Iraq Timeline – August 1990 to March 2003

The following timeline is comprised of dates and information collated from multiple public-domain sources. It should establish a clearer relationship between events than can otherwise be read elsewhere without active cross-referencing.

The timeline begins with the 2 August 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and continues through to the 19/20 March 2003 assault on Iraq. The starting point of the period being considered and examined under the terms of reference of the Iraq Inquiry is the Summer of 2001.

This page has been split into three separate sections to cover distinct periods of the overall Iraq situation, with particular reference to the ongoing WMD dispute:

    Part 1: From the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 to the commencement of Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 (directly below);


Part 1: 1990-1998. The invasion of Kuwait to Operation Desert Fox



2 August 1990 Iraq invades Kuwait – about 100,000 Iraqi troops cross the border to completely seize Kuwait within a matter of hours. United Nation Security Council Resolution 660 condemns this action.

6 August Security Council Resolution 661 demands an “immediate and unconditional” withdrawal of Iraqi forces and imposes a strict trade embargo on Iraq.

7 August US troops begin to arrive in Saudi Arabia as the United States launches Operation Desert Shield.

28 August Iraq declares Kuwait to be its 19th province.

17 October Coalition forces troops in the Gulf region rise to 200,000 from the US, 15,000 from the UK and 11,000 from France with smaller numbers from other nations.

29 November The Security Council states that Iraq must voluntarily withdraw from Kuwait by 15 January 1991. Resolution 678 gives authority to use “all necessary means” to force Iraq out if it does not comply. Baghdad rejects this “ultimatum”.


9 January 1991 U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz meet in Geneva, Switzerland, for talks, but these end with no progress.

17 January Operation Desert Storm begins. The ‘air war’ phase is launched at 7:38 a.m. (local time) with Apache gunship helicopter attacks against Iraqi air defence radar sites. US Air Force F-117 stealth warplanes attack targets in Baghdad.

18 January Iraq launches its first wave of Soviet-made SCUD missiles at Israel.

20/21 January Riyadh and Dhahran, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, are similarly attacked.

22 January Iraqi forces begin to destroy Kuwaiti oil wells.

24 February Coalition forces cross the border and begin the liberation of Kuwait at around 4 a.m. Baghdad time.

26 February Saddam Hussein orders an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. Thousands of retreating Iraqi troops are killed as they pull back to Iraq.

28 February Exactly 100 hours after the ground phase of the war began, President George HW Bush orders the end of the Gulf War.

1 March A cease-fire plan is negotiated at Safwan in Southern Iraq. Iraq agrees to abide by all UN resolutions concerning itself.

3 April Resolution 687, the so-called “cease-fire agreement”, is passed by the Security Council. This resolution calls for the destruction or removal of all chemical and biological weapons, all stocks of agents and components, all research, development, support and manufacturing facilities for ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 km and related repair and production facilities. Iraq must recognize Kuwait, account for missing Kuwaitis, return Kuwaiti property and end its support for international terrorism. The resolution creates a special commission, UNSCOM, to inspect Iraq’s chemical, biological and nuclear facilities.

6 April Resolution 687 is accepted by Iraq.

18 April Iraq declares some stocks of chemical weapons and related materials, and claims that it does not have biological weapons program.

19 April Rolf Ekéus, a Swedish diplomat, is appointed as the first Executive Chairman of UNSCOM.

9 June UNSCOM begins the first WMD inspections in Iraq.

15 August Resolution 706 is proposed, allowing Iraq to export up to $1.6bn of oil, the revenue from which would be paid into a UN-administered account to be used to buy food, medicines and other essential material for Iraqis for an initial a six month period. Resolution 707 is also passed, emphasising the need for Iraq  to allow UNSCOM and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) immediate and unconditional access to any areas they wish to inspect.

11 October Resolution 715 is passed, which approves UNSCOM and IAEA plans for ongoing monitoring and verification. The resolution demands that Iraq “accept unconditionally the inspectors and all other personnel designated by the Special Commission”.

Iraq  stated that it considers the Monitoring and Verification Plans adopted by Resolution 715 to be unlawful, and that it is not ready to comply with the Resolution.


18 February 1992 Rolf Ekéus reports Iraq’s refusal to abide by the disarmament resolutions.

19 March Iraq reveals the existence of chemical weapons and 89 Scud missiles. It states that it unilaterally destroyed most of these materials during the previous summer, in violation of Resolution 687.

July UNSCOM begins its destruction of large quantities Iraqi chemical weapons and production facilities.

26 August The first “no-fly zone” is established in southern Iraq, which prohibits the flight of Iraqi aircraft south of latitude 32 degrees north.


