Examination of Witness (Questions 260-279)|
18 JUNE 2003
Q260 Mr Pope: I worked on the basis
that the missiles and the chemical agents that could be deployed
within the missile would generally be kept separately and that
it is not safe to keep them together. Therefore, there needs to
be a technical procedure to insert the chemical agent into the
missile and that takes a while.
Dr Inch: It depends on the weapon
system. To illustrate the point, one of the major problems on
the disarmament side is how long it takes to demilitarise and
to destroy chemicals already loaded into bombs and other weapons.
You need special facilities to handle the bomb or the shell. You
have to drain it, clean out the chemical and destroy the chemical
before you destroy the rest of the weapon. It is much more difficult
to destroy chemical-filled weapons than it is for chemicals. A
lot of chemicals are stored in the weapon system to be used or
they have been in the past.
Q261 Mr Pope: What is the easiest
way of deploying chemical weapons? Is it by dropping a bomb from
an aeroplane? Is it by firing a missile such as a Scud, or would
it be by a small battlefield weapon like a mortar shell, or spraying?
What is the most common way of doing that?
Dr Inch: It is horses for courses.
When the Cold War was on most of our worst-case evaluation was
on the basis that the Russians would use a multi-barrel rocket,
which is effectively mortar shells in a multi-barrel situation.
Most of the worst-case planning was about how much chemical could
be put down by using multi-barrel rockets. That is probably the
Q262 Mr Pope: One of the things we
know about the Iraqi regime is that it had many of those rocket-type
launchers. Going back to the 45 minutes, the dossier makes quite
a lot of play about that. When I read the dossier the first time
I thought that the idea that these kinds of chemical weapons can
be deployed within less than an hour was extraordinarily worrying.
Do you think that the Government overplayed that or do you think
it was a reasonable assessment?
Dr Inch: I do not understand why
it was put in. I cannot see the significance of it other than
saying that it is a terrible situation. If you are at war, all
weapons have to be deployable fairly quicklyunless they
were suggesting at that stage that the chemicals were stored way
back and that they had to be brought up.
Q263 Mr Pope: I think part of the
reason why they put it in was because they were alleging a variety
of matters. They were alleging that Saddam was developing a missile
system that could reach our sovereign bases in Cyprus; they were
alleging that he was a threat to his neighbours; they were alleging
that he would be a threat to any allied forces that entered the
region. The worry was that he could deploy those terrible weapons
really quickly and there is not a long lead-in time. That is the
politics and that is why they put in the claim that they could
be deployed quickly. I want to get to the bottom of whether that
is a reasonable thesis to put forward. Was it accurate to say
that they could be deployed in that way?
Dr Inch: One of the pointers about
the report is that one really needs to see the raw data that generated
that claim. What was the true basis for saying 45 minutes? Is
there some significance to that statement that most of us failed
to appreciate at this time?
Q264 Chairman: The Government appear
to have qualified the 45 minutes by saying "from the time
of the order". One interpretation of that is wholly meaningless
because the order would be given only at the point when the delivery
system was ready.
Dr Inch: Yes.
Q265 Chairman: What significance
do you attach to the addition of the words "from the time
of the order"?
Dr Inch: I am afraid that I cannot
say any more. I am just totally baffled by why it should be there.
That is why I say again that one has to probe the raw data much
more carefully to find out why it was there and what the significance
was and what the military thinking behind it was.
Q266 Chairman: If it is meaningless,
clearly the insertion of it could only cause confusion and lead
to an impression of an imminent threat which may not be there.
Dr Inch: That is the only conclusion
one can reach.
Q267 Andrew Mackinlay: In the great
debate about the justification for the conflict, do you think
that too much emphasis has been placed on ready-to-use weapons
and not enough on the industrial infrastructure, the skills that
existed and were available and were being exercised in pursuit
of these weapons?
Dr Inch: I think we tend to forget
at times, particularly when one looks at the dual-use chemicals
and the kind of infrastructure, how critically dependent all societies
are on the chemicals that we use, in our homes, in all our materialseverything
is chemical. Of course, Iraq was a fairly sophisticated society
with reasonable demands. With a petrochemical industry one would
expect them to have a reasonably sophisticated chemical industry
capable of producing many of these things. Many of the compounds
concerned are not themselves petrochemical in origin, but are
used to convert petrochemicals into other products.
Q268 Andrew Mackinlay: What you say
is correct, unfortunately. It seems to me that we will have a
great problem looking ahead to other despots. If we are trying
to frustrate proliferation, for ever and a day we shall have increasing
problems as regards dual use. States will claim a legitimate need
to have them for the well being of their peoples and the development
of their commerce and industry.
Dr Inch: That is absolutely right.
That is why again under the chemical weapons convention there
is an enormous drive to increase the inspection of discrete organic
chemical facilities that I mentioned. There is something like
4,200 or 4,300 around the world and probably a lot more. So if
20 or 30% of those have the capability of being diverted to other
things, you have a major inspection problem. That is one of the
major concerns of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons. How does one carry out worldwide effective inspection
of those facilities, not necessarily because of states trying
to break out of the convention, but because terrorists may try
to subvert some of those activities?
