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"No one can solve this problem alone, but together we can change things for the better." 

– Setsuko Thurlow
Hiroshima Survivor
June 6, 2016
Iraq

Army Report Details Patriot Record in Iraq War

Wade Boese

A new Army report reaffirms earlier Pentagon claims that the Patriot missile defense system destroyed all Iraqi missiles that it engaged during the invasion of Iraq, but does not fully account for why the system failed to target several other Iraqi missiles fired at U.S. forces and Kuwait. The report also describes several operational challenges to the system’s performance that emerged in the buildup to and unfolding of the conflict.

The 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, which is charged with protecting U.S. ground forces from air and missile attacks, recently released its account of “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” As part of that history, the command reports that the Patriot missile defense system, which is designed to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, scored a perfect nine for nine in intercepting Iraqi missiles. Colonel Charles Anderson, chief of staff of the command, wrote, “The critics concerns over Patriot lethality should be forever silenced.”

Yet Iraq fired at least 23 ballistic and cruise missiles, according to the report, during the three-week span it took U.S. forces to fight their way to Baghdad and topple Saddam Hussein’s regime. Of the 14 Iraqi missiles not engaged by Patriots, four were reported as outside the range of any Patriot system and one exploded shortly after launch. No official explanation is given for why the other nine Iraqi missiles were not fired upon, though the report implied that at least three might have been because their trajectories were judged to be non-threatening.

Patriots also did not down any Iraqi cruise missiles, which are powered for their whole flight, can maneuver, and fly at low altitudes. Due to these flight characteristics, a cruise missile can be difficult for radars to track or confused with aircraft.

Although dismissing several Iraqi cruise missile attacks that caused no casualties as ineffective, the report acknowledged, “continued [cruise missile] attacks may have forced us to change our tactics.” The report later added that “the ability of these older cruise missiles to penetrate friendly airspace and reach their targets should serve as a warning…that the emerging cruise missile threat must be addressed.”


The other Iraqi missile that presented a special challenge was the short-range FROG-7 missile. Because of their brief flight times, the missiles must be detected and engaged within roughly 90 seconds, forcing Patriot commanders to make rapid firing decisions. The report recommended that the Army consider putting more senior officers in charge of Patriot batteries in the future to ensure effective decision-making.

Iraq did not launch any Scud missiles, which an earlier version of the Patriot had little success against in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Originally built by the Soviet Union and sold prolifically, Scuds are aging, short-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a several hundred kilogram payload.

The report also pointed out difficulties in getting the Patriot systems up and running. The Iraqis, who waited to fire any missiles at U.S. forces until after the invasion started, might have caught U.S. forces unprepared to use Patriots if they had attacked earlier.

Up until just two days before the U.S. invasion began, Patriot radar systems were regularly malfunctioning due to the harsh environmental conditions. Raytheon, the Patriot manufacturer, sent engineers out to the field to get the systems working properly.

Once hostilities commenced, another problem arose. Due to the enormous amount of electronic equipment involved in the fast-moving battle, there was, in the report’s term, “cluttered cyberspace.” Electronic signals interfered with each other, creating confusion for radars and communication systems. The report said this could have contributed to one Patriot’s mistaken intercept of a U.S. fighter aircraft. Another Patriot destroyed a British jet.

An analysis should be done on battlefield electromagnetic interference and new tactics and techniques should be created to deal with the problem, the report recommended. It further stated that these should be “applicable to the environment in the Korean Theater of Operations.” The United States is currently in a standoff with North Korea over its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and roughly 37,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea. These forces are equipped with Patriots.

Although Patriots are mobile and some moved forward with U.S. troops into Iraq, the report stressed that the system should be better designed to operate “cross-country” or off-road. “Since the armed forces of the United States are now an offensive force (as opposed to the Cold War, defense of Europe orientation) it is imperative that Patriot become more mobile and able to sustain maneuver over time,” the report concluded.

U.S. forces possess three versions of Patriot missiles. The newest is the Patriot Advanced Capability-3, which accounted for two of the nine Iraqi missile kills.

The Army Inspector General is also conducting a study on the Patriot’s performance and U.S. Central Command is investigating the two friendly-fire incidents.

A new Army report reaffirms earlier Pentagon claims that the Patriot missile defense system destroyed all Iraqi missiles that it engaged during the invasion of Iraq...

Deconstructed: Kay's Congressional Testimony

Paul Kerr

Biological Weapons

David Kay, chief U.S. weapons inspector, told Congress that “Iraq after 1996 further compartmentalized its program and focused on maintaining smaller, covert capabilities that could be activated quickly to surge the production of [biological weapons] agents” and that Iraq concealed relevant “equipment and materials” from UN inspectors in violation of Security Council Resolution 1441. His most prominent piece of evidence, however, was that an Iraqi scientist hid “a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B. from which a biological agent can be produced” in his home; Kay later acknowledged that the vial had been hidden in the scientist’s home since 1993. Kay also said that a “very large body of information has been developed…that confirms” Iraq’s concealment efforts, but he did not elaborate.

Additionally, Kay said the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) has “not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile [biological weapons] production effort” and that the group’s investigation into two trailers discovered last spring is so far inconclusive. A May CIA report claimed that the two trailers were for producing biological weapons, apparently vindicating the administration’s prewar claims that Iraq possessed such mobile production units. The Department of State, however, has expressed doubts about the trailers’ purpose.

The ISG also found that:

· Iraqi scientists experimented with “nonpathogenic organisms serving as surrogates for prohibited investigation with pathogenic agents.” For example, they conducted experiments with a substitute for anthrax that would have been “directly applicable” to producing anthrax for weapons.
· Iraqi officials working to prepare for UN inspections were “explicitly ordered not to declare” a prison laboratory complex that was possibly used in human testing of biological weapons agents.
· New research was being conducted on biological-weapon applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever, and that continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin were not declared to the UN.
· Iraq never declared a “clandestine network of laboratories and facilities within the security service apparatus.” The network “was suitable for preserving [biological weapons] expertise, [biological weapons] capable facilities and continuing R&D [research and development]—all key elements for maintaining a capability for resuming biological weapons production.” The ISG is “still working on determining the extent to which this network was tied to large-scale military efforts or…weapons.”

Chemical Weapons

Iraq “did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled chemical weapons program after 1991. Information found to date suggests that Iraq’s large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new [chemical weapons] munitions was reduced—if not entirely destroyed—during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions, and UN inspections.”

Still, the ISG has “developed multiple sources that indicate that Iraq explored the possibility of chemical weapons production in recent years, possibly as late as 2003.”

Nuclear Weapons

“Iraqi scientists and senior government officials” told the ISG that “Saddam Hussein remained firmly committed to acquiring nuclear weapons” and “assert that Saddam would have resumed nuclear weapons development at some future point,” perhaps “after Iraq was free of sanctions.” In 2000, Iraq “began several small and relatively unsophisticated dual-use research initiatives,” but the ISG has no evidence that the research was applied to weapons production.

The ISG has “not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material” although “Iraq did take steps to preserve some technological capability from the pre-1991 nuclear weapons program.” These steps include directing scientists to perform work to “preserve the science base and core skills that would be needed for any future fissile material production or nuclear weapons development.” The ISG “has found indications that there was interest, beginning in 2002, in reconstituting a centrifuge enrichment program.”

“Several [Iraqi] scientists—at the direction of senior Iraqi government officials—preserved documents and equipment from their pre-1991 nuclear weapon-related research and did not reveal” them to the UN. These items would have been “useful” for uranium-enrichment programs, according to Kay.

Delivery Systems

Missiles

Kay’s statement indicates that Iraq was conducting R&D on several different missile projects designed to produce missiles with ranges exceeding the 150 km permitted under Security Council resolutions. Kay told reporters Oct. 2 that the ISG is still trying to determine whether the missiles were intended to carry conventional or weapons of mass destruction (WMD) payloads.

UN weapons inspectors ordered Iraq to destroy its al Samoud missiles, which Iraq declared to the UN in December 2002, in February 2003 because the missiles exceeded the permitted range. Baghdad was in the process of doing so when the invasion began.

