A monthly publication of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon
|Vol. 1 No. 2||
Israel's Ally in South Lebanon is Honored
The Hariri Administration's Legacy
USCFL, Middle East Forum Host First Session of Lebanon Study Group
What do Wall Street Financiers Think about Lebanon?
Over 5,000 Lebanese and other Foreigners Illegally Detained in Syrian Prisons
The New Syrian Order in Lebanon
How is the Beirut Stock Exchange Reacting to the New Hoss Administration? Middle East Report
American Efforts to Remove Saddam Shift into High Gear
The Great Arsenal of Autocracy: Syria's Weapons of Mass Destruction
Israel's Defense Forces Readying for 21st Century Warfare
Jordanians Worried About Relations with Syria
Iran Tests the Shihab 4 Missile
U.S.-Syrian Relations Hit a Snag
CIA Reports on Weapons Concerns
MEIB Main Page
Ziad K. Abdelnour
Gary C. Gambill
Gary P. Ratner
David P. Steinman
The top echelon of South Lebanon Army (SLA) officers were honored by Israeli defense officials in a ceremony at the lake-side town of Tiberias and assured that the Jewish state will not abandon the 3,000-man militia that helps protect Israel's northern border.
|Lahad and his advisors|
Military commanders acknowledged that the honorary dinner was meant to assuage Lahad, who last month told Israeli commanders he was quitting in the wake of criticism from several Israeli politicians that he was driven by greed. After two days of appeals, Lahad agreed to return to the SLA.
"I want to say a special blessing for General Antoine Lahad on his leadership and ability to lead the SLA to the achievements it reached," Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz said. "Today, the SLA is stronger than ever."
On that same day, SLA soldiers spotted a large bomb in the western sector of Israel's security zone. Military sources said the discovery prevented a huge explosion that could have resulted in heavy casualties to Israeli troops.
Defense Minister Moshe Arens said Israel and the SLA share the same goal: the liberation of Lebanon to ensure that its people can be allowed to leave in peace with all of its neighbors, including Israel. "It has already been many years that Lebanon, our neighbor in the north, is bleeding and is under occupation of a foreign nation, Syria," Arens said. "It is no surprise that we, the South Lebanon Army, and its commander, General Lahad, have a shared interest."
For his part, Lahad said the solution for his country lies with U.N. Security Council resolutions 425 and 520, which call for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon. The SLA commander pointed out that Israel has agreed to the resolution but Syria has not announced any intention to withdraw its 30,000 troops from Lebanon.
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Parliamentary member Najah Wakim described on February 3rd the legacy of the previous cabinet to be an unbearable economic situation which have lead Lebanese society to the verge of dissolution and explosion. He noted that 70 percent of the Lebanese live below the poverty line , 22 percent live way above it while a select 3 percent control the whole economy.
Wakim also spoke about the public debt which exceeds $ 20 billion, which translates into an annual amount of $5,000 per Lebanese family just to be able to service this debt. He added that the state of the economy in Lebanon is getting worse after a noticeable regression in the industrial and agricultural sectors and that the rate of unemployment in Lebanon stands today at 25 percent and not at the official figure of 9 percent reported by the Lebanese government.
Mr. Wakim apparently "crossed the line" when he also launched a scathing critique of corruption in the Lebanese judicial system. State Prosecutor Adnan Addoum took a virtually unprecedented step on February 19, seeking the removal of Wakim's parliamentary immunity from criminal prosecution.
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The United States Committee for a Free Lebanon and the Middle East Forum held the first meeting of their Lebanon Study group on Thursday, February 4, in preparation for the publication later this year of detailed report on U.S. policy toward Lebanon.
Lebanon Study Group Participants
Ziad Abdelnour, President of the
United States Committee for a Free Lebanon.
The meeting began with an update on Lebanon presented by Dr. Habib Malek, a founding member of the Foundation for Human and Humanitarian Rights.
Participants then began discussing the main topic for the first meeting of the study group: "Lebanon in the U.S. National Interest." Conventional wisdom in foreign policy circles, explained Graeme Bannerman, former staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is that "Lebanon is secondary" to other regional problems.
