Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 720-728)


19 JUNE 2003

  Q720  Chairman: On that concealment apparatus, I have heard, for example, that there are several hundred miles of underground tunnels, that there are possibly tunnels under lakes and so on, that Iraq has had 12 years of practice in concealment with a number of experts from outside, including Serbian experts. Can you tell us a little more about that process of concealment?

  Mr al-Marashi: It is not only underground tunnels but there were bunkers that Serbian—this was during the time of the former Yugoslavia that provided aid on these kinds of underground facilities, so there is a vast infrastructure of underground facilities in Iraq, and it has not, as far as I know, been publicly released how much of that underground structure has been uncovered or inspected. Those would be very likely places where such weapons could be hidden.

  Q721  Chairman: Finally, I would like to build on a question which Sir John asked. You have researched extensively in the captured archives. Is it fair to say that the Iraqi regime was extremely meticulous in its bookkeeping?

  Mr al-Marashi: Any incident, no matter how minuscule, was recorded in the Iraqi intelligence files. I will just give you an example. A soldier deserted to Saudi Arabia. They even knew he had six bullets in the cartridge of his Kalashnikov rifle. This is how minutely Iraqi intelligence kept track of matters. If they could keep track of how many bullets are in a Kalashnikov rifle it is most likely that key documentation or evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme or any other kind of programme or human rights abuses were documented in Iraq. It was a bureaucracy that kept a record of almost anything that was of any significance or insignificance in Iraq.

  Q722  Chairman: So in the light of that characteristic how can you help the Committee in this way? Here we have in November of last year a unanimous Security Council Resolution 1441. We have the forces of the coalition beginning to build up at his frontiers. There was a final opportunity if he did not co-operate. If he had destroyed those weapons it would surely have been easy to produce those meticulously produced records, surely easy to produce the scientists who did it. What conclusion do you draw from that?

  Mr al-Marashi: In fact, they would produce documents but then, again, the time it takes to link the paperwork to the actual destruction process, there was the key problem. They could produce any kind of documents necessary but how do you prove it?

  Q723  Chairman: But these are documents to show, if it be the case, that he had destroyed all his weapons. If he had done so, surely those documents could have been produced to say, "Look: I am clean".

  Mr al-Marashi: They could have been produced.

  Q724  Chairman: So why were they not if he had in fact destroyed them?

  Mr al-Marashi: The whole 12,000-page document that he handed over to the UN was this kind of effort, to provide the documentation that he had destroyed them.

  Q725  Chairman: Yes, but by general consent the documents which were produced on December 8 were wholly irrelevant in terms of the fact that they were old documents, there was nothing that could show the process—

  Mr al-Marashi: But it shows the point that he did try to produce paperwork to prove that he was complying. The fact was that it was not believed. He could have produced documents that would have provided evidence to say, "Look: I have destroyed this much amount of anthrax", but then the inspectors would have gone and would have had to take that paper and see the physical evidence of that destruction, so if he was faking this kind of evidence it would eventually have been uncovered.

  Q726  Chairman: Can you give any plausible explanation as to why, if he had destroyed those weapons, at a point when he had the international community united, when he had the coalition forces building up, he did not produce the proof?

  Mr al-Marashi: To understand why he did not do that? No.

  Q727  Chairman: Before thanking you, could I also say a big thank-you for making such strenuous efforts to come to the Committee, as I understand you were a victim of the rail system and you did take a taxi, I think, for a large part of the journey.

  Mr al-Marashi: Yes, that is correct.

  Q728  Chairman: Thank you for that and thank you for your helpful evidence.

  Mr al-Marashi: My pleasure.

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