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Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Report on the Decision to go to War in Iraq

  1.  The Foreign Affairs Select Committee published the report of its inquiry into The Decision to go to War in Iraq on 7 July 2003. The objective of the inquiry was to:

    "consider whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, within the Government as a whole, presented accurate and complete information to Parliament in the period leading up to military action in Iraq, particularly in relation to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction".

  The Committee found the Government not guilty:

    "The central charge has been that Ministers misled Parliament . . . Consistent with the conclusions reached elsewhere in this Report, we conclude that Ministers did not mislead Parliament." (paragraph 186)

  2.  The Committee found the Government not guilty without considering most of the publicly available evidence. The Committee examined for accuracy and completeness only one source of Government information to Parliament—the dossier published on 24 September 2002—and concluded that the Government hadn't made exaggerated claims in it. The Committee felt able to do so, even though it was denied access to the intelligence on which these claims were based and to the personnel responsible for assessing the intelligence and drawing up the dossier.

  3.  The Committee ignored almost everything else the Government said on Iraq in Parliament and elsewhere in the lead up to war, within which there were, in my opinion, numerous examples of the Government providing inaccurate and/or incomplete information to Parliament. For example:

    (1)  The Government misrepresented President Chirac's words on 10 March 2003, claiming that he said that France would never support military action against Iraq, when he said no such thing.

    (2)  The Government failed to mention that Hussein Kamal, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, told UN inspectors in 1995 that he had ordered the destruction of all of Iraq's proscribed weapons.

    (3)  The Government continually distorted UN inspectors' findings that weapons were "unaccounted for" to imply (or assert) that the weapons actually existed.

    (4)  The Government failed to mention that many of Iraq's chemical and biological agents produced before the Gulf War would be ineffective as warfare agents a decade later, if they hadn't already been destroyed.

    (5)  The Prime Minister "sexed up" the September dossier in presenting it to Parliament on 24 September 2002, when he stated as an absolute fact that Iraq had "active, detailed and growing" weapons programmes, producing agents and weapons today, and that the problem was not just a matter of cleaning up the "old remains" from before the Gulf War.

    (6)  In the ensuing months, and without any public explanation, the Government ceased mentioning any current agent or weapons production, let alone "active, detailed and growing" programmes, and based its case that Iraq was a threat on the existence of the "old remains" from before the Gulf War, much of which, if they did exist, would have degraded and no longer be effective as warfare agents.

    (7)  The Government misrepresented the contents of the UNMOVIC report Unresolved Disarmament Issues published on 6 March 2003, implying that it confirmed that Iraq had vast quantities of proscribed weapons, but failing to mention that it confirmed that many agents produced before the Gulf War would be ineffective as warfare agents, if they existed at all.

  4.  These examples are detailed in Appendix A below. None of them is examined in the Committee's Report, which in my view renders it both inaccurate and incomplete, and casts doubt on the Committee's not guilty verdict.

  5.  All of the above were in the public domain when the Committee's inquiry was taking place. Since then, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) Report and the Hutton Inquiry have brought into the public domain other instances where there are grounds for concluding that the Government failed to provide Parliament with accurate and complete information. For example:

    (1)  In the autumn of 2002, the CIA assessed that the likelihood of Saddam Hussein using chemical and biological weapons was "low" if he didn't feel threatened, but would be "pretty high" if the US attacked Iraq. The Government's September dossier said something similar until just before it was cleared for publication, when it was changed at the instigation of the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff. He e-mailed the compiler of the dossier, John Scarlett, saying that he (and presumably the Prime Minister) had "a bit of a problem" with this since it backed up the argument that "there is no CBW [chemical and biological weapons] threat and we will only create one if we attack him". As a consequence, the implication that Saddam Hussein would use these weapons only as a defensive measure was removed from the dossier.

    (2)  The 45-minute claim in the September dossier was manifestly incomplete since it did not specify that it applied to battlefield weapons only, and not to missiles capable of striking UK bases in Cyprus, information that was known to the Government at the time (ISC Report, paragraphs 49-57 and 84-86).

    (3)  Despite knowing it to be wrong, the Government made no effort to correct the widespread interpretation of the 45-minute claim in the press on 24-25 September 2002 as applying to such missiles.

    (4)  Nowhere in the dossier was it made clear that the most likely chemical and biological munitions to be used against Western forces were battlefield weapons rather than strategic weapons. The first draft of the Prime Minister's foreword contained the sentence: "The case I make is not that Saddam could launch a nuclear attack on London or another part of the UK (He could not).", but this was absent from the published dossier (ISC Report, paragraph 83).

    (5)  The dossier's bald claim that Iraq "continued to produce chemical and biological weapons" was not warranted by the intelligence, since the JIC did not know what had been produced and in what quantities—it had merely assessed, based on intelligence, that some production had taken place (ISC Report, paragraphs 110). This contrasts starkly with the Prime Minister's confident assertion to the House of Commons on 24 September 2002 that Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes were "active, detailed and growing" and producing chemical and biological weapons.

    (6)  The Government failed to inform Parliament that there was no intelligence evidence that Iraq had considered using chemical and biological agents in terrorist attacks or had passed such agents on to al-Qaida, and that the JIC had assessed that any collapse of the Iraqi regime would increase the risk of chemical and biological warfare technology or agents finding their way into the hands of terrorists (ISC Report, paragraphs 125-7).

