This report addresses the possibility that Gulf War Veterans may have been exposed to mustard agent released as a result of Coalition airstrikes at the Ukhaydir Ammunition Storage Depot located in Iraq. Our investigation to learn what happened at Ukhaydir during the Gulf War was an effort to determine if mustard agent could have been released and, if so, how much. Much of this information came from UNSCOM reports about their inspections in Iraq and their assessment of Iraqs movement of chemical weapons before, during, and after the Gulf War. Some of the information available has been contradictory and that has influenced our assessment of events. Using the assessment that mustard may have been released, our inquiry employed modeling and simulation to establish the potential extent of any hazard areas to determine if the possible mustard agent releases could have reached US forces.
From 1991 through 1996, Iraq presented three "Full, Final, and Complete" disclosures of its weapons of mass destruction programs. The third version, provided in 1996, stated that, during the Gulf War, 6,394 mustard-filled 155mm rounds had been stored at the Ukhaydir Ammunition Storage Depot. In the first disclosure, released in spring 1991, Iraq had declared that 6,394 mustard-filled 155mm artillery rounds were located at the Fallujah Proving Ground southwest of Baghdad. In the fall of 1991, UNSCOM had inspected the rounds at the Fallujah Proving Ground and had accounted for 6,380, which included 117 green painted rounds, 107 of which had leaked, and 104 fire-damaged rounds, 94 of which had leaked.
As a result of the 1996 disclosure, United Nations inspectors visited the Ukhaydir facility in spring 1997. While there, the inspectors discovered three additional intact mustard-filled 155mm rounds in debris around a repaired bomb crater. During a subsequent visit to Ukhaydir, later in 1997, UNSCOM inspectors discovered another intact mustard-filled 155mm round in the same area.
UNSCOM, using inspection data and the Iraqi disclosures, assessed in 1997 that the mustard-filled rounds inspected at the Fallujah Proving Ground had been stored at Ukhaydir during the Gulf War. The Intelligence Community (see glossary) reached the same conclusion. It was further assessed that the damage discovered in the rounds at the Fallujah Proving Ground may have occurred while the rounds were stored at Ukhaydir. Although Iraq had declared that no rounds had been damaged at Ukhaydir during the war, after an extensive investigation, that included a review of imagery, the Intelligence Community assessed that the damage could have occurred during two separate Coalition airstrikesone on January 20, 1991, and a second on the night of February 13/14, 1991.
According to the 1997 Intelligence Community assessment, the January 20, 1991, strike caused an extensive fire that could have burned the 104 fire-damaged rounds and caused 94 of them to release their agent. Although they stated that it was possible the damage to the rounds did not occur at Ukhaydir, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assessed that mustard agent could have been released but the large fire would have consumed most of it. The CIAs modeling indicated that any release would have fallen below the general population limit by the time it had gone 40 kilometers in any direction from Ukhaydir. This was hundreds of kilometers away from US troops located in Saudi Arabia.
The same 1997 Intelligence Community assessment placed the second strike at around midnight local time on February 13/14, 1991. To be conservative, they assumed that this strike may have destroyed as many as 11 mustard-filled rounds and possibly caused the 107 green rounds to leak after they fell into the resulting bomb crater. The CIA assumed for the purposes of modeling that the rounds unaccounted for by the UNSCOM inspections at the Fallujah Proving Ground and Ukhaydir were destroyed during the airstrike. The CIA and DoD both modeled this strike. The modeling produced hazard areas that did not extend further than 125 kilometers from Ukhaydir, still several hundred kilometers away from the known locations of US troops.
In 1998, UNSCOM returned to Ukhaydir partly to inspect 12 additional mustard-filled rounds excavated by Iraq and partly to perform a geophysical survey of the area where the rounds had been found. UNSCOM found no evidence of significant munitions debris or other evidence of chemical munitions destruction during this survey. In February 1999, the CIA sent a letter to DoD detailing the results of this UNSCOM inspection and providing a revised assessment of the possibility mustard agent was released from Ukhaydir during the Gulf War. Both the CIA and UNSCOM continued to maintain that the rounds inspected at the Fallujah Proving Ground in 1991 were at Ukhaydir during the air campaign. However, in its letter, the CIA stated that it now believes a chemical agent release from Ukhaydir as a result of either airstrike is unlikely. The CIA based this new assessment on the lack of munitions debris or chemical contamination discovered during UNSCOMs 1998 inspection of Ukhaydir, and the fact that Iraq again re-iterated its claim that no rounds were damaged at Ukhaydir during the Gulf War.
In October 1999, the CIA sent a second letter to DoD discussing possible explanations, other than the bunker fire at Ukhaydir, for the fire-damaged rounds discovered by UNSCOM at the Fallujah Proving Ground in 1991. The CIA letter stated that the damaged rounds definitely released their agent, but the agency did not have specific information about where or when.
We have two assessments about events at Ukhaydir. The first is an assessment of whether there was any release. The second, more important assessment is whether any US troops were exposed to chemical agent. For the January 20, 1991, bunker fire, contradictory information about whether there was any release makes it impossible to determine if any mustard agent was released. Consequently, until additional information becomes available, our assessment of whether there was any release is indeterminate. However, even if there was a release, the modeling conducted by the CIA in 1997 shows that very little mustard agent would have survived the fire, and what did survive and escape into the atmosphere would not have exceeded the general population limit (the average concentration below which the general population could remain indefinitely with no effects) beyond a 40 kilometer radius from Ukhaydir. Because US troops were located hundreds of kilometers away along the Saudi Arabian border, we assess it as unlikely that any were exposed to mustard agent as a result of the airstrike on January 20, 1991.
For the February 13/14, 1991, strike, we also have contradictory information. As with the January 20th bunker fire, without additional information, it is impossible to determine if any mustard agent was released. Therefore, until additional information becomes available, the assessment of whether there was a mustard release is indeterminate. However, in 1997, based on the possibility the airstrike had struck the munitions, we simulated a release. We used source terms that took into account both the rounds missing at the time of UNSCOMs first inspection of Ukhaydir and the 107 empty green rounds found at the Fallujah Proving Ground. The modeling results predicted hazard areas that did not extend further than 125 kilometers from Ukhaydir, well away from the known locations of US troops hundreds of kilometers away. Therefore, we think it unlikely that any US troops were exposed to mustard agent from the airstrike on February 13/14, 1991.
| First Page | Prev Page | Next Page |