While acknowledging that instability in Lebanon has threatened U.S. interests in the past, several participants called into question the underlying assumption of current policy--that a Syrian withdrawal could re-ignite the civil war.
The question of why U.S. policy toward Lebanon has become secondary to U.S. policy toward Damascus was extensively analyzed during the meeting. USCFL President Ziad Abdelnour, a well-known Wall Street financier, pointed out that the importance of Syria to American interests is "negligible" in economic terms. Other participants agreed with this assessment.
The Study Group participants also discussed the regional and international implications that would result if, as former deputy assistant secretary of defense for negotiations policy Douglas Feith put it, "Lebanon gets wiped out as the state that it was historically." As perhaps the sole nation of the Middle East endowed with an egalitarian political tradition and vibrant civil society, Lebanon's demise could weaken the development of secular democratic institutions elsewhere in the region.
After the Lebanon Study Group sessions are completed later this year, the integral content of the discussions will be compiled into a book of approximately 50 pages which will be distributed to U.S. government officials, congressional representatives, foreign embassies, media outlets, and academic institutions.
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A USCFL poll conducted with a cross section of over 1,600 leading Wall Street financiers during the period of January 16 to February 14 show the following results:
When asked if they trust the new cabinet of Lebanese Prime Minister Selim al-Hoss, 18% said Yes, while 82% said No. Several cited the Syrian regime's strong hand on the country's economic and political institutions and the blatant subservience to Syria of Lebanese Prime Minister Selim al-Hoss and his cabinet as reasons for their responses.
When asked if they think that the reforms recently introduced by newly-elected government of President Emile Lahoud will bring more financial stability to Lebanon and attract foreign capital, 11% said Yes, while 89% said No. "Local administrative, fiscal and monetary reforms don't mean much when a country is 90% occupied by its neighbor," said one respondent.
When asked how they viewed Lebanon's future in the near term (3-5 years), 2% said Excellent, 11% said Good, 67% said Poor , and 20% said Bleak. The rationale being that without a peace accord with Israel, Lebanon does not have much to gain.
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While the world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the international declaration of human rights, the Syrian regime continues to illegally detain thousands of Lebanese and citizens of other Middle Eastern countries for "threatening the stability of the Syrian regime."
According to confirmed reports received by USCFL intelligence analysts, the Syrian security services have illegally imprisoned over 5,000 people of Jordanian, Palestinian, Lebanese, Iraqi, and other nationalities in prisons throughout Syria and Lebanon. Some of these prisoners were arrested upon entering Syria, or while pursuing higher studies in Syrian universities, on suspicion of having links with Syrian opposition groups. Most, however, were kidnapped in Lebanon, where Syrian security forces maintain a powerful presence. Some were arrested by Lebanese security forces and transferred to Syria.
The detained are usually moved by Syrian military forces in Lebanon and the military intelligence section headed by Brigadier Ghazi Kanaan to prisons in the suburb of the Syrian capital. The most problematic ones are usually kept in the infamous Tadmur (Palmyra) military prison while Syrian authorities continuously refuse to release them despite all appeals made by human rights organizations and Western political leaders.
The prisoners are almost never brought to trial and no representatives of international human right organizations are given permission to meet with them. In some case, prisoners have been released after as many as 25 years of imprisonment--others simply "disappear" forever.
Many in the region are shocked by the large number of Arab detainees held by the Syrian government, which portrays itself as the heart and soul of Arab values and principles.
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A new Syrian power structure in Lebanon has taken shape since the ascension of Emile Lahoud as President in October, according to USCFL analysts.
In the past, Syria has exercised authority in Lebanon through an elaborate array of bilateral relations with individual Lebanese militia chieftains and politicians. This "diversified portfolio" ensured that the political misfortunes (or untimely demise) of any one collaborator in Lebanon would not threaten the overall degree of influence exercised by Damascus.