    (7)  The Government failed to inform Parliament that the JIC assessed that al-Qaida and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that the threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq (ISC Report, paragraph 126).

  6.  These examples where it appears that the Government gave inaccurate and/or incomplete information to Parliament have come to light since the Committee completed its inquiry and are detailed in Appendix B below. If the Committee is to restore its reputation for scrutinising the Executive's conduct of Foreign Affairs it should reopen its inquiry and consider these and the other issues I have mentioned.

Dr David Morrison

31 October 2003

APPENDIX A

A1  THE SEPTEMBER DOSSIER

  1.  The key question in respect of the September dossier was whether claims made in it about Iraq's proscribed weapons were justified by the intelligence available to the Government at that time.

  2.  At the time of its inquiry, it was impossible for the Committee to answer that question, because the Government denied it access to the intelligence on which the dossier was based, and to the personnel responsible for assessing that intelligence and drawing up the dossier

  3.  The Committee honestly recognised this in paragraph 90 of its report, which said:

    "We conclude that without access to the intelligence or to those who handled it, we cannot know if it was in any respect faulty or misinterpreted."

  4.  Despite this, the Committee devoted nearly half of its Report to this dossier (paragraphs 20 to 107) and drew several sweeping conclusions about whether its contents were soundly based on the available intelligence. For example:

    (1)  "We conclude that the 45 minutes claim did not warrant the prominence given to it in the dossier, because it was based on intelligence from a single, uncorroborated source." (paragraph 70)

    (2)  "We conclude that the claims made in the September dossier were in all probability well founded on the basis of the intelligence then available, although as we have already stated we have concerns about the emphasis given to some of them." (paragraph 86)

    (3) "We conclude that the September dossier was probably as complete and accurate as the Joint Intelligence Committee could make it, consistent with protecting sources, but that it contained undue emphases for a document of its kind." (paragraph 184)

  5.  So, by its own admission, the Committee could not know if the intelligence on which the September dossier was based was "in any respect faulty or misinterpreted". Nevertheless, it drew these wide-ranging conclusions that the intelligence was not misinterpreted. It doesn't say how it achieved this impossible feat.

  6.  Furthermore, conclusion (3) is sell-contradictory: if the dossier had not contained the "undue emphases" complained of, it would clearly have been more "accurate and complete".

  7.  Leaving that aside, it is simply untrue that "the September dossier was probably as complete and accurate as the Joint Intelligence Committee could make it". As I pointed out in my memorandum to the Committee, the September dossier contains at least two errors of fact:

    (a)  that UNSCOM inspectors were denied access to presidential sites (page 34, paragraph 5), and

    (b)  that UNSCOM inspectors were thrown out of Iraq in December 1998 (page 39, paragraph 13).

  8.  The dossier was therefore manifestly inaccurate in at least these two respects, but the Committee did not point out these inaccuracies.

A2  WHAT PRESIDENT CHIRAC ACTUALLY SAID

  9.  The Government motion passed by the House of Commons on 18 March 2003 contained a reference to the behaviour of France:

    "That this House . . . regrets that despite sustained diplomatic effort by Her Majesty's Government it has not proved possible to secure a second Resolution in the UN because one Permanent Member of the Security Council made plain in public its intention to use its veto whatever the circumstances."

  10.  In proposing the motion, the Prime Minister identified the Permanent Member as France, which he said had undermined support for a second resolution:

    "Last Monday [l0 March], we were getting very close with it [the second resolution]. We very nearly had the majority agreement. If I might, I should particularly like to thank the President of Chile for the constructive way in which he approached this issue.

    "Yes, there were debates about the length of the ultimatum, but the basic construct was gathering support. Then, on Monday night, France said that it would veto a second resolution, whatever the circumstances."

  11.  In fact, France said no such thing. On the contrary, in the interview that Monday night, President Chirac made it very clear that there were circumstances in which France would not veto a resolution for war. Early in the interview, he identified two different scenarios, one when the UN inspectors report progress and the other when the inspectors say their task is impossible—in which case, in his words, "regrettably, the war would become inevitable". That portion reads:

    "The inspectors have to tell us: "we can continue and, at the end of a period which we think should be of a few months"—I'm saying a few months because that's what they have said—"we shall have completed our work and Iraq will be disarmed". Or they will come and tell the Security Council: "we are sorry but Iraq isn't cooperating, the progress isn't sufficient, we aren't in a position to achieve our goal, we won't be able to guarantee Iraq's disarmament". In that case it will be for the Security Council and it alone to decide the right thing to do. But in that case, of course, regrettably, the war would become inevitable. It isn't today." (see http://special.diplomatie.gouv.fr/articlegb9l.html)

  12.  From that, it is plain as a pikestaff that there were circumstances in which France would not have vetoed military action, namely, if the UN inspectors reported that they couldn't do their job.

  13.  It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Prime Minister misinformed the House of Commons on 18 March about the position of France.

A3 DID KAMAL HUSSEIN TELL THE TRUTH?

  14.  At one point, it looked as though the Committee was going to look seriously at the possibility that Iraq had destroyed all its proscribed weapons and weapons-related material, as it said it had done, and that the material deemed by UN inspectors to be unaccounted for in reality no longer existed.