27 June 1993 The US launches a cruise missile attack at the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, in response to a (claimed) attempted assassination of former President George Bush in Kuwait in mid-April.

September/October Iraq threatens to stop cooperating with UNSCOM inspectors. It begins to deploy troops near the Kuwait border. The US sends more military forces to Kuwait in response.


15 October 1994 The UN Security Council passes Resolution 949, demanding that Iraq immediately withdraw forces recently deployed towards Kuwait and must “co-operate fully” with UNSCOM. Iraq backs down and begins to work again with weapons inspectors.


March 1995 Iraq reveals more information about its prohibited past biological and chemical weapons programmes.

14 April Resolution 986 formalises the “Oil for Food” programme.

Summer UN agreement on Iraq policy starts to become contentious. France and Russia begin to oppose other permanent members of the Security Council.

1 July Iraq, for first time, is forced to admit to the existence of an offensive biological weapons programme, but still denies that these were weaponised.

July Iraq states that if sanctions are not lifted by 31 August 1995 it will end all cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA.

August Iraq supplies UNSCOM with its third ‘Full, Final and Complete Disclosure’ concerning its prohibited biological weapons programme.

7/8 August Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, defects to Jordan. Following his defection, Iraq makes new revelations about the full extent of its biological and nuclear arms programmes. It then withdraws its last formal BW declaration, and turns over a large amount of previously withheld documents.

November Iraq makes a second ‘Full, Final and Complete Disclosure’ about its prohibited missile programme.


February (?) 1996 UNSCOM begins using eavesdropping devices in Iraq. The information is delivered to Britain, Israeli, and US intelligence agencies.

20 February Hussein Kamel returns to Iraq and is killed within days of his return, along with his members of his family.

March UNSCOM inspection teams are refused access to five sites previously designated for inspection. The teams gain access to one site only after  a ‘stand-off’ of 17 hours.

27 March The Security Council passes resolution 1051, relating to the need for Iraqi imports and exports, particularly “dual-use items”, to be monitored by UNSCOM and the IAEA. This resolution reaffirms that Iraq should meet unconditionally all its obligations under the inspections mechanism and cooperate fully with the inspection bodies.

May-June Al-Hakam, Iraq’s main production facility of biological warfare agents, is destroyed under UNSCOM supervision.

12 June The Security Council passes Resolution 1060, which states that Iraq’s actions represent a clear violation of the earlier resolutions. It also demands that Iraq grant “immediate and unrestricted access” to all UNSCOM designated sites.

13 June Iraq again denies access to sites chosen for inspection by UNSCOM.

July UNSCOM forces the issue by attempting to conduct a surprise inspection on a Republican Guard facility. Scott Ritter leads this inspection, but is blocked by Iraqi officials. Inspectors are allowed into the facility after several days, but nothing is found.

Summer Some UN Security Council Members express unease about UNSCOM’s confrontational tactics.

3 September The southern ‘no-fly zone’ is extended to latitude 33 degrees north.

November UNSCOM inspections discover buried missile parts. Iraq refuses to allow UNSCOM teams to remove remnants out of the country for analysis.


26 March 1997 US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright states in a speech made at Georgetown University that sanctions on Iraq probably will not end until Saddam Hussein is no longer in power.

21 June Iraq again refuses UN inspection teams access to sites under investigation.

The Security Council passes Resolution 1115, which condemns Iraq’s actions and demands that UNSCOM’s teams be allowed immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any sites for inspection and officials for interviews.

July Australian diplomat Richard Butler replaces Rolf Ekéus as Executive Chairman of UNSCOM.

September Iraq provides more information on its prohibited biological weapons programs.

12 November The Security Council passes Resolution 1137, which condemns Iraq’s continued violations of earlier resolutions, and once again demands that Baghdad complies fully with the requirements of UNSCOM inspection teams.

13 November Iraq orders the expulsion of all American arms experts. UNSCOM withdraws all weapons inspectors because of this.

20 November Saddam Hussein agrees to allow UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq.

24 November Iraq refuses UNSCOM access to inspect Iraqi Presidential Palaces.

22 December The Security Council issues a statement which calls on Iraq to cooperate fully with the commission, and states that failure by Iraq to provide immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any site is an unacceptable and clear violation of Security Council resolutions.


January 1998 Iraq claims that Scott Ritter is a spy.

15 January Bill Richardson, US Ambassador to the UN, tells Ritter to go back to Bahrain.

20 February UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan negotiates a deal with Saddam Hussein, allowing weapons inspectors to return to Baghdad. This intervention prevents US/UK military action taking place.