Kay cited several Iraqi missile programs:

· Beginning in 1999, Iraq attempted to acquire technology from North Korea for “surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 1,300 km…and land-to-sea missiles with a range of 300 km.” No such transfers actually occurred.
· “[S]ources” told ISG that, beginning in 2000, Hussein “ordered the development of ballistic missiles with ranges of at least 400 km and up to 1,000 km.” These projects appeared to include liquid and solid propellant missiles. Work on the former “had [apparently] progressed to a point to support initial prototype production of some parts and assemblies.” It is unclear as to whether work on the latter had progressed past the design phase.
· “[T]estimony from missile designers” indicates “that Iraq…reinitiated work on converting SA-2 Surface-to-Air Missiles into ballistic missiles with a range goal of about 250 km. Engineering work was reportedly underway in early 2003, despite the presence of [the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission].”
· Kay said Iraq had two cruise missile programs. The first was to increase the range of its HY-2 coastal-defense cruise missile from 100 km to 150-180 km, according to “multiple sources of testimony…corroborated in part by a captured document.” Iraq produced 10 of these missiles, and two were fired during the invasion. The second, aimed at converting the same missile into a land-attack cruise missile with a 1,000 km range, began in 2001, but “Iraq halted engine development and testing and disassembled the test stand in late 2002 before the design criteria had been met.”

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)

According to Iraqi officials, Iraq had several UAV programs. A prototype of one flew well beyond its permitted range during a 2002 test flight. However, Kay said that whether these vehicles were “intended” to deliver WMD “remains an open question.” Iraq had such a program before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and UN inspectors were still investigating the matter as of the March 2003 invasion.

Inspectors' Difficulties

Kay said the ISG has faced difficulties performing its work:

· Iraq engaged in “systematic sanitization of documentary and computer evidence in a wide range of offices, laboratories, and companies suspected of WMD work. The pattern of these efforts to erase evidence—hard drives destroyed, specific files burned, equipment cleaned of all traces of use—are ones of deliberate, rather than random, acts.”
· Iraqi officials dispersed “material and documentation related to weapons programs” and may have taken “evidence and…weapons-related materials” to other countries.
· Both ISG personnel and knowledgeable Iraqis are subject to safety threats. For example, Kay stated that ISG facilities and personnel were attacked three times in September alone and told FOX News Sunday Oct. 5 that one scientist was assassinated the same day he spoke to ISG inspectors.
· Iraq undertook extensive concealment efforts, such as co-locating unmarked chemical ordnance with large stocks of conventional munitions.

 

 

David Kay, chief U.S. weapons inspector, told Congress that “Iraq after 1996 further compartmentalized its program and focused on maintaining smaller, covert capabilities...

Key Hill Panel Faults Intelligence Community for Flawed Iraq Analysis;

Paul Kerr

As the search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) continues without any weapons discoveries and the Bush administration steadily retreats from some of its earlier claims, a key congressional committee has reportedly issued a harsh critique of the intelligence community’s Iraq analysis. The administration has been promising for months that questions surrounding its so far unproven claims about Iraq’s arsenals would be resolved by a report from a CIA task force headed by David Kay, a former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector. But administration officials have recently cast doubt on whether that report will ever be made public.

“I would not count on [public] reports,” National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told reporters during a press briefing Sept. 22. During a Sept. 28 appearance on FOX News Sunday, Rice said Kay’s “progress report” is “likely not to draw...major conclusions.” She added that the administration “will make known [Kay’s] findings” but did not say if the report would be released to the public.

Bush officials continue to insist that evidence of programs to produce prohibited weapons, as well as weapons themselves, will be found. However, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Conway said during a Sept. 9 press briefing that Iraqi weapons “were not at the operational level.”

The Washington Post reported Sept. 28 that Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and ranking member Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) sent a letter Sept. 25 to CIA Director George Tenet criticizing the intelligence community for lacking the ability to collect new evidence about Iraqi weapons capabilities and relying on “past assessments.” The letter adds that the intelligence community took “the absence of proof” that Iraq had destroyed prohibited weapons as “proof that they continued to exist.” CIA spokesman Bill Harlow called the letter’s findings “premature and wrong,” according to the Post.

Retreating

During the past few months, administration officials have backtracked from their earlier assertions about Iraq’s weapons. Prior to the invasion, officials vigorously asserted that Baghdad possessed weapons of mass destruction. (See ACT, July/August 2003 and September 2003.) In public statements since June, however, officials have stressed that inspectors are certain to find evidence of weapons programs rather than actual weapons.

Two senior administration officials recently corrected claims they made months ago. During a Sept. 10 press conference, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged that his March 30 claim that “we know where…[Iraq’s WMD] are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad” was inaccurate and said he should have stated that “our intelligence tells us they’re in that area.”

Similarly, Vice President Dick Cheney told NBC’s Meet the Press Sept. 14 that he misspoke when he said during a March 16 interview that Iraq had “reconstituted nuclear weapons” and that he merely meant to say Iraq had the “capability” to develop such weapons—a claim he had repeated earlier in the show.

The vice president then went on to make a number of questionable charges. For instance, he said an Iraqi scientist came forward with “full designs” for a gas centrifuge “system,” as well as the “key parts” to “build such a system.” That scientist, however, had hidden the parts since 1991 and an IAEA official said the component set was incomplete and the documents appeared to contain errors. (See ACT, September 2003.) Gas centrifuges can be used to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons.

Cheney also asserted that Iraq possessed mobile units to produce biological weapons, citing the discovery of two trailers that, according to the CIA, were designed for this purpose. A Department of State memorandum, however, expresses doubts about whether the trailers were built to produce biological weapons. (See ACT, July/August 2003 and June 2003.)
Moreover, Cheney stated that he had never seen a 2002 report by former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson that calls into question intelligence reports accusing Iraq of trying to acquire uranium in Niger—a key component of the administration’s nuclear weapons charges against Iraq. In a Sept. 16 interview, Wilson argued that he believed the government’s system for getting such information to senior officials would had to have changed significantly in order for Cheney’s account to be true. (See ACT, September 2003.)

As the possibility of finding weapons or significant weapons programs recedes, officials have continued to stress other motives for the Iraq invasion. Secretary of State Colin Powell argued during a Sept. 28 television appearance that Saddam Hussein’s appalling human rights record, along with suspected ties to terrorists and WMD activities, justified the invasion. In a Sept. 5 interview, Richard Haass, the State Department’s recently departed director of policy planning maintained there was “a menu of arguments” for the invasion, including “the feeling that we had to score a geopolitical victory” in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The IAEA Reports


Meanwhile, the IAEA says it had found no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq by the time it left the country March 18, according to a report summarizing IAEA inspection activities pertaining to Iraq since September 2002 and released during the Sept. 15-19 general conference. However, the report adds that the agency did not have enough time to completely resolve questions over whether Iraq’s capabilities had changed since December 1998, when Iraq stopped cooperating with inspectors.

The report goes on to say that the IAEA would have been able to provide “credible assurance” that Iraq had not revived its nuclear program “within an additional two to three months of continuing verification activities.”

The document also summarizes the agency’s June 7-23 inspection of the Tuwaitha nuclear complex following reports that nuclear material had been looted during the March invasion. (See ACT, July/August 2003). The inspectors estimated that at least 10 kilograms of uranium compounds could have been dispersed but that the materials are not a proliferation concern.

 

 

 

 

As the search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) continues without any weapons discoveries and the Bush administration steadily retreats from some of its earlier claims...

Iraq Inquiry Winds Down; Blair Suffers Political Blow

Daniel Koik

As Lord Hutton prepares to wrap up his investigation into the suicide of arms expert David Kelly, it seems that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will escape legal charges that his government had falsified and exaggerated pre-war intelligence information on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Yet, Blair is hardly in the clear: the investigation’s revelations about the Blair government’s handling of intelligence and its treatment of Kelly have significantly damaged the Labor leader’s political standing.

The Parliament Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) concluded in a Sept. 11 report that, during the preparation of a September 2002 dossier documenting British intelligence analysis of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs and capabilities, the Blair government had not applied political pressure on the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), which was in charge of drafting the dossier. Referring to a May 29 report by BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan that alleged such pressure and first sparked the controversy, the ISC said, “The dossier was not ‘sexed up’ by Alastair Cambell or anyone else.”

