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 -- February 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 | 20 years ago | 35 years ago | 40 years ago | 50 years ago

5 years ago:

2 February 2013     On the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, US Vice President Joe Biden and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet in private. It is reported that Biden proposes that Russia and the USA should work together to maintain secure control of chemical weapons in Syria should the Assad regime fall.
     [1] David Ignatius, "Involving Russia in Syria", Washington Post, 4 February 2013.


15 years ago:

5 February 2003     In New York, US Secretary of State Colin Powell addresses a specially convened session of the Security Council, under the on-going agenda item "The situation between Iraq and Kuwait". He speaks for over an hour, primarily on allegations of Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction. Most countries on the Council are represented at this meeting at Ministerial level. As Germany holds the rotating Presidency of the Council, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is in the chair. Also present are UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Hans Blix, IAEA Director-General Mr. Mohamed ElBaradei and the Permanent Representative of Iraq, Ambassador Mohammed A. Aldouri.[1] The non-permanent members of the Council are Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Germany, Guinea, Mexico, Pakistan, Spain and Syria.
     Powell says: "[E]very statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence", he says. He plays recordings of intercepted conversations between Iraqi officers that he claims suggest at a deliberate intention to deceive the UN weapons inspectors. He also presents various slides and some satellite imagery that he claims shows the Iraqi military relocating weapons of mass destruction. For example, the Secretary displays satellite imagery of an Iraqi facility at Taji, describing it as "one of about 65 such facilities in Iraq. We know that this one has housed chemical munitions". He says, "Here you see 15 munitions bunkers in yellow and red outlines. The four that are in red squares represent active chemical munitions bunkers. ... On the left is a close-up of one of the four chemical bunkers. The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are storing chemical munitions. The arrow at the top that says "security" points to a facility that is a signature item for this kind of bunker". Powell states that the bunkers have been deliberately made "clean" by the time UN inspectors arrive at the site on 22 December.
     Repeating suggestions that Iraq has not accounted for all of its imported growth media for biological agents, he says "One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq's biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents". Drawing on what he calls "eyewitness accounts" he states "The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War. Although Iraq's mobile production program began in the mid-1990s, UN inspectors at the time only had vague hints of such programs. Confirmation came later, in the year 2000. The source was an eyewitness, an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities. He actually was present during biological agent production runs. He was also at the site when an accident occurred in 1998. 12 technicians died from exposure to biological agents". Some conceptual drawings are presented to illustrate what an Iraqi mobile biological-weapons laboratory might look like. "We know that Iraq has at least seven of these mobile, biological agent factories".
     On terrorism, Powell says "Iraq today harbours a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants".[2] Alleging links between associates of Zarqawi and alleged plots in Europe and elsewhere, he says: "We also know that Zarqawi's colleagues have been active in the Pankisi Gorge, Georgia, and in Chechnya, Russia. The plotting to which they are linked is not mere chatter: members of Zarqawi's network say their goal was to kill Russians with toxins". He suggests that Al-Qaeda "continues to have a deep interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction. As with the story of Zarqawi and his network, I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative, telling how Iraq provided training in those weapons to Al Qaeda ... he has told his story ... [that he] was responsible for one of Al Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan. ... [Al Qaeda leaders] did not believe that Al Qaeda labs in Afghanistan were capable enough to manufacture these chemical or biological agents. They needed to go somewhere else. They had to look outside of Afghanistan for help. Where did they go? Where did they look? They went to Iraq".
     On the UK government's dossier Iraq – Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation [see 3 February], he says: "I would call my colleagues' attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed yesterday which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities". Powell concludes thus: "Operative paragraph four of UN Resolution 1441 ... clearly states that false statements and omissions in the declaration and a failure by Iraq at any time to comply with and cooperate fully in the implementation of this resolution shall constitute – the facts speak for themselves – shall constitute a further material breach of its obligation. [The demand for an honest declaration from Iraq] was designed to be an early test. They failed that test. By this standard, the standard of this Operative Paragraph, I believe that Iraq is now in further material breach of its obligations. I believe this conclusion is irrefutable and undeniable".
     The Council then hears from Minister for Foreign Affairs of China (Tang Jiaxuan), Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom (Jack Straw), Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (Igor Ivanov), Minister of State in charge of External Relations of Cameroon (François-Xavier Ngoubeyou), Minister for Foreign Affairs of France (Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin), Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico (Luis Ernesto Derbez), Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria (Solomon Passy), Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan (Khurshid Kasuri), Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain (Ana Palacio Vallelersundi), Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile (Soledad Alvear Valenzuela), Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Angola (Georges Ribelo Chikoti), Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic (Farouk Al-Shara') [statement read out by the Syrian Ambassador], Ambassador of Guinea (Mr. Traoré) [conveying apologies of Foreign Minister François Fall for being unable to attend] and Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany (Joschka Fischer). The meeting concludes with a statement from the Iraqi Ambassador who denies the accusations in Powell's presentation.
     Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri later transmits a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan rejecting Powell's accusations in further detail.[3]
     [1] A full transcript of the meeting is published in UN document S/PV.4701, dated 5 February 2003. The US Department of State distributes transcripts of Secretary Powell's presentation in a variety of formats.
     [2] Spellings are those given in the UN transcript. US Department of State transcripts use the spellings "Abu Massad Al Zakawi", "Usama bin Laden" and "Al-Qaida".
     [3] Letter dated 19 February 2003 from the Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/2003/203, dated 20 February 2003; Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site (Baghdad) from Baghdad, 21 February 2003, as translated from the Arabic in BBC-WWM, "Iraqi foreign minister rejects allegations in US Secretary Powell's UN speech", 25 February 2003.


