Examination of Witness (Questions 320-337)|
18 JUNE 2003
Q320 Andrew Mackinlay: And the carrot/stick
of immunity or immunity from prosecution, that is the carrot and
stick, was at the disposal of UNMOVIC.
Mr Taylor: That is correct. So,
I do not think it is practical at the moment.
Q321 Andrew Mackinlay: You mentioned
VX and I know I should understand the gravity of it but you did
flag that up. He was developing VX in the past. Do we know that
he definitely did abandon that? Can you explain to a layman the
gravity of VX as it were because you said that this was the highest
. . .
Mr Taylor: It is a persistent
nerve agent and, if it is properly produced, it is the most lethal
nerve agent. It is delivered in liquid form, so it is persistent
depending on the weather. In summer, it does not last as long,
whereas Tabun and Sarin disperses very rapidly and it is much
more concentrated. You need a smaller amount to achieve the same
effect. In terms of the production of VX, of course Iraq denied
they were producing it but UNSCOM was of the opinion that they
did produce weaponised VX and eventually UNMOVIC in their deliberations,
and Dr Blix came to the same conclusion, believed they had done
that. The Iraqis did have technical problems with the stability
of the agent, and as far as I can tell, but of course we do not
know what went on after 1998, there were some views that they
did overcome the stability problems, others that they did not.
I think they had a storage problem. I do not think the quantities
were that large. Again, they had the capability, they had the
people with experience, this was the kind of programme that they
would restart given the opportunity when the pressure was off.
Sir John Stanley: I have just got one
remaining question on the 45 minutes and then I would like to
turn to uranium, if I may. On the 45 minutes, and this, I fear,
will upset Mr Pope's radiant day, if I refer to the Today
Mr Pope: That will always upset my radiant
Q322 Sir John Stanley: On the Today
programme of 29 May, Mr Humphreys asked the Armed Forces Minister,
Mr Ingram, this question: "Why was Tony Blair in a position
back last year, last September, to say that these weapons could
be activated within 45 minutes?", to which Mr Ingram replied:
"Well, that was said on the basis of a security source information,
single sourced, it was not corroborated". The Armed Forces
Minister, by virtue of that reply, suggested that the 45 minutes
claim might not be very well substantiated because it was based
on a single source and that was how he sought to deflect it. I
would just like to ask you, from your extensive intelligence background,
would you regard it as being certainly less than satisfactory
to have a major point like this single sourced and, therefore,
Mr Taylor: My background is more
as a user of intelligence as policy for military operations. I
am more of a user. I find it hard to comment without knowing the
quality of the report and who delivered it. In the past there
has been information that certainly I have knowledge of which
has come from a single source which has proved to be correct.
You cannot always find that corroborating evidence. Of course,
as a user of intelligence one would always ask for that and try
to get it. I really cannot comment on the specifics of this case
without knowing where it came from. Usually, as a user of intelligence
you do not know, it just gets delivered to your desk or through
your communications, you do not actually know the source, so you
have to rely on the intelligence service giving you an idea that
it is good quality, medium quality or whatever.
Q323 Sir John Stanley: Can I just
now turn to uranium supplies. The Prime Minister in his speech
to the House on 24 September last year, column four, said: "We
know that Saddam has been trying to buy significant quantities
of uranium from Africa, although we do not know whether he has
been successful". As we know, President Bush paid the British
Prime Minister a great compliment by specifically referring to
this in his State of the Union address on 28 January of this year
when President Bush said: "The British Government has learned
that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of
uranium from Africa". Subsequently, of course, we know that
Dr Mohamed El-Baradei, Head of the International Atomic Energy
Agency, said that the claim about a uranium deal in Niger was
based on forged documents. Can I just ask you, in your experience
in Iraq, given the fact that there were undoubtedly people, possibly
those inside Iraq but certainly people outside Iraq, who were
very, very keen that military intervention should take place in
order that the Saddam Hussein regime should be removed, did you
come across any other examples of forged intelligence being deliberately
put in the way of the intelligence services, the British and the
American intelligence services, in order to serve particular political
Mr Taylor: I am not aware of anything
of that kind.
