Memorandum submitted by Mr Terence Taylor
Examination of Witness (Questions 284-299)
18 JUNE 2003
Q284 Chairman: Mr Taylor, we welcome
you again. You gave evidence to our last inquiry on weapons of
mass destruction. You are a member of the directing staff for
the International Institute for Strategic Studies; you are the
President and Executive Director of IISS in the United States;
you have much experience in international security policy matters
as a UK Government official, both military and diplomatic, and
for the United Nations, both in the field and at UN Headquarters;
perhaps very relevantly, you led UNSCOM inspection teams in Iraq
in the 1990s, had military field operation experience and in the
development and implementation of the policies; and you were also
a career officer in the British Army. I think you heard the final
part of Dr Inch's careful evidence in respect of the role of weapons
inspectors. Can you set out what your role was in the old UNSCOM
and to what extent that was changed with the UNMOVIC.
Mr Taylor: It is a very interesting
question. I was a chief inspector mainly employed for investigations
into biological weapons and, for each of my missions, the detailed
mission was given to me by the Executive Chairman and, for most
of my time, that was Ambassador Rolf Ekeus who was in charge at
that time. The missions were cleared in detail with him, for they
varied in type. Some would be of the surprise inspection variety,
some may be more routine in background investigation and others
were destruction missions. I was involved in the destruction of
the main biological weapons agent production site at al-Hakam.
Q285 Chairman: I recall that the
Foreign Secretary said that certainly your successors, UNMOVIC,
were not meant to be detectives but were
Mr Taylor: No, it is not different.
Inspections will not make any progress without some co-operation
from the Iraqi sidethis was as true in 1990 as it was in
2002-03so the onus was on Iraq to show and tell and not
for the inspectors, to use Dr Blix's words, to play catch as catch
can, but that is what we were doing for most of the 1990s, which
is why it took four-and-a-half years of dedicated forensic investigation
to find the evidence which forced the Iraqis to admit that they
had a biological weapons programme. In other words, this was what
is now called the "smoking gun".
Q286 Chairman: You were actually
ready to sign off Iraq in respect of its biological weapons programme
until there was this major defection.
Mr Taylor: That is not quite true.
That is fundamentally untrue. Certainly after a number of years
and a lot of effort by a lot of people of which I was just one,
there was some wilting and thinking that perhaps we were not going
to find anything. We were urged to keep going and, in March 1995,
we had a breakthrough in that Iraq failed to account for 40 tonnes
of growth media, which we knew they had imported. We knew the
companies that had sent it to them, we had the transit documents
and everything, so they could not deny that, in one year, they
had imported 40 tonnes of growth media. This was far, far in excess,
many, many times what Iraq would need for legitimate purposes.
Q287 Chairman: Let me provide a platform
for Mr Hamilton. Can you comment generally from your experience
during the 1990s on the degree of co-operation UNMOVIC received
from the regime.
Mr Taylor: UNSCOM in the 1990s.
It was very familiar to that which UNMOVIC received in 2002-03.
Generally, on my inspections we were allowed access. There were
some difficulties sometimes, but they were usually overcome through
negotiations. So, generally speaking at least on my part, there
were no limitations on the access; I could go more or less where
I wanted. Of course, they had a comprehensive concealment plan.
They also were monitoring our communications and also they had
penetrated UNSCOM from New York right the way through to Baghdad.
So, we had this challenge that we had to face. We knew this and
so we had to try to deal with this situation and we had to be
very creative about how we went about our inspections, in order
of course to achieve surprise.
Q288 Chairman: Were there allegations
that UNMOVIC had been similarly compromised?
Mr Taylor: I have no hard evidence
that that was the case, but the Iraqis have a very good intelligence
and security service and it would not surprise me that they would
try, but I have no evidence that they tried this.
Q289 Chairman: We have heard that
one of the reasons why there was a reluctance initially to provide
intelligence was the fear about the compromising of sources and
the leakability of UNMOVIC.
Mr Taylor: I think that is a reasonable
fear; I think it has substance to it; and the experience of the
1990s showed that very graphically indeed. I think that governments,
when handing over sensitive information and wanting to protect
their sources, would have to take that into account. I think it
would be very imprudent to just simply hand over information;
it would have to be sanitised in some way. I have to say that
I have not seen any evidence.
Q290 Mr Hamilton: Mr Taylor, in your
opinion, what significance do you think the Iraqi regime and Saddam
Hussein himself of course attach to the development and retention
of weapons of mass destruction during the 1990s after UNSCOM left
Iraq in 1998 and immediately prior to the war and invasion in
March of this year?