23 February Iraq signs a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the UN, which says that the country will accept all relevant Security Council resolutions, cooperate fully with UNSCOM and the IAEA, and will grant UNSCOM and the IAEA immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access for their inspections

Spring UNSCOM discovers a dump full of destroyed Iraqi missiles. After analysis of the missile parts the US claims that Iraq had filled warheads with the chemical agent VX.

4 April UNSCOM inspectors complete initial inspections of eight Iraqi Presidential Palace sites.

8 April UNSCOM reports to the UN Security Council that Iraq’s declaration on its biological weapons program is incomplete and inadequate.

3 August UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard Butler meets with Tariq Aziz who demands that weapons inspections must end immediately and that Iraq must be certified as free of weapons of mass destruction. Butler says he cannot do that.

5 August Iraq again suspends all co-operation with UNSCOM teams.

26 August Scott Ritter resigns from UNSCOM. He sharply criticized the Clinton administration and the U.N. Security Council for not being vigorous enough about insisting that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction be destroyed. Ritter also accused U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan of assisting Iraqi efforts at impeding UNSCOM’s work. “Iraq is not disarming,” Ritter said, and in a second statement, “Iraq retains the capability to launch a chemical strike.”

29 September The United States Congress passes the “Iraq Liberation Act”. This bill states that it is US policy to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and to replace the Iraqi government with a new democratic institution.

31 October President Clinton signed into law HR 4655, the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. Iraq then ends all forms of cooperation with the UNSCOM teams and expels inspectors from the country.

13/14 November The US President orders air strikes on Iraq. These are called it off at the last minute when Iraq promises once again to unconditionally cooperate with UNSCOM.

23/26 November According to Richard Butler, Iraq ends cooperation with UNSCOM inspectors, alternately intimidating and withholding information from them.

30 November Richard Butler then meets with US National Security Advisor Sandy Berger in order to coordinate timelines for a possible military strike against Iraq.

11 December Iraq announces that weapons inspections cannot take place on Fridays, the Muslim day of rest. Iraq refuses to provide test data from the production of missiles and engines.

13 December The US President secretly approves an attack on Iraq.

15 December The UN Security Council is told by Richard Butler that Iraq is still blocking inspections.

16-19 December UNSCOM and the IAEA withdraw all of their weapons inspectors from Iraq. ‘Operation Desert Fox’ is launched, hitting 100 Iraqi WMD related targets in four days of bombing. The reason for these attacks is said to be “Saddam Hussein’s failure to provide unfettered access to UN Special Commission on Iraq and the International Atomic Energy Agency arms inspectors”.


Part 2: From Iraq’s December 1998 declaration of non-cooperation with the UN to the September 2002 publication of the British Iraqi WMD dossier



19 December 1998 Iraqi vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan announces that Iraq will no longer cooperate with the UN and declares that UNSCOM’s “mission is over.”

21 December Three of five permanent members of the UN Security Council (Russia, France, and China) call for lifting of the eight-year oil embargo on Iraq, recasting or disbanding UNSCOM, and firing Butler. The US says it will veto any such measures.


4 January 1999 Iraq requests that the UN completely replace its UNSCOM US and UK staff.

17 December The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) is created, as a replacement for UNSCOM. Resolution 1284 is passed, Iraq is once again ordered to allow inspections teams immediate and unconditional access to any weapons sites and facilities.

Iraq rejects this resolution.


February 2000 US and UK airborne forces carry out bombing raids aimed at disabling Iraq’s air defense network.

1 March  Dr Hans Blix assumes his appointment as Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC in the UN’s New York headquarters.

23-24 May UNMOVIC’s College of Commissioners hold their first session in New York.

November Iraq rejects new proposals for UN weapons inspections.


11 September 2001 Mass casualty attacks on New York and Washington

20 September According to UK Ambassador Christopher Meyer, Bush tells Blair that, after the invasion of Afghanistan, “we must come back to Iraq”.


29 January 2002 George Bush makes State of the Union speech naming Iraq, Iran and North Korea as “an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world”.

7 March Cabinet Meeting. According to Robin Cook this was “the last cabinet meeting at which a large number of ministers spoke up against the war”.

8 March Cabinet Office Options paper says that the intelligence on Iraq’s wmd is “poor”.

11 March Dick Cheney meets Blair at Downing Street. Blair says: “no decisions have been taken on how we deal with this threat, but that there is a threat from Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction that he has acquired is not in doubt at all.”

12 March David Manning, Blair’s chief foreign policy adviser tells Condoleezza Rice, US national security advisor, that Blair “would not budge in [his] support for regime change”.

