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– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Iraq

Duelfer Disproves U.S. WMD Claims

Paul Kerr

Charles Duelfer, the CIA’s special adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), told the Senate Armed Services Committee Oct. 6 that Iraq destroyed its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, as well as eliminated its nuclear weapons program, after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Although his findings thus far largely confirm previous reports, they offer the most extensive analysis to date of the state of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) before last year’s U.S.-led invasion.

Duelfer’s testimony came shortly after the public release of a Sept. 30 report from the ISG, the task force charged with coordinating the U.S.-led search for Iraqi prohibited weapons. Duelfer’s predecessor, David Kay, testified in January that Iraq had destroyed its weapons. (See ACT, March 2004.) However, the report goes into even greater detail about Iraq’s weapons efforts.

Duelfer’s testimony and report show that deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, constrained by UN sanctions, had not restarted the country’s nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs. However, he was seeking to preserve and restore, to varying degrees, the intellectual and physical capacity to resume the nuclear and chemical weapons programs if sanctions put in place by the UN Security Council after the Gulf War were lifted.

Duelfer stated that escaping the sanctions was a “top priority” for Hussein, who manipulated the UN oil-for-food program by granting rights to low-priced Iraqi oil in exchange for recipient countries’ support for getting the sanctions lifted. Established in 1995, the program allowed Iraq to purchase food, medicine, health supplies, and other civilian goods with proceeds derived from oil sales, which were held in a UN escrow account.

Iraq had some success in circumventing the sanctions, the report said. Baghdad was able to obtain cash through illegal oil sales and the import of illicit goods, including some dual-use items useful in WMD programs.

Duelfer told the committee that the sanctions were in a “free fall” but indicated that international sentiment following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States halted the move. Duelfer argued that support for the sanctions could not have been sustained indefinitely, but lifting sanctions was not seriously under discussion during the run-up to the invasion. At that time, Security Council members opposed to the invasion were focused on extending the UN-mandated weapons inspections and maintaining sanctions.

Duelfer did not address the fact that Security Council resolutions mandated continued UN monitoring of Iraqi facilities to prevent future attempts at rearming. Kay told Arms Control Today in March that such monitoring would have detected large-scale resumption of prohibited weapons activities, including a “restart” of the nuclear weapons program and “industrial production of missiles.” Monitoring would not have stopped “small-scale cheating” in the case of chemical and biological weapons programs and might not have detected importation of missiles, he added.

In any case, the sanctions were largely effective at restraining Iraq’s weapons programs. Duelfer told the committee that the sanctions both constrained Iraq’s weapons-related imports and induced Hussein not to pursue WMD because such efforts would jeopardize his goal of getting the sanctions lifted.

The Weapons

Duelfer testified that Iraqi WMD “stocks do not exist,” despite occasional finds of pre-1991 chemical munitions. (See ACT, July/August 2004.) He also said that the ISG has found no evidence that WMD were transferred to other countries, a theory some administration officials have advanced.

In his testimony, Duelfer also discussed Hussein’s motives for pursuing illicit WMD, stating that the Iraqi leader believed that Baghdad’s chemical weapons saved it from defeat during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Hussein further believed that Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons capabilities deterred the United States from overthrowing his government after the Gulf War, Duelfer said, adding that the Iraqi leader also wanted to deter Iran in the future.

Despite the ISG’s findings, President George W. Bush has continued to defend the invasion. He stated Oct. 7 that Duelfer’s report proved that Hussein “retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction.”

Bush administration officials, however, claimed numerous times before the invasion that Iraq actually possessed illicit weapons. Moreover, Duelfer’s testimony and report are more nuanced than Bush’s statement suggests. For example, Hussein appeared to have intentions to develop certain types of weapons but lacked the capabilities. In other cases, the Iraqi leader had some residual weapons capabilities but no evident intentions to make use of them.

Nuclear

According to the report, the ISG “found no evidence to suggest concerted efforts to restart the [nuclear] program” after 1991. Although Duelfer testified that “Saddam did not abandon his nuclear ambitions,” he said that Iraq’s ability to produce nuclear weapons and retain the relevant personnel were in “decay” as a result of the sanctions.

Duelfer also definitively refuted two elements of the Bush administration’s pre-war case that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. First, the ISG found no evidence that Iraq tried to procure uranium from other countries, instead learning that Iraq refused a private offer to help it obtain uranium from the Congo. Second, Duelfer testified that 81mm aluminum tubes Iraq was trying to import were solely for conventional rockets. The administration had argued that the tubes were likely to be used in centrifuges for enriching uranium. A July Senate Intelligence Committee report found the intelligence underlying both the uranium and tubes claims to be weak. (See ACT, September 2004.)

Chemical

Iraq destroyed its chemical weapons stockpiles in 1991, according to the report, but Hussein still intended “to resume a [chemical weapons] effort when sanctions were lifted.” Iraq was increasing its chemical production infrastructure, which provided “the inherent capability” to produce chemical weapons in the future, Duelfer said, adding that Iraq would have been able to produce mustard agent within “months” and nerve agent “in less than a year or two.” However, the ISG has not “come across explicit guidance from Saddam on this point,” Duelfer said, and there is no evidence that Iraq attempted to procure “precursor chemicals in bulk,” according to the report.

Duelfer also noted efforts by “anti-coalition forces” in Iraq to work with former regime chemical weapons experts, testifying that a “series of raids” uncovered efforts “to put chemical agent of various sorts into munitions.” He added that the ISG likely “contained [this] problem before it matured into a major threat.”

Biological

According to the report, Iraq “appears to have destroyed” its biological weapons and bulk weapons agent in 1991 and 1992. Although Baghdad maintained a research and development program until 1996, it then abandoned it. Since then, there appeared to be “a complete absence of discussion or even interest in [biological weapons] at the presidential level,” the report says.

The report asserts that “Iraq would have faced great difficulty in re-establishing an effective [biological weapons] agent production capability,” but it does say that Iraq possessed “significant dual-use capability” and scientific expertise. Baghdad also conducted research with potential weapons applications and could have “re-established an elementary” weapons program “within a few weeks to a few months.” However, there are “no indications” that it had plans to do so, the report says.

Duelfer told the committee that the ISG has found no evidence that Iraq possessed mobile biological agent production facilities—another claim the administration had advanced prior to the war. Expressing perhaps the most definitive judgment to date on two trailers discovered shortly after the invasion, Duelfer stated that “they have absolutely nothing to do with any biological weapons.” A May 2003 CIA report judged that the trailers were likely for weapons agent production.

Delivery Vehicles

Duelfer testified that Iraq was developing, with foreign assistance, missiles with ranges exceeding the UN-mandated 150-kilometer limit. However, the report states that Iraq only produced one type of prohibited missile, which Baghdad began destroying after UN inspectors ordered it to do so. Iraq was developing three other longer-range missile systems, the report says, but none were produced and “only one reportedly passed the design phase.” These systems were described in previous ISG reports. (See ACT, November 2003.)

Duelfer further stated that Iraq “drew the line” at developing WMD warheads for the missiles “so long as sanctions remained.” Duelfer noted that, prior to the Gulf War, Iraq built warheads containing biological and chemical agents within months. According to the report, Hussein distinguished between missiles and weapons of mass destruction, believing that the United Nations would allow greater ranges for the former if he eliminated the latter.