Mr Taylor: There was certainly
no evidence that they had given up these types of weapons as a
strategic priority. I think that central for Saddam Hussein was
a nuclear programme. High importance was also given to the biological
and chemical weapons. Throughout the 1990s, they tried everything
that you could conceive of to hide as much as they could and to
give away as little as possible. Once the co-operation began to
fade away in 1997, by 1998 inspections were not achieving very
much at all and I am sure you will recall that the western military
efforts were focused on the Balkans at that stage, so Saddam Hussein
and the regime felt that they were not going to be threatened
by substantial use of force, hence the co-operation faded away.
So, they would retain their remaining capabilities. They had an
objective of getting the inspectors out of the country. They were
trying all sorts of means to do that. One can only conclude that
one of the reasons for that was to retain their capabilities and,
free of inspectors, it would be unwise to assume that they would
stop doing what they were trying to do during the 1990s. We have
to recall that, even when inspectors were there, they were, for
example, caught importing missile parts. I had the galling experience
of going to al-Hakam while they were continuing to build their
biological weapons facilities before we had actually proved that
this was the case. So, I think that any senior government policy
maker would have to take this experience into account when making
judgments about what happened between 1998 and 2002 and taking
account of the Iraqi behaviour from the time the inspectors returned
until March of this year.
Q291 Mr Hamilton: Presumably then,
from what you say, you do not think that the regime ever came
anywhere near close to deciding strategically to disarm itself
of weapons of mass destruction. There was constantly the determination
to develop those weapons whether biological, chemical or nuclear.
Mr Taylor: Yes, I believe that
to be the case and I think you will recall that, in Dr Blix's
reports, he repeatedly said time after time, I think in all his
Security Council reports, his disappointment that they had not
realised what was required of them. I think that of course they
realised what was required of them but they were not prepared
to do it, so they were trying to retain just as much as they could
and only give away the minimum . . . I think that the pattern
throughout from 1991 to 2003 was only to hand over information
if the inspectors already knew it and that was true between 2002-03.
Q292 Mr Hamilton: Was therefore the
last round of inspections from November 2002 until the conflict
started doomed to failure from the start?
Mr Taylor: Not necessarily. Their
chances of success were low, I have to say. It would require a
strategic decision by Saddam Hussein himself. On 7 December when
they presented their so-called full, final and complete declaration,
this was the last chance for immediate compliance and I registered
with great disappointment that that declaration was well short
and my personal view was that, given the pattern of behaviour,
inspections were very unlikely to succeed.
Q293 Mr Hamilton: In your opinion,
Mr Taylor, was the only way left to disarm Iraq of its weapons
of mass destruction, assuming that they did exist and you have
more experience than most in that, through conflict of the type
we saw in March?
Mr Taylor: I would not go as far
as that. I think that if the Security Council had been fully united,
15 to zero, on threatening serious consequences, there was just
a chance because one of the regime's paramount requirements was
regime survival. In the end, Saddam made his third big strategic
mistake which resulted in his overthrow, the first one being the
invasion of Iran, the second one being the invasion of Kuwait
and you cannot do that three times. His strategic mistake was
not declaring something extra in that full, final and complete
declaration in December. If the Security Council held together
in that final month if you like, there was just a possibility
that, within the regime itself amongst the hierarchy, they might
have seen a chance of survival by giving up at least a major portion
of their weapons of mass destruction capability. So, I would not
say that it was absolutely certain but I could sense that the
use of force was more likely than not.
Q294 Mr Olner: From what you have
just said, if the French position had been adopted and they had
given the weapons inspectors forever and a day to find things,
they would never have been found.
Mr Taylor: I think it very unlikely
unless the Iraqis made a mistake and they were not likely to because
they learned from their mistakes in the 1990s. I think that the
inspectors in 2002-03 had a more difficult job because they [the
Iraqis] learned from their mistakes. Like, for example, producing
forged documents which they did to me, but we soon detected those,
so they did not do that again. I doubt very much whether they
would have. It [the UNMOVIC inspection process] would have taken
Q295 Mr Maples: As a result of something
you said to my colleague Mr Hamiltonit is the same point
in a wayI just want to make sure that I understood you
correctly. UNMOVIC were never going to succeed without some level
of Iraqi co-operation.
Mr Taylor: Yes, that is correct.
