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) and its prevention are developed.

CBW Events -- June 2017 selections

Each month, entries for a small number of selected anniversaries of notable CBW-related events are posted. All will appear in the relevant final versions of the chronologies.

30 years ago | 45 years ago | 55 years ago

30 years ago:

28 June 1987     Iraq conducts chemical weapons air-raids on the northern border town of Sardasht. Iranian sources initially claim that two raids take place.[1] Further raids take place the following day.[2] Iran initially claims 10 dead and 650 injured.[3] Within 24 hours, this becomes 12 dead and 650 seriously injured out of a total of 2000 claimed casualties.[4] Iran calls for the "immediate dispatch" of a UN investigation.[5]
     Foreign journalists visit and report.[6] Sardasht casualties are sent for treatment to Brussels, Madrid, Rome and Vienna.[7] Photographs of casualties are circulated as a UN document at Iranian request.[8] A week later, the death toll has climbed to 35, according to an official from Azarbaijan province.[9] By the end of July, Iran claims 60 of the 2000 casualties from these attacks have died.[10] Within a year, Iran claims 8129 casualties have been caused by these attacks.[11]
     In a description of these attacks to the CD, the Foreign Minister of Iran says "it was not the first time that civilian areas and residential quarters were targets of chemical attack. But this was the first time that a city in its totality was poisoned by the Iraqi forces. The use of chemical arms was so vast that even several days later ... the afflicted areas were still highly contaminated".[12]
     [1] IRNA (in English), 1604 GMT 28 June 1987, as reported in "Iranian Military Communiqués and Reports", BBC-SWB, 2 July 1987, ME/8609/A/1.
     [2] Letter dated 29 June 1987 from the Chargé d'affaires a.i. Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/18955–A/42/373, 30 June 1987.
     [3] Letter dated 29 June 1987 from the Chargé d'affaires a.i. Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/18953–A/42/371, 29 June 1987; [no author listed] (from Nicosia), "Iran Claims 10 Civilians Killed, 650 Injured In Gas Attacks", Associated Press, 28 June 1987.
     [4] Letter dated 30 June 1987 from the Chargé d'affaires a.i. Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/18956–A/42/375, 30 June 1987; Gordon Barthos, `Iraqis used chemical weapons on civilians, Iran says', Toronto Star, 3 July 1987, p A10.
     [5] Letter dated 29 June 1987 from the Chargé d'affaires a.i. Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/18953–A/42/371, 29 June 1987.
     [6] Andrew Alexander (from Tabriz), "Iraq continues chemical war against Iran; UN looks other way", Atlanta Constitution, 9 July 1987, p 22.
     [7] [no author listed], Associated Press, as in: "Chemical claim", Guardian (London), 15 July 1987, p 6; Letter dated 16 July 1987 from the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/18984-A/42/405, 16 July 1987; Letter dated 17 July 1987 from the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/18986-A/42/408, 17 July 1987.
     [8] Letter dated 29 July 1987 from the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/19006-A/42/426, 29 July 1987.
     [9] [No author listed] (from Tehran), `Iran Says, 35 People Killed by Iraqi Chemical Bomb', Xinhua General Overseas News Service, 5 July 1987, ref 0705004.
     [10] Letter dated 29 July 1987 from the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/19006-A/42/426, 29 July 1987.
     [11] Letter Dated 11 April 1988 from the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran Addressed to the President of the Conference on Disarmament, CD document CD/827, 12 April 1988.
     [12] Statement of Iranian Foreign Minister Velayati to the Conference on Disarmament in plenary session, 28 July 1987, CD document CD/PV.425, pp 2-6.

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45 years ago:

7 June 1972     In London, Lord Chalfont, a former Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, introduces a short debate on chemical weapons in the House of Lords. He says: "there is now I believe a need more urgent than there has ever been for us to come to some international agreement about this particular weapon of war. ... Chemical weapons have been called the poor man's weapon of mass destruction ... But there are other, and I think somewhat more sinister, implications here. It is the possibility that these weapons might even spread out of the hands of governments and into the hands of private people. One only has to think of the appalling [recent attacks] to realise that nowadays international terrorists will stop virtually at nothing. The chemical weapon is easily portable, cheaply made and easily used ... [We must] think seriously about the appalling danger that would be presented to international order and stability if international terrorists of the kind that carried out the shocking [attacks] were to decide to use, instead of the weapons that they used there, this kind of weapon of indiscriminate destruction". [Note: The attacks the speaker refers to were at Lod Airport, Tel Aviv, on 30 May in which 3 Japanese Red Army terrorists, operating in conjunction with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP-GC), killed 24 people and injured over 70 more.]
     The Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, gives the Government's response to the debate. She says the Government: "has to consider the need to define the chemical agents which are relevant to chemical warfare on which controls are needed, and those chemical agents and their manufacturing processes which could be converted to chemical weapon production, although they are relevant also to peaceful industrial and medical activities. Therefore we have to consider not only the agents but the industrial processes which could be relevant to a ban on CW. When these have been identified we have to consider three main things: how to give assurances that the production and possession of chemical weapons has been completely stopped; how to place obstacles in the way of a secret programme of CW rearmament which would make it both difficult and expensive; and, thirdly, how to give early warning of unlawful production or possession of CW".
     [1] Hansard (Lords), 7 June 1972, vol 331, c311-62

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55 years ago:

22 June 1962     The UK War Office submits to the Patent Office application number 24022/62 relating to improvements in the process of manufacture of a class of compounds of which VX is a member. The patent remains classified until 1973.[1] [See also 17 February 1960.]
     Parliament is later told: "The application was classified by the Patent Office following notification by the War Office that the invention to which the application related was secret. Classification was removed by the Patent Office following notification by the Ministry of Defence in 1973 that publication of the application need no longer be prohibited. The interests of national security were considered in authorising this change of classification".[1]
     Further information provided includes: "By 1973 much information on V agents had become known, partly as a result of a process of disclosure with a view towards the prohibition of chemical weapons. The nature of VX itself had been disclosed in 1971 when all Western countries concerned had agreed to its declassification. As no justification was seen for retaining the classification of the United Kingdom patent application, it was published in February 1974. However, given present circumstances I am reviewing the procedures relating to declassification to ensure that safeguards are adequate. The case for reclassifying the information related to V agents is also being considered".[2]
     [1] William Rodgers, Minister of State for Defence, Written Answer, 13 January 1975, Hansard (Commons), vol 884, c19.
     [2] William Rodgers, Minister of State for Defence, Written Answer, 14 January 1975, Hansard (Commons), vol 884, c61.

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May 2017 anniversaries