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 -- January 2018 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.

5 years ago | 15 years ago | 25 years ago | 50 years ago

5 years ago:

15 January 2013     A blog on the Foreign Policy website claims that a key source of US government information about an alleged chemical weapons attack in Homs [see 23 December 2012; see also 8 January] was a cable from U.S. consul general in Istanbul, Scott Frederic Kilner. This cable was sent a week or so before and was revealed to the journalist by an administration official who described it as making a "compelling case" that a material called "Agent 15" had been used. The blog indicates that the consulate's investigation was "facilitated by BASMA, an NGO the State Department has hired as one of its implementing partners inside Syria".[1]
     The blog report prompts a number of reactions. The same day, White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor is quoted: "The reporting we have seen from media sources regarding alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria has not been consistent with what we believe to be true about the Syrian chemical weapons program".[2]
     Some ten days later another blog on the same site challenges the evidence presented, noting the sparsity of evidence that Agent 15 actually exists and that the types of information used in the cable from the consulate in Turkey may have been subject to the same biases that intelligence regarding Iraq a decade before had suffered.[3]
     [1] Josh Rogin, "Exclusive: Secret State Department cable: Chemical weapons used in Syria", Foreign Policy ["The Cable" blog], 15 January 2013.
     [2] Arshad Mohammed, "U.S. plays down media report that Syria used chemical weapons", Reuters, 16 January 2013; see also Michael R Gordon, "Consulate Supported Claim of Syria Gas Attack, Report Says", New York Times, 15 January 2013
     [3] Jeffrey Lewis, "Why everyone's wrong about Assad's zombie gas", Foreign Policy ["Buzz bomb" blog], 25 January 2013.


15 years ago:

23 January 2003     The US White House releases a report What Does Disarmament Look Like?, documenting the US Administration's view of the action that Iraq needs to take in order to satisfy the requirements of UN Security Council resolution 1441. It says: "When a country decides to disarm, and to provide to the world verifiable evidence that it has disarmed, there are three common elements to its behavior: The decision to disarm is made at the highest political level; the regime puts in place national initiatives to dismantle weapons and infrastructure; and the regime fully cooperates with international efforts to implement and verify disarmament; its behavior is transparent, not secretive ... Iraq's behavior contrasts sharply with successful disarmament stories [in South Africa, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan]. Instead of a high-level commitment to disarm, Iraq's concealment efforts are led by Saddam's son Qusay. The inspectors are labeled spies and treated as the enemy, not as a partner in disarmament. Instead of national initiatives to disarm, Iraq's SSO and National Monitoring Directorate are national programs involving thousands of people to target inspectors and thwart their duties. Instead of cooperation and transparency, Iraq has chosen concealment and deceit best exemplified by a 12,000 page declaration which is far from "currently accurate, full, and complete", as required by the United Nations Security Council".[1]
     Continuing the concealment theme, US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington D.C., asserts that "there is every reason to believe that things are being moved constantly and hidden. The whole purpose, if you think about it, for Iraq constructing mobile units to produce biological weapons could only have been to be able to hide them. We know about that capability from defectors and other sources, but unless Iraq comes clean about what it has, we cannot expect the inspectors to find them". He suggests that numerous UNMOVIC weapons inspectors and their superiors in New York have become Iraqi agents and are informing Iraq in advance of those facilities earmarked for inspection describing such inspectors as "anti-inspectors", who, now "vastly outnumber the couple of hundred of UN personnel on the ground in Iraq". Wolfowitz says: "In the 1990s, there were reports that Iraqi intelligence recruited UN inspectors as informants, and that Iraqi scientists were fearful about being interviewed. Recent reports that Iraq continues these kinds of efforts are a clear sign that it is not serious about disarmament. We have reports and other evidence of prohibited material and documents being relocated to agricultural areas and private homes or hidden beneath mosques and hospitals. Furthermore, according to these reports, the material is moved constantly, making it difficult to trace or find without absolutely fresh intelligence. It is a shell game played on a grand scale with deadly serious weapons".[2]
     [1] White House, What Does Disarmament Look Like?, 23 January 2003.
     [2] "Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Speech on Iraq Disarmament", US DoD News Transcript, 23 January 2003.


25 years ago:

8 January 1993     Iraq bars UN aircraft carrying UNSCOM personnel from entry into the country.[1] About 70 UN people, including a 30-member UNSCOM chemical destruction team on its way to al-Muthanna [see 4-9 November 1992], are now stranded in Bahrain.[2] The UN Security Council warns Iraq of "serious consequences".[3]
     Four days later, American, British and French aircraft bomb targets in Iraq (just as the Chemical Weapons Convention signing ceremony in Paris begins). The Iraqi UN ambassador announces that Iraq will revoke its ban on UNSCOM landing its aircraft on Iraqi territory.[4] The UN subsequently rejects the conditions later attached by Iraq to the lifting of the ban.[5] The United States launches a cruise-missile attack on the Zaafaraniyah industrial complex near Baghdad, reportedly a nuclear-weapons-related facility,[6] and there are further Anglo-Franco-US air raids in both northern and southern Iraq. The Arab League urges restraint.[7] Iraq offers a ceasefire and, if it is implemented, unrestricted landing rights for UNSCOM aircraft.[8]
     Thirteen days after the stand-off begins, 52 UNSCOM personnel arrive from Bahrain in a UN aircraft. They include the delayed chemical destruction group, headed by Peter Brough of the United States.[9]
     [1] [no author listed], [no title listed], Agence France Presse (from Manama, in English), Agence France Presse, 1908 GMT 8 January 1993, as reported in FBIS-NES-93-006, 11 January 1993, p 32.
     [2] Stephen Robinson (from Washington) and Anton La Guardia (from Baghdad), Daily Telegraph (London), 11 January 1993, p 8, "Washington warns Iraq over ban on UN flights"; William Drozdiak (from Manama), Washington Post, 13 January 1993, p 17, "UN inspection team cools heels in Bahrain".
     [3] United Nations documents S/PV.3161, dated 8 January 1993, and S/3162, dated 11 January 1993.
     [4] Stephen Robinson (from Washington), Peter Almond and George Jones, "Gulf allies attack Iraqi missiles", Daily Telegraph (London), 14 January 1993, p 1.
     [5] [no author listed], "Yielding to US, Iraq will let in flights by UN", International Herald Tribune, 16-17 January 1993, pp 1 & 5; George Graham (from Washington) and Mark Nicholson (from Kuwait), "UN rejects Iraq's response to flights ultimatum", Financial Times (London), 16-17 January 1993, pp 1 & 22; UN document S/25172 (reissue), dated 2 March 1993 (original dated 29 January 1993).
     [6] Stephen Robinson (from Washington), "US attacks Iraqi nuclear plant", Daily Telegraph, 18 January 1993, p 1; [no author listed], "Does Iraq have the bomb?", Middle East Defense News (Paris), vol 6 no 8 (25 January 1993) pp 1-3.
     [7] [no author listed], "Latest allied raid killed 21, Iraq says", International Herald Tribune, 19 January 1993, p 7.
     [8] [no author listed], "Iraq holds out an olive branch", Financial Times (London), 20 January 1993, p 4.
     [9] [no author listed], "UN inspectors fly to Iraq to destroy chemical arms", New York Times, 22 January 1993, p 6.


50 years ago:

January 1968     The British Army carries out an exercise, "Small Change", in which the effects of the psychochemical LSD [also known as T3456] on tactical unit performance is assessed. Half the personnel of an infantry platoon receive an oral dose of 0.16 mg/man prior to conducting an anti-terrorist sweep as formed sections, each sweep involving an advance over four kilometres. A later report states: "Small Change showed that the platoon did not discharge its functions as well as would normally be expected. Overall its performance was adequate but it would have sustained a higher number of casualties than might have reasonably been expected. Unit efficiency fell by about 10% and the role of good discipline and mutual support between drugged and undrugged soldiers in mitigating the drug effects were demonstrated."[1]
     The exercise takes place on the trials range at Porton Down[2] and follows on from the earlier "Moneybags" [see December 1964] and "Recount" [see September 1966] experiments.
     Parliament is later told: "We also now believe that work on LSD ceased in 1968 when the results of trial Small Change confirmed it was not a serious threat".[3]
     Certain documentation on the LSD trials are placed in the public domain some years after the exercise: "A search of the CBDE Information Service's list of technical papers produced by CBDE and its predecessor organisations at Porton Down has identified four published papers concerning the work conducted with LSD in the 1960s. Three of these reports are concerned with the field studies. These are Porton Technical Paper 936 "A field experiment using LSD25 on trained troops", Porton Technical Paper 979 "Recount A second field experiment to assess the effects of T3456 on trained troops" and Technical Note 53 "Small Change A brief preliminary report". As you know we have recently arranged for these papers to be made available in the Public Record Office at Kew at the end of January [1996] in response to your earlier request to see information relating to trials with LSD involving service volunteers. We have recently located a fourth report, Technical Note 5 "The determination of T3456 in human plasma following oral administration" which concerns the laboratory based development of an analytical method to detect low levels of LSD in human plasma. This report is not yet in the Public Records Office but arrangements can be made for its early release should this be required. The library search also identified eight papers which include references to laboratory work involving LSD and other substances being tested on animals. The work was primarily concerned with analytical methods and the papers remain classified."[4]
     [1] Roger Freeman, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, Written Answer [with letter from CBDE Chief Executive Graham Pearson], 8 March 1995, Hansard (Commons), vol 256, c25758, in response to a question from Dr David Clark MP; see also: Rob Evans, Gassed, (London: House of Stratus, 2000), Chapter 8.
     [2] Nicholas Soames, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Written Answer [with letter from DERA Chief Executive John Chisholm], 18 July 1995, Hansard (Commons), vol 263, c1169, in response to a question from Dr David Clark MP.
     [3] James Arbuthnot, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, Written Answer [with letter from DERA Chief Executive John Chisholm], 18 April 1996, Hansard (Commons), vol 275, c578, in response to a question from Dr David Clark MP.
     [4] James Arbuthnot, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, Written Answer [with letter from DERA Chief Executive John Chisholm], 25 January 1996, Hansard (Commons), vol 270, c326, in response to a question from Dr David Clark MP.


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