Over the last several months, however, the Syrian regime abandoned this power structure and replaced it with a unilinear structure of authority. Syrian power and influence in Lebanon is now embodied in one man--President Lahoud.
The advantages to Syria of this new policy became readily apparent when Lahoud proceeded to completely reorganize the security apparatus of the country, appointing well-known allies of the Syrian government to important military and state security positions.
The emergence of Lahoud as the principle representative of Syrian authority in Lebanon coincides with a parallel development in Damascus. Until recently, Syrian oversight of Lebanese affairs was exercised by a number of different officials. Since Lahoud's election, however, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad has transferred authority over the "Lebanon file" to his son and heir apparent, Bashar al-Assad. As one Lebanese journalist recently observed, "whereas in the past Lebanese politicians had a plethora of interlocutors in Damascus, they now have a considerably smaller assortment of people with whom to deal, principally Mr. Assad and his son." Assad's decision was apparently motivated by a desire to "familiarize" the Lebanese people with his son so that Bashar's authority in Lebanon will not be challenged once he succeeds his father as President of Syria.
Both of these developments are apparently designed to entrench Syrian power over Lebanon in advance of Bashar's ascension to the Syrian presidency. However, the new power structure also contains a significant weakness: Syria's grip over Lebanon is now tied to the fate of Lahoud, who has made many political enemies. Ironically, these enemies are mainly other pro-Syrian politicians (such as Walid Jumblat) who have been sidelined by Syria's concentration power in Lahoud.
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The Beirut Stock Exchange (BSE) had the poorest performance among nine Arab stock markets in the last three months of last year. Of the nine, only the BSE saw its average net fall into negative territory. By comparison, the Abu Dhabi index had growth of 448.2 percent.
The total value of BSE shares fell by nearly 45 percent in 1998 compared with 1997. On another note, trading at the BSE fell considerably over the last quarter, which may be a reflection of the economic slowdown in 1998.
Local investment bankers said they were not surprised by the outcome. "Why would anybody expect otherwise?" asked one.
"The south of Lebanon is burning, our land is occupied, our government is a tool in the hands of foreigners, our parliament is appointed and not elected, our legal system is rotting with bribery and corruption, our democracy is ceding to autocracy, our economy is in debt beyond all means of repayment and the majority of the population lives on the verge of poverty . . . and you expect to see a booming stock market?"
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A new U.S. policy toward Iraq--centered around removing Saddam Hussein from power rather than merely containing his regime--began to take shape last month with President Clinton's appointment of a senior American diplomat, Frank Ricciardone, as "special representative for transition in Iraq."
"What we can do on the outside as countries that care about the future of Iraq . . . is to give them some hope it can be done," Ricciardone said.
Support from Egypt, Gulf States Growing
American diplomats say that a tremendous growth of support for this policy has emerged from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both of whom have traditionally opposed (publicly, at least) American efforts to destabilize the Iraqi regime. In January, however, after the Iraqi government began questioning the sovereignty of Kuwait and calling for the overthrow of neighboring Arab regimes, Egypt and Saudi Arabia began to publicly call for a change of regime in Baghdad.
This led to a trip by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Cairo and Riyadh in late January that was heralded by diplomats as immensely successful. "It surprised me the extent to which they see Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as a threat and believe that something has to be done about it," said a U.S. official on condition of anonymity. "What we've heard from very high levels is that the only solution is a change of regime," he added. During the trip, Albright introduced Ricciardone to Egyptian and Saudi officials.
In an apparent effort to secure wider regional backing for the new policy, Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk visited Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates earlier this month. "Leaders here argued strongly that the change needs to come from within Iraq, and we agreed with them," said Indyk. "Our purpose is to support the people of Iraq in their efforts to change the regime."
It is clear, however, that in order for this policy to be successful, the U.S. must enlist the support of countries neighboring Iraq. "Some of the plans involve training opposition groups outside Iraq and then inserting them into Iraq. And if that's the case, you would need to insert them through a neighboring country," said Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service.
