Chemical Weapons Forensics and Iraq

After writing “this post”: about Iraq’s previous CW procurement efforts, I ran across “this BBC piece”: which discusses potential efforts to identify the suppliers to Iraq’s CW program. According to the BBC, a UK CW expert is discussing such work with the Kurdish government:

bq.. [“Hamish de Bretton-Gordon”:] says *it may also be possible to identify who supplied Saddam Hussein’s government with the basic chemicals used at Halabja*.

“We expect to *find samples of mustard gas in the mass graves*, as we have done in the cellars,” he [said].

“And *if we can break it down to its base molecule components, we will be able to see what its signature is, and then we can match it against a sample*.

This, he believes, will make it possible to *work out which country, even which factory, supplied the original chemicals for the mustard gas – it will not be possible to trace the source of the nerve agents*.

p. Mr. de Bretton-Gordon notes that it might be tough to get potentially-guilty parties to cough up the goods:

bq. “It’s going to be difficult to get a test sample from the manufacturers who allegedly made it… *if they handed it over and it matched, that’s irrefutable evidence, which the International Criminal Court and others would take a view on*.


bq. “…we know *there are still some chemical stockpiles in Iraq that are being dealt with*, which is open source information, and *we can probably get a sample from there and match it against what we’ve found here to provide conclusive evidence* – so technically it is possible.”

p. I can’t say this is an effort I’ve thought much about. One would think that they’d consult former UNMOVIC inspectors, but I obviously have no idea. In any case, the Kurdish government hasn’t approved the plan, the BBC says.

Lastly, I did not know that one can view details of chemical weapons displayed at the “Halabja Monument:”:

bq. Nowadays, some of the bombs which were used are displayed at the museum in Halabja. Many are equipped with internal fans, which were used to mix the chemicals together.

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