Examination of Witness (Questions 300-319)|
18 JUNE 2003
Q300 Mr Chidgey: So you do therefore
believe that the discovery of the empty 122 mm munitions which
have been found are the tip of the iceberg?
Mr Taylor: I believe so. There
is a very large number unaccounted for which UNSCOM and UNMOVIC
both agree. This is the problem with Iraq. They never answered
the questions and it is not good enough to say, "We don't
have any weapons of mass destruction" without accounting
for hundreds of munitions which are things that are visible in
large numbers and could be found if they say they were buried
somewhere or were dismantled somewhere, there should be traces.
Of course, with UNMOVIC with, at its height, only about 150 people
and not all of them working on chemical weapons you have to remember,
so we have a very tiny number of people doing this, so unless
the Iraqis took them there and said, "Here it is", they
were not going to find it.
Q301 Mr Chidgey: How straightforward
is it in your view to conceal elements of chemical and biological
weapons programmes within civil industrial facilities? Is it relatively
easy, in your experience, to convert from clandestine CBW work
to legitimate civilian work and then back again?
Mr Taylor: Yes. I would not say
that it is easy, they have to know what they are doing, and the
Iraqis certainly had some very good process engineers, chemical
and biological, who really did know what they were doing. The
main production site for biological agents, Anthrax and Botulinum
which they turned into toxin, was actually a combined single-cell
protein plant which made additives for animal food and they did
that, and also a bio-pesticide plant, both in the same location,
al-Hakam, but we had monitored the flow of materials into that
place and it did not match up with what they said they were doing.
They could run a production run, clean it out and then a production
run of weapons material. They may even bring in different staff
to actually run the production lines. That was a regular feature.
They also did it at al-Dawrah which was a foot and mouth vaccine
plant, which was again one of their main production sites for
biological weapons agents. What they would do there was move out
the regular staff doing the vaccine production and bring in a
staff to run a production line for two or three days and then
go back to normal again. These were classic techniques by the
Iraqis and with their chemical productionI was talking
then about biologicalthey dispersed it. UNSCOM found a
document where they had dispersed the capabilities amongst civil
chemical plants so that they could produce the required chemicals'
precursors to make chemical weapons in a number of different places.
This is not speculation; this is hard evidence. We have the documents.
All of those things I have said are hard evidence.
Q302 Sir John Stanley: Just continuing
on the concealment issues, we have heard evidence from Dr Inch
and indeed from yourself about the length of time residues of
BW and possibly CW are likely to be around once production has
taken place. We have heard evidence about the difficulty of moving
some of this stuff around. I assume that applies particularly
to BW. We have the evidence of the amount of volume of this that
has been supposedly unaccounted for. The quotation I gave from
what the Prime Minister said on 18 March: 6,500 chemical munitions,
that is substantial volume; mustard gas, somewhere between 80
tonnes and 100 tonnes, suggesting again very large volumes. Against
these issues like difficulty of moving, the longevity of the residues,
the tonnage volumes and the fact that we now have access to a
number of people and obviously a lot of the country, it does seem
certainly mysterious to me that we have so far made so little
progress in uncovering this. Is it a matter of surprise to you?
Mr Taylor: It is a matter of disappointment
but perhaps I am not quite so surprised. I would distinguish between
biological and chemical. The biological agent production is easier
to hide, smaller facilities are needed and to clean up afterwards
and so on. I am not one who believes that the residue is a problem
in that regard. On the chemical side, if you have a highly dispersed
and many different facilities for production of chemicals and
where the Iraqis were probably restricted in having the number
of field chemical weapons available for operational use. I am
sure that was somewhat restricted. They had a record of putting
munitions in hides in locations which you would not expect. If
I were to give an example, they had, as a result of our breakthrough
in 1995 in forcing the Iraqis to admit that they had a biological
weapons programme and, after the defection of General Hussein
Kamel al-Hassan, the Iraqis gave us a little bit more. They thought
that the General was going to tell us more, so they gave us a
bit more. Then they reported that they had deployed, in 1991,
four sites with operational biological weapons and the command
and control system to go with those. Three of those sites were
just out in the desert, in the countrysideholes in the
ground camouflaged and covered with tarpaulins. They were not
meant to be left there for a very long time. This is the kind
of pattern that I would expect. The stocks being moved around.