The ISG also resolved a long-standing question of whether Iraq retained Soviet-supplied Scud missiles after 1991. According to the report, there is “no evidence” Iraq did so.

Additionally, Duelfer told the committee that Iraq had tested unmanned aerial vehicles with ranges exceeding UN limits. He added, however, that these vehicles were not for delivering WMD—another administration pre-war claim. A September UN inspectors’ report found no evidence for the former claim but concurred with the latter. (See ACT, October 2004.)

The report’s findings are consistent with those of the UN inspectors, who returned to Iraq in November 2002 and remained until the invasion. The report does, however, describe WMD-related activities that the Iraqis failed to declare to the United Nations, such as several missile research programs and attempts to procure related materials.

Inspections

The report also sheds some light on Iraq’s uneven cooperation with inspectors, who first worked in Iraq from 1991 until being withdrawn in 1998. According to the report, Hussein attempted “to cooperate with the [United Nations] and have sanctions lifted” while preserving “the ability to eventually reconstitute” the weapons.

For example, Baghdad turned over a large quantity of documents to the United Nations following top-WMD official Hussein Kamel’s 1995 defection and then ordered at least some Iraqi officials to cooperate with the inspectors. However, the documents proved that Iraq had previously deceived the inspectors, which “destroyed the international community’s confidence in the credibility of follow-on Iraqi declarations of cooperation,” the report says.

Indeed, the conflict between Iraq and the inspectors escalated as the latter continued to demand additional documents. “From this experience,” the report continues, “Iraq learned to equate cooperation with [the inspectors] with increased scrutiny, prolonged sanctions, and the threat of war.” Hussein eventually decided to undermine the sanctions because he believed that getting them lifted by complying with the UN resolutions was impossible, the report says.

Iraq, however, made a greater effort to comply with the inspections that resumed in 2002 than U.S. officials claimed at the time. For example, the report states that Baghdad instructed military leaders to “‘cooperate completely’ with the inspectors” because such cooperation was Iraq’s “best hope for sanctions relief.”

Additionally, Iraq did not attempt to intercept inspectors’ communications, as Washington claimed. Iraq did have minders accompanying the inspectors to prevent them from gathering intelligence, which Iraq believed they had done in the past, the report says. UN inspectors had cooperated closely with U.S. intelligence during the 1990s.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Security Council in early February 2003 that Iraq attempted tap the inspectors’ “communications.” A month later, he stated that “Hussein has issued new guidance to key officials saying everything possible must be done” to ensure inspectors did not find prohibited weapons.

The report may also explain some pre-war intelligence failures, revealing that Iraq often moved conventional military assets to hide them from potential attacks, but U.S. intelligence often assumed Iraq was actually moving illicit weapons.

Despite pre-war U.S. claims that inspections could not succeed because of Iraqi intransigence, the report states that, “contrary to expectations, [the] ISG’s ability to gather information was in most ways more limited” than the inspectors’ because of the destruction and looting of weapons sites, the increasingly dangerous insurgency, and the reluctance of WMD personnel to speak.

New Iraq Weapons Report Undercuts Rationale for War, Administration's "Reconstitution" Claim Misleading

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For Immediate Release: October 6, 2004

Press Contacts: Daryl Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107; Paul Kerr, (202) 463-8270 x102

(Washington, D.C.): The new report by the second leader of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, confirms once again that the Bush administration vastly overstated the Iraqi weapons threat and that UN-mandated weapons inspections had effectively dismantled and contained Saddam’s capability to rebuild his weapons programs, according to leading arms control and intelligence experts.

“Duelfer’s report reinforces the major findings of his predecessor, David Kay, and the Senate Intelligence Committee, which make it clear that the White House ignored growing indications that key conclusions of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s alleged unconventional weapons programs were deeply flawed,” said Greg Thielmann. From 2000 to 2002, Thielmann headed the office in the Department of State’s intelligence bureau responsible for monitoring Iraqi weapons.

In the fall of 2002, analysts from the Departments of State and Energy strongly disputed the assertion that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes to enrich uranium for weapons, while the CIA warned the president against the credibility of the claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa.

“Not only did the White House continue to use dubious intelligence assessments, but the president ignored the on-the-ground reports from the UN weapons inspectors, which cast further doubt on the administration’s claims,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

Prior to the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003, the UN-mandated weapons inspectors reported that they could not find evidence of either active nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs or stockpiles. They were also overseeing the dismantlement of prohibited missiles. Although the inspectors could not account for some discrepancies in Iraq’s declaration of its previous weapons programs and stockpiles, chief inspector Hans Blix warned against equating “unaccounted-for stockpiles with existing weapons.”

“Rather than ordering a new U.S. intelligence assessment, President Bush continued to mislead the American people by claiming two days before the invasion that ‘Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised,’” charged Thielmann.

Incredibly, during the Sept. 30 presidential debate, President Bush still misrepresented the situation in Iraq on the eve of the U.S.-British intervention. He asserted that without the invasion, “Saddam had the capability of making weapons, and he would have made weapons.”

“The bottom line is that Saddam’s capabilities were severely diminished by UN-mandated weapons inspections and international sanctions and they would have continued to contain him if Bush had not prematurely ended them,” said Kimball.

“Intelligence is meant to inform government decision-making, not to be invoked or discarded selectively to justify predetermined political decisions. It is time for the president to come clean with the American people and admit his errors,” concluded Thielmann.

# # #

The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies to address security threats posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional arms. For ACA’s Iraq-related resources, visit <www.armscontrol.org/country/iraq/>

 

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More U.S. Claims on Iraq WMD Rebutted

Paul Kerr

A recent report from the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) further undermines pre-war U.S. claims that Iraq was developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of delivering chemical and biological weapons. The report also notes that more material looted after the war from sites associated with Iraq’s past weapons programs has turned up in other countries.

The Aug. 27 report includes an analysis of information collected during the UN inspections that took place from late November 2002 until just before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. It concludes that there was “no technical evidence” that Iraq had been developing UAVs capable of delivering prohibited weapons or exceeding the 150-kilometer range permitted by UN Security Council resolutions.

The Security Council tasked UNMOVIC in 1999 with inspecting and supervising the destruction of Iraq’s prohibited weapons. UNMOVIC has not resumed inspections since the invasion began.

UNMOVIC assembled its UAV analysis in response to March testimony from Charles Duelfer, head adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG). The ISG is the task force the U.S. government established after the 2003 invasion to search for Iraq’s suspected illicit weapons. Duelfer told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iraq tested UAVs whose range “easily exceeded” 150 kilometers. (See ACT, May 2004.)

Before the war, U.S. officials had placed heavy emphasis on the UAV allegation as part of their contention that Iraq possessed prohibited weapons. The public version of an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stated that Iraq had “several development programs, including for a UAV that most analysts believe probably is intended to deliver biological warfare agents.” These vehicles “could threaten Iraq’s neighbors, U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, and the United States if brought close to, or into, the U.S. Homeland,” the estimate added.

Additionally, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN Security Council in February 2003 that Iraq had several UAV programs intended to deliver chemical and biological weapons. These included converting MiG-21 and L-29 military aircraft into UAVs, as well as developing smaller UAVs. Powell also stated that Iraq failed to declare a UAV with a range of 500 kilometers to UNMOVIC. UN Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted in November 2002, required Iraq to disclose all of its prohibited weapons activities to the inspectors.