15 March JIC issues paper on Iraqi WMD.

17 March Christopher Meyer, UK ambassador tells Paul Wolfowitz, US deputy secretary of defense, that Britain “backed regime change but the plan had to be clever and failure was not an option.”

21 March Iraq dossier shelved

22 March Peter Ricketts, Foreign Office political director, sends a letter to Jack Straw stating: “even the best survey of Iraq’s WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or [Chemical Warfare/Biological Warfare] fronts.”

25 March Jack Straw send Tony Blair a memo stressing the need to present the elimination of Iraq’s WMD capacity, rather than regime change, as the objective of UK policy.

2 April Meeting at Chequers. According to Alastair Campbell’s published diaries, participants “discussed whether the central aim was WMD or regime change. … TB felt it was regime change.”

3 April Blair tells NBC news: “We know that he [Saddam Hussein] has stockpiles of major amounts of chemical and biological weapons.”

4 April Blair meets Bush at Crawford, Texas. Agrees to take part in invasion, subject to conditions.

10 April Blair tells Parliament that “no decisions on action have been taken”.

11 April Cabinet Meeting, at which Patricia Hewitt warned that invading Iraq would cause “a lot of tension among the Muslim communities in Britain”.

23 April Campbell meets officials including John Scarlett “to go through what we needed to do communications wise to set the scene for Iraq, e.g. a WMD paper and other papers about Saddam.”

1-3 May  The Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC takes part in a Iraq-UN dialogue at UN Headquarters.

4-5 July  The Executive Chairman takes part in a further UN-Iraq dialogue, this time in Vienna.

16 July Blair appears at the House of Commons Liaison Committee. Asked, “Are we then preparing for possible military action in Iraq?”, he replies “No, there are no decisions which have been taken about military action.”

21 July Officials at the Cabinet Office Defence and Overseas Secretariat produce a briefing paper entitled “Iraq: conditions for military action”.

23 July A meeting at 10 Downing Street reaches the conclusion that: “We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions.”

August Blair phone call to Bush.

20 August Straw meets Colin Powell in US.

3 September Tony Blair announces that the government will publish a dossier of evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Says: “He is without any question still trying to develop that chemical, biological, potentially nuclear capability….”

12 September George Bush addresses UN General Assembly.

16 September  In a letter addressed to the UN Secretary-General (S/2002/1034, annex), the Foreign Minister of Iraq states that his Government had decided to allow the return of the United Nations weapons inspectors without conditions and that the Iraqi side was ready to discuss the practical arrangements necessary for the resumption of inspections.

17 September  The Executive Chairman holds a preliminary meeting with the Iraqi deligation to discuss practical measures related to the resumption of UNMOVIC inspections. They agree to meet in Vienna for a follow-up meeting on 30 September and 1 October.

24 September 2002 The UK government publishes its dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.


Part 3: From the September 2002 resumption of talks between Iraq and the UN to Operation Iraqi Freedom

30 September and 1 October 2002 The Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC and the Director General of the IAEA hold discussions in Vienna with their Iraqi counterparts on practical arrangements for the resumption of inspections.

8 October 2002 A joint letter from the Executive Chairman and the Director General is addressed to General Amer Al-Sa’adi, head of the Iraqi delegation, listing the conclusions they had drawn from the Vienna talks and seeking Iraqi confirmation thereof.

10 and 12 October 2002 Iraq makes two responses to the joint letter confirming the desired understanding of the majority of practical arrangements, although some points were not addressed.

8 November 2002 R.1441 is adopted by the Security Council. Paragraph 9 states:

9. Requests the Secretary-General immediately to notify Iraq of this resolution, which is binding on Iraq; demands that Iraq confirm within seven days of that notification its intention to comply fully with this resolution; and demands further that Iraq cooperate immediately, unconditionally, and actively with UNMOVIC and the IAEA;

R1441 establishes a timeframe for UNMOVIC’s working progress by also deciding that: (i) Iraq should make, within 30 days of the date of the resolution, a currently accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its programmes for weapons of mass destruction and the means for their delivery, as well as of programmes claimed to be for non-weapon purposes in the chemical, biological and nuclear fields; (ii) inspections will be resumed in Iraq not later than 45 days following the adoption of the resolution; and (iii) UNMOVIC will update the Council 60 days thereafter. UNMOVIC and the IAEA are further instructed to promptly report to the Council if at any time Iraq failed to comply with its obligations.

13 November 2002 The Foreign Minister of Iraq writes to the UN Secretary-General (S/2002/1242, annex) stating that Iraq would deal with the resolution and welcomed the return of United Nations.