Q324 Sir John Stanley: You are not,
right. Have you got any comments about the issue of whether or
not Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire uranium from Africa?
Mr Taylor: I am not aware of any
specific information indicating that was the case. I know what
you have read out but that is all I know, I am afraid I cannot
add to that.
Q325 Chairman: What other sources
could the relevant fissile material be obtained from?
Mr Taylor: There is a wide range
of countries. It is well known that the former Soviet Union states,
that is Russia itself and the other now independent states, are
areas of concern and that is why a lot of effort has been put
in by the United States, through its Co-operative Threat Reduction
programme, and by the European Union and Japan helping with the
International Science and Technology Centres to try to do something
about trying to stem the possible flow of radioactive material
from that area. That is where the biggest single source of material
lies, in Russia. A lot of effort has been made to try and limit
that. One could go to a number of countries around the world where
there might be sources. Relevant to this particular case, I do
not have any specific information.
Q326 Andrew Mackinlay: So I fully
understand it, your evidence earlier was that your anxiety is
all the components over a decade could have been procured and/or
created and probably attention not drawn to them and they could
be dispersed for relatively swift assembly.
Mr Taylor: Yes.
Q327 Andrew Mackinlay: Then you only
need the final ingredient, the material itself, and in the marketplace
around the world, alas, that would be available. It only has to
be available once anyway, does it not?
Mr Taylor: Yes.
Q328 Andrew Mackinlay: A relatively
small amount for one device.
Mr Taylor: I would not pretend
that it would be easy to get that kind of weapons grade material,
it is difficult, but the apparatus that Iraq had and the amount
of money in the hands of the regime certainly made it something
that those responsible for security would have to worry about.
What I cannot offer you is any specific evidence of that, or where
it might be obtained.
Q329 Andrew Mackinlay: The thrust
of the former Foreign Secretary's evidence yesterday was that
containment was working. I do not want to put words into your
mouth, but it seems to me the thrust of what you are saying is
that you would question that, would you not, because containment
would not give the security or satisfaction to you or I to know
that this guy had not got the capacity once the pressure was off
Mr Taylor: We certainly could
not be 100% sure it was working. Given the catastrophic possibilities
of getting that wrong, I think you have to err on the side of
caution. It is very important to do that in this particular case.
Chairman: Two final questions, if I may.
The first one is on concealment. You said you were disappointed
but not surprised that we have found nothing as yet. On the one
side, clearly there have been many months in which Saddam Hussein
has had the opportunity to conceal, and some who argue the possibility
of trains taking the material elsewhere in Iraq or outside the
country, some talk about many hundreds of miles of underground
tunnels, learning techniques from the Yugoslavs and so on, that
is agreed, but surelyI think Sir John made this pointwith
those in custody, no longer can there be the cement of loyalty
to the regime, there must be many inducements offeredI
think Clare Short said the farm in Texas or whatever. Would you
not be surprised if one of the people in custody were not prepared
to point out where this stuff is?
Q330 Andrew Mackinlay: Not publicly.
Mr Taylor: I suppose unless you
have been in the same room with them it is hard to imagine, but
I am not surprised they have not done that.
Q331 Andrew Mackinlay: If you arrested
Geoff Hoon today or whoever, he or she would not necessarily be
able to know all that is in their jurisdiction. It seems to me
at the government level, whether it is a dictatorship or democracy,
by the nature of things it is down, is it not?
Mr Taylor: May I just make a point?