But a July Senate Intelligence Committee report found that the 2002 NIE’s assessment of Iraq’s UAV efforts did not accurately reflect either the available information regarding these vehicles or the judgments of “most analysts,” who believed the UAVs were for conventional missions.

The UNMOVIC report states that the L-29 project “appeared to have ceased in late 2001” and that inspectors found “no clear indication” that Iraq intended the aircraft to deliver chemical or biological agents. Similarly, the inspectors found no evidence that Iraq ever planned to modify any of its smaller UAVs to deliver biological weapons or achieve prohibited ranges.

As for Iraq’s MiG-21 program, a UNMOVIC official told Arms Control Today Sept. 22 that inspectors found no evidence contradicting Iraq’s claim that it ended the project, which began in 1990, after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. UNMOVIC inspectors were unable to verify information Iraq provided about the program in a March 2003 letter because it was received the day the invasion began, the report said.

Investigation

The report outlined the commission’s ongoing investigation into the discovery of weapons-related materials in several locations outside Iraq. Both UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency have previously reported that sites associated with Iraq’s past weapons programs had been looted and destroyed.

The amount of material shipped out of Iraq appears substantial. According to the report, 130,000 tons of scrap metal passed though Jordan alone from June 2003 to June 2004, an amount comprising “only a small part of all scrap materials exported from Iraq” to other countries during that time. In addition, UNMOVIC experts were told that “a lot of high-quality industrial equipment” had been exported from Iraq, some of which “could include equipment subject to [UNMOVIC] monitoring,” the report said.

UNMOVIC experts are continuing to investigate sites in the Netherlands and Jordan where Iraqi missile engines subject to UN monitoring have been discovered. (See ACT, July/August 2004.)

 

 

IRAQ INTELLIGENCE FAILURES: Senate Panel Blasts Pre-War Intelligence

September 2004

By Paul Kerr

A Senate Intelligence Committee report released this summer critiquing the failure of the intelligence community to accurately portray Iraq’s pre-war weapons programs centered on a faulty October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).

The NIE had stated that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and, perhaps most worrying, was “reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.” In its more than 500-page July 9 report, the committee found that these judgments “either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting.” An NIE is supposed to be the entire intelligence community’s most authoritative assessment of a given subject.

Although the estimate contained numerous qualifiers and caveats, the panel report concluded that the intelligence community “did not accurately or adequately explain to policymakers the uncertainties behind the judgments.” The committee also faulted the CIA for sometimes failing to pay sufficient attention to other intelligence agencies’ dissenting views.

The report noted that the intelligence community was hampered by its lack of human intelligence sources in Iraq, arguing that the agency “relied too heavily on UN inspectors” who were in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. After the inspectors left, the United States had no human intelligence sources in the country familiar with Baghdad’s suspected weapons programs and, as a result, had to rely on unreliable defectors and foreign intelligence services, as well as other forms of intelligence.

According to the report, the intelligence collection problems were compounded by “a collective presumption” among intelligence officials that Iraq possessed prohibited weapons and related programs. This belief, reinforced by Iraq’s past weapons programs and efforts to conceal them, led these officials to “interpret ambiguous evidence” as conclusive proof of weapons efforts “as well as ignore or minimize” contrary evidence.

The committee’s review, which began in June 2003, is not yet complete. The second phase of the review will address such issues as the nature of intelligence activities conducted by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, as well as whether policymakers’ public statements concerning the Iraqi threat were supported by intelligence reporting. (See ACT, March 2004.)

The extent to which administration officials’ judgments were influenced by the NIE remains unclear. For example, Vice President Dick Cheney stated prior to the NIE’s completion that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and was developing nuclear weapons. Moreover, it was Congress, not the executive branch, that requested the NIE in September 2002.

According to the report, the committee found no evidence that administration officials attempted to “pressure analysts to change their judgments related to Iraq’s weapons…capabilities.” But three Democratic Senators noted in an “additional view” to the report that administration officials put “pressure” on intelligence analysts with their pre-NIE statements regarding Baghdad’s suspected illicit weapons and by “repetitively tasking” them to “revise their analytical judgments,” the committee said.

Acting Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin took issue with the notion that the NIE unduly influenced policymakers to support the invasion. He acknowledged in a July 14 appearance on CNN that the NIE’s “Key Judgments” were not adequately qualified, but also argued that “anyone who read this document from cover to cover would find in it ample material for serious debate.”

Nuclear Weapons

The NIE’s main judgments regarding Iraq’s nuclear weapons program had been debunked well before the invasion. In particular, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported to the UN Security Council approximately two weeks before the war that the inspectors had “found no evidence” that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

Uranium Imports

Bush administration officials claimed on several occasions that Iraq was attempting to acquire lightly processed uranium from African countries such as Niger. This was considered important because Baghdad’s lack of fissile material was viewed as one of the most serious obstacles to its ability to produce nuclear weapons.

The committee faulted the CIA for failing to obtain and examine the documents detailing the alleged uranium deal between Iraq and Niger until well after they became available. This delay led to continued agency assessments that Iraq was trying to procure uranium from Africa, despite the fact that analysts in the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) believed as early as October 2002 that the documents were likely inauthentic. ElBaradei told the Security Council March 7, 2003, that the documents describing a suspected Iraq-Niger uranium deal were forged. The CIA issued a report four days later concurring with this assessment.

The committee concluded that the NIE “overstated what the intelligence community knew about Iraq’s possible procurement attempts.” The NIE stated that Iraq had been “vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake” from African countries, including Niger. The NIE contained a dissenting opinion to this assessment from the INR, which termed reports of Iraq’s uranium procurement efforts “highly dubious.” The intelligence community also had evidence that other factors, such as an international consortium’s control of Niger’s uranium industry, made it unlikely that Niger would transfer uranium to Iraq. Several inquiries from U.S. officials also found scant evidence that such a deal was discussed.

Moreover, the INR dissent was dropped from some subsequent reports, including a CIA analysis of Iraq’s UN-mandated December 2002 declaration of its weapons programs. These omissions happened even though then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet previously told both Congress and the White House of doubts the CIA had about the reports’ accuracy.

Centrifuges

In the run-up to war, administration officials also cited the NIE’s assessment that Iraq was attempting to obtain aluminum tubes and magnets for use in a gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program. They downplayed dissenting opinions from INR and the Department of Energy, which believed the tubes were for use in conventional rockets.

The committee concluded that “the information available to the Intelligence Community indicated that these tubes were intended to be used for an Iraqi conventional rocket program and not a nuclear program.” ElBaradei also reported in March 2003 that there was no evidence that Iraq was procuring the tubes for anything other than rockets.

The report is especially critical of the CIA’s analysis of this issue. For example, it states that the CIA erred when it assessed that “the dimensions of the aluminum tubes match those of a publicly available gas centrifuge design from the 1950s.” Additionally, the agency’s “initial reporting” of tests conducted on similar tubes to determine their suitability for centrifuges was “misleading and, in some cases, incorrect,” according to the report.

The committee also concluded that intelligence showed Iraq was trying to obtain magnets, but the intelligence “did not suggest that the materials were intended to be used in a nuclear program.” ElBaradei reported a similar conclusion to the Security Council.

Scientists/Personnel

The administration claimed that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was meeting with top nuclear weapons experts and that Iraq maintained the scientific know-how to produce nuclear weapons.