Testifying before the committee, Blair said he took the nation to war because he was concerned that an Iraqi WMD capability would develop “into a nexus between terrorism and WMD.” He noted that “time will tell whether it’s true or not true.”

The committee also criticized some of the claims within the dossier for their lack of clarity and context. In particular, the committee said the dossier should have emphasized that, although it could determine if Iraq had developed biological and chemical capabilities, it did not have firm intelligence of exactly what had been produced and in what quantities. The committee also said that the Blair government had not placed in its proper context a claim that Iraq was prepared to use biological or chemical weapons on 45 minutes’ notice. The panel said that this charge had originally referred merely to battlefield munitions and not any larger strategic capabilities.

The 45-minute claim has been at the center of the intelligence controversy. In his May BBC report, Gilligan had cited an unnamed senior intelligence official “in charge of drawing up that dossier,” later acknowledged to be Kelly. Gilligan said the official asserted that the claim had been added over the criticisms of the intelligence community at the insistence of Downing Street. In June, Gilligan wrote in the Sunday Mail that, according to his source, Blair communications director Alastair Cambell had given the order.

Government officials have continued to deny that there was any government pressure over that or any other claim made in the dossier. (See ACT, September 2003.)

In his second appearance before the Hutton Inquiry, Campbell again said that he had only been involved with the creation of the dossiers in a “presentational” role and that he had not had any say in the substance of the report.

Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6 Secret Intelligence Service, made a rare public appearance to testify before the inquiry that he had personally followed the creation of the dossier throughout its creation and that he was satisfied with the process. Dearlove said that he had considered the 45-minute claim to be “well-sourced.” He was “bemused” by the accusation that good intelligence could not come from a single source, saying that many reports produced by MI6 are single-source yet are still considered to be reliable. Dearlove did say, however, that “in hindsight” it should have been made clearer that the claim referred to short-range battlefield weapons.

To be sure, John Scarlett, the head of the JIC, admitted that he had revised the dossier after receiving an e-mail from Blair’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell, removing a reference stating that Saddam would only use biological or chemical weapons when “under threat.” Powell’s e-mail asked Scarlett to redraft the statement, because it would have supported arguments that Hussein would only be a threat if attacked.

But in his testimony, Scarlett argued that the e-mail only made him re-examine the statement and that removing the explicit phrase was justified given recent intelligence that placed Iraqi WMD and its importance in the context of Hussein’s “perception of his regional position, his plans to acquire and maintain regional influence and, as one report, and maybe more, put it: dominate his neighbors.” Given this interpretation, he said that removing the phrase permitted him to act within his instruction from the JIC to keep the dossier in line with the most recent intelligence.

Kelly was found dead July 18 after becoming caught up in a conflict between the Blair government and the BBC over Gilligan’s accusations. The government has faced strong criticism over the way Kelly’s name was revealed to the public. Representatives of the Kelly family have accused the government of using Kelly as “a pawn in their political battle with the BBC.”

Blair has seen his popularity plummet as a result of the crisis and late September polls in the Guardian show that 61 percent of British voters are unhappy with the job he is doing as prime minister and that only 38 percent now believe the war in Iraq was justified.

Facing even greater political trouble is Secretary of Defense Geoff Hoon. Hoon already faced substantial public criticism for his role in revealing Kelly’s identity as Gilligan’s source. But the ISC report also disclosed that Hoon had failed to disclose that two aides had submitted written concerns about the dossier to him prior to its publication. The ISC characterized this failure as “unhelpful and potentially misleading,” leading Conservative leader Ian Duncan Smith to call for Hoon’s resignation. Hoon said that he regretted any “misunderstanding,” but a September 5 poll in the Sunday mail showed that 62 percent of the British public backed Smith’s call for Hoon’s resignation.

The Hutton Inquiry and the ISC are two of the three committees that have investigated the British governments handling of Iraqi intelligence. The Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee also concluded in July that Blair and his advisers did not interfere in the creation of dossiers.

 

 

 

As Lord Hutton prepares to wrap up his investigation into the suicide of arms expert David Kelly, it seems that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will escape...

Putting the Kay Report on Iraqi WMD in Perspective: Experts and Resources From the Arms Control Association

Sections:

Body: 

For Immediate Release: September 25, 2003

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


(Washington, D.C.): News reports today suggest that a much anticipated report by the Bush administration's top Iraqi weapons inspector David Kay will not offer conclusive evidence supporting the administration's pre-war claims that Iraq had accumulated extensive stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons or revived its pursuit of nuclear weapons. If true, it's ever clearer that Iraq did not pose the urgent threat that the administration charged.

"The Bush administration should be forthright about the Kay report, publish its findings, and explain to Congress and the American people why it used discredited and disputed claims about the Iraqi WMD threat to make its case for war," recommended ACA Executive Director Daryl Kimball today.

Outside arms control experts argued before the March invasion of Iraq that the international arms inspection and disarmament process initiated after the 1991 Persian Gulf War had successfully led to the dismantlement of the bulk of Iraq's illicit weapons programs. They further contended that the return of UN arms inspectors to Iraq last November would constrain Saddam Hussein from developing or hiding militarily significant quantities of weapons and urged greater Iraqi cooperation in resolving outstanding concerns.

The work of the UN weapons inspectors between November 2002 and March 2003 substantiated these claims. They did not unearth any evidence proving Iraq had resumed major weapons activities, particularly with regard to nuclear weapons. But the Bush administration belittled and dismissed these reports and disparaged the arms inspection process as ineffective, arguing that the arms inspectors could not account for some weapons and materials that Iraq had prior to 1991. Yet, the lead UN arms inspector, Hans Blix, cautioned that one should not equate "not accounted-for with existing." Blix now says that as more time passes without dramatic weapons discoveries, it is increasingly plausible that Iraq may have destroyed its illegal weapons during the 1990's.

Blix's view is shared by former UN weapons inspector Frank Ronald Cleminson, who wrote an article on the Iraqi weapons search in the September 2003 Arms Control Today. Cleminson's article can be accessed on the ACA Web site's Iraq resource page, <http://www.armscontrol.org/country/iraq/>, along with other information on Iraq, including a July 9 press conference with former State Department intelligence official Greg Thielmann charging that the administration exaggerated the case for war, <http://www.armscontrol.org/events/iraq_july03.asp>.

Also available on the ACA Web site:
· An extensive June 16 Arms Control Today interview with Hans Blix;
· A comparison of the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's nuclear program with U.S. intelligence and UN weapons inspectors' assessments;
· A chronology of Bush administration statements on Iraqi efforts to import uranium from Niger; and
· Reports on the record of arms inspectors in Iraq.

Media interviews with Cleminson, Thielmann, and Jonathan Tucker, a chemical and biological weapons expert who participated in the UN arms inspections process, can be arranged through the Arms Control Association.

# # #

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.

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What Happened to Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction?

“It’s sort of puzzling that you can have 100 percent confidence about WMD existence, but zero certainty about where they are.” —Hans Blix to the Council on Foreign Relations June 23, 2003

With a new and perhaps final phase of the U.S. and British search throughout Iraq for Saddam Hussein’s delinquent nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons now well underway, it might be too early to reach a final verdict on the existence of such weapons. But as each day passes with no evidence of a “smoking gun,” the carefully worded series of analytical assessments by the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) increase dramatically in credibility. Despite pressure from the Bush administration to declare that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), UNMOVIC concluded that, after only a few months of investigations and little practical help from either Iraq or U.S. intelligence officials, they had insufficient evidence to prove the case either way. At the time, those conclusions rankled some in Washington certain that Saddam Hussein possessed a WMD arsenal, that continued UNMOVIC inspections would be unable either to locate them or prove they were destroyed, and that possession of those weapons by Saddam posed an unacceptable and immediate threat to U.S. national security interests.

