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 -- November 2020 selections

Each month (when time allows), 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.

25 years ago | 35 years ago | 40 years ago | 50 years ago | 65 years ago

25 years ago:

27–29 November 1995     UNSCOM Executive Chairman Rolf Ekéus is in Baghdad for high-level technical and political talks. He receives new information on Iraqi CBW and missile programmes.[1] This includes an inventory of chemical agents and precursors, and also a personal diary said to have been kept by a junior military engineer relating to destruction of certain of Iraq’s CW and BW bombs. Iraq, through Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, undertakes to continue its cooperation without time limits.[2]
     [1] INA (Baghdad), 1258 hrs GMT 28 November 1995, as translated from the Arabic in BBC-SWB, 30 November 1995; [no author listed] (from Baghdad), Agence France Presse, 29 November 1995, "Iraq submits "important evidence" it destroyed weapons: Ekeus".
     [2] Tenth report of the Executive Chairman of the Special Commission established by the Secretary-General pursuant to paragraph 9(b)(i) of Security Council resolution 687 (1991), and paragraph 3 of resolution 699 (1991) on the activities of the Special Commission, as annexed to UN document S/1995/1038, dated 17 December 1995, at paras 8-14.


35 years ago:

2 November 1985     Iraq shells Minou Island, near the city of Khorramshahr, with "chemical cannon balls", so claims Iran's UN representative Said Rajaie Khorassani. Writing to the UN Secretary-General, he says that this attack results in eight people being seriously injured.[1]
     Iraq immediately issues a denial, stating "the official spokesman in Baghdad firmly rejected the Iranian allegations that Iranian troops had been killed by the action of chemical artillery. The spokesman went on to say that the purpose of these mendacious allegations is to justify the continuing Iranian shelling of Iraqi border towns".[2] Iran responds: "In my letter of 4 November, I reported the severe INJURY, not the killing, of eight people as a result of the Iraqi chemical shelling of Minou Island on 2 November 1985. Contrary to the said misleading letter of the Iraqi representative, no Iranian authority has announced, in this connection, the killing of Iranian troops by the action of Iraqi chemical artillery shells". The Iranian representative goes on: "this sort of distortion and deceitful misrepresentation of the facts concerning the case of the Iraqi use of chemical weapons is a desperate though naive attempt by the Iraqi regime to dilute the matter and to divert the attention of the international community from their outright violations of all the generally accepted principles of international law, especially the 1925 Geneva Protocol".[3]
     [Note: the type of language used in this exchange is typical of the phraseology used in claims and counter-claims of the period.]
     [1] Letter dated 4 November 1985 from the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/17606-A/40/849, 4 November 1985.
     [2] Letter dated 6 November 1985 from the Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/17611, 6 November 1985.
     [3] Letter dated 11 November 1985 from the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Addressed to the Secretary-General, UN document S/17623-A/40/873, 11 November 1985.


40 years ago:

16 November 1980     Tehran Radio claims Iraqi has been using chemical bombs during fighting around Susangerd in south-west Iran and that the town's population was being "slaughtered" by Iraqi forces.[1]
     The Iranian Foreign Ministry issues a statement claiming that Iraqi forces "in their attacks against these regions use deadly chemical weapons and incendiary bombs against the defenders regardless of whether these are military or civilian". The statement claims further that the Iranian government was aware since the beginning of the war "of some units of Iraqi mercenary forces preparing to use chemical, germ and biological weapons" and that "During the 70s the Iraqi forces were busy preparing various varieties of such weapons". The statement calls for the UN and "International Red Cross", among others, to "reprimand strongly the Iraqi regime".[2] An official with the Iranian Army Chief of Staff office in Tehran says the weapons used "spread germs" and cause blisters.[3]
     Press reports suggest the claims could relate to napalm weapons[4] which are not considered under international law to be chemical weapons.
     [Note: this appears to be the first specific claim by Iran (as opposed to Kurdish sources [see 20 May 1965]) of Iraqi use of chemical weapons, although this incident is not included in the tabulated lists of alleged Iraqi chemical weapons uses, such as the one presented by Iran to the CD on 12 April 1988.]
     [1] Tony Allen-Mills (from Dubai), "500 die in Iraqi response — attempt to break Iranian morale", Daily Telegraph (London), 17 November 1980, p. 1 and 30.
     [2] Tehran Home Service, 1630 GMT 17 November 1980, as reported in "Iran's Foreign Ministry Statement on Iraq's "Germ" Warfare", BBC-SWB, 19 November 1980, ME/6579/A/7.
     [3] Farouk Nassar (from Beirut), "Iranian warplanes hit Kuwaiti outpost", Associated Press, 16 November 1980.
     [4] Alex Efty (from Baghdad), "Iran claims Iraqis retreat from Susangerd", Associated Press, 17 November 1980.


50 years ago:

1 November 1970     The first Annual Review of the US chemical warfare and biological research programme requested by the president in NSDM 35 [see 25 November 1969] is submitted. Recommendations include: "That DOD make every effort to obtain a formal agreement by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that it will undertake the herbicide study requested by Public Law 91-441 [see 7 October 1970] and that a public announcement be made before commencement of hearings on the Geneva Protocol"; "That greater attention and priority be given to collection and analysis of CBW lntelligence"; "That the US continues efforts to have the UK draft convention on BW adopted by the CCD in Geneva and that the US continue to cooperate in efforts to achieve effective control of CW through international agreement"; "That military deficiencies in US defensive capabilities be remedied as rapidly as feasible"; and "That an Ad Hoc Interagency Committee be formed to define more precisely the biological and toxin research program and determine which areas require classification".[1]
     [1] As reported in: United States, National Security Council Under Secretaries Committee, "Memorandum for the President: Annual Review of US Chemical Warfare and Biological Research Program", 4 February 1971, 5 pp.


65 years ago:

5 November 1955     In London, the Chairman of the Defence Research Policy Committee (DRPC), Frederick Brundrett, circulates a note "Steps necessary to keep the Ministry of Supply defence R and D programme within a ceiling of £170M"[1] which contains a number of proposals to reduce the programme by £34 million. The £170 million limit had been issued as a directive by the Minister of Defence on 1 April 1955.
     On biological warfare research issues, the note states: "I understand the minimum cost of maintaining the MRD [Microbiology Research Division] as an establishment is of the order of £300,000 p.a., but that if it is kept going, it would be necessary to incur considerable additional expenditure at intervals of 2 or 3 years for trials etc. I therefore reluctantly propose to stop all expenditure in this field."[1]
     [1] Defence Research Policy Committee, Note by the Chairman, "Steps necessary to keep the Ministry of Supply defence R and D programme within a ceiling of £170M", DPR/P(55)63, 5 November 1955, labelled "Top Secret", in TNA file DEFE 10/34.


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