The two principle Iraqi opposition groups likely to be given assistance under the new policy are the London-based Iraqi National Congress, which has received CIA support in the past, and the Iraqi National Accord, a group led by former Iraqi military officers and intelligence officials in exile, operating out of both Jordan and the UK.
It is thought that Jordan, which has sheltered Iraqi opposition groups in the past, may not be inclined to participate extensively in the near future as the country undergoes a transition of power from King Hussein to Abdullah.
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According to British intelligence sources, a team of Russian scientists formerly associated with the Soviet Union's chemical weapons program has been transferring important technology to Damascus that has dramatically advanced Syria's ability to disperse VX nerve gas from aircraft and surface-to-surface missiles. The technology transfer, say experts, is a serious breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention to which Russia is a signatory.
Syria now has the capability to indigenously produce not only chemical agents such as VX and Sarin nerve gasses, but can also independently manufacture and/or augment Scud B and C ballistic missiles (see diagram)--an explosive combination that led to at least one test-firing of a Scud-C missile tipped with VX near Damascus in May 1998. The Scud C ballistic missile has a range of 300 miles (480 km), placing Tel Aviv, Beirut, and Amman well within Assad's striking distance.
Briefing: VX Nerve Gas
VX nerve gas is fatal when
absorbed through the skin or inhaled, blocking the transmission of impulses along the
central nervous system, resulting in convulsions, respiratory paralysis, and death.
Sources say that Syria's production of Sarin and VX nerve agents takes place at three sites located near Damascus, Hims, and the village of al-Safirah. Production of biological agents, including Anthrax, Cholera, and Botulism, has also gotten off the ground.
Syria is believed to have over 600 ballistic missiles in service capable of carrying chemical/biological warheads and at least 60 transporter erector launchers (TELs). Scud B and C missiles are assembled in two underground missile factories located near Aleppo and Hamah (constructed with Iranian, North Korean, and Chinese assistance). Syria has also begun plans to develop and build its own cruise missiles.
Syria's effort to expand deployment of chemical weapons coincides with a parallel effort to bolster its conventional capabilities. Current efforts are reportedly underway to purchase $2 billion worth of modern T-90 tanks, Su-27 jets, and S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia.
These revelations have led to a diplomatic dispute between Washington and Moscow. According to sources in the State Department, U.S. officials have warned Russia not to conclude an anticipated transfer of anti-tank weapons to Syria or risk forfeiture of $50 million in aid. U.S. law prohibits certain types of financial aid to governments that provide arms to Syria and other nations on the State Department's list of countries sponsoring state terrorism. "We are considering whether a sanctions determination is warranted under current circumstances," said a U.S. official.
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Israel is preparing its armed forces for the 21st century. USCFL analysts have been closely monitoring the steps taken by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to confront present and future security threats.
Israeli defense planners believe that in the dawning age of ballistic missile proliferation, countering external security threats will necessitate developing the capacity for global military deployment. Israel's armed forces would no longer be trained to just deal with neighboring Arab countries. Instead, the military would have a "modern strategic command" to deal with future threats from distant Muslim states such as Iran, Pakistan and Kazakstan, as well as global terrorism.
Israel has already acquired a squadron of F-15I jets from the US for long-range attack missions and is training a special commando force based on the UK's Special Air Service (SAS).
While preparing for broader threats emanating from beyond the region, the IDF is also developing innovative new tactics for countering the threats of guerilla warfare and terrorism on the local level.
This is particularly evident in the technologically advanced surveillance network used Israeli military forces stationed in south Lebanon. The IDF has reportedly installed sophisticated video monitors around its positions which transmit a continual stream of images to its central headquarters, where the information is analyzed. A similar system, using radar monitors attached to buoys, has been deployed off the coastline of south Lebanon to detect sea-based attacks. A third system uses ultraviolet radiation to detect unmanned gliders. The use of RPVs (remotely piloted vehicles) for reconnaissance is another pioneering breakthrough by the IDF.