The committee report states that intelligence showed that Iraq had kept its nuclear personnel “trained and in positions that could keep their skills intact for eventual use in a reconstituted nuclear program” but adds that this intelligence did not show a “recent increase in activity,” suggesting that Iraq was reconstituting the program.

The report also says that the intelligence did not indicate the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission “was engaged in nuclear weapons-related work.”

Infrastructure

Bush said in an October 2002 speech that Iraq was reconstructing buildings at sites where its nuclear weapons facilities had previously been located.

The NIE assessed that the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission was “expanding the infrastructure—research laboratories, production facilities, and procurement networks—to produce nuclear weapons,” but the committee concluded that this claim was “not supported by the intelligence.”

In March 2003, ElBaradei told the Security Council that “[t]here is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified…as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998.”

Chemical and Biological Weapons
In addition, the report concluded that two important NIE assessments concerning Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programs were inaccurate. These assessments were included in the report’s “Key Judgments” section.

The first is the assessment that “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons.” The report says this conclusion “overstated both what was known and what intelligence analysts judged about Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons holdings.” Although the intelligence community had evidence, such as Iraq’s procurement of dual-use materials and its failures fully to account for its past weapons stockpiles, that could lead analysts reasonably to infer that Baghdad possessed chemical and biological weapons, it “did not have enough information to state with certainty that Iraq ‘has’ these weapons.”

The second is the judgment that “all key aspects—[research and development], production, and weaponization—of Iraq’s offensive [biological weapons] program are active and…more advanced than they were before the [Persian] Gulf War.” The report also concludes that this assessment “was not supported by the underlying intelligence.”

The committee report revealed that most of the intelligence underlying the NIE’s statement that “Baghdad has mobile transportable facilities for producing…biological weapons agents” came from unreliable Iraqi defectors. Intelligence analysts were concerned about these facilities because they could enable Iraq to conceal its biological weapons activities more easily.

In addition, the underlying intelligence reports regarding dry biological agents only indicated that Iraq either had or was attempting to acquire dual-use equipment that could be used for this purpose. Dry biological agents are more easily dispersed and handled than liquid biological agents.

Furthermore, the NIE’s judgment that Iraq had increased its stockpile of chemical weapons was based on flawed interpretations of the available data. For example, analysts judged that Iraq had increased its chemical stockpiles on the basis of reports that Iraq had been moving chemical munitions. However, these reports were based on the fact that tanker trucks were spotted at suspected chemical munitions sites. Although these trucks could be used as decontamination vehicles—a possible sign that chemical weapons are being moved—they could also be used for fire control.

UN inspectors also had told the Security Council prior to the invasion that there was no evidence that Baghdad had restarted its chemical and biological weapons programs.

Delivery Vehicles
The report concluded that the NIE’s assessments of Iraq’s development and possible retention of prohibited missiles were supported by the available intelligence. However, the report found that the NIE’s assessment that Iraq was developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) “probably intended to deliver biological warfare agents” did not accurately reflect either the available information regarding these vehicles or the judgments of “most analysts,” who believed the UAVs were for conventional missions.

Powell’s UN Speech
The report also discussed the intelligence behind Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2003 speech before the Security Council, which argued that Iraq continued to hide weapons from inspectors. (See ACT, March 2003.) Several pieces of intelligence in Powell’s presentation have proven inaccurate.

INR reviewed Powell’s presentation, although the CIA was the agency directly involved in composing it. Most but not all of the material to which INR objected was removed. For example, Powell told the council that Iraqi officials were moving “key files”…in cars “to avoid detection,” a claim INR analysts labelled “highly questionable.”

 

Senate Panel Blasts Pre-War Intelligence

IRAQ INTELLIGENCE FAILURES: "Serious Flaws" Found in British Dossier

September 2004

By Scott Stinson

The British intelligence on Iraq’s weapons capabilities used to justify the March 2003 invasion contained “serious flaws,” according to a committee charged with reviewing the assessments.

The committee, appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, released a July 14 report that details findings from its five-month investigation into the accuracy of British intelligence on prohibited Iraqi weapons programs prior to March 2003; any discrepancies between that intelligence and information gathered after the conflict; and, more generally, British intelligence coverage of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) trade in countries of concern.

Chaired by Lord Robin Butler, a former Blair cabinet member, the committee analyzed assessments made by the executive branch’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). Those assessments formed the backbone of a September 2002 dossier that publicly underlined the British government’s case for “stronger action” against Iraq.

In its conclusions, the committee faulted “over-reliance” on questionable human intelligence sources, arguing that the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) failed to appropriately scrutinize and validate reports from human intelligence sources. The committee also criticized British officials for not clarifying the limitations and caveats of intelligence included in the dossier.

In one of the more politically charged conclusions, the committee criticized the claim included in the 2002 dossier that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so. The committee commented that the 45-minute claim should not have been included without significant clarification. As it was written in the dossier, the claim “later led to suspicions that it had been included because of its eye-catching character,” the committee said. The 45-minute claim took center stage in the controversy surrounding the suicide of David Kelly, an arms expert drafting the dossier who reportedly told the BBC he had been ordered to include the 45-minute claim by an aide to Blair.

The committee found “no evidence of deliberate distortion” of JIC reports by government officials but did criticize the process by which the 2002 dossier was drafted. It questioned whether the JIC should have had responsibility for producing the document.

“More weight was placed on the intelligence than it could bear,” the committee stated.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Blair said that the Butler report was the fourth inquiry to show the government acted in “good faith” in gathering intelligence and making its case for war. But, he admitted, “the evidence of Saddam [Hussein’s] WMD was indeed less certain, less well-founded than was stated at the time.”

Blair’s opponents in Parliament argued the report demonstrates the prime minister’s government is no longer credible. Frustrated that no blame was assigned to an individual, they called the inquiry the “no blame” report.

"Serious Flaws" Found in British Dossier

IRAQ INTELLIGENCE FAILURES: Australian Intelligence Reviewed

September 2004

By Scott Stinson

A recent investigation into Australia’s intelligence agencies asserts that Australia’s intelligence organizations “failed to judge accurately the extent and nature” of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs before the 2003 war, but commends Australian analysts for exercising more skepticism than their British or American counterparts.

The Australian Inquiry, a committee charged with evaluating the effectiveness of the Australian Intelligence Community (AIC), released its final report July 20, marking the third review in less than a month to analyze pre-war intelligence gathering and assessment. The Inquiry followed similar reviews conducted by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and the Butler Committee in the United Kingdom. According to the Australian report, the intelligence used to generate international support for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq “was thin, ambiguous, and incomplete.”

However, the Inquiry, which was requested by Prime Minister John Howard and headed by former intelligence official Phillip Flood, praised the AIC for having applied “healthy skepticism” to individual pieces of intelligence. On the whole, AIC issued assessments that were “more cautious and seem closer to the facts as we know them” than assessments made by U.S. and British intelligence agencies, according to the Inquiry’s final document, the Flood report.

Nonetheless, Kevin Rudd, a spokesperson for the opposition Labor Party, used the Flood report to criticize Howard for leading Australia to war in Iraq based on inadequate, second-hand intelligence from the United States and the United Kingdom.

“A core failing brought out by this report is that he [Howard] didn’t make sure the intelligence agencies were properly resourced to give an independent, Australian view of all this foreign product,” Rudd said in a July 23 radio interview.

