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Iraq - Timeline of UNSCOM Related Events

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The timeline below outlines Iraqi obstruction of UN inspections. It is noteworthy that Iraq denied having manufactured VX, and UNSCOM inspectors failed to find evidence of VX stores in Iraqi hands until they were revealed when Saddam Hussein's son-in-law defected in 1995. On several occasions, inspectors were denied access to sites or Iraqis personnel were observed to be burning or otherwise discarding documents and materials.

Click here for a timeline of Iraqi history since 1922

Additional resources, including a historical overview are here.  Map of Iraq     Map of Kuwait

Iraq and UNSCOM

Chronology of UN inspections

Derived from an October 1998 UNSCOM document

3 Apr 1991 U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 (1991), Section C, declares that Iraq shall accept unconditionally, under international supervision, the "destruction, removal or rendering harmless" of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles with a range over 150 kilometers. Requires Iraq to make a declaration, within 15 days, of the location, amounts, and types of all such items.

10 Apr 1991 Iraq accepts Resolution 687.

18 Apr 1991 Iraq provides initial declaration required under Resolution 687. This declaration includes some chemical weapons and materials and 53 Al-Hussein and Scud type surface-to-surface ballistic missiles. Iraq declares it has no biological weapons program.

16 May 1991 Iraq submits revised declarations covering additional chemical weapons and a refinement of its missile declaration.

May 1991 Through an exchange of letters between U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, Iraq accepts the privileges and immunities of the Special Commission (UNSCOM) and its personnel. These guarantees include the right of "unrestricted freedom of entry and exit without delay or hindrance of its personnel, property, supplies, equipment ..."

9 Jun 1991 UNSCOM conducts its first chemical weapons inspection.

Jun 1991 UNSCOM/IAEA inspectors try to intercept Iraqi vehicles loaded with nuclear related equipment (Calutrons). Iraqi personnel fire warning shots to prevent the inspectors from approaching the vehicles. The equipment is later seized and destroyed under international supervision.

17 Jun 1991 The Security Council adopts Resolution 699, which confirms that the Special Commission and the IAEA have the authority to conduct activities under section C of Resolution 687.

30 Jun 1991 UNSCOM conducts its first missile inspection.

2 Aug 1991 UNSCOM conducts its first biological weapons inspection.

15 Aug 1991 The Security Council adopts Resolution 707, demanding that Iraq immediately provide full, final and complete disclosures (FFCDs), as required by Resolution 687.

6 Sep 1991 The first heliborne UNSCOM inspection team is blocked by Iraq.

Sep 1991 IAEA inspectors find large amounts of documentation relating to Iraq's efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. The Iraqi officials confiscate some documents from the inspectors. The inspectors refuse to yield a second set of documents. In response, Iraq refuses to allow the team to leave the site with these documents. A four-day standoff ensues, during which the team remains in the parking lot of the site. Iraq permits the team to leave with the documents after a statement from the Security Council threatens enforcement actions.

11 Oct 1991 The Security Council adopts Resolution 715, which approves joint UNSCOM and IAEA plans for ongoing monitoring and verification. UNSCOM’s plan establishes that Iraq shall "accept unconditionally the inspectors and all other personnel designated by the Special Commission".

Oct 1991 Iraq states that it considers the Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Plans adopted by Resolution 715 to be unlawful and states that it is not ready to comply with Resolution 715.

Feb 1992 Iraq refuses to comply with an UNSCOM/IAEA decision to destroy certain facilities used in proscribed programs and related items. The Security Council condemns Iraq’s failure to comply with its obligations. Iraq finally agrees to destruction of those facilities and items.

19 Mar 1992 Iraq declares the existence of 89 previously undeclared ballistic missiles, chemical weapons and associated material. Iraq claims that it unilaterally destroyed most of these undeclared items in the summer of 1991, in violation of Resolution 687.

Apr 1992 Iraq calls for a halt to UNSCOM's aerial surveillance flights, stating that the aircraft and its pilot might be endangered. The President of the Security Council issues a statement reaffirming UNSCOM's right to conduct such flights. Iraq says that it does not intend to carry out any military action aimed at UNSCOM's aerial flights.

May 1992 Iraq provides its first FFCDs for its prohibited biological and missile programs. Iraq says it had only a defensive biological weapons program.

Jun 1992
Iraq provides its first FFCD for its prohibited chemical weapons program.