Such innovative use of technology in south Lebanon has resulted in a significant decrease in military casualties in spite of the growing frequency of attacks by Hizballah guerillas. Mohammed Raed, a senior member of Hizbollah's Shurah Council, recently stated in an interview that "the enemy has recently implemented sophisticated technological methods, which severely disrupted the activities of the resistance."
Israeli defense doctrine will continue to rely upon what one high-ranking official termed "a marriage between sophisticated equipment and highly skilled professionals." Together, these two elements are critical in expanding the operational flexibility of the IDF into the next century.
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Sources in Jordan have expressed a great deal of anxiety over the possibility that neighboring Syria may attempt to destabilize the Kingdom in the wake of King Hussein's death earlier this month. Whether Abdullah, Hussein's politically inexperienced successor, is able to fend off potential challenges to his authority by Syrian-supported opposition movements is the most hotly debated question on the streets of Amman.
Relations between Syria and Jordan have been extremely tense in recent years due to Jordan's close relations with Israel. Last week, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad's son Bashar declared last month that the peace treaties signed by "a few Arab parties" had "reduced the Arab bargaining position to an unprecedented low." Other issues, such as the recent arrest and imprisonment of a number of Jordanian citizens by the Syrian government, have further strained diplomatic ties.
Syria has considerable means at its disposal to threaten the Hashemite kingdom: Radical Palestinian factions in Jordan generally cooperate closely the the Syrian regime and have acted to destabilize Jordan on previous occasions. The managing director of one of Jordan's largest financial companies said on January 28 that the main danger was the possibility of a rift developing in the royal Hashemite family. Such a rift could be easily exploited by Syrian-aligned factions.
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On February 2, Iran started testing the engine for a new missile that Western intelligence sources say is designed to carry nuclear warheads. According to experts, the Shihab-4 missile will have a range of at least 2,100 kilometers, enabling it to strike most of southern and central Europe, and will be able to carry a warhead weighing up to 1,000 kg.
According to numerous sources, the Iranians have been receiving massive amounts of assistance from Russian defense industries in developing Shihab 4, which is modeled after the Russian SS-4 intermediate range ballistic missile. Iran's Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), the government defense agency in charge of developing and producing the missile, has concluded over $100,000 in contracts with the Russian Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute. Other Russian firms assisting Iran's development of the missile are Rosvoorouzhenie, the Russian arms-export agency; the Bauman Institute; NPO Trud, a rocket-motor manufacturer; and Polyus ["North Star"] Russia's leading laser developer. There have also been reports that the Russian Space Agency and its director, Yuri Koptev, are directly involved in technology transfers to Iran. In addition, a Chinese company, Great Wall Industries, is reportedly supplying missile-testing telemetry technology to Iran.
In July, Iran test-fired the Shihab-3 missile, with a range of 1,300 kilometers. At a recent news conference, Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said the Shihab-3 missile underwent successful tests and achieved its main goal -- to deter Israel from launching attacks on Teheran or its allies in the Middle East.
Shamkhani also said that the motor of the Shihab-4 missile "has no military use and will not be produced on a large scale." Western intelligence sources dispute Shamkhani's assertion. "Shihab-3 at this point is just a tube that can travel a long way," an intelligence official said. "But Shihab-4 is intended to provide a strategic deterrent. For that, you need a non-conventional warhead." Iran appears to be engaged in a parallel program of developing nuclear weapons so that Shihab-4 could be equipped with nuclear warheads--or at least chemical or biological weapons--by the middle of the next decade.
The Iranians sped up their efforts after the last test of the Shihab-4 engine failed. U.S. Intelligence sources said the failure alarmed Iranian defense officials, who want to fast-track development of the missile. These sources estimate that Teheran could finish development of the Shihab-4 by 2001.
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Relations between the United States and Syria hit a snag earlier this month when Syrian Defense Minister Musfata Tlass described rioters who ransacked the U.S. embassy in Damascus on December 19 as "brave youth whose actions dealt a slap to the United States." The statement, published in Tishrin, the official newspaper of the Syrian government, reportedly infuriated U.S. officials.
