During the latter conflict, Saddam Hussein first ordered the use of mustard gas in 1983 to counter Iran’s numerical superiority and “human-wave” infantry tactics, which were overwhelming Iraqi positions.
When his chemical attacks did not provoke international condemnation, Saddam became emboldened and initiated the use of nerve agents in March 1984 during the battle of Majnoon Island.
In a notorious attack on March 16-17, 1988, the Iraqi Air Force dropped bombs containing mustard gas and nerve agents on the Kurdish town of Halabja, killing an estimated 5,000 civilians, many of them women and children.
Terrorist groups such as Aum Shinrikyo in Japan and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan have also attempted to acquire and use chemical weapons, so far with limited success.
hemical weapons were first used on a large scale during World War I.
In late 1914, the military imperative of breaking out of the bloody stalemate of trench warfare led the Prussian chemist Fritz Haber to propose releasing clouds of chlorine gas from pressurized cylinders in order to drive the enemy from his trenches.In the early 1950s, industrial chemists at Imperial Chemical Industries in Britain developed a new pesticide called Amiton that soon proved too toxic for agricultural use and was pulled from the market.But Amiton was transferred to the British chemical warfare establishment at Porton Down and became the first of the V-series nerve agents, which readily penetrate the skin and are lethal in minute quantities: a drop of VX weighing 10 milligrams can kill a grown man in minutes.The Iranian forces were vulnerable to chemical attack because the Basij militia had no gas masks and the Revolutionary Guards refused to shave their beards, preventing their masks from achieving an airtight seal.Towards the end of the war, Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons as an instrument of terror against the restive Kurdish population in northern Iraq.Today the CW threat has all but disappeared from the radar screen of senior U. government policymakers, the news media, and the general public.In 2008, for example, the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, chaired by former Senators Bob Graham (D.-Fla.) and Jim Talent (R.-Mo.), excluded any discussion of chemical weapons from its report, .The current sense of complacency about the CW threat is partly the result of several positive developments, including the demise of the Soviet Union, which possessed the world’s most threatening chemical arsenal, and the entry into force in April 1997 of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an international treaty banning the development, production, transfer, and use of chemical arms, to which all but a handful of countries adhere.Nevertheless, there are real grounds for concern about a future resurgence of the CW threat.The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in 1997.As of today the OPCW has 190 Member States, who are working together to achieve a world free from chemical weapons.