The Iraq Survey Group

Updated on February 29, 2020
Lloyd Busch profile image

Lloyd Busch is the author of "Passive Resistance", a book on non-violent action, and has been published in the "Journal of Theoretics".

The Iraq Survey Group

After the fall of Saddam's regime in April 2003 the CIA established the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) to look for WMD stockpiles and any evidence thereof. The ISG was initially headed by former UN weapons inspector David Kay and later by Charles Duelfer. The ISG visited many sites throughout Iraq interviewed numerous Iraqi's including top scientists and government officials.

The enormous and comprehensive report was issued on September 30th 2004 and although the ISG concluded that there was no hard evidence to suggest that there was a “coordinated” effort to restart Iraq's nuclear program since the program had ended in 1991. Although the ISG did find overwhelming evidence that Saddam intended to maintain the intellectual capacity and limited industrial complex to restart its chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons programs once sanctions had ended and when the “conditions were favorable”.


Saddam's Continued Violations

The ISG also found numerous violations of UN mandates concerning Iraq's missile capabilities and that Iraq was diligent in developing missiles with longer ranges and more accurate warheads with the intent to strike US forces in neighboring countries and to reestablish themselves as a regional power. The effort to search for evidence of Iraq's WMD programs was definitely hindered and complicated due to the countries large size; the endless desert terrain where munitions could be easily buried without any evidence; the ongoing insurgency and terrorist threat made travel and inspections exceedingly dangerous; and the destruction of most of the Iraqi archives and records by government officials as Operation Iraqi Freedom began, essentially destroying any hard evidence of Iraq's potential ongoing WMD programs and their numerous violations of not only the UN mandates but Saddam's genocidal rule over the Iraqi people.

Between 2003 and 2004 there was massive looting after Operation Iraqi Freedom making it difficult to determine what equipment was either stolen or removed by the Iraqi authorities before the invasion. Looting was also a major problem in the ISG's effort to inspect suspected WMD sites. Looting occurred at the Tuwaitha facility and other facilities associated with Iraq's WMD programs. Missile parts with UNMOVIC tags were found in European scrap yards, the ISG noted that the sealed buildings at Muthanna State Establishment were breached and the chemical weapons program equipment and materials were removed. The buildings which were sealed by UNSCOM and UNMOVIC had equipment and sarin filled rockets which were produced in the 1980's were missing.


The ISG's Findings

The Iraq Survey Group did not find any stockpiles of WMD in Iraq, though they did conclude that Iraq had intended to develop more weapons and capabilities. Inspectors found some biological laboratories and potential strains, such as botulinum bacteria, that could have been used in a biological weapons program. David Kay also testified that Iraq had not fully complied with the UN inspections, and in some cases that materials and equipment that should have been subject top UN controls and monitoring were kept hidden from weapons inspectors. “So there was a WMD program. It was going ahead. It was rudimentary in many areas”. Kay also stated that Iraq had outright lied to the UN about its weapons programs.

Saddam's Use of Chemical Weapons

Chemical Weapon
Mustard Gas
Over 5,000
Mustard Gas & Tabun
About 20,000
Mustard Gas & Nevre Agents
Over 10,000

Saddam's Intentions

The ISG report states Iraq “worked hard” to cheat on the UN imposed sanctions and to retain the capability to resume production sometime in the future of weapons of mass destruction. “Saddam wanted to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction when sanctions were lifted” according to the report.

The ISG did not find any stockpiles of WMD though they did find overwhelming evidence that Saddam Hussein had the “strategic intention” to pursue WMD capabilities and purposely created ambiguity about his WMD capabilities as a bargaining chip to extract concessions in negotiations and possibly as a deterrent against Iranian aggression. “He used it as a bargaining tactic and as a strategic deterrent against his neighbors and others”U.S Senator John Warner.

Based on on interviews with Saddam Hussein the ISG concluded that he wanted to acquire WMD because he believed that these capabilities kept American led forces during the Gulf War from going all the way to Baghdad and deterred Iran from launching a ground offensive into Iraq during the Iran-Iraq wari. According to David Kay Iraq had worked on WMD's throughout the UNMOVIC monitoring without being discovered and that Iraq had tried to weaponize ricin “right up until” operation Iraqi Freedom.

The ISG uncovered evidence that the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) had created and maintained from 1991 to 2003 several undeclared, covert, and clandestine chemical laboratories used to research and test various chemical agents and poisons, mostly used for intelligence operations., 2004.

Known WMD That Saddam Had

Blistering Agent
Nerve Agent
Nerve Agent
Nerve Agent

Saddam's Illicit Missile Program

The ISG report also concluded that Iraq had worked illicitly and clandestinely to develop illegal missile systems beginning in 1997, right under the noses of UN inspectors. Even when Iraq's other WMD programs faltered and stalled they were persistent in the pursuit of long range ballistic missile and according to the ISG and substantiated with overwhelming evidence Iraq was actively seeking to upgrade its cruise missile capabilities with the intent to create a regional threat and with the specific aim to be able to strike US forces operating in the region.