  15.  A briefing note prepared for the Committee by Tim Youngs of the House of Commons Library (and published as Appendix 1 of the Report) said:

    "It is also possible that Iraq did destroy its stocks and weapons unilaterally, but sought to protect the technical expertise and the capability required to reconstitute its WMD capability at relatively short notice, once UN sanctions had been eased or lifted." (page 76)

  16.  In support of this, Tim Youngs cites the testimony of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, to UN inspectors in August 1995, when he told them that all of Iraq's proscribed weapons had been destroyed on his orders (see UNSCOM/IAEA transcript of the interview at www.casi.org.uk/info/unscom950822.pdf).

  17.  In this interview, Kamal said:

    "I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons—biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed" (page 13).

  18.  Earlier (p7), he described anthrax as the "main focus" of Iraq's biological programme and when asked "were weapons and agents destroyed?", he replied: "nothing remained".

  19.  Of missiles, he said: "not a single missile left but they had blueprints and molds [sic] for production. All missiles were destroyed." (page 8)

  20.  In the months before military action was taken, the Government continually cited Kamal as an extremely valuable source of information about Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes, and as proof that interrogation of Iraqis who participated in these programmes, rather than detective work by UN inspectors, was the way to acquire a comprehensive picture of them.

  21.  For instance, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons on 18 March 2003:

    "In August [1995], it [Iraq] provided yet another full and final declaration. Then, a week later, Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, defected to Jordan. He disclosed a far more extensive biological weapons programme and, for the first time, said that Iraq had weaponised the programme—something that Saddam had always strenuously denied. All this had been happening while the inspectors were in Iraq.

  Kamal also revealed Iraq's crash programme to produce a nuclear weapon in the 1990s. Iraq was then forced to release documents that showed just how extensive those programmes were."

  22.  But the Prime Minister did not inform the House of Commons that Kamal also told UN inspectors that, on his orders, "all weapons—biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed".

  23.  Given the failure to find any proscribed weapons in Iraq, one might have thought that the possibility that Kamal was telling the truth deserved examination by the Committee. The unanswered question is: why does the Government regard Kamal as a credible witness about Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes, except when he says that all of Iraq's proscribed weapons were destroyed on his orders. Regrettably, the Committee left that question unanswered.

A4 UNACCOUNTED FOR MATERIEL

  24.  Paragraph 39 of the Committee's Report does raise the possibility that unaccounted for material did not exist. Hans Blix's remarks to the Security Council on 5 June 2003 are quoted:

    "The first point . . . is that the Commission has not at any time during the inspections in Iraq found evidence of the continuation or resumption of programmes of weapons of mass destruction or significant quantities of proscribed items—whether from pre-1991 or later. I leave aside the Al-Samoud 2 missile system, which we concluded was proscribed. As I have noted before, this does not necessarily mean that such items could not exist. They might—there remain long lists of items unaccounted for—but it is not justified to jump to the conclusion that something exists just because it is unaccounted for."

  25.  But the Report makes no reference to the fact that, time and time again in the lead up to military action, the Government jumped to this conclusion that Hans Blix warned against, and gave the impression that we had it on UN authority that Iraq had an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons and weapons-related material, when all the UN inspectors had said was that material was "unaccounted for".

  26.  Most crucially, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons on 18 March 2003:

    "When the inspectors left in 1998, they left unaccounted for 10,000 litres of anthrax; a far-reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, and possibly more than 10 times that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons; and an entire Scud missile programme. We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years—contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence—Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd."

  27.  There, the Prime Minister obviously jumped to the conclusion that Hans Blix warned against. He assumed that proscribed weapons and weapons-related material, which according to UN inspectors were merely unaccounted for in 1998, must have existed in 1998, and must still exist in 2003 (since, he said, it is palpably absurd to claim that Saddam Hussein unilaterally destroyed them in the meantime).

A5 THE DEGRADATION OF AGENTS

  28.  Paragraph 39 of the Committee's Report mentions that chemical and biological agents may degrade over time, saying:

    ". . . chemical precursors and other chemical and biological weapons substances degrade at varying rates over time, but some of them degrade quite swiftly, as the IISS [International Institute for Strategic Studies] pointed out in its dossier."

  29.  But nothing more is said about the degradation of chemical and biological agents, even though any degradation lowers the threat posed by Iraq—and therefore the justification for military action against Iraq.

  30.  The IISS dossier was published on 9 September 2002 (and was referred to approvingly in the Government's September dossier as "an independent and well-researched overview"). It comments on the possible deterioration of nerve agents manufactured prior to the Gulf War. Here, we are talking about so-called G-agents (tabun, sarin and cyclosarin) and V-agents (VX). The IISS assessment is as follows:

    "As a practical matter, any nerve agent from this period [pre-1991] would have deteriorated by now . . ." (page 51)

    "Any VX produced by Iraq before 1991 is likely to have decomposed over the past decade . . . " (page 52)

    "Any G-agent or V-agent stocks that Iraq concealed from UNSCOM inspections are likely to have deteriorated by now." (page 53).

  31.  And as regards botulinum toxin, the IISS dossier concluded:

    "Any botulinum toxin produced in 1989-90 would no longer be useful" (page 40).

