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 -- December 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 | 30 years ago | 35 years ago | 40 years ago | 60 years ago

25 years ago:

15 December 1995     The UN Security Council receives advance copies of the latest half-yearly report from UNSCOM, its tenth, on the implementation in Iraq of the disarmament stipulations of Gulf-War ceasefire resolution 687 (1991).[1] The report covers the period 17 June to 17 December 1995.[2] Notwithstanding the copious new documentation which Iraq has provided on its proscribed weapons programmes [see 13 October], Iraq is still, according to the report, concealing information and making misleading statements; and it is not providing information which it should have volunteered in support of its recently stated policy of complete transparency. As to the latest versions of its "full, final and complete disclosures" of its CW and BW programmes, which had been furnished to UNSCOM in draft form some six weeks previously [see 5 November], the report says that Iraq has undertaken to redraft the declarations substantially in order to meet UNSCOM's requirements.
     On CW, the report says that the new information obtained by UNSCOM since August "clearly shows that Iraq's chemical weapons programme was more developed and wider in scope than had previously been admitted'. Without additional information such as Iraq has now agreed to provide, UNSCOM is still "unable to confirm that stocks of VX, large quantities of its precursors and appropriate weapons do not remain in Iraq". Likewise, the accounting for procured and indigenously produced chemical munitions, including ballistic-missile warheads, remained incomplete: "Based on information available to it, the Commission believes that there were further activities relating to the development of chemical munitions that have still not been disclosed, including foreign assistance" [see also 27 November]. The report notes that in 1988 Iraq had plans to relocate the production of chemical precursors to civilian chemical facilities.
     On BW, the report says that the latest draft "full, final and complete disclosure" admits to a "comprehensive and well-advanced offensive biological-weapons programme", describing the involvement in it of "a number of facilities, in particular at Al Hakam and Dawrah". But "serious gaps and omissions exist in the declaration and in the documentary support, especially related to biological warfare agent and munitions production, munition filling and the destruction of weaponized and bulk agents". UNSCOM therefore remains unable to state that Iraq does not retain BW agents and munitions.
     The report contains a section describing, for the first time, Iraqi work on radiological weapons [see 8 November]. The programme had run from late 1987 to mid 1988. Two varieties of aircraft bomb with payloads of irradiated hafnium-containing zirconium oxide had been investigated.
     Also presented in the report is a rather detailed account of the support in kind which UN member states have provided for UNSCOM and which is said to cover about two-thirds of the total costs of UNSCOM operations. Here UNSCOM expresses the hope that Germany will not, as its government has recently announced, reduce the air support (provided by two Transall transport aircraft based in Bahrain and three CH-53 helicopters stationed in Iraq) on which UNSCOM has now become dependent. Chairman Ekéus later tells reporters that the Security Council has asked Germany to reconsider its decision, saying also that few other countries would be able to provide and maintain helicopters that could function as effectively for surprise investigations.[3]
     [1] Anthony Goodman (from UN New York) for Reuters, 2020 hrs PST 15 December 1995, "Iraq said still concealing clandestine weapons data ".
     [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.
     [3] Farhan Haq from the United Nations for Inter Press Service, 21 December 1995, "UN-Iraq: inspectors find more problems with Iraqi weapons ". See also: R Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, as in "US angered by Bonn's plan to stop support for UN in Iraq', International Herald Tribune, 20 December 1995, p 2.


30 years ago:

11 December 1990     USSR Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, speaking at a press conference in Houston alongside US Secretary of State James Baker at the conclusion of two days of ministerial talks, says that "if Iraq withdraws from Kuwait on its own initiative ... on our agenda as a next item would be the transition of the Middle East, including Iraq, to a situation where there would be a nuclear-free and chemical weapon-free zone in the Middle East". Secretary Baker says he is sympathetic to the idea but stops short of saying that the United States would ask Israel to give up its nuclear weapons.[1]
     The following day, Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, apparently responding to the Shevardnadze proposal, declares his government's willingness to be part of a regional nuclear disarmament process in the Middle East.[2]
     Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, speaking in Washington about the Shevardnadze proposal, says: "answer is positive in principle. We are ready to start a serious study of all these problems in order to limit and annihilate any possibility of the use of nonconventional weapons in our area".[3]
     In Tel Aviv, 'Al Hamishmar reports that, in June, President Mubarak of Egypt had obtained the agreement of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq to the establishment of an Egyptian–Israeli committee "to initially discuss chemical disarmament and submit operational proposals to the countries of the region, and at a later stage to discuss nuclear disarmament" [see also 28–30 May]. There had been mixed Israeli reaction to the proposal, so the report continued, including opposition from Foreign Minister David Levi and support from Labor Party chairman Shim'on Peres. Meanwhile, there had reportedly been direct Israeli–Iraqi contacts on the issue in Geneva, up until the end of August.[4]
     [1] David Hoffman (from Houston) with Bruce Brown, "Shevardnadze urges nuclear-free zone in Middle East", Washington Post, 12 December 1990, p A29; Walter S Mossberg and Robert S Greenberger, "US and Soviets say curb on weapons throughout Mideast could affect Israel", Wall Street Journal, 12 December 1990, p A18.
     [2] Avi Bnayahu and Pinhas 'Inbari, 'Al Hamishmar (Tel Aviv), 12 December 1990, pp 1 & 4, as translated from the Hebrew in FBIS-NES-90-239, 12 December 1990, pp 36-37.
     [3] [no author listed], "Shamir supports nonnuclear Mideast", International Herald Tribune, 13 December 1990, p 1.
     [4] Avi Bnayahu and Pinhas 'Inbari, 'Al Hamishmar (Tel Aviv), 12 December 1990, pp 1 & 4, as translated from the Hebrew in FBIS-NES-90-239, 12 December 1990, pp 36-37.


35 years ago:

5 December 1985     In London, the Home Office responds to a Parliamentary Question asking when the revised version of the "Protect and Survive" civil defence pamphlet will be published and "if it will include advice on protection against chemical and biological attack". A Home Office Minister tells the House of Commons: "Next year; work is in hand on protection against chemical attack and guidance will be issued when this is complete. The government consider the use of biological weapons to be highly unlikely."[1]
     [1] Giles Shaw, Minister of State, Home Department, Written Answer, 5 December 1985, Hansard (Commons), vol 88, c322, in response to a question from Tony Banks MP.


40 years ago:

12 December 1980     The United Nations General Assembly adopts resolution 35/144 C on the 1925 Geneva Protocol. The resolution notes that the Protocol has no machinery for investigating allegations of use of chemical or biological weapons and notes "reports alleging that chemical weapons have been used in recent wars and certain military operations in various regions of the world" and requests the Secretary-General to carry out investigations into such allegations "with the assistance of qualified medical and technical experts". While the resolution calls upon all states to co-operate in such investigations, collection of evidence on-site shall be "with the consent of the countries concerned". The resolution makes no mention of any state by name.
     The resolution is approved by a vote of 79 in favour, 17 against with 36 abstentions. The votes against were: Afghanistan, Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, Syria, North Yemen, the Soviet Union, Byelorussia, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Benin and Cuba.[1]
     [1] [no author listed] (from UN New York), [no title], Associated Press, 12 December 1980.


60 years ago:

15 December 1960     In the UK, the Cabinet is presented with a review of "Home Defence Policy" which concludes that a Soviet CBW attack would be "unlikely". Appendix A, "Assessment of Weight and effects of Nuclear Attack", to the review starts: "A Soviet attack would aim to put this country out of the war by the use of nuclear weapons. The Soviet already have the ability to do this as part of a general attack on the West, and by 1963 they could do so by using missiles alone". The section finishes: "It seems unlikely that the Soviet would plan to use either chemical or biological warfare against targets in the United Kingdom".[1]
     [1] ‘Home Defence Policy’, Note by the Secretary of the Cabninet, C.(60)189, 15 December 1960, 35pp at p25, (formerly marked ‘Top Secret’), in TNA file CAB 129/103.


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