Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 700-719)


19 JUNE 2003

  Q700  Mr Maples: When this was presented in the introduction it says, "This reports draw on a number of sources, including intelligence material". I do not actually have the quote with me, but when the Prime Minister introduced the document in Parliament he actually said something slightly stronger than that, but again, what we were led to believe was that this was based on intelligence material. Having read it, how much of it do you think is based on your article and there were two other articles, were there not, a Mr Boyne and a—

  Mr al-Marashi: Ken Gause, that is correct.

  Q701  Mr Maples: Among the three of you how much of this document do the three of you account for?

  Mr al-Marashi: I highlighted the similarities between my article and this dossier here. I found 19 paragraphs that were taken directly from my article. A section such as the Presidential Secretariat here was taken directly from Ken Gause's article, virtually unchanged. If I could estimate I would say that 90% of this intelligence dossier was taken from the three articles, by myself published in MERIA and the two articles in Jane's Intelligence Review, virtually unchanged.

  Q702  Mr Maples: We have been told by the British Foreign Secretary that no minister saw this document before it was published. We do not know whether that includes the Prime Minister or not, though he is a minister, but does that surprise you, that no minister would see a document like this before it was published?

  Mr al-Marashi: It would surprise me because I think a minister would have the experience to see some kind of inconsistency in the document or something a bit suspicious about it, so it does surprise me that a document that was eventually handed over to US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, that he would present to the UN—you would think that at least one minister would have seen this document.

  Q703  Mr Olner: You are an expert on Iraq and perhaps, if anything, what you ought to be really annoyed about is that it has suddenly been christened the "dodgy dossier" because it could well be that your document was very accurate and was a very good document and that is why it was used. On the broader aspects of Iraq, do you have any opinions at all on the quality of the intelligence of the US and British intelligence agencies on Iraq?

  Mr al-Marashi: The quality, no, because I have never had access to British or US intelligence on Iraq.

  Q704  Mr Olner: So you have got no views at all on that?

  Mr al-Marashi: No. All my research is done through open source materials. The advantage I had was that I had these captured Iraqi intelligence documents to examine but those are also open to the public domain, so I cannot really assess or evaluate US or British intelligence on Iraq for that matter.

  Q705  Mr Olner: How do you think the US gathers its intelligence on Iraq?

  Mr al-Marashi: Probably through a variety of sources, where there are signal intercepts. The reason I could say that signal intercepts were used for gathering intelligence is that, looking at the Iraqi intelligence documents, I know they were constantly aware of the Americans' eavesdropping equipment, so they were quite aware, the Iraqi side, that the US had the capability of eavesdropping on their communications, as well as informers, people within the Iraqi Government, as well as probably from the Iraqi opposition groups, based on those three sources, as far as I know.

  Q706  Mr Olner: Was there any linkage at any time between UNMOVIC and intelligence-gathering and what-have-you?

  Mr al-Marashi: Between UNMOVIC and intelligence gathering? I am not in a position to say.

  Q707  Mr Olner: There is no way you can speculate on it?

  Mr al-Marashi: It is highly doubtful that UNMOVIC had any connections with intelligence as far as I know, given the past repercussions of the alleged US connection between the intelligence community and UNSCOM in the past. Given the fact that that had such repercussions, I would be sceptical at least that the were collaborating, that is, US intelligence and UNMOVIC, this time around, as far as I know.

  Q708  Mr Pope: As an American of Iraqi origin, do you think, leaving aside the dossier that included your work, that the British and American Governments made a convincing case for the war?

  Mr al-Marashi: I think the emphasis was in the wrong place. I think without a doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein should have been removed, if not eliminated, in 1991. My regret was this over-emphasis on trying to implicate the Iraqi Government with the stocking of a weapons of mass destruction arsenal that could threaten the security of Europe, for example, as was argued in the September 2002 document. It was exaggerated and the repercussions of that in my opinion are that now US and UK forces are in Iraq, they are scouring for any traces of weapons of mass destruction when in my opinion they should be scouring Iraq for any evidence of mass graves. I think the emphasis is in the wrong place. The UK and the US are trying to find any members of the former Ba'ath regime and make deals with them if they can provide weapons of mass destruction when in fact many of them were criminals linked to the emergence of these mass graves, that they led to brutal human rights conditions in my native country. I think this whole emphasis, sowing this war as a war against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, was a bit misleading, and the fact that we have, I think, now forgotten the brutal nature of this regime and the fact that the mass graves that are showing up are not getting as much attention or are not causing outrage are because in this sense 10 Downing Street has pretty much put itself in the corner by arguing the case for war solely on the basis of weapons of mass destruction.