  32.  The Government's dossier, published a couple of weeks later, gives (on page 16) a list of chemical and biological weapons and weapons-related material that were deemed unaccounted for by UNSCOM in 1998. On page 23, the dossier says that Iraq has:

    "chemical and biological agents and weapons available, both from pre-Gulf War stocks and more recent production"

  33.  But nowhere in the dossier does it say that any pre-Gulf War stocks of G-agents (tabun, sarin and cyclosarin) and V-agents (VX) and of botulinum toxin would have degraded by September 2002.

  34.  It is therefore seriously misleading about pre-GuIf War stocks of these agents.

A6 HOW THE GOVERNMENT "SEXED UP " THE DOSSIER IN PARLIAMENT

  35.  Since the Committee regarded the September dossier as the key document for their inquiry, one might have thought that it would have examined how the Government presented the dossier to Parliament.

  36.  The dossier made extravagant claims, not only that Iraq possessed proscribed material left over from before the Gulf War, but also that it had re-established manufacturing facilities and was trying to re-establish its nuclear weapons programme. In other words, Iraq had currently operational production facilities for agents and weapons and not just remnants left over from the old programmes dismantled by UNSCOM in the 1990s.

  37.  However, the claims in the dossier about the re-establishment of production facilities were not expressed as known facts, but as judgements based on intelligence. But, when the Prime Minister presented the dossier to the House of Commons on 24 September 2002, he left no doubt that these programmes were operational and producing agents and weapons:

    ". . . [Saddam Hussein's] chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programme is not an historic left-over from 1998. The inspectors are not needed to clean up the old remains. His weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The weapons of mass destruction programme is not shut down; it is up and running now."

    "On chemical weapons, the dossier shows that Iraq continues to produce chemical agents for chemical weapons; has rebuilt previously destroyed production plants across Iraq; has bought dual-use chemical facilities; has retained the key personnel formerly engaged in the chemical weapons programme; and has a serious ongoing research programme into weapons production, all of it well funded."

    "In respect of biological weapons, again, production of biological agents has continued; facilities formerly used for biological weapons have been rebuilt; equipment has been purchased for such a programme; and again, Saddam has retained the personnel who worked on it prior to 1991."

  38.  Those assertions by the Prime Minister have a certainty about them that isn't present in the dossier itself. He overstated the dossier's more tentative claims that after 1998 Iraq had reconstituted production facilities (claims which the ISC have now said were themselves not justified by intelligence, see paragraph 110 of its Report).

  39.  And so did the Foreign Secretary when he opened the adjournment debate that followed. There he declared without a hint of uncertainty:

    "Since then [1998], Iraq has continued to produce chemical and biological agents and their means of delivery. . . . "

  40.  Adam Ingram was equally certain when he closed the debate:

    "He [Saddam Hussein] has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons; tried covertly to acquire technology and materials that could be used in the production of nuclear weapons; sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, despite having no active civil nuclear programme that would require it; recalled specialists to work on his nuclear programme; commenced a comprehensive weapons development programme across a range of capabilities to deliver his future and current weapons of mass destruction."

  41.  This certainty about the re-constitution of Iraq's production facilities is not justified by the dossier. The Government "sexed up" the dossier in presenting it to Parliament.

A7 NO LONGER "ACTIVE, DETAILED AND GROWING"

  42.  The Committee does not comment on the fact that the Government's message on Iraq's proscribed weapons shifted dramatically in the period leading up to war. To be specific, the Government stopped claiming that Iraq was currently manufacturing chemical or biological agents and weapons.

  43.  To the best of my knowledge, the Government never repeated the Prime Minister's confident assertion of 24 September 2002 that Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing" and producing agents and weapons, and that it is not just a matter of inspectors cleaning up the "old remains" from previous programmes.

  44.  Certainly, you will search in vain in the Prime Minister's speech in the House of Commons on 18 March 2003 for any hint that Iraq had operational production facilities in March 2003. All he spoke about then was "old remains" manufactured before the Gulf War, which UN inspectors deemed unaccounted for in December1998.

  45.  Since the Prime Minister was no longer saying that Iraq was manufacturing new agents and weapons, this was a much less threatening picture of Iraq's capabilities than the one he described six months earlier, particularly since the shelf life of much of the "old remains" was over long ago.

  46.  Why did the Prime Minister feel unable to restate in March 2003 his certainty of six months earlier that Iraq had current production facilities and not merely "old remains" from previous programmes? That is a very interesting question, which regrettably the Committee did not examine.

  47.  Most or all of the sites named in the September dossier as possibly being used for agent production were visited by journalists shortly after the dossier was published and were found to be derelict or near derelict. My guess is that after that the Government took a decision to cease claiming that Iraq was producing agents.

  48.  UNMOVIC inspectors visited these sites in December and January and found no evidence of current, or recent, production activity, which made it even more difficult for the Government to claim that Iraq was still producing agents. The inspectors' findings didn't rule out the possibility that proscribed activity was going on at these sites in September 2002 as claimed in the dossier, but by January it was no longer going on, and the information in the dossier was therefore out of date.