Q332 Andrew Mackinlay: I was not
trying to be flippant, I meant it as a genuine question. These
guys would not necessarily know the exact details, locations,
Mr Taylor: If I could make two
comments. One, the situation is nowhere near secure yet, the whereabouts
of Saddam Hussein is not known. The nature of the regime was absolutely
extraordinary and the threat that the regime internally and certain
elements still exercise over people is extraordinary. This is
one of the difficulties. Also, Sir, you are absolutely right,
very few people have an overview of everything. Even the scientists
at the senior level would certainly not know where the weapons
were. They would know about research and development, they would
know about possibly some production, they would know names of
certain people, but the Special Security Organisation which had
the responsibility and some elements of the Special Republican
Guard were the people that really knew. These were the hardest
core part of the regime and that is really where I think those
coalition members doing the investigation need to get to. The
Iraq Survey Group really has not begun its work yet.
Q333 Chairman: This is the final
point and I am not asking you not to be an analyst, but a psychiatrist.
Here we have after November 8 of last year a resolution giving
Saddam Hussein a final opportunity, with serious consequences
if he did not co-operate. If he had destroyed those weapons of
mass destruction, and he had an army building up on his doorstep,
he had all these pressures on him, we know or at least we have
heard that they are meticulous bookkeepers, so can you give any
sort of explanation as to why under those circumstances he still
prevaricated and still did not come clean?
Mr Taylor: I would not have expected
him to come clean if it was to match earlier behaviour, but what
I would have expected, which surprised me, was that he did not
decide to deliver up something new, something substantively new,
not to give up the whole programme. That might have been enough
and would have made things very difficult.
Q334 Chairman: When Dr Blix was forced
into a corner on this, I think, on the Today programme,
he was trying to explain Saddam's failure by the possibility that
pride was one explanation which he sought to give and the other
was the prestige of the regime which would be damaged in the region.
How plausible do you think that Blix explanation was?
Mr Taylor: That is a very hard
one to answer. I think they are obviously factors you had to think
about, but my personal view is that this was about regime survival
and making strategic mistakes. As I said earlier, I believe this
was Saddam Hussein's third strategic mistake in the brinkmanship
that he played. For him, the weapons of mass destruction were
of a very high order of importance and given the divisions in
the Security Council, which were obvious at that stage, he felt
he could play this game for much longer, but it still surprised
me that he just did not deliver up something more, though I do
not think he could be expected to deliver up all of his weapons
at once in that way.
Q335 Chairman: Mr Taylor, there is
the final question: are there any matters which you think we have
failed to cover now or any points you would like to leave with
Mr Taylor: Well, I suppose I am
repeating something I have already said, but I think it is important
that the Committee thinks about what was on offer as an alternative,
and I am sure you are doing this, so forgive me for perhaps pointing
out the obvious. Given that the Government was faced with having
to go ahead with military action, whereas the alternative was
that one could only see more inspections, I think if you were
to do a rigorous risk analysis, a really rigorous one, looking
ahead two years, and there is always a challenge about this term
about `imminent threat', but we are in a kind of new environment
with weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons,
and if you look at other weapons programmes, like India, Pakistan,
I am not saying they are anything like Iraq, do not misunderstand
me, but rolling back those programmes is extraordinarily difficult,
so in that sense it is imminent that something had to be done
about Iraq's weapons programmes. Inspectors were only there because
there were large numbers of troops in the region. There would
have been no inspectors in Iraq in 2002 and 2003 had it not been
for very large numbers of troops. I think the regime was gambling
that they would not be able to keep them there for a long period
and eventually they might survive to live another day and continue
on and revive their programmes. I think I would ask the Committee
that they do a risk assessment that takes account of these things.
Q336 Chairman: On that risk assessment,
looking at the key dossier of September 24 of last year, from
your background, do you see anything which struck you as being
Mr Taylor: Excluding the detailed
intelligence assessments, and the 45 minutes is one and so on,
I find it hard to make a judgment on that, but the main thrust
of the dossier seemed to me to be the best course, the best recommendation
that the Government could make to Parliament and to the public
about the state of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes,
and not forgetting of course the other issues associated with
the UN Security Resolution in Iraq, so I think the main substance
of the dossier was, in essence, a good judgment based on the evidence
Q337 Chairman: Thank you. You have
been extraordinarily helpful to the Committee members.
Mr Taylor: Thank you.