  Q709  Mr Pope: Which, of course, is one of the differences between the US Government's position and the British Government's. We almost entirely based our case on WMD. One of the aims of the Americans and the British forces occupying Iraq at the moment is to de-Ba'athify the party. One of the things that we all noticed about Iraq was how the Ba'ath Party had seemingly infiltrated almost every aspect of Iraqi life. It was all-pervasive.

  Mr al-Marashi: That is correct.

  Q710  Mr Pope: Is that a realistic goal? I think we would all think it is a sensible thing to want to do but how realistic is it?

  Mr al-Marashi: It is extremely realistic. The Ba'ath was prevalent in all areas of society. In fact, there is an Arabic word for the Ba'thification of society, Taba'ith. It is a process of infiltrating the Ba'ath into political parties, any kind of formal political organisation, any kind of educational organisation, any kind of sports organisation. It was standard government policy. They had a specific word for it. The process of extricating the Ba'ath from Iraqi society is going to be quite a difficult one and the problem is that any kind of professional in Iraq, whether he was a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, had to be affiliated to the Ba'ath Party; if not a member, a sympathiser. There are different ranks. You can be a member or a sympathiser to get ahead in Iraqi society. It was all-prevalent and infiltrated every layer of society in Iraq.

  Mr Pope: That is very helpful. Thank you.

  Q711  Andrew Mackinlay: I had two or three questions here which you have largely covered, but one thing which does occur to me is this. You are not suggesting that he did not have weapons of mass destruction; you just think there was over-emphasis to some extent probably in terms of volume? Why do you think Saddam did not give unimpeded access, because his regime might have survived, it might have been sufficient, certainly here in the United Kingdom and perhaps even in the United States administration, to at least spin it out longer? Why did he not concede more towards the end? It has always struck me as very strange.

  Mr al-Marashi: In my opinion Saddam perhaps did not believe this, that they could have found evidence of him maintaining some kind of infrastructure for reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction in the future, what they call a breakout capability. The fact that perhaps UNMOVIC might have been coming close to finding out at least the infrastructure, that is our evidence, with the state of the paper evidence, or scientists, for that matter, who could have provided the key to uncovering these weapons of mass destruction, Saddam could have realised this and tried to prevent this. The fact of the matter though is that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had never been used outside of Iraqi borders. There may have been a few cases of these weapons of mass destruction reaching outside Iraq's borders, but for the most part Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were a threat to Iraq's people. They were a threat to the Kurds, they were a threat to the Shi'a of Iraq, they were used against the Iranians once they crossed over their border. Definitely Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which were a threat to the Iraqi people and to the region. Whether they were a threat to the security of Europe or to the world is another issue. In my opinion I still do not think that Saddam fully 100% disarmed, given the billions of dollars that he invested in this programme. My opinion was that he destroyed his arsenal, destroyed any concrete evidence that he had the actual physical weapons, but there were clues that he was pursuing these weapons after the 1991 resolutions. Just in the last couple of years there was the case of an Indian company called NEC providing chemical precursors to Iraq. This was within the last year, so he had the substances. He was in pursuit of the substances. There was the discovery by UNMOVIC of 12 artillery shells that could deliver chemical weapons. They did not have the actual warheads filled but the fact of the matter is that they could have delivered the weapons if Saddam decided to do so. As well as keeping the necessary scientists, he had the manpower—or I should say the womanpower; most of Iraq's biological and chemical weapons experts were women—and there were clues that he was keeping at least some kind of residual chemical weapons capability or biological weapons capability. The key is, was it a threat as, let us say, the September 2002 dossier tried to depict? I would say no. I would say it was an exaggeration.

  Q712  Mr Illsley: As far as you are aware, you were not known to British intelligence at all, were you?

  Mr al-Marashi: As far as I was aware, no.

  Q713  Mr Illsley: So your piece could not have been sought out by these people directly? They would not have known to go to your document?

  Mr al-Marashi: No.

  Q714  Mr Illsley: And yours was the first document listed on that particular site? If I went to the internet now your document would still be listed as the first one?

  Mr al-Marashi: Yes.

  Q715  Mr Illsley: Alongside how many other similar documents on a trawl of the internet?