  49.  One might have thought that this change would have merited a Prime Ministerial statement to Parliament revising his confident assertion of the previous September that Iraq had "active, detailed and growing" weapons programmes and was currently producing agents and weapons. But no such statement took place: he merely ceased making the claims, and justified military action against Iraq because it allegedly possessed a few "old remains" from the early 1990s, "old remains" which, if they existed at all, were in many instances no longer effective warfare agents.

A8 UNRESOLVED DISARMAMENT ISSUES

  50.  On 6 March 2003, UNMOVIC published a 173-page document entitled Unresolved Disarmament Issues: Iraq's Proscribed Weapons Programmes. This originated as an internal working document prepared by UNMOVIC identifying the "key remaining disarmament tasks" that Iraq had to complete. The preparation of such a document was a requirement of paragraph 7 of Security Council Resolution 1284, under which UNMOVIC was established in December 1999. Unusually, for such a document, it was declassified and published.

  51.  The document contains a comprehensive survey of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes (apart from its nuclear programme, which was the business of the IAEA) and the subsequent use and/or destruction of weapons and weapons-related material, based on information assembled by UN inspectors from 1991 onwards. It ends with an assessment of unresolved issues for each agent and weapon, and a statement of what Iraq needs to do to resolve them.

  52.  Like the UNSCOM report of January 1999, it does not claim that Iraq possesses proscribed weapons or weapons-related material, merely that in the opinion of UNMOVIC certain proscribed items are unaccounted for. Nor does it suggest that Iraq has currently operational agent or weapon production facilities. As such, the document hardly merits the adjective "chilling", which Jack Straw applied to it at the Security Council on 7 March.

  53.  As of early March this year, this was the most comprehensive and authoritative statement in existence about Iraq's proscribed weapons (apart from nuclear weapons). It goes without saying, therefore, that a serious inquiry into whether the Government had presented "accurate and complete information" to Parliament would need to examine whether the Government made Parliament aware of the key information in this document. It is a measure of the seriousness of the Committee's inquiry that its Report does not contain a single reference to this document.

  54.  A serious inquiry into the matter would have concluded that, although the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary referred to this document regularly, they misrepresented its contents, and crucially failed to mention what it said about the degradation of agents.

  55.  In the House of Commons on 18 March, the Prime Minister described it as a "remarkable document" and quoted from it, for example, on mustard gas:

    "Mustard constituted an important part . . . of Iraq's CW arsenal . . . 550 mustard filled shells and up to 450 mustard filled aerial bombs unaccounted for"

  56.  It would be more accurate to say he misquoted from it. You will indeed find those words on page 76 of the document, but they do not give the sense of the text from which they were extracted. That text is as follows (with the Prime Minister's extract underlined):

    ". . . Judging by the quantities produced, weaponized and used, Mustard constituted an important part (about 70%) of Iraq's CW arsenal.

    "There is much evidence, including documents provided by Iraq and information collected by UNSCOM, to suggest that most quantities of Mustard remaining in 1991, as declared by Iraq, were destroyed under UNSCOM supervision. The remaining gaps are related to the accounting for Mustard filled aerial bombs and artillery projectiles. There are 550 Mustard filled shells and up to 450 mustard filled aerial bombs unaccounted for since 1998. The mustard filled shells account for a couple of tonnes of agent while the aerial bombs account for approximately 70 tonnes. According to an investigation made by the Iraqi `Depot Inspection Commission', the results of which were reported to UNMOVIC in March 2003, the discrepancy in the accounting for the mustard filled shells could be explained by the fact that Iraq had based its accounting on approximations."

  57.  That gives a very different impression to that conveyed by the Prime Minister's extract, and his other extracts are also misleading.

  58.  More crucially, he told the House of Commons that day:

    "When the inspectors left in 1998, they left unaccounted for 10,000 litres of anthrax; a far-reaching VX nerve agent programme; up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tonnes of mustard gas, and possibly more than 10 times that amount; unquantifiable amounts of sarin, botulinum toxin and a host of other biological poisons; and an entire Scud missile programme. We are asked now seriously to accept that in the last few years-contrary to all history, contrary to all intelligence-Saddam decided unilaterally to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd."

  59.  But he did not mention that the remarkable UNMOVIC document made it clear that any unaccounted for sarin, VX and botulinum toxin would no longer be effective as warfare agents:

    "There is no evidence that any bulk Sarin-type agents remain in Iraq—gaps in accounting of these agents are related to Sarin-type agents weaponized in rocket warheads and aerial bombs. Based on the documentation found by UNSCOM during inspections in Iraq, Sarin-type agents produced by Iraq were largely of low quality and as such, degraded shortly after production. Therefore, with respect to the unaccounted for weaponized Sarin-type agents, it is unlikely that they would still be viable today." (Unresolved Disarmament Issues, page 73)

    "VX produced through route B [the method used by Iraq in 1990] must be used relatively quickly after production (about 1 to 8 weeks), which would probably be satisfactory for wartime requirements." (ibid. page 82)

    "Any botulinum toxin that was produced and stored according to the methods described by Iraq and in the time period declared is unlikely to retain much, if any, of its potency. Therefore, any such stockpiles of botulinum toxin, whether in bulk storage or in weapons that remained in 1991, would not be active today." (ibid, page 101)

  60.  Without that information, the Prime Minister's list of unaccounted for warfare agents is highly misleading.

APPENDIX B

B1 THE INTERVENTION OF THE PRIME MINISTER'S CHIEF OF STAFF

  1.  The September dossier contains on page 19 an assessment of what it calls "Saddam's willingness to use chemical and biological weapons". Until just before the dossier was published, this said:

    "Intelligence indicates that Saddam is willing to use chemical and biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat. We also know from intelligence that as part of Iraq's military planning, Saddam is willing to use chemical and biological weapons against an internal uprising by the Shia population." (Hutton reference BBC/29/00 19)

  2.  While that formulation by the Chairman of the JIC, John Scarlett, does not exclude the possibility that Saddam Hussein would use these weapons aggressively, it gives the strong impression that he would in all probability use them only if his regime were under threat. In other words, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was little or no threat to his neighbours and even less to Britain or the US.