After all, top Pentagon officials were sure that Baghdad held tons of weaponized chemical and biological weapons and had not only proscribed SCUD missiles but also a clandestine, active program to obtain a nuclear weapons capability. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld summed up this attitude in a March 30 interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC television, stating bluntly that, when it came to weapons of mass destruction, “We know where they are.” With senior administration officials making such definitive statements at such a sensitive time, operational commanders, poised to invade Iraq on the command of President George W. Bush, were right to expect that these chemical weapons would be used on the battlefield by Iraq’s elite units, and if not, then certainly such massive WMD holdings would be quickly overrun. In June, the Los Angeles Times quoted the head of the U.S. Army’s initial search program as saying, “Frankly, we expected to find large warehouses full of chemical or biological weapons, or delivery systems.”1 Throughout the hostilities, however, the Iraqis never used such weapons on the battlefield, and U.S. and British forces did not come across any as they advanced. Months after the termination of hostilities, they have yet to be uncovered.

The U.S.-led coalition’s inability to discover the alleged hidden caches of unconventional weapons cannot be ascribed to any lack of trying on the part of the U.S. Army itself. Indeed, search mechanisms put in place prior to the war were innovative and extensive. Three different approaches were devised. The first step was the designation and deployment of Task Force 20, which has been described as a covert Special Forces unit. Comprised of specialists drawn from the U.S. Army’s Delta Force, elements of Task Force 20 were inserted into Iraq prior to the main invasion. With a broad and flexible mandate, its top priority was the uncovering of WMD caches on a “target of opportunity basis,” using the twin elements of mobility and surprise. Next came Site Survey Teams, drawn from specially trained regular army personnel. They were created and attached to military mainline units earmarked for the initial invasion. Finally, the Pentagon unveiled the 75th Exploration Task Force, a “rear echelon” operation. Formerly an artillery brigade based at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Task Force 75 was reconstituted by the Army’s Central Command prior to the invasion as a follow-up element behind the main invasion force. Its specific focus was also on the search for proscribed weapons caches. [See Table 1.]

During the period of active hostilities, these various specialist elements collectively searched more than 230 suspect sites. From UNMOVIC’s inspection records in New York, it is clear that some of these sites were the same facilities and laboratories that the UN inspection groups had already scrutinized. In a number of cases, detailed reports on them had already been inserted into the archives at the UN headquarters in New York. With the commencement of hostilities, and an overall strength of more than 900 specialists supported by tens of millions of dollars of detection and laboratory equipment, the U.S. mission-specific units swept through Iraq as part of a comprehensive and intensive program of WMD searches. With the support of additional facilities, both in theater and at home, these teams were unable to find any working unconventional weapons, long-range missiles, bulk storage of either chemical or biological warfare agents, enrichment technologies, or hidden equipment needed to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program. Put simply, the search teams came up empty-handed.

More recently, as these search teams were in the process of being quietly withdrawn, Pentagon planners decided to replace them with yet a fourth model, this time designed to reinvigorate the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This new mandate focused upon a more coordinated approach to account for the elusive WMD inventory. The Pentagon appointed Major General Keith W. Dayton, a senior manager with the Defense Intelligence Agency, to head up an Iraq Survey Group (ISG) based in Baghdad. With an overall strength of more than 1,400 specialists in Iraq, the new task force was designed to focus, in a more analytical and measured approach, on coordinating and extending the continuing search. Ironically, the CIA, meanwhile, called upon David Kay, a former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector, to join the ISG as an adviser to provide expertise on methodologies. The ISG is expected to create some sort of compatible background of evidence to substantiate the administration’s contention—factual or not—that WMD inventories really do exist in Iraq.
 

What the Pentagon seems to have forgotten is that the task of effective accounting for Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and associated developmental programs is not a new one. The UN Security Council, under U.S. leadership, first assigned that task more than a decade ago to the IAEA and to the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) immediately after the conclusion of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. That same mandate, with updated details, was given to UNMOVIC eight years later when the Security Council created it under Resolution 1284.

UNSCOM and UNMOVIC Success

It is often said, sometimes with dubious authority, that Baghdad never cooperated in the UN quest to account for its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. In fact, that is not entirely correct. Immediately following the termination of hostilities in 1991, Iraq did cooperate in a significant fashion. Not only did Iraq turn over militarily significant holdings of weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations as instructed, but it also participated effectively in a follow-on destruction process. The destruction of proscribed weapons and of associated facilities was carried out mainly by Iraq but under constant supervision by UNSCOM and the IAEA. Data from the archives in New York bear out the contention that UN inspectors proved to be extremely successful in effectively accounting for the disposition and ultimate destruction of nuclear materials and associated facilities as well as of proscribed missiles and of chemical weapons.

By the mid-1990s, significant quantities of Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs had been destroyed or rendered harmless under UN supervision. In 1996 the IAEA was able to report to the Security Council that no nuclear weapons had been manufactured in Iraq, that proscribed nuclear material had been removed from the country, and that no clandestine nuclear weapons program remained. During that time frame, UNSCOM was also able to account to the Security Council for 817 of the 819 short-range SCUD missiles known to have been in the Iraqi inventory. Indeed, UNSCOM itself had destroyed 48 SCUD missiles and 50 warheads and used material balance techniques reinforced by an extensive excavation program to confirm that Iraq had destroyed the rest. The inspectors were able to provide final proof by comparing missile and engine numbers with documentation the supplier states provided to UNSCOM.

Likewise, in the early 1990s, Iraq turned over to the United Nations more than 40,000 proscribed chemical warheads, half of which were drained and consequently destroyed by Iraq, again under UNSCOM guidance. Add to that the supervised destruction by Iraq of an additional 700 tons of bulk chemical weapons agents, some 3,600 tons of precursor chemicals, and more than 100 pieces of equipment used to produce chemical weapons, and it is clear that significant military quantities of chemical weapons had indeed been identified by Iraqi authorities and destroyed during the period between 1991 and 1996. Moreover, UNSCOM inspectors were able to extrapolate from some excavations of Iraq’s declared sites that claims made by Iraq of unilateral destruction were reasonably accurate.

To be sure, Iraq later directed a complex and active denial and deception campaign to mislead UN inspectors. Further, the inspectors’ record on unmasking Iraq’s biological weapons was particularly weak; although UNSCOM had managed to confirm the existence of a biological weapons program after their first inspection at Salman Pak in 1991, biological weapons inspections became a priority only after the 1995 defection of Saddam’s son-in-law.2 Still, if UNSCOM, and later UNMOVIC, had been allowed by either Saddam or the United States to proceed with their work unhindered in 1998 and 2003, their plans called for devoting the greatest attention and monitoring the most sites in the biological weapons sector.

It is also true that Iraq’s failure to produce specific and authoritative documentation did not permit either UNSCOM, or later UNMOVIC, formally to confirm that Baghdad had indeed destroyed these weapons. There is no clear reason—only speculation—as to why Iraq, facing sanctions and then war, did not produce this documentation. But UNSCOM and UNMOVIC also cautioned on a regular basis that declaring material as “unaccounted for” was not the same thing as saying that those materials continued to exist—caveats that Washington routinely ignored.

In retrospect, therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that one of the most significant reasons that U.S. and British troops have not found nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons or proscribed missiles in Iraq is that, following the 1991 Gulf War, the bulk of these weapons and associated facilities were destroyed either by the United Nations or unilaterally by Iraq. Thus, significant quantities of proscribed weapons (nuclear, chemical, or missile) simply did not exist. On top of that, any attempt by Baghdad to regenerate its proscribed weapons programs was effectively inhibited by the package of other UN control measures in operation since 1991. These measures included a severe sanctions program initiated in 1991, the export/import monitoring mechanism that followed, the UN escrow funds into which all Iraqi oil sales revenue was directed, the strict management of those funds by the UN Office of the Iraq Program, the interdiction operations at sea undertaken under UN mandate, and a number of other control mechanisms. Although relatively unknown to the general public, these control mechanisms operated effectively throughout the decade of the 1990s. In combination, they served to prevent any significant reactivation of WMD programs on the part of Iraq.

Today, there is scant disagreement within the international community that the removal of Hussein from power is good for the international community and ultimately will be good for the people of Iraq. Although other considerations for going to war have been raised and might have validity in their own right, however, the fact remains that it was the possession of weapons of mass destruction that was alleged to constitute an immediate threat to the United States. Therefore, it is important for the United States and its wartime partners to have the opportunity to re-evaluate and confirm aspects of the decision-making process that led them to abandon the policy of containment, to withdraw their support for a very successful UN inspection program, and to initiate hostilities against Iraq on March 18.