Jul 1992 UNSCOM begins destroying large quantities of Iraq's chemical weapons and their related production facilities.

6-29 Jul 1992 Iraq refuses an inspection team access to the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture. UNSCOM said it had reliable information that the site contained archives related to proscribed activities. Inspectors gained access only after members of the Council threatened enforcement action.

Jan 1993 Iraq refuses to allow UNSCOM to use its own aircraft to fly into Iraq. Iraq begins making incursions into the demilitarized zone between Iraq and Kuwait and increases its military activity in the no-fly zones. The demilitarized zone and no-fly zones were created by the U.N. Security Council at the end of the 1990-91 Gulf War. The Security Council announces that Iraq's action is an "unacceptable and material breach" of Resolution 687 and warns Iraq of "serious consequences" if it continues. The statement leads to air raids on sites in southern Iraq by France, the UK and the US. On 19 January, Iraq informs UNSCOM that it will be able to resume its flights.

Jun-Jul 1993 Iraq refuses to allow UNSCOM inspectors to install remote-controlled monitoring cameras at two missile engine test stands. The Security Council issues a presidential statement, warning Iraq of "serious consequences" if it violates Resolution 687. Iraq subsequently agrees to permit installation of the monitoring cameras.

26 Nov 1993 Iraq accepts Resolution 715 and the plans for ongoing monitoring and verification. June 1994 UNSCOM completes the destruction of large quantities of chemical warfare agents and precursors and their production equipment. Sep/Oct 1994 Iraq sets a deadline of 10 October 1994 for the implementation of paragraph 22 of Resolution 687, refuses to withdraw its threat to halt cooperation with UNSCOM, and starts deploying troops in the direction of Kuwait. This action leads the United States to begin deploying troops to Kuwait.

15 Oct 1994 The Security Council adopts Resolution 949, which demands that Iraq "cooperate fully" with UNSCOM and that it withdraw all military units deployed to southern Iraq to their original positions. Iraq withdraws its forces and resumes working with UNSCOM.

Mar 1995 Iraq provides the second FFCD of its prohibited biological and chemical weapons programs.

1 Jul 1995 The culmination of an UNSCOM investigation forces Iraq to admit for the first time the existence of an offensive biological weapons program. However, Iraq denies that it has weaponized this capability.

Jul 1995 Iraq threatens to end all cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA if there is no progress towards the lifting of sanctions and the oil embargo by 31 August 1995.

Aug 1995 Iraq provides the third FFCD for its prohibited biological weapons program.

8 Aug 1995 General Hussein Kamel, Minister of Industry and Minerals and formerly Director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Corporation with responsibility for all of Iraq's weapons programs, leaves Iraq for Jordan. Iraq says that Hussein Kamel had hidden important information on the prohibited weapons programs from UNSCOM and the IAEA. Iraq withdraws its third biological FFCD and admits a far more extensive prohibited biological weapons program than previously admitted, including weaponization. Iraq also admits greater progress in its efforts to indigenously produce long-range missiles than it had previously declared. Iraq provides UNSCOM and the IAEA with large amounts of documentation related to its prohibited weapons programs which subsequently leads to further Iraqi disclosures concerning its production of the nerve agent VX and its development of a nuclear weapon. Iraq also informs UNSCOM that the deadline to halt its cooperation is withdrawn.

Nov 1995 Iraq provides second FFCD on its prohibited missile program.

Nov 1995 The government of Jordan intercepts a large shipment of high-grade missile components destined for Iraq. Iraq denies that it had sought to purchase these components, while acknowledging that some of them were in Iraq. An UNSCOM investigation concludes that Iraqi authorities and missile facilities have been involved in acquiring sophisticated guidance and control components for proscribed missiles. UNSCOM retrieves additional missile components, apparently disposed of by the Iraqis involved in the covert acquisition, from the Tigris River.

Mar 1996 Iraqi security forces refuse UNSCOM teams access to five sites designated for inspection. The teams enter the sites after delays of up to 17 hours.

19 Mar 1996 The Security Council issues a presidential statement expressing its concern over Iraq's behavior, which it terms "a clear violation of Iraq's obligations under relevant resolutions." The council also demands that Iraq allow UNSCOM teams immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to all sites designated for inspection.

27 Mar 1996 Security Council Resolution 1051 approves the export/import monitoring mechanism for Iraq and demands that Iraq meet unconditionally all its obligations under the mechanism and cooperate fully with the Special Commission and the director-general of the IAEA.