Meanwhile, Howard defended his decision to go to war in a series of public interviews. On a televised news program, he said, “The balance of probabilities supported the argument that Saddam [Hussein] did have weapons of mass destruction.”

Howard also denied claims that Australian, U.S., and British officials lied about the pre-war intelligence. “At no stage did we mislead the Australian public. At no stage did we manufacture intelligence, at no stage did we heavy intelligence agencies,” he said in a radio address.

The Inquiry did not support accusations that government officials purposely or inappropriately influenced AIC conclusions before the war but did issue several recommendations to enhance Australia’s intelligence capabilities, including the creation of a committee to coordinate and monitor activities of the six AIC agencies. Howard moved quickly to adopt almost all of the recommendations.

Since 2001, the Australian government has increased total intelligence funding by 88 percent and authorized a 44 percent increase in the number of intelligence staff members. Still, according to the Inquiry, the total Australian intelligence budget represents roughly just one percent of the total funds available for U.S. intelligence agencies.

Australian Intelligence Reviewed

Iraqi Nuclear Materials Secured

Paul Kerr

Fifteen months after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the United States has removed nuclear material from the country that posed a potential proliferation threat, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced July 6.

Department of Energy experts packaged 1.77 metric tons of low-enriched uranium (LEU), as well as approximately “1,000 highly radioactive sources,” according to a press release. The Department of Defense then airlifted the material, which had been stored at the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, to the United States on June 23.

The material could “potentially [have been] used in a radiological dispersal device or diverted to support a nuclear weapons program,” according to an Energy Department press release. A radiological weapon uses conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material but is not nearly as powerful as a nuclear weapon. LEU can be used in civilian nuclear reactors but also can be further enriched for use as the explosive material in nuclear weapons.

The Tuwaitha facility has long been declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and subject to agency safeguards. The United States informed the IAEA June 30 that it had removed the material, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei wrote in a July 6 letter to the UN Security Council.

National Nuclear Security Administration spokesperson Bryan Wilkes told Arms Control Today Aug. 19 that the United States consulted senior IAEA officials and received no objections to the transaction. The United States first notified the agency of its intention to remove the material in June 2003, ElBaradei’s letter said.

Meanwhile, the IAEA conducted its annual inventory of Iraq’s nuclear material at Tuwaitha, the agency announced Aug. 7. Such inspections are separate from those the IAEA conducted to enforce UN Security Council resolutions requiring Iraq to dismantle its suspected nuclear weapons program. The IAEA last visited Tuwaitha in June 2003, following reports that nuclear material had been looted from the facility after the U.S.-led invasion of the country in March 2003. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming stated that no nuclear material had been diverted from Tuwaitha since that inspection, Reuters reported Aug. 7. The remaining material, which mostly consists of natural uranium, depleted uranium, and LEU waste, “is not sensitive from a proliferation perspective,” according to an Aug. 7 IAEA press release.

ElBaradei said that this inspection was “a good first step” and expressed hope that the IAEA and the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) would be able to complete their UN-mandated missions. However, UN and U.S. officials told Arms Control Today that there is no indication that either UNMOVIC or the IAEA will resume their intrusive inspections work anytime soon, particularly in light of the unstable security situation in Iraq.

Senate Intelligence Committee Report Overlooks Handling of Iraq Intelligence and UN Inspectors' Findings

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Body: 

For Immediate Release: July 9, 2004

Contacts: Daryl Kimball at (202) 463-8270 x107, Paul Kerr at (202) 463-8270 x102

(Washington, D.C.): Intelligence and arms control experts said today that new findings detailing the past errors in assessing Iraq's weapons capabilities do not exonerate the Bush administration, which bears ultimate responsibility for exaggerating the Iraqi threat and for discarding the UN inspections that had effectively contained Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons programs.

"The erroneous judgments delivered by the CIA and other intelligence agencies about Iraq's alleged nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs do not excuse the president and senior administration officials for misrepresenting U.S. intelligence and for ignoring contrary findings by UN weapons inspectors in order to justify toppling the Iraqi dictator," said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

"The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released today does not adequately address senior Bush administration officials' handling of the intelligence information they received, reports that raw intelligence from unreliable sources was fed to the White House, or why the president and his advisors ignored evidence contradicting the worst-case assessments of Iraq's weapons capabilities," Kimball charged.

"According to the Senate Committee on Intelligence findings, the intelligence community knew as early as October 2002 that the document on which the claim that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium from Africa was based on a forgery," Kimball said. "The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Department of Energy registered their strong objection to the claim in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that Iraq had obtained aluminum tubes for the purpose of enriching uranium, but the president and his advisors failed to heed these clear warnings that the worst-case assessments were wrong."

"U.S. policymakers and intelligence agencies also failed to take into consideration on-the-ground intelligence gathered after UN inspectors returned to Iraq on November 27, 2002 after a nearly four-year absence. The inspectors' findings should have led to a reconsideration of U.S. intelligence assessments made in the fall of 2002, but they didn't," said Kimball.

"Within one month of the return of UN inspectors in November 2002, we were actually getting information which resolved a lot of the prudent concerns that the intelligence community had about activity at sites previously associated with chemical weapons or nuclear weapons production," Greg Thielmann noted in an ACA press briefing earlier this year. Thielmann retired in September 2002 as director of the Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs Office in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

Thielmann added: "Almost without exception, those worst-case suspicions were found to be in error by taking a look at the equipment, by talking to people on the ground, by comparing things that the inspectors had seen before but had been blind to for a period of four years."

In the lead-up to the March 2003 invasion, UN weapons inspectors could not find evidence of either active weapons programs or stockpiles of prohibited chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons and were dismantling ballistic missiles that exceeded UN-mandated range limits. Although the inspectors could not account for discrepancies in Iraq's declaration of its previous programs and stockpiles, chief inspector Hans Blix warned in February 2003 against equating unaccounted-for stockpiles with existing weapons.

"By the end of January 2003, the International Atomic Energy Agency had already delivered an interim judgment that the aluminum tubes account of the administration was incorrect. In February, a full month before the U.S. invasion, they arrived at a definitive judgment the aluminum tubes were not going into the nuclear weapons program, and that documents alleging that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger 'were not authentic,'" Thielmann noted.

"In addition, by the beginning of February, just after Colin Powell's presentation to the UN, Blix contested other U.S. charges concerning chemical and biological weapons, but U.S. officials ignored the information," noted Kimball.

Though the major U.S. claims were clearly in doubt, President George W. Bush told the American people on March 17, 2003 that: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

"Since the war, Bush administration officials have claimed that the invasion was necessary because Saddam Hussein could have quickly reconstituted his illegal weapons programs. This assertion ignores the fact that UN-mandated weapons inspections had already effectively contained Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile capabilities and would have continued to do so if the president had not prematurely ended them," Kimball said.

As Hans Blix said in an interview published in the July issue of Arms Control Today, "If inspections had continued...[UN inspectors] would have been able to go to all sites suggested to us by intelligence...and since there weren't any weapons, we wouldn't have found any...and I think that ought to have shaken the intelligence agencies...to say 'Sorry, but...our sources were bad.'"

"The Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people of the military threat posed by Iraq. Some of the fault lies with the performance of the intelligence community, but most of it lies with the way senior officials misused the information they were provided," Thielmann said.

