CBW Events -- December 2008 selections
Each month, entries for a few anniversaries of notable CBW Events are posted. All will appear in the relevant final versions of the chronologies.
10 years ago | 15 years ago | 20 years ago | 25 years ago | 40 years ago
10 years ago:
16 December 1998 Iraq is attacked by British and US air-to-ground weapons in a sustained bombardment, Operation Desert Fox, which, by the time it ends late on 19 December, will have involved 218 sorties by tactical strike aircraft dropping some 600 bombs, more than 432 sorties by support aircraft, and the launch of more than 425 cruise missiles. The UN Security Council is informed only after the attack has begun, while the Council is actually in the process of considering the report of the Secretary-General on Iraqi cooperation [see 15 December]. The following explanation is given to the Council by UK Permanent Representative Jeremy Greenstock: "The [UNSCOM report] states clearly that Iraq did not provide the full cooperation it promised, and that UNSCOM is unable as a result to conduct the substantive work mandated to it by the Security Council. The United Kingdom and the United States have acted on the basis of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council. Our objective is compliance by the Iraqi leadership with the obligations laid down by the Council. The operation was undertaken when it became apparent that there was no prospect of this being achieved by peaceful means. It will have the effect of degrading capabilities which have been the subject of Security Council resolutions over the past nine years. Targets have been carefully chosen to avoid civilian casualties."
Within the Security Council the UK and the USA are largely isolated, the three other permanent members China, France and Russia and most of the non-permanent members being strongly opposed to the offensive. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issues a statement to the press in which he says: "This is a sad day for the United Nations, and for the world. My thoughts tonight are with the people of Iraq, with the 370 United Nations humanitarian workers who remain in the country, and with all others whose lives are in danger. It is also a very sad day for me personally. Throughout this year I have done everything in my power to ensure peaceful compliance with Security Council resolutions, and to avert the use of force. This has not been an easy or a painless process."
President Clinton, who has before him the impending vote by the US House of Representatives on his impeachment, announces that the mission of the US forces "is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological programmes, and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors", the purpose being "to protect the national interest of the United States and, indeed, the interest of people throughout the Middle East and around the world". UK Prime Minister Blair declares that, if Saddam Hussein "will not, through reason and diplomacy, abandon his weapons of mass destruction programme, it must be degraded and diminished by military force".
The US Defense Department states that the degrading of the WMD programme did not mean the wholesale targeting of dual-use facilities, Defense Secretary William Cohen saying that, in this regard, US strikes are being limited to "those facilities we could identify that possibly solely produced [CBW weapons]". Joint Staff Intelligence Director Admiral Wilson later says: "We have targeted at least one chemical facility that has the potential for chemical weapons development in the future".
According to a subsequent authoritative commentary: "It seems clear that two different kinds of target were in the sights of the US and UK planners. The first were associated with Iraq's arms programmes and therefore linked to the ostensible reason for the attack the obstruction of UNSCOM. The second, however, seemed related more to a goal of weakening Iraqi power structures."
 Robert Wall (from Washington), "New weapons debut in attacks on Iraq", Aviation Week & Space Technology, vol 149 no 25 (21/28 December 1998), pp 1415; UK Defence Secretary George Robertson, Operation Desert Fox: Effects of Coalition Attacks, enclosure with letter dated 22 December 1998 addressed to all Members of Parliament; Duncan Lennox, "Fox: the results", Jane's Defence Weekly, vol 31 no 2 (13 January 1999) p 25.
 United Kingdom, UN document S/1998/1182 of 16 December 1998.
 UN press release SC/6611, 16 December 1998.
 UN press release SG/SM/6841 IK/265, 16 December 1998.
 USIS Washington File, "Transcript: Clinton on preemptive airstrikes against Iraq", 16 December 1998, via USIA website.
 USIS Washington File, "Text: Prime Minister Tony Blair on Iraq strike, December 16", 16 December 1998, via USIA website.
 Jane's Intelligence Review, vol 11 no 3 (March 1999) p 51, ""Desert Fox" and dual-use facilities".
 International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, Strategic Survey 1998/99, released April 1999, pp 168-76, "Iraq: still desperately defiant", at p 172.