  3.  This is consistent with a CIA assessment provided to the US Congress a few weeks later, which was that if Saddam Hussein didn't feel threatened, the likelihood that he would use these weapons was "low", but if the US attacked him the likelihood would be "pretty high". This assessment was contained in a letter dated 7 October 2002 from the CIA to Senator Bob Graham, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The letter (see Annex 1) declassified a small portion of CIA evidence to Graham's committee at a closed session on 2 October, which read:

    Senator Levin: . . . If (Saddam) didn't feel threatened, did not feel threatened [sic], is it likely that he would initiate an attack using a weapon of mass destruction?

    Senior Intelligence Witness: . . . My judgment would be that the probability of him initiating an attack—let me put a time frame on it—in the foreseeable future, given the conditions we understand now, the likelihood I think would be low.

    Senator Levin: Now if he did initiate an attack you've . . . indicated he would probably attempt clandestine attacks against us . . . But what about his use of weapons of mass destruction? If we initiate an attack and he thought he was in extremis or otherwise, what's the likelihood in response to our attack that he would use chemical or biological weapons?

    Senior Intelligence Witness: Pretty high, in my view.

  4.  The assessment of "Saddam's willingness to use chemical and biological weapons" quoted above was contained in 11 September draft of the dossier, and met with no objection from the intelligence professionals on the JIC, including Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6. It was repeated in the drafts of 16 and 19 September, again without objection from any JIC member.

  5.  But, just before the dossier was cleared for publication, this assessment was changed dramatically at the instigation of the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Jonathan Powell, who e-mailed John Scarlett on 19 September in the following terms:

    "I think the statement on page 19 that `Saddam is prepared to use chemical and biological weapons if he believes his regime is under threat' is a bit of a problem. It backs up the . . . argument that there is no CBW threat and we will only create one if we attack him. I think you should redraft the para . . ."

    (CAB/ 11/0103)

  6.  The Prime Minister's Chief of Staff definitely had a "bit of a problem", since it was difficult to reconcile the Prime Minister's assertion in the dossier's foreword that Iraq was "a current and serious threat to the UK national interest" with the assessment that, in all probability, Saddam Hussein would use chemical and biological weapons only if his regime was under threat.

  7.  As a consequence of Powell's intervention, the paragraph was redrafted by John Scarlett to remove the impression that "there was no CBW threat and we will only create one if we attack him". The amended assessment, which appears in the published dossier, is:

    "Intelligence indicates that as part of Iraq's military planning Saddam is willing to use chemical and biological weapons, including against his own Shia population."

  8.  It is difficult to see how this dramatic change in the dossier at the instigation of the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff can be reconciled with the Prime Minister's assurance to the House of Commons on 4 June 2003:

    "I want to make it clear to the House—I have spoken and conferred with the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee—that there was no attempt, at any time, by any official, or Minister, or member of No. 10 Downing Street staff, to override the intelligence judgments of the Joint Intelligence Committee."

  9.  John Scarlett claimed in evidence to the Hutton Inquiry on 23 September that the change was made after a reassessment of existing intelligence. But that begs three very large questions:

    (a)  At least three drafts of the dossier had, apparently, contained a highly inaccurate assessment of "Saddam's willingness to use chemical and biological weapons", and if it hadn't been for Jonathan Powell's last minute objection this assessment would have been published as the official assessment of the British Government. Why did none of the intelligence professionals on the JIC, who read the drafts, not notice that this assessment was highly inaccurate?

    (b)  Why was the revised assessment of "Saddam's willingness to use chemical and biological weapons" significantly different to the CIA assessment given to the US Congress a couple of weeks later, which was that if Saddam Hussein didn't feel threatened, the likelihood that he would use these weapons was "low", but if the US attacked him the likelihood would be "pretty high"? In other words, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was little or no threat to anybody.

    (c)  Was it sheer coincidence that John Scarlett's reassessment of existing intelligence happened to get rid of the Prime Minister's "bit of a problem" that the original text "backs up the . . . argument that there is no CBW threat and we will only create one if we attack him"?

  10.  The Committee should seek answers to those questions.

B2 THE 45-MINUTE CLAIM

  11.  The dossier claimed that Iraq was "able to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so". It wasn't until John Scarlett gave evidence to the Hutton Inquiry on 26 August 2003 that there was official confirmation that the claim referred to battlefield weapons, and not to strategic weapons capable of hitting, say, Cyprus.

  12.  The September dossier was therefore manifestly incomplete since it did not specify that the 45-minute claim applied to battlefield weapons only, information which was known to the Government at the time, but which it chose not to divulge.