The weapons of mass destruction stocks were guarded by the Special
Security Organisation and probably for use by the Special Republican
Guard where a very limited number of people would know where they
are and where they would be hidden and they would be constantly
and regularly moved as far as they could do in a certain erratic
pattern. So, there is plenty of experience on the Iraqi side of
having these flexible, mobile deployments both for operational
weapons and for the facilities. I have noted it looking at the
other programmes too, not just the Iraqi one. The old Soviet programme,
for example, had production facilities in box cars which they
moved around on the railway in order to make sure that they were
not vulnerable and they managed to develop a system there. So,
it is a feature where you have a regime that has run a clandestine
programme and protected it very carefully, not only of course
from the coalition oversight and the coalition operations, but
they hid it from their own people and that is why it is so deeply
recessed and so deeply hidden. That is another feature with the
old Soviet programme. I remember a deputy foreign minister, of
then what became Russia, saying that it was the best-kept secret
in the old Soviet Union. It was so deeply hidden using dual-use
facilities and nobody really knew where it was except for a very
small number of people. The Iraqis were well capable of doing
something like that given the very nature of the regime.
Q303 Sir John Stanley: Just one other
important issue and this really goes back to your time as a professional
soldier. If as a professional soldier you were given this sentence,
which is the sentence in the Government assessment, I would like
to understand how you would construe that as to what it actually
meant. The assessment is and I quote, "Intelligence indicates
that the Iraqi military are able to deploy chemical or biological
weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so." Can I ask
you as a military man, how would you understand that sentence
in terms of the capability facing you?
Mr Taylor: I would read itand
of course I do not know where the intelligence came from and I
do not know about its accuracythat that would have been
based on the Iraqis having ready-filled biological and chemical
weapons. The fact that they would have filled munitions would
not surprise me. Unlike conventional munitions which would be
ready to fire immediately, these munitions . . . If I think back
on the way in which we used to handle our nuclear weapons because
I was actually involved in one of the units that guarded the nuclear
weapons and moved them out to their missile batteries and we had
a very short time in which to do that. So, from that firsthand
historical experience, I would imagine that there were special
controls for these chemical weapons and they were not placed immediately
with the artillery batteries, with the 120mm multi-barrel rocket
launchers or the artillery or with the air force base, so somebody
had to do some kind of handover to get them into the hands of
the people who were actually going to fire the munitions. I am
entirely speculating but that is how I would account for the 45
minutes. Otherwise, if it was conventional ammunition, the ammunition
would be ready with the batteries.
Q304 Sir John Stanley: Does that
Iraqi military are able to deploy chemical or biological weapons
within 45 minutes of an order to do so imply to you that the stocks
of those munitions were within 45 minutes' drive of the artillery
tubes or does it imply to you that the stocks might be quite a
substantial distance away but that, from 45 minutes of an order
being given, those stocks would be rolling out of wherever those
stocks were held?
Mr Taylor: I think it is a normal
practice for countries that have weapons of this type, special
weapons, that there would be deep storage. When it came to possibly
being used in a conflict, they would be moved to hides and temporary
locations, probably being moved around, taking account of the
deployment of the artillery. So, both would be moving and, so
at a certain point through special instructions, then there would
be a convergence and the two would come together and be useable.
I would find that sort of timing not to be unusual. I would think
it probably could be credible. I am not commenting on the quality
of the intelligence.
Q305 Sir John Stanley: It is really
interpretation because obviously this was what was given to the
public. Are you saying that it does not necessarily imply that
the stocks were going to be held within 45 minutes of the artillery
tubes but that it would imply that the stocks were held some distance
away but, from the moment an order was given, the stocks would
be rolling out from wherever they were being held?
Mr Taylor: Yes and married together.
I imagine that the term "ready to deploy" does not necessarily
mean "ready to fire". I imagine that "ready to
deploy" means that the ammunition is married to the delivery
Q306 Sir John Stanley: Married to
it within 45 minutes?
Mr Taylor: I imagine that is what
Q307 Mr Pope: The allegations that
the Committee has heard against the Prime Minister in particular
and against the Government in general are of the gravest nature.
The allegation is that the Prime Minister has misled Parliament
about the reason for going to war, that Iraq did not have chemical
or biological weapons, that it was not an imminent threat and
that the Government exaggerated the nature of the threat in order
to provoke the conflict. Those are essentially the allegations
that we heard yesterday. Obviously I cannot ask you to defend
every word that has ever been uttered by a government minister
but, in general terms, do you think that the Prime Minister has
misled Parliament and the country over the nature of the threat
that Iraq posed?
