Iranian Chemical Weapons Program

I recently “blogged”: about a Fars News “article”: regarding the Iranian SL’s 2010 fatwa on nuclear weapons.

According to that article, Khamenei stated that

bq. Iran is not after an atomic bomb, and it is even opposed to possession of chemical weapons. Even when Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran, *we did not try to manufacture chemical weapons.* Such things are not in line with the principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Of course, many people have long thought that Iran at least _had_ a CW program. According to the “2005 DOS compliance report,”:

bq. In May 1998 [I think it was actually November], during the Conference of the States Parties, *Tehran, for the first time, acknowledged the existence of a past chemical weapons program.* Iran admitted developing a chemical warfare program during the latter stages of the Iran-Iraq war, as a deterrent against Iraq’s use of chemical agents.

I haven’t been able to find a copy of that 1998 acknowledgement, but I can’t say I’ve looked wicked hard either. FWIW, the “most recent 721 report”: indicates that Iran has CW capabilities and the most recent “compliance report”: states that

bq. Based on available information, the United States cannot certify whether Iran has met its CWPF declaration obligations, destroyed its specialized CW equipment, transferred CW or retained an undeclared CW stockpile.

Now, an Iranian CW program wouldn’t invalidate a fatwa against _nuclear_ weapons, of course. But I’m more interested in why Iran would become a state-party to the CWC _at all_, if it really wanted to deter Iraq. After all, Iran could’ve done what Syria did and just refused to sign the thing. Plus, Iran had first-hand experience regarding the utility of CWs.

Well, I have some thoughts on this, but they can wait. More interesting, to me at least, is an “article”: published in the Winter 1999-2000 edition of the _Iranian Journal of International Affairs_. Written by Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mohammad Reza Aborzi (spelling in original), the piece is titled “Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iran’s Security Paradigm:the Case of Chemical Weapons.” Both authors were officials in Iran’s foreign ministry until a few years ago…the former was Iran’s Ambassador to the UN in NYC and the latter was Iran’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva. I’m not sure what either are doing now.

The article, the discovery of which motivated me to write this post in the first place, is about Iran’s experience with the CWC. However, it also provides some details regarding Iran’s CW program. According to the authors, Iran decided to develop a “limited deterring capability” after Iraq attacked the country with CWs and the international community failed to respond. However, “Iranian religious leadership found it very difficult to condone the use of these weapons, even as reprisal.” This reluctance, coupled with the inferiority of Iran’s CW program to its Iraqi counterpart, as well as the high cost of developing the weapons, motivated Tehran to end the program.

The article doesn’t give dates for these decisions, but, according to the “2005 compliance report,”: “Tehran claimed [in 1998] that after the 1988 cease-fire, it ‘terminated’ its CW program.”

Readers might also find interesting the authors’ description of Iran’s security environment at the end of the 1990s, as well as the country’s domestic decision-making process regarding matters of national security.


Via Twitter, “ACRS”: pointed out “this 2003 statement”: to the OPCW in which Iran admitted to having developed CWs.

One thought on “Iranian Chemical Weapons Program

  1. @ACRS-ME

    At least one link to Iran’s admission of having CW capabilities can be found in Iran’s reply to U.S. Statement during the first Review Conference of the States Parties of the CWC (April 2003):
    “I have to recall the fact that due to the lack of
    reaction by the international community against Iraqi chemical weapons attack during
    the 8 year imposed war, in the last phase we got the chemical capabilities, but we did
    not use it, and following the cease fire we did decided to dismantle.
    We did destroy the facilities under the supervision of the OPCW inspectors and we
    got the certificate of the destruction of CWPF.”


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