"Intelligence is meant to inform government decision-making, not to be invoked or discarded selectively to justify predetermined political decisions. The unjustified claims of the Bush administration on Iraq's illicit weapons capabilities have severely damaged the credibility of the U.S. government and the U.S. intelligence community," said Kimball.

# # #

The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies to address security threats posed by nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as conventional arms.

For the full transcript of the Hans Blix interview see <www.armscontrol.org/interviews/20040619_Blix.asp> and for other Iraq-related resources, visit <www.armscontrol.org/country/iraq/>.

Country Resources:

UN: Iraqi Weapons Sites Looted

Paul Kerr


Since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, sites associated with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs have been destroyed, and Iraqi missile engines have turned up in Europe, according to a May 28 report from the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). The report states that “recent satellite imagery” shows that a number of sites in Iraq containing equipment and materials that could be used to produce illicit weapons “have been either cleaned out or destroyed.”

The report does not rule out the possibility that Hussein’s government removed the material, stating that “[i]t is not known whether such equipment and materials were still present at the sites during the time of coalition action in March and April of 2003.” The report adds, however, that “it is possible that some of the materials may have been removed from Iraq by looters of sites and sold as scrap.”

UN Security Council resolutions adopted after the 1991 Persian Gulf War tasked the United Nations Special Commission—UNMOVIC’s predecessor—with inspecting and supervising the destruction of Iraq’s prohibited weapons. UN weapons inspectors have not been able to carry out on-the-ground inspections since leaving Iraq just before the invasion began in March 2003. That role has been taken over by the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which has refused to share its results with UNMOVIC, despite repeated public appeals by UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Demetrius Perricos and other officials. Still, UNMOVIC has continued a limited investigation using other means and by sifting through its existing data.

The report echoes an April letter from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei to the UN Security Council. ElBaradei wrote that commercial satellite imagery revealed “extensive removal of equipment and, in some instances…entire buildings” from Iraqi nuclear facilities. The IAEA had a mandate similar to UNMOVIC’s, but limited to Iraq’s nuclear-related sites. (See ACT, May 2004.)

UNMOVIC, along with the IAEA, is continuing to investigate the fate of the missing material. The report reveals that, through IAEA investigators’ photographs taken at a scrap yard in Rotterdam, UNMOVIC has discovered missile engines that were used both in Iraq’s SA-2 surface-to-air missiles and its prohibited surface-to-surface al Samoud missiles. Iraq was in the process of destroying the al Samoud missiles when the invasion began.

The total number of missing engines is unknown. The report says that between five and 12 “similar engines…had been seen in the yard in January and February,” adding that “more engines could have…passed through the scrap yard unnoticed.” UNMOVIC experts compared one engine’s serial number against the commission’s database and found that the engine had been under UNMOVIC monitoring. UNMOVIC personnel visited the scrap yard in April.

The IAEA was investigating the discovery of a small amount of lightly refined uranium ore found in a shipment of scrap metal that was sent to the Rotterdam scrap yard. Agency investigators first visited the site in January and have made several additional visits since then.

UNMOVIC spokesperson Ewen Buchanan told Arms Control Today June 22 that commission experts found 20 more SA-2 engines at scrap yards in Jordan, along with other dual-use equipment that had been under UNMOVIC monitoring. Commission experts also found other items in the Rotterdam scrap yard made of “dual-use materials,” the May report explained.

UNMOVIC is also evaluating Iraq’s efforts to acquire prohibited weapons items and materials between December 1998 and November 2002, when UN inspectors were absent from Iraq. The Bush administration argued before the invasion that Iraq was reconstituting its WMD programs through illicit procurement. Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John Wolf stated June 15 that “Iraq was procuring, and positioning itself to develop WMD capabilities on the bedrock of previously established programs.”

The report reveals that Iraq acquired some items and used them in its prohibited missile programs. (See ACT, November 2003.) Additionally, Iraq acquired “a variety of dual-use” items and materials for possible use in biological or chemical weapons programs, but there is “no evidence” that Iraq actually used the materials for weapons purposes. Although some of these items were acquired through illicit channels, Iraq eventually declared most of them to UNMOVIC. Some of these declarations, however, were “misleading,” the report says.

In June 22 remarks to a nonproliferation conference organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Perricos raised questions about the fate of the ISG after the scheduled June 30 handover of power in Iraq from U.S. occupation authorities to a transitional Iraqi government.

“There’s no idea of what will happen after June 30, under whose authority and under whose supervision,” he said.

Perricos observed that the most recent UN resolution concerning Iraq reaffirmed the Security Council’s decision to revisit UNMOVIC’s role in continuing to ensure Iraq’s disarmament and an accounting of its prewar programs.

New Weapons Discovery


Charles Duelfer, the CIA’s chief adviser to the ISG, told FOX News June 24 that the group has found “10 or 12” artillery shells containing either sarin nerve agent or mustard agent. Duelfer said the shells date back to the 1991 Gulf War, FOX News reported.

Iraq produced both mustard and sarin prior to the Gulf War but never provided UN arms inspectors with a complete accounting of these agents. The ISG found a single artillery round filled with sarin in May, but the shell was rigged as an improvised explosive device, which made it ineffective as a chemical weapon. (See ACT, June 2004.)

 

 

 

 

Getting it Right the Next Time: An ACT Interview with Hans Blix

 Interviewed by Miles Pomper, Paul Kerr, and Daryl Kimball.

 Hans Blix, former executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), spoke with Arms Control Today June 19. He shared his insights on nonproliferation and disarmament issues as well as his account of the momentous events leading to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Some interview excerpts follow. (For a complete transcript please click here)

 

The Need for Further Disarmament Steps

One of my strong feelings is that we need to get back to dynamic work on the disarmament agenda. I find it so politically puzzling that we have not been moving on this agenda. We were celebrating and recollecting the Reagan era, and Mr. [Mikhail] Gorbachev was here in Washington and recalled the ambitions that they had, to do away with nuclear weapons. I was at the opening of the Cold War, and indeed the end of the Cold War was the greatest thing that has happened for disarmament. Tensions drive armament, and the de-tension, détente, helps to promote disarmament. And it did. Indeed, much has happened. You see the dismantling of weapons, and it’s nice that the problem is rather how to do away with plutonium [more] than anything else.

However, there still remains the fact that this disarmament process [the UN Conference on Disarmament] has stalled in Geneva for a number of years. There are, to my knowledge, no big territorial or ideological issues at stake between great powers and continents or blocs, if there are any blocs any longer. We shall see, of course, more civil wars; we shall see more regional conflict in the world, but we do not see over the horizon any conflict between the blocs, and that being so, it is puzzling that we are stuck in the big disarmament process. A relaunching of the disarmament process would inject a new atmosphere. I’m not going so far as to contend that it would affect the North Korean situation or Iranian situation, but there would be a new atmosphere. It’s hard to work up a great enthusiasm…among the non-nuclear-weapon states at a time when you see a strong reluctance on the part of the [United States] at any rate to move ahead with the big issues that are stuck.

On North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan

I’m probably known to the world mostly as an inspector, and I had that function at the IAEA. But I always felt that the first barrier to proliferation is the political one, and sometimes I feel that, in the arms control community, we tend to look at all these technical fixes and the control of this material, and that’s fine—I’m not against all that. But let us look at what is the basic thing that drives countries to go for nuclear weapons or get more of them: it is security concerns. When you look at Iran; or you look at Israel; or you look at India, Pakistan, Iraq, certainly North Korea, you have to see what are the perceived security concerns they have.