Mr Taylor: I have difficulty in
answering the question completely because I did not have access
to the intelligence, so I did not see the intelligence and so
I cannot comment on that. I think, as you can probably tell from
my earlier remarks, that there was substantial, I would say overwhelming,
evidence, a mountain of evidence, that Iraq had research, development
and production facilities and useable weapons and almost certainly
operational biological and chemical weapons. If I were sitting
in a position in early March 2003, that would be a conclusion
and I think I would be irresponsible if I came to some other conclusion.
By that, I do not mean that that automatically means armed conflict.
I think that then the political judgment has to be made about
that fact. I think it is interesting that all 15 members of the
Security Council did not disagree that Iraq was hiding its weapons
programmes. There was no disagreement about that. They did not
disagree that Iraq was in breach of 1441. These were two issues
on which there was agreement. There was disagreement about what
you did about those facts. The general thrustand I cannot
comment on the quality of intelligence because I did not see itof
the Government's position alerting Parliament and the public to
the dangers, the very real dangers, of the chemical and biological
weapons and their delivery means and, in my personal view, the
nuclear capabilities as well and one must not lose sight of that
because my personal view is they are the most dangerous and most
important that we should be worrying about, that if Iraq did not
comply, it required serious consequences. Anything else would
leave the region and the wider world in a more dangerous situation.
I cannot think of any other way of putting it. However, on the
45 minutes and these other detailed questions, I cannot comment.
Q308 Mr Pope: There seems to be a
difference between possessing a weapon and organising a programme
to produce the weaponry and that Iraq appears to have been non-compliant
in both areas. It not only had chemical and biological weapons
but it also had programmes which it concealed from UNSCOM in the
time that you were involved in it. Do you think it is a reasonable
conclusion for the United Nations, or indeed individuals, to draw
the worst conclusions from the fact that they concealed the programmes
of manufacturing these weapons?
Mr Taylor: The catastrophic results
that can arise from the use of these weapons, particularly in
relation to biological and nuclear weapons, requires urgent and
effective action. The chemical weapons are hideous and dangerous
and we must not forget all along that the Iraqis used these weapons.
This is a country that used these weapons on its own people of
course and against Iran and, while we were inspecting, the Iraqi
senior officers were quite clear that they saw great value in
these weapons. Whatever others may think and I hear some voices
say, "Well, chemical weapons are not so serious" and
so on, that was not the view of the Iraqi military hierarchy.
They thought they were very important and absolutely vital to
their survival and overcoming, particularly in relation to Iran
who they saw as a potential adversary, being outnumbered by using
this particular weapon to make up the difference. Do not forget
that they did developthere was debate about how far they
wentVX which is the most lethal of chemical agents in any
known arsenal anywhere in the world. Only the Russians and the
Americans who are now dismantling their arsenals had this particular
agent. So, they were not just doing the basic things with mustard
agent and other things, they were going for leading-edge chemical
weapons because they assigned high value to them.
Q309 Mr Pope: This is really helpful
information. In the memorandum which you supplied to the Committee,
you talked about the information attack on UN communications "at
all points from our operations from New York to Baghdad."
I wonder if you could elaborate on that. I was intrigued by that
comment and I was not entirely clear as to what it meant.
Mr Taylor: I can only speak generally
and I certainly cannot mention individual names and things like
that, but I will just give you the range of the type of activities.
It ranged from suborning people to steal documents from UN headquarters
in New York and that would be true right through to Baghdad, having
bugs obviously in hotel rooms where inspectors were staying and
it also was found that there were listening devices inside the
UNSCOM headquarters in Baghdad itself. They were monitoring our
communicationswe were open with thosebut they were
also monitoring the secure fax machines from which we sent back
our assessments and our situation reports and we discovered that
they were able to read those. We could only be secure with the
use of, for example, laptop computers because they could read
the communications sent on the linked desktop computers from the
cables and so on if they had the right devices. Extraordinary
measures would have to be undertaken if we were ever to achieve
a surprise inspection. The UN and other international agencies
will always make their best efforts to avoid these kind of things,
but these are not national governments. They do not have classified
information; they have protected information but not classified
information in the way that one would have in a national government,
in a ministry of defence, a foreign office or something like that.
