23rd June 18:26
Experts Grow More Skeptical That Saddam Posed a Threat to U.S.
Experts grow more sceptical about extent of threat posed by Saddam before
Focus on BBC row seen as limiting inquiry into intelligence
Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor
Monday July 7, 2003
The Commons foreign affairs committee is scheduled to release its Iraq
report today. In spite of its title, The Decision to Go to War in Iraq, MPs
have focused on the BBC-Downing Street spat.
In the run-up to the war, the Guardian assembled a panel of weapons experts
from both sides of the Atlantic - former inspectors, academics and
soldiers - to evaluate the argument for war as it was presented.
We returned to several of those experts to ask them what they thought today
about the two British dossiers on Iraq as well as Colin Powell's crucial UN
speech in January. While they all still recognise that Iraq used to possess
weapons of mass destruction, they have grown substantially more sceptical
about the extent of the threat. They also question the accuracy of prewar
intelligence on Iraq and the use that the government made of it.
∑ Tony Blair's 50-page Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, published last
What it was said to be based on The prime minister said it was based, in
large part, on the work of British intelligence.
The dossier claimed ∑ Iraq, since the mid-1990s, had taken over civilian
plants to produce chemical and biological weapons agents. ∑ The Iraqi
military planned to use the weapons, some of which were deployable with 45
minutes of receiving orders. ∑ Specific sites were of concern, such as the
al-Dawrah Foot and Mouth Vaccine Institute and the Amariyah Sera and Vaccine
institute at Abu Graib. ∑ Iraq was pursuing its ambition to secure a nuclear
weapon, including "the supply of significant quantities of uranium from
What we now know All the potential weapons sites mentioned have been visited
many times by UN inspectors in the months before the war and US scientists
and inspectors since the war. Nothing of significance has turned up.
Joseph Cirincione, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, said: "US troops have ... been to every one, to every
area, and turned up nothing." Reports about Iraq searching for uranium in
Africa have been largely discredited. An Iraqi scientist did hand in a gas
centrifuge system for enriching uranium that he had buried in his garden 12
years ago. Gary Samore, of the International Institute for Strategic
Studies, insisted this showed that Iraq was "preserving the means to revive
its nuclear weapons programme". But other experts claim the fact that it had
remained buried for so long proves that Iraq was no longer actively pursuing
such a programme.
Tim Trevan, a former adviser to the UN inspectors in Iraq, said there was no
dispute in the international community that Iraq had WMD stocks and
programmes in the past. The question is, did Iraq possess the weapons, let
alone be in a position to use them, when the US and Britain decided to go to
war? "I never believed the 45-minute claim," said Mr Trevan.
∑ 19-page British dossier, Iraq - Its Infrastructure of Concealment,
Deception and Intimidation, distributed to journalists in February
What it was said to be based on Jack Straw told cabinet colleagues that the
dossier contained "compelling evidence" about Iraq's weapons programme.
Mr Powell praised the do***ent for providing "in exquisite detail Iraqi
The dossier claimed ∑ to be an extensive account of Iraqi intelligence
network ∑ to detail the way that Iraqi intelligence allegedly concealed WMD
What we now know The do***ent, now usually referred to as the "dodgy
dossier", was discredited within a week of its release. Far from being the
work of British intelligence, it turned out to be based on the work of a
Californian postgraduate student. Parts are also believed to have been taken
from the defence specialists, Jane's.
Downing Street initially stuck by it, but the foreign secretary, Jack Straw,
two weeks ago described it as a Horlicks and Alastair Campbell has
apologised for it.
∑ Colin Powell's speech to UN security council in January
What it was said to be based on Mr Powell said that "every statement I make
today is backed up by sources, solid sources", and produced alleged
telephone conversations as well as satellite pictures.
The speech claimed ∑ "Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons
of chemical weapons agent." ∑ Rocket launchers and warheads con taining
biological weapons were in various locations, mainly hidden in large groves
of palm trees. ∑ Mobile laboratories were being used to manufacture WMD . ∑
There was evidence of a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaida
terrorist network". ∑ Production of weapons was taking place on specific
sites, including a chemical complex at al-Moussaid where Iraqis had removed
the topsoil to hide any trace. ∑ Ricin was being produced and was linked to
an alleged plot in Britain.