The Road Ahead

Although Iraq remains in turmoil and domestic security is uncertain, closure for the WMD issue could, in itself, be achieved without great difficulty through the internationalization of the search and analysis process. The first step might be an invitation to UNMOVIC and the IAEA to return to Baghdad to tie up loose ends and resume UN weapons inspections as part of a cooperative search process under a broadened but inclusive UN mandate. It is the only way to remove continuing doubts about the existence of such weapons in Iraq. In such a cooperative process, the quantitative aspects of accounting for Iraq’s weapons could be finalized in a technically correct manner without prejudice to the United States and its allies or to the United Nations.

Moreover, with virtually unlimited funding, no apparent time constraints, and easy access to top specialists in a variety of science and technology disciplines, the ISG’s investigative activities have the potential to contribute significantly to our understanding of what happened in Iraq. This contribution, however, is likely to be in terms of providing corroborative support rather than in new revelations. That Hussein expended billion of dollars and employed thousands of specialists in a variety of WMD programs is already well documented by the United Nations in Vienna and New York. That he directed a complex and active “denial and deception” program to mislead UN inspectors is a matter of public record.

But in the future, the experience gained in such a cooperative effort between the U.S.-led coalition and the United Nations, both in Iraq and in New York, could pay real dividends in rethinking principles essential to the use of nonproliferation as an instrument for international security. These relate specifically to a revamping of the Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament (NACD) process.3

Experience gained by the U.S.-led forces and inspectors in their various approaches to weapons inspections in the aftermath of the 2003 occupation of Iraq could prove supportive in designing an international framework to combat terrorism and to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. More broadly, a cooperative research effort could develop a new and improved set of guidelines for more intrusive inspection procedures. These could then be applied to other problem countries, such as Iran and North Korea, suspected of possessing nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. After all, any long-term solution with these states will require some sort of effective international verification regime.

Alarming as they may be, the concerns over Iran and North Korea are but part of a much larger problem. There is an increasing perception that the international mechanisms developed over several decades to control nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons are insufficient and in danger of crumbling. Most recently, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking to a joint session of Congress July 17, called for “a new international regime on the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

Such a regime could better implement existing prohibitions on nuclear weapons, maintain the ban on chemical weapons, and introduce new methods to control biological agents and missiles. Certainly the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty itself needs to be strengthened. A new, more intrusive inspection arrangement can be drawn up by extrapolating from the experience gained by the IAEA’s Action Team from 1991 to 1998 (now referred to as the Iraq Nuclear Verification Group [INVG]), as well as its more recent activities in Iran and in North Korea. In this regard, the ISG could use its unique inspection activities as the coalition contribution to fine-tuning and upgrading the safeguard regime to make it more effective.

Two quite capable inspection regimes have already been laid out for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague is vigorously implementing the CWC while the CTBT Organization (Preparatory Commission) has deployed a network of detection technologies worldwide and is currently conducting onsite inspection practice as well as developing inspection techniques.

The final and least effective multilateral WMD agreement is the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), a U.S. initiative of the Nixon era. In the climate of counterterrorism today, the BWC should be perhaps the most important. For a variety of reasons, however, it continues to be neglected, and its verification provisions can only be described as “token” at best. Negotiators have met with little success in their attempts to add “teeth” to the clearly token verification provisions of the treaty.4

Within the context of the current situation in Iraq, the continuing and apparently escalating instability suggests that a quick resolution of the WMD issue would be welcomed by all interested parties, including the United Nations, the coalition partners, as well as others such as the provisional administrative authority now emerging in Iraq. The Security Council has expressed in Resolution 1483 (2003) its determination to revisit at some stage the comprehensive mandates of UNMOVIC and the IAEA as set forth in earlier resolutions.

UNMOVIC, as a subordinate body of the Security Council, has continued to meet its specified obligations under those parts of its present mandate that, under present conditions, remain operative. UNMOVIC’s strong analytical capability centered in New York has been applied to scanning the physical archives of UNSCOM and UNMOVIC as a means of creating an improved electronic format that will significantly enhance the future potential for search, analysis, storage, and instant retrieval of relevant information. To maintain and increase its operational readiness status, UNMOVIC’s photo interpreters have continued to process and exploit postwar commercial satellite imagery, where available, for more than 750 sites of interest. Although unable to ensure the integrity of its physical infrastructure in Baghdad, UNMOVIC nevertheless is maintaining its core of experienced technical experts in New York with an operational mission to retain and refine their specialized skill base and knowledge, recently upgraded by field experience. A roster of trained international experts remains available to supplement UNMOVIC operations as required. Thus, by continuing to exercise a high degree of operational readiness, UNMOVIC in New York and the IAEA’s INVG in Vienna continue to provide the Security Council with its own powerful, professional, in-house capacity to cooperate in a credible fashion with others interested in resolving at short notice outstanding issues vis-à-vis weapons of mass destruction, should the Security Council so decide.

In relation to the broader field encompassing the threats posed by global nuclear proliferation in all its aspects, the UNMOVIC and IAEA experience in Iraq, focused exclusively on the proliferation aspects of weapons of mass destruction, can provide a classic case study in the application and development of forensic inspection and analysis processes designed to contain the threat. Clearly, future nonproliferation scenarios are likely to differ significantly both in detail and in substance from the specifics of the Iraq experience. Thus, the United Nations should be prepared to initiate a comprehensive stock-taking of control mechanisms spawned from the ensemble of existing treaties against WMD proliferation and take advantage of unilateral and bilateral initiatives in this area. Discipline-oriented specialist groups such as the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Australian Group might play a role. In the final analysis, the international community, in its collectivity, must commit itself under Security Council guidance and leadership to deal systematically with these global threats—thereby creating, again in the words of Blair, “a new international regime on the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”


Return to Text

Table 1.

 

The Administration’s Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction

• Force 20: Force 20 was a covert group comprised of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force specialists who entered Iraq prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Force 20’s objective was to uncover WMD caches on a “target of opportunity” basis, employing both mobility and surprise to achieve their mission.

• Site Survey Teams: Consisting of specially trained Army personnel, the Site Survey Teams were placed with the initial invasion force in Iraq.

• 75th Exploration Task Force: Considered a “rear echelon” operation, also with the objective to find weapons caches, the Pentagon created this task force prior to the war as a follow-up element to the main invasion. The 75th Exploration Task Force was formally an artillery brigade based at Fort Still, Oklahoma.

• Iraq Survey Group (ISG): Headed by Major General Keith W. Dayton, a senior manager with the Defense Intelligence Agency, the ISG was formed in recent months to replace the three previous search forces. The ISG has around 1,400 specialists, including David Kay, a former International Atomic Energy Agency inspector. Utilizing a more analytical and measured approach to the weapons search, the ISG has been employed as the administration’s lastest attempt to find evidence to substantiate their claims that Iraq possessed and was in the process of producing weapons of mass destruction prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 


 

NOTES

1. Bob Drogin. “Banned Weapons Remain Unseen Foe,” Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2003, p. 1.

2. Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law and the head of the Iraqi biological weapons program, defected to Jordan in 1995. The defection prompted Iraqi officials to admit that Iraq had weaponized biological agents, and they began to provide information on the program.

3. The NACD process is an umbrella concept designed to include not only the nonproliferation regime and initiatives but also the panoply of international treaties and agreements in the broader sense.

4. An Ad Hoc Group began meeting in 1995 to negotiate a BWC protocol designed to create a verification system. In March 2001, the group presented a legally binding draft protocol with the support of many countries, but the United States rejected it.


Frank Ronald Cleminson is a former UNSCOM inspector and a member of the College of Commissioners of UNMOVIC. After joining Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 1982, he helped establish a Verification Research Program and later served as senior adviser on verification.

  

Iraq's WMD: Myth and Reality

Daryl G. Kimball

The 2003 “pre-emptive” war against Iraq has been lauded by its proponents as a new model to address growing dangers posed by “rogue” states with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). To this day, senior U.S. officials such as Undersecretary of State John Bolton insist that the war was necessary because “the international regime that tried to enforce restrictions on Iraq obviously didn’t succeed.” Or did it?