UNMOVIC, the most recent inspection agency, was obviously aware
of the history, so I think they did take stronger precautions,
but it is still a challenge when you up against the sophisticated
and very determined information attack which I am sure continued,
but it was very, very challenging. We managed to get round it
in various ways, but I would rather not go into that.
Mr Pope: If I could just make a quick
comment. I think everybody in this room is an elected member voted
in favour of the conflict on 18 March.
Andrew Mackinlay: And would vote in the
same way again tonight if a vote were taken.
Mr Pope: I just think that this kind
of evidence is incredibly helpful. I personally feel better, having
heard this evidence, about what I did on 18 March.
Q310 Chairman: Mr Taylor, you have
made Mr Pope feel better today.
Mr Taylor: Chairman, that makes
me feel better too, but that was not my objective!
Chairman: See if you can make Mr Mackinlay
better as well!
Q311 Andrew Mackinlay: I notice that
the gallant members of the press are not present; I look forward
to the transcript which I certainly will use my best endeavours
to ensure is of some interest to the press. Also, your very helpful
memorandum and I will have to ask the clerk when it comes into
public domain. I too found that very useful. Can I take you back.
In relation to UNSCOM, you rightly pointed out the fact of the
number of inspectors who were on chemical and who were on biological.
In a sense, this is not new ground because Government ministers
have said, "Look at the scale of Iraq, the size of France"
and so on. They stated that point. I wonder if you could amplify
upon what you were saying. UNMOVIC is presumably not appreciatively
different. We do need to focus on the scale of these guys. They
are a large country, a large territorial area, and, if you break
them down into nuclear, biological and chemical, you are talking
a relatively handful of people, are you not? Can you just beef
up on that.
Mr Taylor: The effort has to be
targeted and the Iraqis have to co-operate. Those are the two
things that you have to remember. When I said UNMOVIC, remember
that they are doing the chemical, biological and the missiles,
and of course the International Atomic Energy Agency is doing
the nuclear side, so there are more inspectors, but not that many,
not a huge number.
Q312 Andrew Mackinlay: Anyway, I
think we are all agreed that nuclear is the relatively easier
part of the test.
Mr Taylor: I would disagree.
Q313 Andrew Mackinlay: Tell me why
you disagree then.
Mr Taylor: The easy part to find
or relatively easy part to find are the enrichment facilities
and they were found pretty quickly by the UN Special Commission.
Within a year, they had found them. What was never really uncovered
were the components of the weapon itself, that is to say the non-nuclear
bits if one might term it that way and I hope I am clear: the
electrical firing circuits, the timing devices, the marraging
steel, the lenses and all the bits except for the core in which
you put the fissile material. The Iraqis had many years of working
on these components. I think the opinion of the IAEA and others,
and UNSCOM is involved also in it in some ways, because the IAEA
are the experts in uranium enrichment and fissile material but
you need other people looking for weapon components. I think the
judgment was that they were within two years, in 1991, of having
an operational nuclear weapon. I was interested to see last December
that Lieutenant General al Saadi, who is now in Coalition hands,
actually confirmed that view; he said they were within two years
Q314 Andrew Mackinlay: He actually
Mr Taylor: He said it publicly;
I remember him saying that they were within two years in 1991.
Well, what went on in 1991 after that . . . To be fair to the
IAEA and, if you recall, I remember Dr Mohammed El-Baradei, the
Director General of the IAEA, in his last statement when summarising
the inspection effort said, "First of all, we had to reconnoitre
the sites and then we focused on whether or not the Iraqis had
restarted their uranium enrichment facilities" and that was
the last Security Council Meeting before military operations began,
so they had not actually looked for weapons components and we
never had a full understanding of that. That is what worries me
a great deal. I think you will find this thinking reflected in
the International Institute for Strategic Studies dossier which
they produced, which was slightly different from what the Government
Q315 Chairman: Is this the one in
September of last year?
Mr Taylor: Yes, this is the 9
September report. This dossier said that, if they managed to get
the fissile material from somewhere else, in other words not through
their own means of enrichment, they could have an operational
weapon in less than a year, maybe in a few months. That was always
something that worried those of us who thought about these issues.
We worried about it all the time during the 1990s and I can remember
thinking, at many meetings thinking and pondering over this when
I was actually in the position of a commissioner. It is a real
challenge to find that part of a nuclear programme. That is very
difficult to find.