17 November 2002 The Executive Chairman and the Director General of the IAEA travel to Larnaca, Cyprus, the site of the new UNMOVIC/IAEA field office, established under an agreement of 30 October 2002 with the Government of Cyprus.

18 November 2002 The Executive Chairman and the Director General arrive in Baghdad, heading an advance team of about 30 persons from UNMOVIC and IAEA. Discussions are held with senior officials of Iraq on the practical implementation of inspections, in particular Resolution 1441. In parallel, technical and logistical personnel examine the former premises of UNSCOM and IAEA at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad (henceforth to be known as the Baghdad Ongoing Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Centre (BOMVIC)), and begin to restore it to become an effective and secure operational centre for inspection activities in Iraq.

18 and 19 November 2002 During the course of the discussions with senior Iraqi officials the Executive Chairman and the Director General emphasise the vital importance of the declaration to be submitted by Iraq before 8 December to the two organizations and to the Security Council. They discuss the time lines prescribed by Council resolutions R.1284 and R.1441 and several practical arrangements beyond those examined in Vienna, including the expansion of BOMVIC and the establishment of a field office in Mosul, Iraq.

23 November 2002 The Foreign Minister of Iraq addresses a letter to the UN Secretary-General setting out the observations of the Government of Iraq on R.1441.

25 November 2002 The Executive Chairman briefs members of the Security Council on the visit to Baghdad. The first team of UNMOVIC inspectors also arrives in Iraq on 25 November. This team comprised 11 experts from the Commission’s Headquarters in New York covering the three areas (biological, chemical and missile) for which UNMOVIC was responsible. The first inspection is scheduled for 27 November, well in advance of the 45-day time limit set out in resolution R.1441 for the resumption of inspections.

27 November 2002 Inspections and monitoring are resumed in Iraq. At this time extensive planning is taking place in New York for the inspections and other associated administrative activities.

3 December 2002 The Foreign Office publishes a “dossier” entitled SADDAM HUSSEIN: crimes and human rights abuses, based on unused material from the September wmd dossier. Straw claims “He’s got these weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and, probably, nuclear weapons.”

6 December 2002 The Executive Chairman briefs the Security Council on his eleventh quarterly report.

7 December 2002 Iraq submits its 12,000 page currently accurate, full, and complete declaration to UNMOVIC and the IAEA in New York.

19 December 2002 The Executive Chairman gives an initial informal briefing to the Security Council on Iraq’s 7 December declaration and on the progress of inspections in Iraq and other UNMOVIC activities.

28 December 2002 The IAEA holds its first interviews with Iraqi scientists previously involved with Iraq’s nuclear programme after UN inspectors agreed to interview them with their Iraqi “minders” present. Iraq provides the inspection authorities with a list of 500 personnel who were associated with its various weapons programmes.


7 January 2003 During an inspection of the Al Mamoun site, UNMOVIC inspectors observed two refurbished propellant casting chambers which had previously been used in the proscribed Badr 2000 project. Iraq had shortened the chambers’ length in order to utilise them for its current (UN allowed) missile programmes. In February 2003 UNMOVIC and a convened international panel of experts concluded that they could still be used to produce rocket motors for missiles capable of ranges greater than 150 km, and would therefore remain proscribed. They were ordered to be destroyed. This was carried out in the period 1 to 6 March 2003, under UNMOVIC supervision, by cutting each chamber into at least 16 pieces and then burying the remnants in a pit which was then filled with concrete.

9 January 2003 The Executive Chairman further briefs the Security Council on Iraq’s declaration and on ongoing inspection activity.

14 January 2003 The Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate submits to UNMOVIC its semi-annual monitoring declaration for the period from July 2002 to January 2003.

16 January 2003 Following the discovery of a number of empty 122-mm chemical munitions at the Al Ukhaidhir military stores by UNMOVIC chemical experts Iraq appoints a commission of inquiry to undertake an investigation and comprehensive search for similar cases at all locations. There are two more subsequent finds, one of four empty 122-mm chemical munitions and one of two more similar munitions.

19-20 January 2003 The Executive Chairman visits Baghdad for discussions with representatives of the Government of Iraq. This first meeting was devoted to a stocktaking of the inspections which had been conducted so far, and to resolving certain operational issues. This included the questions of the clarification of the 7 December declaration, provision of documents, the conduct of interviews, air operations, as well as access and Iraqi assistance to the logistic buildup. At these meetings Iraq commits itself to “encourage” persons of interest to UNMOVIC to accept interviews held in private.