Andrew Mackinlay : Would it have been
easy for the regime to have hidden their WMD capacity just prior
to the opening of the conflict, to have destroyed it or to have
spirited it away? The nature of these things cannot be seen from
satellite or other surveillance techniques. Is that correct? Could
their disposal or despatch to other locations or hiding them within
the state be done fairly easily?
Q269 Chairman: We are talking of
a period of six months or so.
Dr Inch: What surprises me most
is the intelligence information that went into the compilation
of the dossier, the ideas about the number of sites and particularly
the suspect sites that were used for the production of chemicals.
However, over the past few weeks, when the inspectors have been
inspecting, they have not found substantial evidence in terms
of traces of materials that would be manufactured on those sites.
They may not have found the weapons, they may not have found the
bulk materials, but I would have expected there to be some evidence
of the presence at one time of some of the chemicals concerned.
That is much more difficult to hide if one is carrying out the
analysis in the right kind of way.
Q270 Mr Olner: It may be small-scale
Dr Inch: Yes, small-scale manufacture
too, if you know what the site is.
Q271 Mr Olner: If by necessity it
is small, it will be very difficult to find.
Dr Inch: You have to sample in
the right place.
Q272 Andrew Mackinlay: It is possible
that things have been discovered but for wider security interests
they have not yet been disclosed because they are putting together
a jigsaw puzzle and you want to corroborate what you are doing
and find the trail.
Dr Inch: That could be possible.
Q273 Mr Chidgey: One issue that has
become apparent in the post-war situation is a switch of emphasis
to the importance of the interrogation of the scientists and engineers
and so on involved in this programme, this delivery. Be that as
it may, in that context, would it be absolutely standard practice
for the administration in Iraq to have absolutely full records
of what was being produced and where it was going as a matter
of course? I am trying to get at whether it would have been feasible
for a chemical weapons and biological weapons programme to be
in production without a full record of what was happening being
kept and there being monitoring? It strikes me that it would be
very unsafe not to have that.
Dr Inch: There must be reasonable
records. You have to know what you are making, where you are going
to store it, whether it will go into the weapons, whether you
are producing the warheads for it and so on. You have to have
an overall plan. I do not know how else you would operate.
Q274 Mr Chidgey: That would not just
have been held centrally, I presume. Presumably the manufacturing
plants and processing plants would have had their own records
Dr Inch: They should have had
their own records.
Q275 Mr Chidgey: It would have been
Dr Inch: Yes.
Q276 Andrew Mackinlay: I have two
more questions. One flows from a previous point. Yesterday, the
former Foreign Secretary put to us a rhetorical question. He said
he could not understand why the UN weapons inspectors have not
been allowed back, certainly into the United Kingdom jurisdiction
in Iraq. Is it true that the function of the diligent United Nations
weapons inspectors would be different from those who are trying
to pursue a trail of seeking these weapons? Another legitimate
reason for not allowing them back would be that their narrow remit
would frustrate the detective agency, as it wereI forget
the terminology of the group that is in there now, the survey
group, whose functions are differentand they would impede
the work of the survey group if the UN weapons inspectors diligently
went about doing what was their narrow remit.
Dr Inch: There are a number of
areas here that trouble me. There is the problem of inspection
post-event, the importance of understanding the industrial processes
and whether or not they can be easily diverted. There is the problem
of obtaining analytical data which is totally rigorous and indisputable.
The people most experienced in that now are the inspectors who
routinely carry out industrial inspections, the OPCW in The Hague.
The United Nations groups under Hans Blix, was totally independent
of that group and had a much wider remit. Now, the kind of special
investigation teams are, I think, independent in both those groups.
That is not to say that there is not some read-across and some
collaborationI do not know the detailbut it does
raise a number of issues as to how you get, even at this stage,
very authentic and authenticable information. There has been set
up under the Chemical Weapons Convention a so-called group of
designated labs. They are not easily maintained in terms of the
quality of analysis they produce: 20 or 30 labs participate in
the programme and only about a dozen at any one time are designated
as being capable of doing a good job. Most are in Europe; one
in Singapore, one in South Korea, one in China and one in the
United States. None unfortunately in Arab countries, so there
is no kind of read-across there. There is no clarity at the moment,
even if samples were to be found in Iraq, that the products would
be actually going to some of those independent labs for analysis.
Maybe the situation is clearer now than it was, but it is still
a little confused and not well planned.
Q277 Andrew Mackinlay: If you were
advising the British Prime Minister or President Bush as to how
to pursue this as at this time, what vehicle, what grouping, what
combination would you have been suggesting?
Dr Inch: I would have certainly
tried to involve some of those international teams who sit in
The Hague and I would also want to make sure that, for any final
analysis, it went to the independent labs around the world which
are trained up for those purposes.
Q278 Andrew Mackinlay: And you do
not think it is happening at the present time?
Dr Inch: I believe that the United
Kingdom Government have pushed for some of those things to happen
but whether that is happening I do not know.
Q279 Mr Hamilton: Dr Inch, just very
briefly to help my technical understanding. We have been talking
about the delivery of chemical weapons on the battlefield. Can
you just explain to me why those chemical weapons are not destroyed
by the ordinance that is used to project them into the enemy territory.
Dr Inch: That is part of the design
of the material. Some of them are reasonably stable. That is all
part of the design and there is not a problem there.