  13.  The Government also chose not to divulge that the intelligence on which the claim was based was so imprecise that it did not identify the weapons system to which it was said to apply, or even what was meant by the word "deploy". As the ISC report said:

    "The JIC did not know precisely which munitions could be deployed from where to where . . ." (ISC Report, paragraph 57).

  14.  That is another example of the Government giving Parliament incomplete information.

  15.  Objectively, the 45-minute claim amounted to very little. As the ISC said:

    "That the Iraqis could use chemical or biological battlefield weapons rapidly had already been established in previous conflicts and the reference to the 20-45 minutes in the JIC Assessment added nothing fundamentally new to the UK's assessment of the Iraqi battlefield capability." (ibid, paragraph 56).

  16.  The fact that a claim which "added nothing fundamentally new" appeared four times in the dossier is proof positive that objectivity was not uppermost in the mind of the compilers of the dossier. They were much more concerned with producing newspaper headlines implying an imminent threat from Iraq.

B3  THE MISREPORTING OF THE 45-MINUTE CLAIM

  17.  When the 45-minute claim was widely reported in the press on 24-25 September as referring to strategic weapons capable of hitting Cyprus, the Government made no effort to correct this misinterpretation, which it knew to be wrong. This was in stark contrast to the huge amount of time and energy applied in attempting to correct the reporting of Andrew Gilligan on the claim.

  18.  Giving evidence to the Hutton Inquiry on 20 September, Geoff Hoon admitted that he personally knew that the 45-minute claim referred to battlefield weapons, but that he had not made any effort to correct press reports that it referred to missiles. Of the Government's failure to correct the misinterpretation, he said:

    ". . . I was not aware of whether any consideration was given to such a correction. All that I do know from my experience is that, generally speaking, newspapers are resistant to corrections. That judgment may have been made by others as well."

  19.  The proposition that the Government did not attempt to correct the misleading press reports because the press would not carry such a correction is risible. A press statement in the Prime Minister's name carrying a correction to the reporting of the Government's dossier would have been headline news, not only in Britain, but around the world.

  20.  Why did the Government fail to correct what it knew to be wrong? Because it was happy to have the threat from Iraq exaggerated, in order to enhance the case for taking military action against Iraq? Because issuing a correction would be an admission that the dossier was open to misleading interpretations, which would have undermined public confidence in the dossier? The Committee should investigate this.

  21.  Or was it because the misinterpretation came from the Prime Minister's Communications Directorate in the first place, which made it impossible for the Government to correct it? There was a remarkable uniformity in the press reports of the dossier on 24-25 September 2002. In most reports, the following key points were identified:

    (a)  Iraq has the ability to hit British bases in Cyprus with chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of Saddam Hussein giving the order to do so, and

    (b)  that Iraq could have nuclear weapons in between one and two years.

  22.  The dossier did not say that the 45-minute claim applied to strategic missiles rather than battlefield weapons, so either the newspapers all guessed the same way or they were all steered the same way by Downing Street. (b) is not mentioned in the Prime Minister's foreword to the dossier, nor in its Executive Summary; it is mentioned once, and only once, on page 27—which makes it highly unlikely that so many newspapers would have picked it out as a key point without a steer from Downing Street.

  23.  In any event, Parliament and the public were given misleading information, which the Government knew to be wrong but failed to correct.

B4  IRAQI DELIVERY SYSTEMS

  24.  The September dossier gave the impression that Iraq had strategic chemical and biological weapons systems capable of attacking British bases in Cyprus, and perhaps even London.

  25.  As the ISC report pointed out, nowhere in the dossier was it made clear that the most likely chemical and biological weapons to be used against Western forces would be battlefield rather than strategic. It was not made clear that Iraq had at most 20 al Hussein missiles capable of delivering munitions to Cyprus—this was the number deemed unaccounted for by UN inspectors—but, if they existed at all, these missiles had been hidden away since 1991, and therefore there was a question mark over their operability.

  26.  The ISC report reveals (paragraph 83) that the first draft of the Prime Minister's foreword contained the sentence: "The case I make is not that Saddam could launch a nuclear attack on London or another part of the UK (He could not)". The inclusion of that sentence would have put Iraq's military capability—as assessed by intelligence in September 2002—into perspective to some extent. But it was absent from the published dossier.

  27.  The September dossier claimed (page 22) that Iraq had a variety of delivery systems for chemical and biological agents, including free-fall bombs delivered from aircraft and aircraft/helicopter borne sprayers. But, given the US/UK domination of the skies over Iraq, there was no possibility of munitions of any kind being delivered from the air. Nowhere, in the dossier does it make that clear either.

  28.  All of this painted an exaggerated picture of Iraqi capabilities.

B5  PRODUCTION OF CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS

  29.  The ISC report also criticised the bald claim in the Prime Minister's foreword that "Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons" (paragraph 110). This could give the impression that "Saddam was actively producing both chemical and biological weapons and significant amounts of agents", the report said.

  30.  In fact, according to the ISC, the JIC did not know what agents had been produced and in what quantities, and what quantities, if any, had been put into weapons (in paragraph 58, the report says that "there was no evidence of munitions being filled with chemical agents since the first Gulf Conflict"). The JIC had merely assessed, based on intelligence, that production of some kind had taken place.