27 January 2003 The Executive Chairman provides the Security Council with an update required by R.1441 to be given 60 days after the resumption of inspections in Iraq.

31 January 2003 A meeting is held at the White House at which Bush and Blair allegedly discuss the absence of proof that Iraq is in breach of UNSCR 1441 and discuss alternative ways to provoke a war. Meanwhile a war of words breaks out, with Iraqi officials stating that they cannot force scientists to speak with the inspectors, and American officials countering this by stating that they believe the refusals are a result of intimidation by the Iraqi government. Iraq suggests a further meeting with the heads of UNMOVIC and the IAEA to be held before 10 February.

Late January 2003

From UNMOVIC’s 12th quarterly report:

42. Later in January, Iraq expanded the mandate of the commission to search for any remaining proscribed items on Iraqi territory. A second commission was appointed with the task of searching for any documents relevant to the proscribed items and programmes. It is headed by the former Minister of Oil, General Amer Rashid, and has extensive powers of search in industry, administration and private houses.

January/February 2003 Tahir Jalil Habbush, head of Iraqi Intelligence, tells MI6 that Iraq does not have wmd.

Early February 2003 UNMOVIC convenes an international panel of experts which assesses that the Al Samoud 2 missile programme is capable of exceeding the permitted 150 Km range. In the case of the Al Fatah missile an assessment can not be made until additional information is obtained from Iraq.

6 February 2003 UNMOVIC inspectors hold their first private interview with an Iraqi scientist, Amir al-Saadi, formally Saddam Hussein’s chief weapons advisor. Other individuals linked to previously banned weapons programs, said to number at least 16, still refuse to take part in such interviews without either a witness or a tape recorder to verify what was is said to the UN.

8-9 February 2003 The Executive Chairman revisits Baghdad for further discussions with high-level representatives of the Government of Iraq, included Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan. At these meetings the Iraqi delegation addressed some of the important outstanding disarmament issues. A number of papers were handed over to UNMOVIC, regarding unresolved issues in all three disarmament fields.

Also from UNMOVIC’s 12th quarterly report:

26. Other matters under discussion included the possibility of verifying, through technical and analytical methods, the quantities of biological agents and chemical precursors, which had been declared unilaterally destroyed; the establishment of Iraqi Commissions to search for proscribed items and relevant documents, the necessity of private interviews, and the enactment of national legislation in accordance with the monitoring plan approved by the Security Council in resolution 715 (1991).

Following these meetings the Executive Chairman holds talks with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in London, the President of France in Paris, the Foreign Minister of Greece in Athens (Greece currently held the European Union Presidency), and with senior officials of the European Commission and the European Union in Brussels. In New York he has other meetings with Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and high-level officials of other Member States, and also gives briefings to other interested parties.

10 February 2003 The Government of Iraq formally accepts UNMOVIC’s use of aerial surveillance platforms and undertook to take the necessary measures to ensure their safety. The first of these flights is conducted by a United States flown high-altitude U-2 surveillance aircraft on 17 February. A French Government supplied Mirage IV medium-altitude surveillance aircraft, flown on behalf of UNMOVIC, undertakes its first mission when it becomes operational on 26 February.

14 February 2003 Following requests by UNMOVIC and the IAEA for national implementing legislation, Iraq issues a presidential decree in Baghdad containing prohibitions for persons and companies in the private and mixed sectors against the production or import of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

14 February 2003 The Executive Chairman provides the Security Council with a further update on UNMOVIC’s work during an open session of the Council.

Mid-February 2003 Iraq transmits to UNMOVIC lists of personnel involved in the unilateral destruction during the summer of 1991 in the chemical, biological and missile fields.

16 February 2003 UNMOVIC inspectors tag 380 illegally-imported SA-2 missile engines intended for the Al Samoud II project. These had previously been declared by Iraq in its 7 December 2002 CAFCD.

20 February 2003 Following a meeting with JIC Chairman John Scarlett, Robin Cook concludes that “Saddam probably does not have weapons of mass destruction in the sense of weapons that could be used against large-scale civilian targets.”

21 February 2003 The Executive Chairman conveyed that decision to Iraq in a letter dated 2003 (which was also shared with Council members) that under Security Council resolution 687 (1991) the Al Samoud 2 missile was a proscribed system and accordingly should be destroyed. Iraq accepts that decision.

21 and 25 February 2003 Iraq notifies UNMOVIC that two complete R-400 aerial bombs, one of which had a liquid content, plus remnants of what it states were 118 R-400 bombs have been recovered. These had been excavated by Iraq at Azzizziyah, a previously declared unilateral destruction site of BW-filled aerial bombs and other destroyed munitions. This site had not been previously excavated because it had been considered to be too dangerous to do so.

