995.
     [4] Ninth report of the Executive Chairman of the Special Commission established by the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 9(b)(i) of Security Council resolution 687 (1991), on the activities of the Special Commission, as annexed to UN document S/1995/494, dated 20 June 1995, paragraph 4.
     [5] Rym Brahimi (from UN New York), "Iraq says it will continue UN cooperation", UPI, 17 May 1995; al-Hayat (London), 20 May 1995, as reported by Reuters, 20 May 1995, "Iraq will work with UN to close biological file".


25 years ago:

3 May 1990     The Washington Post, attributing an internal US Defense Department study of the Iran–Iraq War, says that the civilian poison-gas casualties at Halabja two years earlier [see 16 March 1988] had resulted from CW bombardments by Iranian forces as well as Iraqi. Evidence for this had apparently been drawn from the fact that Iran had said many of the Halabja victims had died from cyanide whereas, according to a Pentagon official, "we know Iraq does not use cyanide gas". The Pentagon study, described as an "operational history" of the decisive final stages of the war, is said to include a detailed reconstruction of the Halabja fighting based on undisclosed "highly classified sources".[1]
     The Iranian Government issues strong and detailed denials.[2]
     [1] Patrick E Tyler, "Both Iraq and Iran gassed Kurds in war, US analysis finds", Washington Post, 3 May 1990, p A37.
     [2] Statement issued by the Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations, as reported on Tehran domestic service, 1030hrs GMT 4 May 1990, as translated from the Persian in FBIS-NES-90-087, 4 May 1990, p 45; Letter Dated 6 June 1990 from the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/21346, 7 June 1990.


30 years ago:

10 May 1985     An inquest is held into the death of an Iranian soldier, Gholm Shivolco, who died in London while being treated for injuries apparently caused by exposure to toxic chemicals on 19 March.
     The coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, recording a verdict of death by enemy action, says that he is not prepared to be drawn into controversy over whether the soldier's death was lawful as an act of war, or was in contravention of the 1925 Geneva Protocol. Dr Ian West, a pathologist from Guy's Hospital, tells the inquest "The burns were quite consistent with exposure to an agent of the sulphur mustard group".[1]
     Dr. Nahid Toubia, of the St. John and St. Elizabeth Hospital, where the soldier was treated, is quoted as saying "There was a high suggestion they had been subjected to some form of chemical warfare".[2] [See also 4 April.]
     [1] [No author listed], "Mustard Gas "Killed Iranian"" / "London Inquest into Death of Soldier Gholm Shivolco", Guardian (London), 11 May 1985.
     [2] [No author listed] (from London), [no title], Associated Press, 11 May 1985.


45 years ago:

6 May 1970     In London, the Secretary of State for Defence, Denis Healey, tells the House of Commons: "NATO as a whole has chemical weapons available to it because the United States maintains an offensive capability. However, I believe that both the former and the present Government in Britain were right not to stockpile offensive chemical weapons in the United Kingdom. If the House really considers the situation, I believe that it will recognise that it is almost inconceivable that enemy forces would use chemical weapons against NATO forces except in the circumstances of a mass invasion — in which event more terrible weapons would surely come into play."[1]
     [1] Denis Healey, Secretary of State for Defence, 6 May 1970, Oral Answers, Hansard (Commons), vol 801, c389.


55 years ago:

1 May 1960     US pilot Francis Gary Powers, flying a high altitude mission in a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft is shot down over the USSR. He carries with him a silver dollar bored with a hole containing a needle coated with saxitoxin, to be used to kill himself in such circumstances. However, Powers does not use the needle. The saxitoxin is said to have been prepared under the auspices of the CIA's project MKNAOMI.[1]
     [1] Sterling Seagrave, Yellow Rain: a journey through the terror of chemical warfare, New York: M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1981, p. 162. The author cites: [no author listed], "Of dart guns and poisons", Time, 29 September 1975 as the source of his information.