  31. This contrasts starkly with the Prime Minister's confident assertion to the House of Commons on 24 September 2002 that Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing" and continuing to produce chemical and biological agents.

B6  AL -QAEDA CONNECTIONS

  32. A major part of the Prime Minister's case for taking military action against Iraq was that there was a "real and present danger" that chemical and biological weapons would find their way from Iraq to al-Qaida or associated groups. For example, on 18 March 2003 he told the House of Commons:

    "The key today is stability and order. The threat is chaos and disorder-and there are two begetters of chaos: tyrannical regimes with weapons of mass destruction and extreme terrorist groups who profess a perverted and false view of Islam".

    "Those two threats have, of course, different motives and different origins, but they share one basic common view: they detest the freedom, democracy and tolerance that are the hallmarks of our way of life. At the moment, I accept fully that the association between the two is loose—but it is hardening. The possibility of the two coming together-of terrorist groups in possession of weapons of mass destruction or even of a so-called dirty radiological bomb-is now, m my judgment, a real and present danger to Britain and its national security."

  33.  When he said that, the Prime Minister was aware that there was no intelligence evidence that Iraq had considered using chemical and biological agents in terrorist attacks or had passed such agents on to al-Qaida. He was also aware that, in the judgment of the JIC, any collapse of the Iraqi regime would increase the risk of chemical and biological warfare technology or agents finding their way into the hands of terrorists, whether or not as a deliberate Iraqi regime policy (see ISC Report, paragraphs 125-7).

  34.  But the Prime Minister chose not to divulge that information to Parliament, understandably so, since it would have destroyed an important element of his case for taking military action. That is a clear case of the Government failing to provide Parliament with complete information on which to base its judgment about taking military action.

  35.  The JIC also judged that al-Qaida and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq (see ISC Report, paragraph 126). The latter view was advanced by most opponents of military action against Iraq. The Prime Minister chose not to divulge to Parliament that the intelligence services shared their view.

  36.  The ISC say (paragraph 128) they discussed these risks with the Prime Minister, who said that he had exercised his judgment and time will tell if he was right. That is, of course, beside the point: for better or worse, he devolved the decision about taking military action to Parliament, and therefore he was under an obligation to tell Parliament all the intelligence assessments relevant to that decision, not just the ones that bolstered his case. Had he provided Parliament with accurate and complete information about the relevant intelligence assessments, it might not have voted to take military action.

Annex 1

CIA LETTER TO US SENATE COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE, 7 OCTOBER 2002

  In response to your letter of 4 October 2002, we have made unclassified material available to further the Senate's forthcoming open debate on a Joint Resolution concerning Iraq.

  As always, our declassification efforts seek a balance between your need for unfettered debate and our need to protect sources and methods. We have also been mindful of a shared interest in not providing to Saddam a blueprint of our intelligence capabilities and shortcoming, or with insight into our expectation of how he will and will not act. The salience of such concerns is only heightened by the possibility for hostilities between the US and Iraq.

  These are some of the reasons why we did not include our classified judgments on Saddam's decision making regarding the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in our recent unclassified paper on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction. Viewing your request with those concerns in mind, however, we can declassify the following from the paragraphs you requested:

    Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW against the United States.

    Should Saddam conclude that a US-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions. Such terrorism might involve conventional means, as with Iraq's unsuccessful attempt at a terrorist offensive in 1991, or CBW.

    Saddam might decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorists in conducting a WMD attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.

  Regarding the 2 October closed hearing, we can declassify the following dialogue:

    Senator Levin: . . . If (Saddam) didn't feel threatened, did not feel threatened, is it likely that he would initiate an attack using a weapon of mass destruction?

    Senior Intelligence Witness: . . . My judgment would be that the probability of him initiating an attack—let me put a time frame on it—in the foreseeable future, given the conditions we understand now, the likelihood I think would be low.

    Senator Levin: Now if he did initiate an attack you've . . . indicated he would probably attempt clandestine attacks against us . . . But what about his use of weapons of mass destruction? If we initiate an attack and he thought he was in extremis or otherwise, what's the likelihood in response to our attack that he would use chemical or biological weapons?

    Senior Intelligence Witness: Pretty high, in my view.

  In the above dialogue, the witness's qualifications—"in the foreseeable future, given the conditions we understand now"—were intended to underscore that the likelihood of Saddam using WMD for blackmail, deterrence, or otherwise grows as his arsenal builds. Moreover, if Saddam used WMD. it would disprove his repeated denials that he has such weapons.

  Regarding Senator Bayh's question of Iraqi links to al-Qa'ida, Senators could draw from the following points for unclassified discussions:

    —  Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and al-Qa'ida is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information we have received comes from detainees, including some of high rank.

    —  We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al-Qa'ida going back a decade.

    —  Credible information indicates that Iraq and al-Qa'ida have discussed safe haven and reciprocal non-aggression.

    —  Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qa'ida members, including some that have been in Baghdad.

    —  We have credible reporting that al-Qa'ida leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire WMD capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to al-Qa'ida members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.

    —  Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians, coupled with growing indications of a relationship with al-Qa'ida, suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent US military action.

George J Tenet

Director of Central Intelligence


 
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