A far different story has emerged than the one told by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Although Iraq clearly failed to fully comply with UN disarmament mandates, by March 2003 it was apparent from the work of the UN inspectors that Iraq did not retain weapons of mass destruction that could pose an urgent threat. Years of intrusive UN inspections had dismantled the bulk of Iraq’s unconventional arsenal and effectively contained what remained of its WMD capabilities.

Meanwhile, U.S. and British intelligence did not uncover reliable, new information about Iraqi WMD activity to justify the abandonment of inspections. Nevertheless, senior U.S. and British leaders systematically misrepresented earlier national intelligence assessments in order to exaggerate the Iraqi threat and cast doubt on the utility of inspections. Over the last few weeks, each of their key charges has been discredited.

An ongoing public inquiry in the United Kingdom has shown that the September 2003 British claim that Iraq could “deploy some WMD within 45 minutes” was based on questionable single-source intelligence and was included over the objections of some British intelligence analysts. To date, no chemical or biological weapons have been uncovered.

In Washington, a similar pattern of deception occurred. National Security Council officials repeatedly ignored high-level CIA and State Department objections to the charge that Iraq was seeking processed uranium for weapons from Africa. As a result, the discredited uranium allegation was not only repeated in Bush’s January 2003 State of the Union address but in numerous other prewar statements and op-eds by top officials.

Another contested U.S. claim was that Iraq sought high-strength aluminum tubes for enriching uranium. In a classified October 2002 intelligence estimate, however, State and Energy Department intelligence agencies dismissed that interpretation as “highly dubious.” Nevertheless, Bush and his cabinet repeated the claim without qualification. When the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigated the claim and found that the tubes probably were for rockets, U.S. officials questioned the IAEA’s credibility.

The administration also charged that Iraq had unmanned aircraft “probably intended to deliver biological warfare agent” and could be used to carry out attacks on U.S. cities. The Air Force intelligence office, however, disagreed, saying that the small aircraft were for reconnaissance. Fresh evidence from Iraq now supports the Air Force assessment.

Another major U.S. charge was that Iraq had mobile facilities to produce biological weapons agents. In April and May, the United States discovered two mobile labs, and claimed they were used for bioweapons agent production. But the Defense Intelligence Agency now indicates the trailers were used to produce hydrogen for weather balloons.

A defensive White House might be hoping that the U.S. Iraq Survey Group will discover new proof of prewar WMD programs. Such findings would not alter the fact that the administration’s most dramatic claims about unconventional Iraqi weapons were wrong. The key question before the war was not whether Iraq had WMD programs in the past. Rather, did Iraq have active programs or weapons posing an imminent threat?

Taken together, the evidence shows that after a decade of inspections and sanctions, Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was dormant. Its chemical and biological weapons programs, while illegal and potentially dangerous, were probably geared to support rapid production capabilities rather than maintaining active stockpiles.

Intelligence is meant to inform government decision-making, not to be invoked or discarded selectively to justify predetermined political decisions. The conduct of the Bush and Blair administrations on Iraq has severely damaged the credibility of their governments, their intelligence assessments, and their leadership on other global issues.

The Iraq episode underscores the fact that international weapons monitoring and inspections are vital to augment limited national intelligence capabilities and provide an objective, factual basis for collective international enforcement of the nonproliferation regime. As the United States faces the next round of WMD proliferation challenges, it cannot afford to abandon its first and best line of defense against global WMD dangers: intrusive inspections and the arms control rules and institutions that make them possible.

Bush's Claims About Iraq's Nuclear Program

Paul Kerr

Vice President Dick Cheney stated three days before U.S.-led coalition forces invaded Iraq this past March that Iraq “has reconstituted nuclear weapons.” At the time, however, intelligence and other U.S. officials already disagreed about the evidence behind his statement, and events over the last few months have deepened doubts among the general public and members of Congress.

The international community discovered after Iraq’s defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War that Iraq had a much more advanced nuclear weapons program than either the United States or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had suspected. The IAEA was charged with undertaking inspections to ensure that Iraq complied with disarmament requirements mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 687, but the United Nations withdrew the inspectors in December 1998 after Iraq stopped cooperating with them. The agency, however, reported in 1999 that, based on the inspectors’ work until that time, there was “no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material, or that Iraq has retained any practical capability (facilities or hardware) for the production of such material.”

The IAEA also cautioned that this statement was “not the same as a statement of [the weapons] ‘non-existence.’” A 2001 Department of Defense report added that Iraq “still retains sufficient skilled and experienced scientists and engineers as well as weapons design information that could allow it to restart a weapons program.”

The absence of inspectors, combined with the remaining uncertainty regarding Iraq’s nuclear program, created concern that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. The Security Council adopted Resolution 1441 in November 2002, requiring Iraq to comply fully with its disarmament requirements under relevant Security Council resolutions. Inspections resumed later that month. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported to the Security Council March 7 that the inspectors had “found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq.”

The administration’s contention that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program has several components. President George W. Bush cited three pieces of evidence in an October 7, 2002, speech that “Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program”: meetings between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Iraqi nuclear weapons scientists, Iraq’s reconstruction of buildings at sites where its nuclear weapons facilities had previously been located, and Iraq’s attempts to obtain components for gas centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium for use as fissile material in nuclear weapons.

The State Department issued a fact sheet December 19 asserting that Iraq had attempted to obtain uranium from Niger. Bush and other administration officials repeated the claim several times after that.

On February 5, Secretary of State Colin Powell gave a presentation about U.S. intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to the Security Council. His presentation only mentioned efforts to acquire centrifuge components and Hussein’s meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists.

An October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) cites all of these factors in its judgment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. The NIE states that “most agencies” agreed but includes an alternative view from the State Department’s Bureau for Intelligence and Research (INR) stating that “available evidence indicates that Baghdad is pursuing at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapon-related capabilities” but that the evidence is “inadequate” to support the claim that “Iraq is currently pursuing…an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons.”

The following chart looks at the administration’s public claims about Iraq’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

NUCLEAR CLAIMS

 

Uranium Imports
Bush Administration Claim

The Bush administration claimed that Iraq was attempting to acquire uranium from Niger.

Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium were considered an important step in its suspected nuclear weapons program because Baghdad’s lack of fissile material was one of the most serious constraints on its ability to produce nuclear weapons. Even if Iraq had acquired lightly processed uranium ore from Africa, however, it would still have needed to enrich it to obtain weapons-grade uranium.

Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said in an August 11 statement that claims regarding uranium importation were not central to the National Intelligence Estimate’s judgments about Iraq’s nuclear program because “Iraq already had significant quantities of uranium.” Iraq had more than two tons of low-enriched uranium under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.

The Controversy

Intelligence officials expressed reservations about this claim several times. Tenet told National Security Council staff and White House speechwriters not to include a line about Iraq’s attempts to import uranium from Africa in a speech Bush gave October 7, Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said July 22. Additionally, Tenet said July 11 that the CIA expressed “reservations” about the claim to British intelligence in September 2002, and INR characterized claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa as “highly dubious,” according to the October NIE.

The CIA sent former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger in February 2002 to investigate reports about Iraq’s attempts to acquire uranium. Wilson wrote in The New York Times July 6 that “it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had taken place” because Niger’s uranium industry is closely regulated by its government and is controlled by a consortium of foreign companies monitored by the IAEA.

Tenet said July 11 that Wilson also reported to the CIA that a former Nigerien official described a businessman’s attempt to arrange a meeting between the former official and an Iraqi delegation as “an attempt to discuss uranium sales,” but Wilson told Arms Control Today August 18 that the official mentioned uranium as an afterthought.

ElBaradei told the UN Security Council in March that U.S.-supplied documents ostensibly supporting this claim were forged.

Nigerien Prime Minister Hama Amadou denied in an interview with the London Sunday Telegraph that Niger ever discussed uranium with Iraq, according to a July 27 article.

Centrifuges
Bush Administration Claim The October NIE claimed that Iraq was attempting to obtain aluminum tubes and magnets for use in a gas centrifuge-based uranium-enrichment program.
The Controversy
Aluminum Tubes

An IAEA investigation concluded that “[t]here is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminum tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminum tubes in question,” ElBaradei told the Security Council March 7. He added that “field investigation and document analysis have failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended to use these…tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets.” According to the October NIE, both INR and Department of Energy (DOE) centrifuge experts concluded that the tubes were most likely for rockets, although three other intelligence agencies concluded they were for use in centrifuges.