20 years ago:

20 February 1998     In Iraq, a team led by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrives to negotiate an agreement with President Saddam Hussein and his government which seems to promise a resolution of the current crisis, averting US-led military action [see 17 February]. At the start of the talks, according to one member of the team, "we really didn't know whether the Iraqis wanted to be bombed as a way of getting rid of UNSCOM, or whether the Americans knew they were going to bomb anyway and we were just a token gesture".[1] Under the terms of a Memorandum agreed on 23 February,[2] Iraq commits itself to granting UNSCOM and the IAEA immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access in conformity with Security Council resolutions 687 (1991), 715 (1991) and all others that are relevant, while UNSCOM undertakes to respect Iraq's legitimate concerns relating to national security, sovereignty and dignity. The Memorandum of Understanding specifies how "entries for the performance of tasks mandated" at eight presidential sites identified in an Annex are to be conducted, both the initial and subsequent entries (for which no time limit is specified). A Special Group established by the Secretary-General in consultation with the heads of UNSCOM and the IAEA is to take charge of these visits, and is to operate under established UNSCOM/IAEA procedures in specific ways yet to be developed. The agreement is later endorsed by the UN Security Council.[3] The Secretary-General appoints the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala, to UNSCOM to serve, under Executive Chairman Richard Butler, as the special commissioner who, in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding, is to head the Special Group.[4]
     [1] Ed Vulliamy (from New York), "America conspires as peace is snatched from the jaws of war", Observer (London), 1 March 1998, p 19.
     [2] The text of the Memorandum of Understanding is appended to: Letter dated 25 February 1998 from the Secretary-General Addressed to the President of the Security Council, UN document S/1998/203, dated 27 February 1998. See also UN document S/1998/203/Add.1, dated 27 February 1998.
     [3] UN press release SC/6483, 2 March 1998, "Acting under Chapter VII, Security Council endorses Memorandum of Understanding signed by Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq and Secretary-General'.
     [4] David Usborne (from New York), "UN chief rounds on critics of peace deal", Independent (London), 27 February 1998, p 15; Laura Silber (from New York), "Annan fends off attack on sites pact", Financial Times (London), 27 February 1998, p 3.


35 years ago:

4 February 1983     US Vice-President Bush addresses the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva, urging the total elimination of chemical weapons through a verifiable prohibition on their production, stockpiling and transfer. "All forms of warfare are terrible. But these weapons are particularly to be feared because of the human suffering that they inflict. That is why the civilized world has condemned their use. Sadly, mankind has, nonetheless, had repeated demonstrations of the cruelty and horror wrought by the use of these weapons. And now, chemical and toxin weapons are being used in Afghanistan and south-east Asia in violation of international law and international arms control agreements. These violations are made all the worse by the fact that the victims do not have the means either to deter the attacks against them or to defend or protect themselves against these weapons".
     Following up on the earlier "Yellow Rain" allegations [see 3 December 1982] "The United States presented conclusive evidence to the world community of the facts surrounding the use of chemical and toxin weapons. Others have presented evidence as well. We did not come to these seeking confrontation or rashly, but only after the most exhaustive study. The implications that flow from the use of these weapons are so serious that many would prefer to disbelieve them, simply to ignore them. In our view we just have to face the facts."[1]
     [1] Committee on Disarmament document CD/PV.191, dated 4 February 1983


40 years ago:

20 February 1978     In London, the British Ministry of Defence publishes the latest annual Defence White Paper, Statement on the Defence Estimates 1978.[1] The section entitled "Detente and Disarmament" includes the following: "113. The British draft convention on banning the development, production and stockpiling of chemical weapons and their destruction, tabled in the CCD in 1976, has been further debated. Faster progress may be possible when current consultations between the United States and the Soviet Union are completed".
     The section entitled "Research" includes the following: "330. Following the announcement in the 1977 Statement on the Defence Estimates [see 28 February 1977] that a separate defence establishment was not required on microbiological research, the Central Policy Review Staff and the Medical Research Council have carried out studies of the civil requirements for the Microbiological Research Establishment (MRE) at Porton. The Government is considering the future of MRE as a civil establishment in the light of the studies".
     [1] Statement on the Defence Estimates 1978, Cmnd 7099, 20 February 1978


50 years ago:

26 February 1968     In the United States, an experimental police dart gun loaded with apomorphine is demonstrated by firing into the thigh of a volunteer medical student. One journalist present describes the effects on the volunteer as: "Within 75 seconds the victim felt a chill and began to get glassy-eyed. His blood pressure dropped. In two minutes 45 seconds he felt nauseated. Five minutes later he was acutely ill. For an hour, he was helplessly stretched out on a mattress."[1] Other reporting notes: "Vigorous vomiting, it is thought, will immobilize any suspect".[2] This second reportage, by the author of the Institute for Defense Analyses study on non-lethal weaponry [see November 1967], suggests the first known use on people of incapacitant dart weapons was "several years ago" in a Georgia jail, when a veterinary dart gun loaded with sodium amytal was borrowed from a veterinary school to subdue a psychotic prisoner.
     [1] [no author listed] (from Atlanta), United Press International, as in: "Tranquilizer Gun Fells Man in Test", New York Times, 27 February 1968
     [2] Joseph F Coates, "Safe police weapons", Science & Technology, May 1968, pp 52-59.


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