Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 70)



  Q60  Sir John Stanley: You had no knowledge of who Mr A was?

  Dr Samore: There was just not enough information there for me to know, and there were a number of different people that I had interactions with. Remember, this book was written in several different drafts, so I would send a nuclear draft to some people, a chemical draft to other people, a bio draft to some people and a missile draft to some people, and I had lots of inputs from many different people. Mr A's description is not enough for me to know what section he looked at and who he is.

  Q61  Sir John Stanley: Can I turn to the helpful summary of your net assessment, which you published on page 74 of your dossier? Would you say now with the benefit of what we know with hindsight and so far what very little has been turned up by the Iraq Survey Group that your net assessment did prove to be pretty wide of the mark?

  Dr Samore: No, I actually think that in many respects it was exactly on mark. You will remember that we argued that Iraq's ballistic missile programme and nuclear weapons programme was years away from reaching fruition. That proved to be accurate. We did argue that Iraq probably had reconstituted some chemical and biological weapons capability. That has proved to be inaccurate so far. I actually had occasion recently to look through the final chapter of the conclusion, and I thought we were pretty careful in caveating and qualifying what we said. In fact, I remember at the time the dossier was criticised for being to cautious, for not having anything new in it.

  Q62  Sir John Stanley: You say you still think your net assessment was accurate?

  Dr Samore: In some respects.

  Q63  Sir John Stanley: For example, "could have a few thousand CW tactical munitions"?

  Dr Samore: Yes, and we go on and say that would be unlikely to make a significant difference on the battlefield given the limits in Iraq's delivery capability. As it turns out, they did not have that.

  Q64  Sir John Stanley: Notwithstanding these have not been found? A few thousand?

  Dr Samore: I do not think they exist. We say "could have." That is rather significant, I think, because if you look at the British and American Government documents, they say "Iraq has resumed production of chemical and biological weapons." We did not say that in this dossier, because I had no basis on which to say that. I said, "If Iraq resumed production of chemical weapons after the departure of inspectors in 1998, they could have produced in the ensuing four years a few thousand." In other words, this is not a statement of what Iraq has; it is a statement of what Iraq could have if they resumed production. I think that is clear. We said they probably did.

  Q65  Sir John Stanley: One could say that by inserting the word "could" it gave you almost unlimited ability to say that you might have been right.

  Dr Samore: But I think we explain what we meant when we said "could have." This was an evaluation of technical capability rather than an assertion of what Iraq had, because we did not have any access to classified information. I think in hindsight we were fortunate that we had no access to classified information, because most of the classified information now turns out to have been misleading and inaccurate.

  Q66  Sir John Stanley: I accept entirely that you wrote it on broadly public sources. Could I ask you one further question in relation to the net assessment? Do you think, with the benefit of hindsight, you should have given more attention to what was highlighted in some considerable detail by UNMOVIC[5], not least in their working documents which they published on 6 March 2003, about the extent to which holdings of chemicals and biological agents would probably have substantially degraded by the time of the pre-war period. I am looking particularly, for example, at what they said about sarin on page 73 of their working document, on botulinum toxin on page 101. Do you think that should have had more attention?

  Dr Samore: I think if you look at the chemical and biological weapons chapters, you will see that those issues are dealt with at length, and as I recall, we argued that any nerve agent that was produced prior to 1991 would no longer be effective at the time the dossier was written. The focus was on mustard agent, which, according to the experts, could have been preserved so that it could still be active, and on precursors, which could be stored for long periods of time, and the Iraqis could mix them at some point prior to war to be able to use them. The same thing in biological; as I recall, we said that any botulinum toxin that was produced prior to 1991 would no longer be active, but that anthrax, according to the experts, could have been stored during that decade and still be effective. So I think we tried to deal with that issue.

  Sir John Stanley: Can I ask you both in relation to the wider war on terrorism what your view is now, following the war in Iraq, as to whether the world is a safer or more dangerous place in relation to the war against terrorism?