May-Jun 1996 UNSCOM supervises the destruction of Al-Hakam, Iraq's main facility for producing biological warfare agents.

Jun 1996 Iraq denies UNSCOM teams access to sites under investigation for their involvement in the "concealment mechanism" for proscribed items.

12 Jun 1997 The Security Council adopts Resolution 1060, which terms Iraq's actions a clear violation of the provisions of the council's earlier resolutions. It also demands that Iraq grant "immediate and unrestricted access" to all sites designated for inspection by UNSCOM.

13 Jun 1996 Despite the adoption of Resolution 1060, Iraq again denies access to another inspection team. The council issues a presidential statement, which condemns the failure of Iraq to comply with that resolution. The council also asks that the UNSCOM executive chairman visit Baghdad to secure access to all sites the commission designates for inspection.

19-22 Jun UNSCOM chief Rolf Ekeus visits Baghdad. UNSCOM and Iraq agree a joint statement and a 1996 joint program of action. Ekeus establishes plans for inspection of so-called "sensitive sites," attempting to take into account Iraq's legitimate security concerns.

22 Jun 1996 Iraq provides the fourth FFCD of its prohibited biological weapons program.

Jun 1996 Iraq provides third FFCD of its prohibited chemical weapons program.

Jul 1996 Iraq provides the third FFCD of its prohibited missile program.

Nov 1996 Iraq blocks UNSCOM from removing remnants of missile engines for in-depth analysis outside Iraq. The Security Council issues a Presidential statement in December 1996, which demands that Iraq allow UNSCOM to remove the destroyed missile engines from its territory.

Feb 1997 Iraq allows UNSCOM to remove the missile engines.

Jun 1997 Iraqi escorts on board an UNSCOM helicopter try to physically prevent the UNSCOM pilot from flying the helicopter in the direction of its intended destination. The Security Council issues a presidential statement, deploring the incident and demanding that Iraq permit UNSCOM to carry out its air operations anywhere in Iraq without interference of any kind.

21 Jun 1997 Iraq again blocks UNSCOM teams from entering certain sites for inspection.

21 Jun 1997 The Security Council adopts Resolution 1115, which condemns Iraq's actions and demands that Iraq allow UNSCOM's team immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any sites for inspection and officials for interviews. The council also calls for an additional report on Iraq's cooperation with the commission and suspends periodic sanctions reviews.

Sep 1997 Iraq provides a fifth FFCD for its prohibited biological weapons program.

13 Sep 1997 An Iraqi officer attacks an UNSCOM inspector on board an UNSCOM helicopter while the inspector was attempting to take photographs of unauthorized movement of Iraqi vehicles inside a site designated for inspection.

17 Sep 1997 The President of the Security Council makes a statement deploring the incidents and urging Iraq to cooperate fully with UNSCOM.

17 Sep 1997 While seeking access to a site declared by Iraq to be "sensitive," UNSCOM inspectors witness and videotape Iraqi guards moving files, burning documents, and dumping ash-filled waste cans into a nearby river.

Sep/Oct 1997 UNSCOM inspection teams are barred from three sites on the basis that the sites are "presidential sites," which Iraq says are off-limits to UNSCOM inspectors.

23 Oct 1997 The Security Council adopts Resolution 1134, which demands that Iraq cooperate fully with the Special Commission, continues the suspension of the periodic sanctions reviews, and contemplates additional sanctions pending a further report on Iraq's cooperation with UNSCOM.

Oct 1997 UNSCOM completes the destruction of additional large quantities of chemical weapons, related equipment, and precursor chemicals. Iraq had previously denied that some of the equipment had been used for chemical weapons production. Iraq admitted in May 1997, following an UNSCOM investigation, that some of the equipment had been used in the production of VX.

27 Oct 1997 Executive Chairman Richard Butler sends a letter to Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, suggesting the agenda for the forthcoming meetings in Baghdad. The letter proposes that Iraq address important outstanding issues, including warheads, VX, and biological weapons. It also mentions the need to review the "modalities for inspection of sensitive sites" to ensure that inspections are conducted in a credible manner.

29 Oct 1997 Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz sends a letter to the president of the Security Council, informing the council of policy decisions taken by the government of Iraq. The letter includes a decision not to deal with United States citizens working for UNSCOM, a demand that all personnel of United States nationality working with UNSCOM leave Iraq by a given deadline, and a request that UNSCOM withdraw its "cover" for the US U-2 "spy plane.".