  Mr al-Marashi: How many similar documents to this? Having scanned the literature on Iraq's intelligence agencies exhaustively, if there is anything on Iraq's intelligence agencies that is in print I would know about it. I would say three documents in total deal with this breakdown of the structure of Iraq's security apparatus. There are three documents out there—Sean Boyne's, which is a two-piece article produced in Jane's Intelligence Review, Ken Gause's and my article. I would say that three articles in the press, and they are widely available, are devoted to Iraq's intelligence services.

  Q716  Mr Olner: In answer to Mr Mackinlay, when we were talking about weapons of mass destruction, you did say that you felt that Saddam and his regime were still manufacturing or had still got stockpiled small amounts perhaps. Is not one threat the fact that yes, he has got them, even if he only has a small amount, and another of the threats was that he would willingly give them to terrorist organisations to use against the West or whatever?

  Mr al-Marashi: No, I do not think that is a valid argument. Saddam would not even give them to his own military, never mind to a terrorist organisation. The control of these weapons were only trusted to the Special Security Organisation, which is not even a military unit; it is a political security intelligence organisation. It was only this organisation that could have deployed chemical weapons. The regular military could not, or did not have the authority to, deploy them. The command and control of these weapons was very tightly controlled. Based on his past precedent of using these weapons, I highly doubt that he would have given these weapons to an agency that he would have no control over. If he did not even trust his own military it is highly doubtful that he would give it to an organisation where he would have no control over it and that he would suffer the repercussions if the link was found. The argument that Iraq would have given these munitions to terrorist organisations I think is very hard to prove.

  Q717  Mr Olner: Given your greater knowledge than ours on the Iraqi regime, and what you have just described about this dictator megalomania and what-have-you, do the Iraqi people now believe that he has gone and gone for good?

  Mr al-Marashi: No. I could say as a fact that the Iraqi people still will not fully believe that he has disappeared unless they see his body. He had an all-pervasive presence in Iraq but he would rarely make a public appearance. He would rarely appear in public. What has changed? They still have not found any conclusive proof that he is dead, so the Iraqi people are still convinced that nothing has changed since this war began.

  Q718  Sir John Stanley: Apart from very visible things like missiles, most of the case for suggesting that Saddam Hussein had a major WMD programme rests on the figures reported to UNSCOM in terms of the unaccounted-for stocks of chemical precursors and so on. Do you have any reason to doubt those figures, which are the base line figures, the 1998 figures, or do you think they were hugely exaggerated? If you work from the basis that those UNSCOM figures, going back to the regime's declarations, were basically correct, do you believe there was a massive destruction programme? That in itself is quite reasonably detectable in some cases, certainly where CW is concerned, or do you think that there has been some incredibly successful, massive, hiding away operation? How do you account for the disparity between the scale of the programme in these unaccounted-for figures and here we are at the end of the war, access to all the scientists, etc, and we have come up with pretty well zilch?

  Mr al-Marashi: It could be a combination of both, that a good part of the actual programme, stockpiles and so forth, could have been destroyed. Large scale destruction can be detected but basically not everything can be detected. Not all destruction can be detected. Concealing these weapons was something that the Saddam regime was very good at. They had 12 years of practice at doing so. They used any kind of facility in Iraq to conceal these weapons, any kind of civilian facility, the place that an inspector would be least likely to look a weapon could be hidden or any kind of precursor or necessary infrastructure or necessary machinery could be hidden in, let us say, a civilian facility. He had done that in the past. It could be a combination of destroying a good part of the arsenal or material and hiding the rest, but the fact of the matter is that he could have used any facility anywhere within the boundaries of Iraq to hide these weapons.

  Q719  Sir John Stanley: But if you take the UNSCOM figures as broadly correct, if you take the assumption, which seems to be a reasonable one, that Saddam Hussein was not conspicuous about voluntarily going around destroying weapons of mass destruction, if he had a big destruction programme, surely he would have produced evidence of that when asked for when the pressure really came on and he was facing an invasion? What you are saying points to a very successful large scale concealment programme which sooner or later ought to be uncovered.

  Mr al-Marashi: That is correct. There is a formal technical term for this process. It is called the concealment apparatus. It was believed that the head of the Presidential Secretariat of Saddam Hussein, the person who was just captured yesterday, was in charge of that. I really wait to see in the next week or so what kind of information he will provide but literally for the first time since this war began the US forces have captured somebody who could really provide evidence on whether or not these weapons were actually hidden and to what extent. Whether he is going to be induced to co-operate and so on remains to be seen but, as I say, since this war began the first person who has been captured who has had a hand in concealing these weapons is in US custody and the evidence he provides will be the final key to providing evidence to the extent of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction programme.

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