In the case of North Korea, I think it’s absolutely clear that they have that concern. They have been talking about a nonaggression pact, using language that we had around the Stalinist period, and we laugh a little at it. But when you look at what they want, it seems to me that they want an assurance that their borders are inviolable, and I don’t see that that part of the problem should be very difficult. I don’t see anyone who wants to invade North Korea because the problems of taking care of them would be very great.

The other side of the Korean thing may be the more difficult part of establishing inspection, verification, which must be sufficiently far reaching, and you only ever talk about nuclear issues. What about biological and chemical and missiles in North Korea? In Iraq [biological and chemical weapons were] not that irrelevant, but when you come to North Korea, you have the feeling that no one talks at all about it. So, inspection I think will be important and it raises special difficulties in a country so hermetically closed as North Korea. But what must drive them a lot is an almost paranoic feeling that they have no friends. They used to have the Russians, and they had the Chinese, etcetera, and they felt stronger earlier. But today, they feel on insecure grounds, and I don’t think this guarantee should be a difficult one to give.

Therefore, I think that it is right to zero in on the six-party talks and on their demand for a guarantee on inviolability. And when we talk about their demand for oil and for food, etcetera, I [would] see if this can be [done], not as a humanitarian prop-up, but for an evolution of North Korea into a more viable [state]. If North Korea is to have a peaceful exit, what I would like to see would be that the outside assistance, which they no doubt will ask for, be geared toward an economic development in which they will come over in the Chinese direction. Not simply helping them not starve for the next period, but actually leading them somewhere.

Clearly, Iran is [in] an area equipping itself with weapons. You had of course first Israel. But Iran must also be aware that Iraq will now be a sovereign state, and although I hope that there will be effective verification remaining in Iraq after sovereignty is supposed to pass to it, nevertheless the technical know-how still remains in Iraq. And I’ve seen the holes in the Bushehr reactors, which the Iraqis shot with some Exocet rockets in the past. So, I imagine this will also figure in their [Iran’s] thinking.

And while I approve of the diplomatic efforts of the European states,[1] which are also coordinated with the [United States], I think that they must not lose sight of the larger political approach to détente in the Middle East. It seems very far away, and I’m not naïve, and I know it’s not happening tomorrow. However, it has been conspicuous all the time that all the states in that region support the notion of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Israel does, and so does Iran…and if one were to tackle the central problem of the Middle East, the relations between Israelis and Palestinians, I think it will also prove easier to tackle the issues of weapons of mass destruction. I’m not at all against the Europeans’ initiative, but I think in all these cases, we need to remember the political dimension.

The [United States] doesn’t have much by way of economic relations with Iran today, but in Europe they do. That should hover in the background. If you begin to brandish them, then it may be counterproductive, especially when you’re talking in the case of Iran. Yes I agree, they have not been forthright, they have not been open, their lack of transparency increases the suspicion—all of that I agree with.

At the same time, when one asks them to renounce or suspend their enrichment capacity, I think one also has to remember there’s a certain pride in these things and [in] technological prowess. I have heard it said, “Why should Iran have nuclear power, they have oil?” No one asked that question when the shah was about to launch a huge [nuclear] project. I think this nuclear technology is part of the feeling that, yes, we are also able to do the most advanced modern technology.

On Nuclear Power and Proliferation

I’m a strong proponent of nuclear power, I’m not against it. Not least today, when we are seeing attacks on pipelines in Iraq and when we have a feeling that terrorist movements are trying to scare away Western technicians or Westerners from Saudi Arabia. Then we are getting into a situation that may be similar to the past fear of a cutting off of supplies of oil. And we should be reminded then that with nuclear power you can at least reduce the reliance upon oil somewhat, not that much, but this is one of the most significant ways of doing it for electricity. In [the] long term, if we were to make use of fuel cell cars, instead of gasoline-powered cars, the hydrogen could be produced with the help of nuclear power.

I do not mind countries like India, certainly a huge country, going for nuclear power. I think that’s desirable. But it also leads me to be an even stronger advocate of nonproliferation and of safety in the operation of reactors and the disposal of waste.

We do have quite a number of non-nuclear-weapon states that have enrichment: Brazil, South Africa, Japan, of course. If we are asking that no one else do it, I don’t think that it can be a hard or fast rule. You may have a country that would develop very fast into using nuclear power much more. And I think it would have to be an arrangement on which you can have some flexibility. Suppose that Ukraine for instance, which has a lot of nuclear power, if they would also go for enrichment. Then I don’t see any absolute obstacle why that should not be so. At the present time, we have licensed five nuclear-weapon states. Should we now license a few more for enrichment, and that’s the end of it? That’s a rigidity. I think we need some sort of flexibility in that for the future.

On Inspections and Intelligence

Recently, I’ve been trying to explain how far can you come with inspection, how useful is it? When Mr. [Vice President Dick] Cheney said, for instance, that the inspections are useless at best and instead [the administration relied on] defectors, he clearly went wrong.

On the other hand, I think it’s also risky to say that inspection is the key. Don’t underestimate it, don’t overestimate it. They are like search machines. They have their merits, and they have their limitations. The great merit is that they can go into any place legally, they can be entitled to go in, and especially with the [IAEA] Additional Protocol,[2] so you can go much further than before. You have the right to have access to the information, to people, to documents, etcetera. But they also have their limitations, they cannot go around the country. For that, they need to have information.

Now what can we do then, with an organization like UNMOVIC? Yes, I would be in favor of a modified mandate that would allow it to continue with a broadened base that could be used ad hoc by the [UN] Security Council. It is not a very expensive item for the moment. They are managing on leftovers from the oil-for-food [program],[3] and that will last for a while. But they will need a budget. And the beauty of it is that they are not dependent upon a standing group or standing army of inspectors. Rather, we had the roster system set up for a different reason: that you were not allowed to go in.[4] And so we created a roster system, we train people, they work at home, and they are available like an international reserve that can go in. And it is very economic, they are given the refresher courses, and they learn the latest techniques. So, with a relatively low cost you could have a reserve for some inspection.

Let me say something more about intelligence and merging or mixing it with the inspection. This is fundamental. We know now, after the Iraqi affair, that international inspectors under the authority of the Security Council or the board of the IAEA came to conclusions that were closer to reality than what the intelligence agencies did. There are a couple of reasons that helped us on the [inspectors] side. One was that we had the Security Council as our master. The Security Council did not push us or breathe down our neck to come into any particular conclusions. They just said, “You do your professional work, and you report accurately to us.” Intelligence agencies clearly felt there was an expectation that they would come up with something that pointed to the direction of the existence of the weapons because their executive branch of the government wanted that, both in the [United States] and in the [United Kingdom].

The other [factor] was the international civil servants concept, which is strong in the [United Nations] and the IAEA. You are there to assemble facts, and submit that to a political level. You are not part of the policymaking. I was very clear to the Security Council that I am not advising what you are to do. I simply am responsible for our job of collecting the data and giving it to you.

In the national governments, I think there has been a risk of the blurring, whether we see it, not only in this particular sphere, but we see of course in many areas where government, executive branch, in the policymaking and selling it to the public, will want to create their own reality. And they repeat again and again the same thing of questionable factual value, and it turns it into virtual reality. I think you might say Iraq is a case where eventually the virtual reality collided with old-fashioned, real reality.