What we now know Glen Rangwalla, a politics lecturer at Newnham College,
Cambridge, noting that nothing had been found at any site, said that in
specific cases, such as al-Moussaid, "removing the topsoil would not have
been enough. It would have been widely dispersed over a wide area. It is
unlikely the US would find no trace."
As for the al-Qaida link, the main evidence concerned a base in northern
Iraq that was outside Saddam's control, which has since been visited by
journalists who found no evidence it was being used for the manufacture of
chemical agents. The ricin plot link appears to be bogus.
Mr Samore adds: "The most likely thing they are going to find is that Iraq
is not hiding large amounts of [banned] weapons but the means to produce
them in the future, in the form of blueprints".
Mr Cirincione said the CIA assessments of Iraq between 1998 and 2001 did not
change but early last year they suddenly did, even though there was no new
evidence: "They started to join the dots together differently. The question
is what caused that change. We will not know without a full Congressional
On this side of the Atlantic, Andy Oppenheimer, a specialist in biological,
chemical and nuclear weapons at Jane's Information Group, expressed dismay
that the foreign affairs committee conducted a limited inquiry: "It has all
got into a slanging match over whether someone altered the text when it
should be on whether the intelligence was reliable and whether the Iraqis
∑ The panel
Tim Trevan Former adviser to UN weapons inspectors in Iraq and author of
Saddam's Secrets: The Hunt for Iraq's Hidden Weapons
Glen Rangwalla Politics lecturer at Newnham College, Cambridge, who was the
first to disclose bogus nature of some of the claims in second British
Andy Oppenheimer Specialist in biological, chemical and nuclear weapons at
Jane's Information Group
Gary Samore Weapons proliferation expert at the International Institute for
Strategic Studies and former member of President Clinton's national security
Joseph Cirincione Senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace and author of Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction
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"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so
long as I'm the dictator." - GW Bush 12/18/2000.
"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that
we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic
and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."
---George W. Bush on the Brink of Declaring War on Iraq.
23rd June 18:27
Experts Grow More Skeptical That Saddam Posed a Threat to U.S.
Thats funny, all these DemoRATS disagree with that premise.
Committee on Armed Services
October 9. 1998. The President
The While House
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing 10 express our concern over recent developments in Iraq.
Last February, the Senate was working on a resolution supporting military
action if diplomacy did not succeed in convincing
concerning the disclosure and destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction. This effort was
discontinued when the Iraqi government reaffirmed its acceptance of all
relevant Security Council resolutions and reiterated its willingness to
cooperate with the
United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Its Deputy
Prime Minister and the United Nations Secretary General. Despite a brief
cooperation, however, Saddam Hussein has failed to live up to his
On August 5, Iraq suspended all cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA, except
some limited monitoring activity. As UNSCOM Executive Chairman Richard
told us in a briefing for all Senators in March, the fundamental historic
reality is that Iraq has consistently sought to limit, mitigate, reduce and,
in some cases, defeat
Security Council's resolutions by a variety of devices,
We were gratified by the Security Council's action in unanimously passing
Resolution 1194 on September 9. By condemning Iraq's decision to suspend
cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA, by demanding that Iraq recind that
decision and cooperate fully with UNSCOM and the IAEA, by deciding not to co
nduct the sanctions' review scheduled for October 1998 and not to conduct
such reviews until UNSCOM and the IAEA, report that they are satisfied that
have been able to exercise the full range of activities provided for in
and by acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Security
Council 'I has sent an unambiguous message to Saddam Hussein.
We are skeptical, however, that Saddam Hussein will take heed of this
message even though it is from a unanimous Security Council. Moreover, we
concerned that without the intrusive inspections and monitoring by UNSCOM
and the IAEA, Iraq will be able, over time, to reconstitute Its weapons of
mass destruction programs.
In light of these developments, We urge you, after consulting with Congress.
and consistent. with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary
actions (including. If appropriate , air and missile strikes on suspect Iraq
respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end Its weapons
of mass destruction programs.
Frank R. Lautenberg
Barbara A Mikuiski
Daniel K Inouye
John F Kerry