The ISG found evidence that Iraq had received assistance in their programs from sources in Ukraine, Belarus, and Serbia. The ISG found evidence that Iraq had agreed to pay North Korea $10 million in technical support to upgrade its ballistic missile program; a direct violation of the UN security resolutions. Although evidence appears to indicate that North Korea kept the $10 million and then never delivered. Russian engineers on the other hand did supply technical assistance to the Iraqi missile program on many occasions stretching over many years.

Head of the ISG, Dr. Kay, stated, based on interviews with Iraqi detainees, Saddam authorized in 2000 to develop ballistic missiles with ranges up to 1,000km, well over the UN limit of 150km.i Iraq had designed the missile Ababil-100 with an initial range of 140km. Although according to testimony given to the ISG from multiple sources an upgraded version of the missile was under development with a range of up to 1,000km. The ISG interviewed and gathered testimony from designers at the Al-Kini State Company that verified Iraq had begun work on converting the SA-2 missiles into ballistic missiles with a range of 250km which was 100km over the UN allowed range.

The ISG discovered that Iraq had plans and designs for three different versions of long-range ballistic missiles with ranges up to 1,000km and a cruise missile with a range of 1,000km, all of which are prohibited by the UN resolutions. “We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002.”David Kay head of the Iraq Survey Group.

iRisen, James, U.S. Says Russian Engineers Aided Iraq’s Missile Program, The New York Times, Washington, March 5, 2004.


Saddam's Cruise Missiles

The ISG discovered several cruise missile programs which were not previously disclosed to the UN weapons inspectors as required. These programs involved converting the HY-2 Seersucker anti-ship cruise missile with the intent to create a potential land-attack system and not just a sea-vessel attack system. The initial program merely increased the range of the HY-2 cruise missile from 100km to 180km. It is also possible that the conversion involved replacing the original guidance system with a land navigation guidance system, possibly navigated with help from the GPS system. These missiles became operational and at least 10 were delivered to the Iraqi military prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) with two of the modified missile being fired at coalition targets during OIF as well as launching several unmodified HY-2 cruise missiles at coalition forces. The use of these missiles caused problems during the conflict with the Patriot missile defense system causing friendly fire incidents that resulted in the shoot-down of two coalition aircraft and the deaths of three crew members.

In 2001 the second part of the HY-2 conversion program, called Jenin, was presented to Saddam in November and was approved exceedingly quickly. The program was aimed at converting the HY-2 into a 1000km range land-attack system. The increase in range was to be accomplished by replacing the liquid rocket engine with a turbine engine from a Russian helicopter. The program was halted shortly before UNMOVIC inspectors returned to Iraq in November 2002. The Iraqi illicit missile programs also included attempts to convert surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) into surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) with ranges exceeding that allowed under the UN mandates.

The US Senate Select Committee released its report on the prewar Iraq WMD intelligence in March 2005. The report reprimanded the intelligence community for most of the previous assertions made by the intelligence agencies except for their assessments of Iraq's missile capabilities. The report actually commended the intelligence community for their accurate assessment of the Iraqi missile program particularly the accurate assessment on the number of Scud-type ballistic missiles in Saddam's possession and the descriptions of Iraq's Al-Samoud and Ababil-100 missile programs.

Summery Conclusions

The Iraq Survey Group (ISG) found in its September 2004 that Iraq's WMD program had ended after the First Gulf War, although the group also came to the following conclusions;

  • Saddam intended to restart the program as soon as sanctions had been lifted.

  • Evidence that Iraq sought to conceal documents related to its nuclear program following the First Gulf War.

  • Iraq sought to preserve the intellectual capacity among its scientists in order to restart its nuclear program in the future.

  • Saddam never abandoned his chemical weapons intentions choosing to retain the intellectual abilities and contacts to restart the CW programs once sanctions had been lifted and conditions were favorable.

  • Most of Iraq's chemical munitions appear to have been destroyed in 1991 although some older and apparently abandoned munitions have been found.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Lloyd Busch

    Comments & Thoughts

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • Mel Carriere profile image

        Mel Carriere 

        3 years ago from San Diego California

        I think the power vacuum occurred the moment we invaded. Shia was unleashed Sunni, and there were suicide bombings and chaos the entire time of our occupation. We would have never stabilized it.

      • Lloyd Busch profile imageAUTHOR

        Lloyd Busch 

        3 years ago from Williamsburg, VA 23188

        True, but the power vacuum occurred when we pulled out too soon and too quickly. Iraq should have been fully stabilized and self-sufficient before our exit.

      • Mel Carriere profile image

        Mel Carriere 

        3 years ago from San Diego California

        Saddam was an evil dictator, no doubt about it, but do you think we are better off with Isis, which the power vacuum left behind by his ouster unleashed on the world? Evil dictators abound on all continents and we don't care, as long as they are our obedient puppets. Nice job.

      • lions44 profile image

        CJ Kelly 

        3 years ago from PNW

        Very thorough. Great job. Sharing everywhere.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)