So, [we need to retain] this distinction. Not doing away with intelligence data—they have their role—but keep them apart. And as I said, the intelligence can provide the inspectors with ideas where to go because they have other sources than inspectors do.

On Iraq

And what you can see today, of course, is that, after the Iraqi affair, there is no political inclination to rely too much on intelligence.

So, the whole concept of counterproliferation has been weakened. It’s not gone, because if something is imminent, then sure, they will act. But they can also go to the Security Council and share the responsibility of a decision. I don’t accept their contention that the Security Council is impotent. I saw that [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair said that the council is not there just to talk but also to act. All right. Within a short day or two after that, the council acted within less than 12 hours to take a decision on Haiti. So, if they are agreed, they can act.

But in the case of Iraq last spring, they were not agreed, and I think it was to the credit of the council that they did not authorize the war. Where would we have stood today if the council had said fine to the Spanish-U.S.-[British] resolution, had authorized it on erroneous premises? They were skeptical of the premises; they were right. And therefore, I think it was a good thing that they didn’t authorize the war. And with the present composition of the council, there is no automatic veto. The Russians, the Chinese are not automatically vetoing things. And therefore, the council should not be ruled out as impotent. I think it is there, and if you had a threat that is not within 12 hours, well, I think that you might also share the responsibility in taking action by going to the council.

I never said in the Security Council that I would advise against war. It would be presumptuous of me…. Now my personal wish was of course to continue the inspection, and I think that’s probably how people perceived my attitude. But I did not explicitly ask Security Council to vet that.

However, on the question of the evidence, we were not silent. You will find in my book[5] the description of the conversation with Blair. I have the transcript of it, and it is amusing. I think it was in February [2003]. It makes clear that I do not exclude the possibility that there are still weapons. But I am making clear to him that we were not impressed by the evidence that we had. I do say to him that it would be paradoxical if you invaded with several hundred thousand men and you didn’t find anything. This was in February. And he then said, no, no. All the intelligence agencies are agreed. And to top it off, he said “and the Egyptians too.”

So, I had no doubt at all that he was [acting] in good faith, nor have I ever suggested that President George W. Bush was [acting] in bad faith. But our doubts or skepticism about the evidence began in the autumn because David Albright [president of the Institute for Science and International Security] and his people were doubting the [claim about] aluminum tubes. And I was doubtful about the yellow cake contract,[6] not because I had any suspicion at all that it was a forgery, but I felt that yellow cake is a long way from a bomb. And why should the Iraqis bother to import yellow cake? That was my simple layman thought about it.

But then in January and in February, we went to dozens of sites given by intelligence—U.S., [British] and others—and found no weapons of mass destruction. That shook us quite a lot. Then came [Secretary of State] Colin Powell with his beautiful presentation—I won’t use another noun for it—his beautiful presentation to the Security Council. Perhaps we should have felt humiliated because he was then presenting all these smoking guns we hopeless inspectors had failed to see. However, I felt more like sitting in a court bench, saying, well, the chief prosecutor is now putting forth the evidence; then let’s see what the experts say about this evidence. So, I let our experts dig their teeth into it. Now there were of course many things they could not check, the intercepted telephone calls and so forth that they could not check, but there were several others that they could check and each they were skeptical about.

Now that was when I said I have to go to the Security Council and also register our doubts about the evidence, and I did so. There I referred to three things. I referred to the fact that you cannot say that simply because something is unaccounted for it exists. Secondly, I referred to the sites that we had been to [that were] not building any weapons of mass destruction. And thirdly, I took up the case of the chemical sites, which…Powell had referred to, it was the only one that I took up. I said the trucks that he had seen [that] they thought were decontamination trucks our inspectors had seen.... And we had taken lots of environmental samples and seen no traces of chemicals. So, this was still in February [2003 when] I went before the [Security] Council. Maybe I could accuse myself today of not speaking louder, but that was the only voice that came.

If Inspections Had Continued

If inspections had continued, I think that two things would have happened. First, we would have been able to go to all sites suggested to us by intelligence—[British], U.S., or any other—and since there weren’t any weapons, we wouldn’t have found any. And we would have reported that fact, and I think that ought to have shaken the intelligence agencies. We didn’t have bad relations with intelligence; we were not so antagonistic at all. I think it should have shaken them to say, “Sorry, but then our sources were bad.” Maybe the time was too short, maybe the number of cases was too short for them to retreat on that, or draw that conclusion.

So, that would have been the most important [outcome]. The other thing that could have happened was also important, but slightly less work: that was that the Iraqis gave us at the end of February and the very beginning of March, they gave us long lists of people whom they said had participated in the unilateral destruction operation in 1991. And what we would have done would have been to interview these people. And there are difficulties you have with interviewing in totalitarian countries, but nevertheless there were some 80 or so names and in such a large number if you could interview them, there might have been some hope that we would understand more.

And it was quite clear that, when inspections were over, then you go into long-term monitoring,[7] and there was no end to that. [It] wouldn’t require a specific decision of the Security Council. Now with [UN Security Council Resolution] 1284, this system was modified, and they constantly introduced what they called “reinforced long-term monitoring.” Well anyway, they were reinforced inspections, and so they made no difference between inspection and monitoring and there was no limit set to that. The real limit would not be formal, but it would be the risk of a fatigue in the council; [that is] a beginning resistance from the Iraqi side, and a fatigue in the council, a wish not to implement it, to enforce it. That could have happened but you know, that’s containment. And if they saw a sign of new nuclear things, then they would probably pull up their socks again. So, that’s the risk of containment, yes.

But the result would have been that Saddam [Hussein] would have stayed in power probably. Some people say that he couldn’t have survived the rumor that they had weapons of mass destruction—that’s not so sure, I think. The sole good result of the war I see is the disappearance of one of the world’s worst regimes.

However, what would have been the case then? It would have been a little like [Fidel] Castro, like [Moammar] Gaddafi, who is now supposed to be a good boy. It would have been a situation similar, where the world does not intervene on a humanitarian basis but leaves it to foreign policy by obituary, as The New York Times calls it elegantly, that you wait him out. And it would have had many negative aspects, but it also would have had many positive aspects.

ENDNOTES

1. See Paul Kerr, “With Deadline Looming, European Foreign Ministers Strike Deal to Restrict Iran’s Nuclear Program,” Arms Control Today, November 2003, p. 24.

2. States concluding additional protocols to their safeguards agreements with the IAEA are obliged to disclose to the agency significantly more information regarding their nuclear activities than they would under their original safeguards agreements. Such protocols also increase the IAEA’s authority to detect clandestine nuclear activities.

3. The oil-for-food program, which allowed Iraq to sell oil and use the proceeds to purchase medicine, health supplies, food, and other supplies “essential” for civilian needs, was created in 1995.

4. After UN inspectors left Iraq in December 1998, the Iraqi government did not allow them to resume work in Iraq until November 2002.

5. Hans Blix, Disarming Iraq (New York: Pantheon Books, 2004).

6. For more background on these claims, see Paul Kerr, “Bush’s Claims About Iraq’s Nuclear Program,” Arms Control Today, September 2003, p. 22.

7. Resolution 1284, adopted in 1999, authorized the creation of UNMOVIC to replace UNSCOM after UN inspectors were withdrawn the previous year and to verify that Iraq had fulfilled its remaining disarmament obligations.

 

 

 

 

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