Tenet said August 11 that U.S. military intelligence experts concluded that the tubes were “poor choices for rocket motor bodies,” but Greg Thielmann, former director of INR’s Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Affairs Office, argued in a July 9 press conference that the DOE experts were the most knowledgeable about the subject.

Magnets

ElBaradei told the Security Council March 7 that there was “no indication to date that Iraq imported magnets for use in a centrifuge enrichment programme.”


Administration officials have also cited an Iraqi scientist’s June 2003 handover of blueprints and components for gas centrifuges that he had hidden on his property as evidence that Iraq had a centrifuge program. The scientist, however, had hidden those components since 1991 and IAEA Iraq Action Team Leader Jacques Baute said the component set is incomplete and the documents appear to contain errors, according to a July 15 Associated Press article.

Scientists/Personnel
Bush Administration Claim The administration claimed that Hussein was meeting with top nuclear weapons experts and that Iraq maintained the scientific know-how to produce nuclear weapons.
The Controversy Thielmann said that “there was no solid evidence that indicated Iraq’s top nuclear scientists were rejuvenating Iraq’s nuclear weapons program,” according to a June 20 Associated Press article. IAEA spokesperson Melissa Fleming added that Iraqi nuclear personnel were “aging…[and] weren’t working collectively.”
Infrastructure
Bush Administration Claim Bush said October 7 that Iraq was reconstructing buildings at sites where its nuclear weapons facilities had previously been located.
The Controversy ElBaradei reported March 7 that “[t]here is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.”

 

 

Chronology of Bush Claim that Iraq Attempted to Obtain Uranium from Niger

An updated version of this chronology is now available in the Fact Sheets section of this web site.

Paul Kerr

One of the chief arguments used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons programs. Central to this argument was the claim that Iraq attempted to obtain processed uranium from Africa and that it attempted to acquire specialized aluminum tubes to enrich that uranium. Debate continues about the accuracy of the second assertion. But President George W. Bush’s inclusion of the first claim in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address has become particularly contentious as evidence has emerged that it was based on discredited or misleading information. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice acknowledged June 8 that Bush’s claim was based in part on inaccurate information, and the controversy intensified when the White House conceded July 7 that the information should not have been included in the president’s speech. Several administration officials have accepted varying degrees of responsibility for the statement, including Rice, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, and Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, as well as President Bush himself.

This chronology details the intelligence that the United States possessed on reported Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Africa, along with relevant administration statements.

2001-2002

Late 2001-early 2002: The United States gathers what Tenet later terms “fragmentary intelligence” about Iraq’s attempts to acquire uranium from Africa.

Late February 2002: The CIA sends former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate reports about Iraq’s attempts to acquire uranium from that country. Wilson later writes in The New York Times on July 6, 2003, that “it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had taken place” because Niger’s uranium industry is closely regulated by its government and is controlled by a consortium of foreign companies monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Wilson briefs this conclusion to the CIA when he returns in March 2002.

Wilson also reports to the CIA that a former Nigerien official described a businessman’s attempt to arrange a meeting between the former official and an Iraqi delegation as “an attempt to discuss uranium sales,” Tenet says July 11, 2003. But Wilson told Arms Control Today August 18 that the official mentioned uranium as an afterthought.

CIA officials tell Wilson that his mission to Niger is in response to an interest expressed by Vice President Dick Cheney. Wilson tells CNN later on July 7, 2003, that Cheney’s office “asked the question and that office received a very specific response.”

Tenet, however, claims July 11, 2003, that CIA experts sent Wilson to Niger “on their own initiative” and that the agency never briefed Wilson’s conclusions to senior administration officials. The CIA distributed a summary of Wilson’s report to intelligence community entities on March 9, 2002.

March 1, 2002:
The State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) sends a memorandum to Secretary of State Colin Powell stating that claims regarding Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Niger are not credible, according to a knowledgeable government official.

August 26, 2002: Cheney declares that “we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons…. Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.”

September 2002: The CIA expresses “reservations” to British intelligence about information regarding Iraqi efforts to acquire African uranium after the United Kingdom informs the agency about its plans to include the allegation in a forthcoming report about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, according to a July 11, 2003, statement from Tenet.

September 24, 2002: The United Kingdom issues a report on Iraq’s WMD program, stating that “there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Iraq has no active civil nuclear power programme or nuclear power plants, and therefore has no legitimate reason to acquire uranium.”

September/October 2002: U.S. intelligence officials tell Senate committees about their differences with the British report regarding the Iraq uranium claim, according to Tenet’s July 11, 2003, statement.

October 2002: The State Department acquires documents about the Iraq-Niger uranium deal and shares them with “all the appropriate agencies,” department spokesman Richard Boucher says later on July 17, 2003. A senior administration official, however, claims on July 18, 2003, that the CIA did not receive the documents until February 2003.

Early October 2002: A classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a portion of which was later made public July 18, 2003, states, “A foreign government service reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons” of uranium to Iraq, adding that “Niger and Iraq reportedly were still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be for up to 500 tons of yellowcake [lightly processed uranium ore].”

The NIE also says that “reports indicate Iraq also has sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We cannot confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring uranium ore and/or yellowcake from these sources.”

The NIE also contains a State Department INR dissent that characterizes “claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa” as “highly dubious.” Rice does not read the INR dissent, a senior administration official said July 18, 2003.

October 5-7, 2002: Tenet calls Hadley to request that a line referring to Iraqi attempts to obtain “substantial amounts of uranium oxide” be removed from a draft of a Bush speech scheduled for October 7.

The CIA sends a memorandum to Hadley and White House speechwriter Michael Gerson October 5, asking them to remove a similar line referring to Iraq’s attempted acquisition of “500 metric tons of uranium oxide from…Africa.”

The CIA also sends a memorandum to the White House October 6 providing additional detail about the Iraq uranium claim and noting the U.S. intelligence community’s differences with the United Kingdom over the intelligence. The memorandum is passed to both Hadley and Rice.

Per the CIA’s request, no reference to Iraqi uranium procurement attempts appears in Bush’s October 7 speech.

Hadley and White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett reveal these details in a July 22, 2003, press briefing.

December 19, 2002: A State Department fact sheet charges Iraq with omitting its “efforts to procure uranium from Niger” from its December 7 declaration to UN weapons inspectors. UN Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted November 8, 2002, required Iraq to submit a declaration “of all aspects of its [weapons of mass destruction] programmes.” The declaration is supposed to provide information about any prohibited weapons activity since UN inspectors left the country in 1998 and to resolve outstanding questions about Iraq’s WMD programs that had not been answered by 1998.

The fact sheet is “developed jointly by the CIA and the State Department,” according to an April 29, 2003, letter from the State Department to Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA). Boucher later says July 14, 2003, that the Niger information was “prepared in other bureaus of the State Department,” but he does not say which bureaus were involved. The fact sheet was not cleared by the State Department’s intelligence bureau, according to knowledgeable sources.

A State Department official interviewed August 21, 2003, however, said the State Department’s Public Affairs Bureau developed the fact sheet from a draft of a speech U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte gave December 20, 2002, to a closed session of the Security Council. The State Department would have discussed the information for that speech “at several levels with the National Security Council (NSC),” the official added. The final draft of Negroponte’s speech did not contain the reference to Niger.

The IAEA requests information from the United States on the uranium claim “immediately after” the fact sheet’s release, according to a June 20, 2003, letter from the IAEA to Waxman. This information is not supplied until February 4, 2003, according to a July 1, 2003, State Department letter to Waxman.

2003

January 2003: White House staff members decide to include a reference to Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from Africa in the State of the Union speech. During a discussion about the intelligence on this matter, NSC staff member Robert Joseph insists that information about the uranium procurement attempt be included in the speech, according to later accounts from several U.S. senators investigating the claim. But Alan Foley, head of the Director of Central Intelligence’s Center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control, expresses concern about the intelligence. Foley eventually agrees to a change that appears in the final draft of the speech. According to Bartlett’s later briefing, Tenet does not review the speech, and Rice and Hadley do not recall the October memorandums or a phone call from Tenet while putting together the State of the Union remarks.