The requirement was for the Iraqis to co-operate fully, absolutely
fully. They could probably make some progress if there was more
than minimal co-operation, but all there was was minimal co-operation.
Q296 Mr Maples: External intelligence
from whatever British and American intelligence sources were prepared
to give them and their own efforts on the ground would not have
resulted in discovering Iraq's weapons of mass destruction without
some level of co-operation from the Iraqis.
Mr Taylor: That is correct.
Q297 Sir John Stanley: From your
very extensive background as a chief inspector, when you went
through the British Government's assessment paper Iraq's Weapons
of Mass Destruction, did it basically ring accurate to you
or did you at a particular point feel there was anything that
might be exaggerated or overplayed?
Mr Taylor: In its main substance,
it seemed to me to be very accurate. Of course, I was not party
to intelligence information myself, so I was judging it from open
sources and from what I knew and from what I could judge. I suppose
it is fair to say that I am an insider in many ways and, having
studied the information in detail, I think that in main substance,
the UK Government's dossier was correct. On certain details of
certain aspects of particular weapons, I really cannot judge because
I can only assume that this came from very specific intelligence
that I did not have access to, so I cannot really form too much
of an opinion, I can only speculate about certain aspects.
Q298 Sir John Stanley: From that
standpoint, are you, again with the huge background you have of
trying to get access to the key people and so on in Iraq, given
the fact that the war has now ended and given the fact that presumably
we had identified previously who were the key people in the WMD
programmewe have access to them and we have had access
to other people within the government including a lot of the top
people whom we have now picked upare you surprised that
we have not so far managed to unearth anything of any significance?
Mr Taylor: I am disappointed but,
in a sense, not surprised because most of the people who have
come into the hands of the coalition, either voluntarily or otherwise,
were people like General al Saadi and Dr Rehab Taha and so on
who never really gave us any new information at all and I do not
know what interrogation is going on at the moment and what the
results of those interrogations are, but it would not surprise
me that they are not at the point of telling the coalition any
details. Most of the information that was valuable during the
1990s came from mid-level and below people in the organisation
who were either perhaps wrong-footed in some way or simply honestly
answered the questions. I do not believe that a lot of progress
will be made until the Iraq Survey Group, which has of course
only just started its work and you have to remember that, up until
now, we have had the military exploitation teams, some 200 people
with very basic equipment who do not have the knowledge and depth
of the programmes and the people they are talking to and so on,
so only now is the Iraq Survey Group starting and my hope is that
if the security situation can improve, that, if we do get the
information in the end, it will come from the more junior members
involved in the programmes, the lab technicians, store-men even
and military people from the special security organisation who
are responsible for protecting particularly filled munitions that
might be ready for use, the inner core of the regime who are very
hard to get at. Unless there is a big change of heart by some
of the more senior members who are already in coalition hands
and I do not know what bargaining is going on in that regard.
There is the fear of prosecution as well, particularly by more
junior members. They are worried that if they say, "I have
been involved in biological weapons programmes" or something
like that, they might be prosecuted. There are all sorts of complicated
factors involved and maybe they worry about their families. If
they do come into the coalition and do give information, then
there are still elements out there that might make their lives
difficult and their families' lives difficult. It is a very challenging
situation and I think that it will take a little while.
Q299 Mr Chidgey: Returning to the
September dossier, what is your view of the assessment that Iraq
has useable chemical and biological weapons capability in breach
of UNSCR 687 which includes recent production of chemical and
Mr Taylor: From all the information
available, I think it would be very surprising if they did not
have operational biological and chemical weapons, very surprising
indeed. They certainly had all the capability to do that. They
never satisfactorily accounted for all the munitions, filled and
unfilled, and they never satisfactorily accounted for all the
material by a long way. We are not talking about marginal differences,
we are talking about hundreds of kilograms, we are talking about
hundreds of munitions, that is things like 155 mm artillery rounds
and 122 mm rockets, air delivered bombs. It would be extraordinary
if there were not filled weapons somewhere. How many is the challenge.
For a number of technical reasons, they held a large number of
unfilled munitions, chemical ones for example, and kept a limited
number ready filled. This would be for storage reasons, for security
reasons and for a number of other factors.
5 Ninth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee,
Session 2002-03, The Decision to go to War in Iraq, HC
813-II, Ev 3.ascertaining whether or not there was the degree
of co-operation from the regime demanded by UN Security Council
Resolution 1441; is that different from your role then? Back