15 years ago:
17 December 1993 The US representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Madeleine Albright, indicates in interview that the US administration may be seeking to have new conditions imposed on Iraq as prerequisite for the lifting of the UN embargo [see 26 November]. In particular, she says that Iraq's compliance with other UN Security Council resolutions besides 687 (1991) must be taken into account in "any assessment of its readiness to rejoin society": "There has to be an overall package here". As to SCR 687 and its stipulation that Iraq abandons its weapons of mass destruction, she reaffirms the US requirement for effective ongoing monitoring and verification: "I've said we want a proven track record of 6 to 12 months' monitoring" [see also 27 November].
 Paul Lewis, "US is hardening its stand on Iraq", New York Times, 19 December 1993, p 1.
20 years ago:
13 December 1988 The Australia Group, meeting in Paris, agrees at the end of a two-day meeting to add a ninth chemical to the list of those whose export all 19 member-countries have undertaken to control; and the chemicals on the warning list are increased from 32 to 35.
The 8 chemicals on the basic Australia-Group control list are thiodiglycol, phosphoryl chloride, phosphorus trichloride, dimethyl phosphite, trimethyl phosphite, dimethyl methylphosphonate, methylphosphonyl dichloride and methylphosphonyl difluoride. The new addition is thionyl chloride. The new additions to the warning list are sodium fluoride and potassium, ammonium and sodium bifluorides. [For the other chemicals on the list, see SIPRI Yearbook 1988, p 105.]
 Bericht der Bundesregierung an den Deutschen Bundestag entsprechend seiner Entschliessung vom 18.1.1989, 15 February 1989, p 57.
25 years ago:
15 December 1983 Iran's UN Representative, Said Rajaie Khorassani, writes to the UN Secretary-General, saying "the international community has not responded to our requests concerning the dispatch of a mission [see 3 November] in order to examine, inter alia, areas affected by chemical weapons used by Iraqi mercenaries against civilian targets inside the Islamic Republic. This undue delay has resulted in the elimination of parts of the evidence, which are bound to disappear with the passage of time".
 Letter dated 15 December 1983 from the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, as reproduced in UN document S/16220.
40 years ago:
20 December 1968 The United Nations General Assembly adopts resolution 2454 A (XXIII) on the Geneva Protocol.
The resolution also calls for the Secretary-General of the United Nations to establish a "Group of Experts" to report "on chemical and bacteriological (biological) weapons and the effects of their possible use". The resolution recommends "that the report should be based on accessible material and prepared with the assistance of qualified consultant experts appointed by the Secretary-General, taking into account the views expressed and the suggestions made during the discussion of this item at the twenty-third session of the General Assembly"
28 December 1968 The United States mission to the United Nations transmits an airgram to the State Department on "XXIII General Assembly: Evaluation of Results in the Disarmament Field". The airgram includes: "The Soviet agreement to use the formula "chemical and bacteriological (biological)" throughout the terms of reference (TR) for the SYG's [UN Secretary-General's] CBW effects study represents an advance in obtaining acceptance of the US position on this issue. This is particularly true in light of the precedent, to which we earlier expected the Soviets to cling, of the term "chemical and bacteriological" in the ENDC report that recommended the SYG study. [see 28 August]
November 2007 anniversaries
"The US Delegation encountered some difficulty in arriving at an acceptable resolution (2454A) [see 20 December] on the CBW study due to the assertiveness of the Polish Delegation and a tendency on the part of the Canadians and British not to fight with the Poles about points that were of more interest to the US than to Canada and the UK. Moreover, a strong UK objection to the TR worked out by the US and Soviet Delegations, and accepted by the Canadian Delegation, almost wrecked US effort to provide the TR to the SYG. The UK Delegation continued to press its objection to the "bacteriological (biological)" formula with the Secretariat and the US Delegation even after the TR had been read to the First Committee and handed over to the Secretariat. The UK Delegation hopes this difference will not affect the CBW study, but the UK and Soviet experts may not be able to avoid a resumption of the dispute when drafting the CBW study report."
 Airgram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State (Drafted by Alan F. Neidle, David L. Aaron, and Richard L. McCormack on 21 December, and cleared by Peter S. Thacher, Committee I Executive Officer), 28 December 1968, Department of State, Central Files, DEF 18-6, marked "Confidential", [electronic copy available via Department of State website]
(last update, RG, 2 December 2008)