29 Oct 1997 The Security Council issues a presidential statement condemning Iraq's decision and terming it "unacceptable." The statement also demands that Iraq cooperate fully, without restrictions or conditions, with UNSCOM, and warns of the serious consequences of Iraq's failure to comply immediately and fully with its obligations under relevant resolutions.

12 Nov 1997 The Security Council adopts Resolution 1137, condemning Iraq for continually violating its obligations, including its decision to seek to impose conditions on cooperation with UNSCOM. The resolution also imposes a travel restriction on Iraqi officials who are responsible for or participated in instances of non-compliance.

13 Nov 1997 Iraq demands that US citizens working for UNSCOM leave Iraq immediately. UNSCOM chief Richard Butler orders the majority of the UNSCOM personnel to withdraw from Iraq temporarily. A skeleton staff remains in Baghdad to maintain UNSCOM's premises and equipment.

13 Nov 1997 The Security Council issues a presidential statement condemning Iraq’s decision to expel UNSCOM inspectors of a specified nationality, and demanding that Iraq rescind its decision of 29 October 1997 and resume full cooperation with UNSCOM.

20 Nov 1997 Following intensive diplomatic action, Iraq accedes to an agreement with the Russian Federation providing for UNSCOM and its full complement of staff to resume work in Iraq. The commission’s personnel return to Iraq on 21 November and resume their inspections the following day.

21 Nov 1997 UNSCOM staff meets in emergency session in its New York headquarters to discuss ways to make the commission’s work more effective. The commission submits a report of the meeting to the Security Council.

3 Dec 1997 The Security Council endorses the conclusions and recommendations of the UNSCOM report.

17 Dec 1997 UNSCOM chief Richard Butler returns to New York from Iraq and reports to the Security Council that Iraq would not permit the commission’s inspectors into what it called "Presidential" or "Sovereign" sites, unrecognized by the council or by the commission.

22 Dec 1997 The Security Council issues a statement calling upon the government of Iraq to cooperate fully with the commission and stresses that failure by Iraq to provide immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any site is an unacceptable and clear violation of Security Council resolutions.

13 Jan 1998 UNSCOM chief Richard Butler reports to the Council that during the first day of an inspection, Iraq announced it was withdrawing its cooperation with the inspection team, claiming that the inspection team had too many individuals of US or UK nationality.

22 Jan 1998 Following a visit to Iraq, Richard Butler reports to the Security Council that despite the council’s statement insisting on unrestricted access to all sites, Iraq would not permit access to eight so-called presidential sites.

Early Feb 1998 A group of international experts and UNSCOM inspectors conduct two technical evaluation meetings (TEM) in Baghdad, reviewing Iraq’s VX and missile warhead programs. The report submitted to the Security Council states the group’s unanimous conclusion that Iraq has still not provided sufficient information for the commission to conclude that Iraq had undertaken all the disarmament steps required of it in these areas. The commission’s experts brief the Council on the outcome of these two TEMs in March 1998.

15-18 Feb 1998 In order to understand the scope (size and perimeters) of the eight presidential sites which Iraq had declared off-limits to inspectors, Secretary General Kofi Annan sends a technical survey team to Iraq. The report of this mission is forwarded to the council.

20-23 Feb 1998 UN General Kofi Annan visits Iraq. As a result of his meetings, the United Nations and Iraq agree to terms of a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which is signed on 23 February 1998. Annan secures Iraq’s pledge that it accepts all relevant Security Council resolutions, and will cooperate fully with UNSCOM and the IAEA. The MoU obligates Iraq to provide UNSCOM and the IAEA immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access for their inspections. The United Nations reiterates the commitment of all member states to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. The MoU also includes a pledge by the commission to respect the legitimate concerns of Iraq relating to national security, sovereignty and dignity. The MoU further provides for the establishment of special procedures that would apply to initial and subsequent entries at the eight presidential sites. The MoU finally provides for the appointment of a Commissioner to head the special group established to oversee inspections at presidential sites. Annan appoints Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala to this position.

2 Mar 1998 Security Council Resolution 1154 endorses the provisions of the MoU.

9 Mar 1998 Procedures for initial and subsequent entry to the presidential sites are drawn up and presented to the Security Council.