  Q67  Chairman: Dr Cheema, you have been patient, so perhaps you should start.

  Dr Cheema: I think more dangers have emerged since 9/11 than were known publicly at that time, and those dangers have surfaced in Turkey; in Iraq, eventually, following the occupation; they have surfaced in Pakistan, where there have been many explosions, including attempts on President Musharraf's life; they have surfaced in Indonesia; and they have surfaced all round the world. One has to keep in mind that dealing with terrorism purely by military means will not be entirely successful.

  Dr Samore: I think it is too early to make a judgment. I do not think we are in a position to weigh up the benefits and disadvantages yet. We have to wait and see what kind of Iraqi government emerges and whether that government is successful or not.

  Q68  Sir John Stanley: Would you agree with the warning that was made by the British Intelligence Services and was reflected in the report published by the Intelligence and Security Committee of this Parliament that the war in Iraq would be likely to enable Al Qaeda to get an entrée into Iraq that it did not have prior to the war? That is an undoubtedly clear result.

  Dr Samore: I think there is no question about that, but I think that al-Qaeda would be carrying out operations around the world whether or not Iraq was invaded, so it is difficult to run the experiment and ask whether we would have had these attacks after the invasion. We very well might have. But with respect to Iraq, there is no question that it has allowed them an entrée.

  Dr Cheema: I think the case of Iraq has allowed al-Qaeda to cluster in one point where earlier they were scattered around the world in various places when their capability was destroyed in Afghanistan. They are still doing that. They are trying to attract individual recruits and bring them into Iraq and to concentrate on that point. That is what appears to me to be more dangerous.

  Q69  Chairman: May I welcome a distinguished guest who has just arrived, the Speaker of the Parliament of Morocco and the Moroccan Ambassador. Welcome, gentlemen. Can I say in relation to the proliferation activities of Dr A Q Khan, Dr Samore, you mentioned that a dirty bomb or a means of proliferation getting into terrorist hands would depend on their access to highly enriched uranium. We know that there are substantial stockpiles in the former Soviet Union of highly enriched uranium which are no longer guarded or concentrated in the way they were, therefore how serious is the danger in your judgment of a leakage from that network, from Dr A Q Khan, reaching terrorists and possibly being used together with highly enriched uranium, which could have disastrous consequences in our cities?

  Dr Samore: I think that is a very good question. The point of maximum danger in Russia was in the very early years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, where there really was a general disappearance of the state security apparatus. I think in the last five or six years the Russian Government under President Putin have taken measures to strengthen their controls over nuclear materials, and I think they are in significantly better shape now than they were in the early part of the 1990s. I think there is still work that needs to be done, and the various programmes that are under way, the CTR[6], non-Lugar programmes are all important to maintain, but my judgment is that the threat of leakage of significant amounts of highly enriched uranium from Russia is much lower now than it was a decade ago.

  Q70  Chairman: That is highly reassuring. Would you like to add anything, Dr Cheema?

  Dr Cheema: I would say that it is very important for the entire international community to proceed on the distinction between a dirty bomb and a bomb which is based on enriched uranium and plutonium. A dirty bomb is quite possible, because it can be created out of radio-isotopes and radio-isotopes are widely available in hospitals, in agricultural facilities, in industrial facilities, and that has to be given urgent, though not immediate attention in order to control those kind of installations. Enrichment of a plutonium-based bomb is in my opinion at this stage beyond the reach of non-state actors. They do not have the capability because it needs some kind of building, some kind of infrastructure, where it has to be located, there have to be machines, which have to be maintained, and eventually it has to be transported. That cannot be done without the assistance of a state actor. I am not saying it is not a significant question; it is a very significant non-proliferation question which must be addressed, but this has an immediate future implication, whereas a dirty bomb or a radio-isotope bomb is an immediate possibility which in my opinion might happen tomorrow and therefore needs to be addressed.

  Chairman: That is very helpful. Gentlemen, may I thank you both sincerely on behalf of the Committee.

5   The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission Back

6   Cooperative Threat Reduction Back

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