24-25 February 2003 The UNMOVIC College of Commissioners holds its twelfth regular session, in New York.

25 February 2003 Iraq provides UNMOVIC with the first of two letters concerning Scud engine components. This first letter related to the submission of indigenously produced Scud
engine components for analysis abroad.

26 February 2003 Iraq submits a report to UNMOVIC describing a study it had initiated to try and show, through scientific means, that it had indeed disposed of chemically inactivated B. anthracis (anthrax) agent, in the quantity it had declared, at the Al Hakam dump site in 1991.

28 February 2003 The Executive Chairman submits his twelfth quarterly report to the Security Council (S/2003/232). By this time UNMOVIC has conducted more than 550 inspections covering approximately 350 sites, of which 44 sites were new sites never previously inspected. UNMOVIC reported that:

“inspections were performed without notice, and access was in virtually all cases provided promptly. In no case have the inspectors seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance of their impending arrival.”

1 March 2003 The destruction of Al Samoud 2 missiles and associated items commences under UNMOVIC supervision. These destruction activities continued up to 17 March.

1 March 2003 UNMOVIC and Iraqi experts meet and discuss the 26 February report and the preliminary results of the analysis of soil from the anthrax dump site.

7 March 2003 The Executive Chairman briefs the Security Council on the Commission’s twelfth quarterly report.

7 March 2003 Attorney General Lord Goldsmith provides lengthy, detailed and equivocal advice on the legality of the proposed invasion.

8 March 2003 Iraq presents to UNMOVIC its assessment for a conceptual missile design to replace the Al Samoud 2. The new design remained similar but incorporates changes that Iraq believed would make the missile better conform to the 150 km range limit set by R.687.

10/11 March 2003 Michael Boyce, chief of defence staff asks for clear statement on war’s legality.

12 March 2003 In a speech during the South African parliamentary debate on the situation in Iraq at the National Assembly, Aziz Pahad, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, reported on a series of visits and meetings he had held with Saddam Hussein, Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi Foreign Minister and other key ministers and officials in the Iraqi government.

He stated: “Iraq requested South African assistance in validating their proposed methodology in trying to prove the destruction of their VX and Anthrax stockpiles…. This request originates from Iraq’s apparent lack of the requisite equipment to undertake the tests themselves…. Having considered the Iraqi request, it is our initial view that the methodology that Iraq has proposed contains some promise of verifying the actual presence of the chemical and biological agents. Due to the variables of exposure, evaporation, time lapse, however, it is likely that there would still be a sizeable discrepancy in volumes that may not be convincing or acceptable to UNMOVIC and the Security Council. In the absence of documentary evidence of the destruction, which was apparently destroyed, it would therefore be necessary for this initiative to be accompanied by additional corroborative evidence, such as interviews with all of the persons who were involved with the disposal process, if there is to be an expectation of reaching closure on the issues related to Iraq’s stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons.”

13 March 2003 Iraq provides the second of its two letters concerning Scud engine components. This second letter relates to the presentation of ingots resulting from the unilateral destruction of components of the Scud-B reverse-engineering efforts in 1991/1992. Some 78 tons of engine-related ingots had previously been buried by Iraq at one of its missile facilities. Iraq had excavated the ingots, and UNMOVIC began inspecting, inventorying and photographing them on 15 March 2003. To achieve identification of Scud engine components declared to have been indigenously produced (against those declared having been imported), a comparison with those obtained by UNSCOM for the imported Scud-B would possibly allow a determination of the quality of the production and whether they were in fact of indigenous origin. To accomplish this, remnants would need to be sent to laboratories for a comparative analysis with material from imported Scud engines.

13 March 2003 Goldsmith concludes that war would be legal if Iraq is in material breach. Goldsmith meets Lord Falconer and Sally Morgan. Cabinet meets.

16 March 2003 The United States warns the United Nations to withdraw its personnel from Iraq. UNMOVIC then informs BOMVIC of the likelihood of withdrawal. It instructs its personnel that certain preparatory activities should be initiated, taking into consideration the eight-hour time difference between Iraq and New York.

17 March 2003 Two-thirds of Iraq’s Al Samoud 2 missiles as declared to have been deployed have now been destroyed, as well as one third of the associated logistics and support equipment.