Q316 Andrew Mackinlay: I have a few
more questions to ask in order that I understand this. In a sense
as a parallel, you were telling us about the artillery pieces
and the shells coming together in 45 minutes. It seems to me that
what you have described, in terms of the components for a nuclear
device, a lot of these could be over the decade manufactured in-house
or, instead of being imported, they could be done in a very stealthily
way because it is a long-term project and each individual component
can then be dispersed and, basically in a relatively short time
frame of a year, you can literally them together like Lego pieces,
as it were, and all you need is the final . . . Basically, to
a layman, that is what you are saying. It could be all be out
there dispersed in various locations, so it is not put together
but the potential is there.
Mr Taylor: That was from my personal
point of view my biggest fear if nothing effective was done. If
the only thing that was done was just more inspections and we
went on like that for many months, of course troops would have
to be withdrawn from the region, you could not keep them there,
so the pressure on the Iraqis would have reduced and inevitably,
as it did indeed in the 1990s and this is, I am sure, what the
regime was hoping for, and then they would have all the parts,
they would have all the people and then, in two years' time, we
could have found Iraq with an operational nuclear weapon. That
was my nightmare and, looking very carefully at all the information
available, looking at their behaviour throughout from 1991 to
2003, I think that the Government were faced with doing a risk
assessment of a very challenging kind. Only doing something that
would not actually address this in an effective way was probably
the most dangerous thing that one could do for the region in a
strategic sense. It would alter the whole strategic balance in
that region if that were allowed to happen. I know that there
is a lot of talk about imminent threats and one can play with
that, but I think that if Iraq were allowed to get to the point
of having an operational weapon, pulling back is terribly difficult
as we know from other cases.
Q317 Andrew Mackinlay: You heard
me ask the previous witnessI sort of bounced it off himthat
in fact the coalition forces or the survey group, although it
has only just gone in, could already have discovered stuff and,
from your experience, there is clearly some commonsense in not
necessarily revealing this at this stage because you are on a
detective exercise now whereas UNMOVIC and UNSCOM were not supposed
to be on a detective exercise. Lots of things have happened since
as it were and we are in pursuit of things, so you sensibly would
not reveal and say, "Here, we have it." Politicians
might want to do it because they are probably quite desperate
from the point of view of the hunger of the public and press to
be assuaged but, in terms of really pursing this, you would not
declare it yet, would you?
Mr Taylor: No and indeed that
did happen in the 1990s. When we first discovered what people
now call the "smoking gun", the hard evidence that would
convince the Security Council, all of them, 15 to zero, they have
this programme and here it is. We did not make it public and in
fact several months passed and then, on 1 July 1995, the Iraqis,
because they knew that the Security Council was about to pronounce,
admitted it. That took several months. I think that you have to
be very careful when you are interviewing somebody which might
lead you to somebody else which might lead you to somebody else.
You cannot go public with the rest of the material, so it could
Q318 Andrew Mackinlay: If you had
UNMOVIC in parallel with this, it would actually really screw
Mr Taylor: Of course, they are
set up to deal with an Iraqi Government that was meant to co-operate
with them. Now we have a different government in Iraq, effectively
it is the coalition, and it is a forensic and archaeological search,
if I might use that term rather loosely, and it is a very different
situation. They are not faced with a regime that is determined
to hide things but with a very different challenge in trying to
uncover the truth about these weapons programmes which depends
on the coalition forces being able to offer security to people
coming in and people will only talk if they feel secure. UNMOVIC
and the IAEA just cannot do that kind of thing at this point.
Maybe at some time later, there may be a role for international
organisations, particularly in long-term monitoring.
Q319 Chairman: Robin Cook, when we
asked him yesterday, left us with the key question: why is UNMOVIC
not going back? That is the most important matter. What answer
would you give to him?
Mr Taylor: I would say that UNMOVIC
is not structured to carry out this new mission, this fundamentally
new mission, with a coalition in charge, with having to use all
their intelligence resources and their interrogations of people
coming in, offering security to them. They are about to deploy
1,200 and I think it could be up to 1,500 people, ten times the
size of UNMOVIC, so it has to be led by the coalition and, with
all the security implications, I think it makes it very difficult
to include UNMOVIC as it is presently structured with the kind
of people they have at the moment, they probably need some different
kinds of people to do the missions.