20-27 Mar 1998 The commission and Iraq conduct a further technical evaluation meeting (TEM) in Vienna dealing with all aspects of Iraq’s biological weapons program.

4 Apr 1998  The initial entry to the eight presidential sites is completed by mission UNSCOM 243.

8 Apr 1998 The report of the biological weapons TEM is transmitted to the council. Following this TEM, experts unanimously conclude that Iraq’s declaration on its biological weapons program is incomplete and inadequate.

15 Apr 1998 Annan submits the report of the Special Group on the visit to presidential sites.

6 May 1998 Richard Butler informs the council that UNSCOM’s access to sites is sufficiently restored that the travel ban called for in Resolution 1137 (1998) can be terminated.

3-4 Jun 1998 At the council’s request, experts from UNSCOM’s New York staff provide a technical briefing to the Security Council in informal session. Following the briefing, Executive Chairman Richard Butler gives council members an informal paper outlining disarmament issues the Commission considered unresolved according to the terms of Security Council Resolution 687 (1991).

14 Jun 1998 Richard Butler and Tariq Aziz agree to a six-week schedule for work on certain outstanding disarmament issues.

3 Aug 1998  During Richard Butler’s visit to Baghdad, Tariq Aziz demands that UNSCOM certify to the Security Council that Iraq has complied with requirements of Section C of Resolution 687 (1991). Butler responds that he is not in a position to do so, and Aziz suspends the talks.

5 Aug 1998 The Revolutionary Command Council and the Ba’ath Party Command decide to stop cooperating with UNSCOM and the IAEA until the Security Council agrees to lift the oil embargo as a first step towards ending sanctions. They further demand that the Security Council reorganize UNSCOM and move it to either Geneva or Vienna. In the interim, Iraq would permit monitoring under Resolution 715 (1991).

6 Aug 1998 Richard Butler briefs the Security Council on Iraq’s position and the results of his talks in Baghdad. The Security Council’s President terms Iraq’s actions "totally unacceptable."

12 Aug 1998 Richard Butler informs the Security Council that in addition to halting all disarmament actions, Iraq’s interference with monitoring functions has impaired the effectiveness of the monitoring system. UNSCOM therefore cannot continue to provide the Security Council with the same level of assurances of Iraq’s compliance with its obligations not to reestablish its proscribed weapons programs.

18 Aug 1998 A letter from the president of the Security Council reiterates the council’s support for UNSCOM to carry out its mandate and notes that Iraq is obliged to provide UNSCOM with cooperation necessary for it to conduct inspections.

19 Aug 1998 Richard Butler sends a letter to Tariq Aziz proposing that Iraq and UNSCOM resume the full range of activity. Aziz rejects the proposal, telling the press that Iraq does not trust the Executive Chairman or the elements dominating UNSCOM, and that it does not believe there is any use in resuming work with them.

3 Sep 1998 Richard Butler briefs the Security Council on the status of UNSCOM’s work in Iraq, including three incidents where Iraq has placed further limits on the Commission’s monitoring activities.

9 Sep 1998 Security Council Resolution 1194 (1998) unanimously condemns Iraq’s decision to suspend cooperation with UNSCOM, terming Iraq’s actions a totally unacceptable contravention of Iraq’s obligations. It demands that Iraq rescind its decision and decides not to conduct 60-day sanctions reviews until Iraq rescinds its 5 August decision and the commission reports to the council that it is satisfied that it has been able to exercise its full range of activities, including inspections.

6 Oct 1998 UNSCOM submits its semi-annual report to the Security Council.

13 Oct 1998 Richard Butler briefs the Security Council on the commission’s semi-annual report.

Nov 1, 1998 Iraq halts cooperation with UNSCOM.

Nov 15, 1998 US aborts missile strike after Iraq agrees to cooperate with UNSCOM.

Dec 17-20, 1998 Extensive US and British bombardment of Iraq in ‘Operation Desert Fox’, after UNSCOM head reports Iraq’s failure to fully cooperate; after end of the operation, Iraq again refuses UNSCOM permission to reenter Iraq, and US & UK continue bombardment, aimed at Iraq’s air defense capacity.

Dec 17, 1999 Resolution 1284 creates UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission (Unmovic) to replace Unscom. Iraq rejects resolution.

Adapted with additions from -  http://cns.miis.edu/research/iraq/uns_chro.htm

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