17 March 2003 From UNMOVIC’s 13th quarterly report (published later on 30 May 2003):

6. Interviews and lists of Iraqi personnel

45. During the period 1 to 17 March 2003, UNMOVIC made 15 requests for interviews with Iraqi scientists, bringing the total number of requests since January 2003 to 54. During that short period, nine interviews were actually conducted, the last one on 17 March, bringing the total number of interviews in all disciplines to 14. All interviews were conducted under UNMOVIC procedures and format: there were no witnesses, recording or videotaping and interviews were conducted in locations selected by UNMOVIC.

46. Interviewees were selected on the basis of UNMOVIC analysis of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons and missile programmes and using lists of personnel provided by Iraq. Seven chemical, six biological and one missile-related interviews were conducted. The individuals included both decision-making staff and scientific, engineering and technical personnel. Interviews were subject-oriented, addressing such issues as specific types of chemical or biological production, chemical precursors or unilateral destruction operations. Information obtained during interviews was found useful and led in some cases to an updating of the assessments contained in the Commission’s list of unresolved disarmament issues…

17 March 2003 Goldsmith publishes unequivocal advice that war will be legal. Robin Cook resigns. Cabinet has minimal ‘discussion’ of Goldsmith’s final advice taking the form of a one-page Parliamentary answer.

18 March 2003 Elizabeth Wilmshurst, deputy chief legal adviser at the foreign office, resigns. Parliament votes to support invasion.

18 March 2003 UNMOVIC inspectors withdraw from Iraq. By this time UNMOVIC had conducted 731 inspections, covering 411 sites, 88 of which had never been inspected before. All of the sites had either been declared by Iraq during inspections or through their declarations, or had otherwise been selected by UNMOVIC on the basis of outside information.

19 March 2003 Iraq, via its New York mission, submits to UNMOVIC another paper relating to the anthrax dump with more analytical results and indicated that it would attempt to perform a qualitative and quantitative chemical and biological analysis of soil samples taken in a defined grid pattern from an area of the dump site that had been known to UNSCOM since 1996. In support of this document, Iraq also provides a report on the geophysical characteristics of the sampling area.

19 March 2003 Armed action against Iraq begins with a limited bombing effort designed to target Saddam Hussein personally.

19 March 2003 The Executive Chairman provides the Security Council with an oral briefing on the proposed Draft Work Programme, but because armed activities had commenced the Council could take no further action on this expected next step.

20 March 2003 Full-scale invasion begins with a combined force “shock and awe” assault on Iraq.

4 comments to this article

  1. Nick Horsefield

    on October 15, 2009 at 2:04 am -

    Since it has long been established that there was no significant link between Sadam’s Iraq, and the September 11 attack on the twin towers, why does your time line begin with that event?

  2. chris

    on October 15, 2009 at 7:47 am -

    Nick, this is a good point.
    It’s mainly that the timeline is work in progress and has concentrated on the period with which the Inquiry is concerned. Also because the plan for regime change in Iraq seems to have arisen soon after 11 September.
    But the timeline should clearly cover issues of the weapons inspections up to 1998 and operation Desert Fox and before that the 1991 Gulf war.

  3. Iain Paton (former RAF)

    on October 19, 2009 at 11:08 pm -

    Desert Fox was a critical event – it gave rise to the lie that the inspectors had been “kicked out” and in fact they were withdrawn prior to the bombing.

    Also, the end of Gulf War 1 and the use of chemical weapons (disastrously for his own troops) by Saddam in the Iraq-Iran war. Plus the various controversies over the supply of arms and material to Saddam by Western regimes during the sanctions period.

    At first I was disappointed that Chilcot was starting his timeline in 2001. However, as the inquiry appears to be looking at actions and decisions taken in the prelude to war and not revisiting actions and decisions prior to that time. I would expect that the inquiry will consider these actions and decisions in the context of events pre-2001 context…such as the withdrawl (rather than expulsion) of inspectors.

  4. Andrew M.

    on October 20, 2009 at 12:22 pm -

    Iain –

    I share your initial concern that the remit of the Inquiry is too narrow, limited as it is to events post-Summer 2001. From a parliamentary answer given by Gordon Brown, the terms of reference were suggested with advice coming from the Cabinet Office, and then agreed upon with the consultation of leading opposition party figures.

    A full understanding of many of the outstanding Iraqi WMD issues will not be made unless events prior to 2001 are considered in some detail. In particular, Iraqi reasoning for its non-complete disclosures and previous (apparent) non-co-operation with UNSCOM etc have not (to date) been discussed widely, and this aspect has a large bearing on the earlier Western belief that WMD items still existed in Iraq.

    I wonder if the Inquiry will hear evidence from ‘the other side’, for example from individuals such as Tariq Aziz and Amir al-Saadi. Somehow, I fear that it will not.