Within 24 hours, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright demanded a retraction and threatened to recall the U.S. ambassador from Damascus. According to one official, "[we] had to take this seriously... not only was this a bad thing but it was a security problem" that could instigate future attacks. "We laid the line down," he added.
Syrian diplomats reacted to Washington's chagrin by attempting to play down the incident, telling U.S. officials that Tlas is not a key figure in the Syrian regime. Experts on Syrian politics disagree, however. When Syrian President was hospitalized for several months during the mid-1980's, Tlas was one of a six-member committee appointed to run the day-to-day affairs in Syria.
In an apparent attempt to forestall further American unease, the Syrian government also agreed to make a token reparations payment of $500,000 for the damages to the U.S. embassy.
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The CIA is becoming increasingly concerned that business "entities" in China and Russia are trafficking weapons of mass destruction to countries such as Iran, Syria and India despite restrictions imposed by their own central governments. A recent report to Congress by the CIA's Nonproliferation Center points to the emergence of independent or quasi-government entities in Russia and China as exporters of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons technology.
The report lauds Moscow and Beijing for expanding their commitments to restrict export of deadly technologies. But in an illustration of the increasingly complex post-Cold War world, the report says those commitments may not be enough.
In May 1998, for example, Russia announced strengthened rules restricting business from exporting proliferation-related equipment and technology.
"These actions, if enforced, could help counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems," the CIA reported. "However, there are signs that Russian entities have continued to engage in behavior inconsistent with these steps. Monitoring Russian proliferation behavior, therefore, will have to remain a very high priority for some time to come."
Similarly in China the problem appears to have less to do with Beijing's willingness to make commitments and cooperate as with the tendencies of entities with newfound independence from the central government to make deals with foreign countries seeking missile technology and other weapons capability.
Over the first six months of last year, the period covered by the report, "Chinese entities provided a variety of missile-related items and assistance to several countries of proliferation concern," the CIA reported.
Chinese organizations, some with direct ties to the Beijing government, others with more diverse organizational structures, supplied advanced conventional weapons to Iran, according to the report. Despite U.S. sanctions imposed in 1997 on seven Chinese entities, the CIA reported, some of these organizations continued to supply Iran and Syria with chemical weapons-related materials, including basic ingredients in some chemical weapons.
The CIA cited Russian companies for supplying "a variety of ballistic missile-related goods and technical know-how to foreign countries" during the first half of last year. The agency said Iran relied on Russia's help in developing the Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile, first flight tested last July. Russia was also "a key supplier for civilian nuclear programs in Iran and, to a lesser extent, India."
The report lists Russia, China and North Korea as the key "supplier nations" for weapons of mass destruction and Iran, Iraq, India, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan and, again, North Korea, as the key consumer nations of these weapons.
"Throughout the first half of 1998, North Korea continued to export ballistic missile-related equipment and missile components and materials to countries of concern," according to the CIA. "Pyongyang attaches a high priority to the development and sale of ballistic missiles, equipment, and related technology. North Korea has little else to export to raise significant amounts of hard currency besides ballistic missiles and other weapons."
Egypt, a U.S. ally and beneficiary from billions of dollars in annual aid from Washington, was one of North Korea's key customers for missile technology and components, part of what the CIA termed a long-running pattern of cooperation between the two nations.
Iraq is barred by an international arms embargo from importing weapons technology but continues to buy civilian equipment that could be converted for use in chemical weapons production, according to the CIA.
"Since the Gulf War, Baghdad has rebuilt key portions of its chemical production infrastructure for industrial and commercial use," the CIA reported. "Some of these facilities could be converted fairly quickly for production of (chemical weapons) agents. Iraq retains a CW capability and intends to reconstitute its pre-Gulf war capability as rapidly as possible once sanctions are lifted."
The CIA identifies Iran as perhaps the most aggressive developer of non-conventional weapons capability. It is seeking its own indigenous missile capability, working to develop a nuclear capability, beginning work on a biological weapons program, and expanding a chemical weapons arsenal that already includes stockpiles of "blister, blood and choking agents and the bombs and artillery shells for delivering them."
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