Joseph later recalls the exchange differently, believing it was only about a question of whether to cite the British report or the NIE in the State of the Union address, Bartlett says in his July briefing.
Powell reviews the State of the Union address but does not raise any objections to it, Boucher says July 14, 2003.

January 20, 2003: Bush submits a report to Congress stating that Iraq omitted “attempts to acquire uranium” from its December 7 declaration to the United Nations.

January 23, 2003: Rice writes in The New York Times that Iraq’s declaration “fails to account for or explain Iraq’s efforts to get uranium from abroad.” A White House report issued the same day asserts that Iraq’s weapons declaration “ignores efforts to procure uranium from abroad.”

January 26, 2003: Powell asks, “Why is Iraq still trying to procure uranium and the special equipment needed to transform it into material for nuclear weapons?” during a speech in Switzerland.

January 27, 2003: IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei tells the Security Council that IAEA inspectors “have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons programme since the elimination of the programme in the 1990s.”

January 28, 2003: Bush asserts that “the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” during his State of the Union address.

January 29, 2003: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld states in a press briefing that Iraq “recently was discovered seeking significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

February 4, 2003: State Department officials give the IAEA the information the agency requested about Iraq’s attempts to obtain uranium from Niger, telling the agency that it “cannot confirm these reports and [has] questions regarding some specific claims.”

February 5, 2003: Powell presents evidence, based on U.S. intelligence, about Iraq’s prohibited weapons programs to the Security Council. He does not mention Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium from Africa.

February 14, 2003: ElBaradei reports to the Security Council that “we have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq,” adding that “a number of issues are still under investigation and we are not yet in a position to reach a conclusion about them.”

March 7, 2003: ElBaradei tells the Security Council that the documents allegedly detailing uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are “not authentic,” adding that “these specific allegations are unfounded.”

March 9, 2003: Powell acknowledges that the documents concerning the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal might be false.

 

Controversy Grows Surrounding Prewar Intel

Paul Kerr

FUELED BY A White House admission that discredited intelligence was used in President George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address, the Bush administration’s prewar claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have come under increasingly intense scrutiny. As the search for proscribed weapons continues without any actual weapons being found, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Bush administration officials’ unequivocal claims that Iraq possessed militarily significant quantities of weapons of mass destruction were likely flawed and, in some cases, did not accurately reflect the more ambiguous judgments of the intelligence community.

The dispute has gained political traction as U.S. casualties in Iraq continue. Members of Congress and the public have questioned both the veracity of U.S. claims about Iraq and the magnitude of the Iraqi threat at the time of the U.S.-led coalition forces’ March 19 invasion. The controversy has harmed British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s political standing and coincided with a decline in the U.S. public’s confidence about operations in Iraq. Bush could face a new round of questions this fall, with the House and Senate intelligence committees continuing their investigations into intelligence matters when Congress returns from its summer recess.

The controversy has centered around two claims Bush made in the State of the Union speech about Iraq’s suspected nuclear weapons program. The first was that “the British government has learned that [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” a reference to a claim that appeared in a September 2002 British report about Iraqi weapons capabilities. The second was that Hussein “has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production” when used in centrifuges for uranium enrichment.

The claims were not limited to the State of the Union address. Bush asserted two days before the invasion that “[i]ntelligence…leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised,” but recent revelations regarding U.S. intelligence on Iraq have raised doubts about that statement. Additionally, UN weapons inspectors—who had been working in Iraq since late November 2002—reported less than two weeks before the invasion that they had found no evidence Iraq had active programs to produce nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

Much of the supporting evidence for the claim about Iraq’s attempts to procure uranium in Africa was known to be weak at the time of Bush’s speech, and UN inspectors further undermined it shortly after, particularly when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in March that documents supporting the claim were forged. Additionally, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) published in October 2002, which is said to be the basis for the claims in the speech, contains a dissent by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) that characterizes “claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa” as “highly dubious.”

These facts have raised questions about the process for clearing the information in Bush’s speech. Bush first tried to pin the blame on the CIA, claiming July 14 that the speech was “cleared by the CIA.” Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet stated July 11 that his agency cleared the speech but should not have allowed the language to appear in the final draft.

Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, however, acknowledged July 22 that the CIA had previously warned him that the information might be inaccurate, and White House speechwriters subsequently removed the information from an October 7, 2002, presidential speech. Hadley said he should have removed it from the State of the Union address but that he had forgotten the CIA warnings.

Hadley also said National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was informed about the CIA’s warnings, but Rice claimed July 30 that she did not remember seeing them. A senior administration official said July 18 that Rice did not read the INR dissents in the NIE.

Although Rice said July 13 that the uranium line should not have been included in the State of the Union address, she claimed that the statement was still accurate because it referred to British intelligence that originates from sources that have not yet been discredited. Washington does not have access to that information, she added. Blair said July 17 that his government continues to stand by the intelligence, but Tenet stated that the CIA “expressed reservations” to British officials about the uranium information before the United Kingdom published its September 2002 report.

Bush’s second claim was that Hussein tried to buy specialized aluminum tubes that could be used for producing material for nuclear weapons. The October 2002 NIE states that Iraq was attempting to obtain such tubes for use as rotors in a gas centrifuge uranium-enrichment facility but notes that part of the intelligence community disagreed on this point. Uranium enrichment has civilian uses, but it also can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told the UN Security Council in March that IAEA experts concluded that it was “unlikely” Iraq was procuring the tubes for centrifuges.

Bush administration officials also continue to argue that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons at the time of the U.S.-led invasion. Although U.S. pre-inspections intelligence is more consistent with administration statements that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, it still contains qualifiers that were not reflected in the administration’s public statements. (See ACT, July/August 2003.)

Shifting Rationale for War


Meanwhile, administration officials have downplayed the importance of the intelligence controversy, arguing that evidence of Hussein’s malicious motivations and his residual capability to develop and use weapons of mass destruction, along with uncertainty surrounding Iraq’s suspected weapons programs, provided sufficient basis for determining that Iraq was a threat. This level of certainty satisfied the White House because the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States made the administration less tolerant of perceived risks of catastrophic terrorism, according to officials’ statements.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explained this argument to the Senate Armed Services Committee July 9, stating that the U.S.-led coalition did not invade Iraq “because we had discovered dramatic new evidence of Iraq’s pursuit of WMD; we acted because we saw the existing evidence in a new light—through the prism of our experience on 9/11.”

Although critics have argued that inspections should have been given more time to succeed, the administration contended that this course was futile because Iraq was deceiving inspectors and refused to cooperate fully with them.

UN inspectors, however, also reported that they saw no evidence that Iraqi agents had infiltrated the organization or were moving prohibited weapons materials to avoid detection. They told the Security Council in March that Iraqi cooperation with the inspectors was increasing, albeit marginally. (See ACT, April 2003.)

In addition, intelligence reports had suggested that inspections could contain Iraq’s nuclear programs. For example, the October 2002 NIE stated that Iraq could obtain a nuclear weapon “if left unchecked”; a 2001 Defense Department report states, “From April 1991 to December 1998, Iraqi nuclear aspirations were held in check by...[UN] inspections and monitoring.”

Search, Hearings Continue

In Iraq, forces of the U.S.-led coalition continue to search for evidence of prohibited weapons but have yet to reveal any significant finds. David Kay, special adviser for strategy to the CIA on the weapons search, stated July 31 that the Iraq Survey Group (ISG)—the organization formed to ferret out Iraqi weapons of mass destruction—was making “progress.” He said the ISG would probably have a “substantial body of evidence before six months” during a July 15 interview on NBC’s “Nightly News.”

However, a July congressional delegation, led by Porter Goss (R-FL), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Jane Harman (D-CA), the committee’s ranking member, reported July 15 that the “evidence emerging on Iraq’ s WMD programs does not point to the existence of large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons.” In recent weeks, discussion of the Iraqi threat has emphasized Iraq’s weapons programs rather than actual weapons, although administration officials continue to assert that forces will find functional chemical and biological weapons.

The intelligence committees plan to continue their investigations into the matter, but no specific hearings have been scheduled, and it is not known whether government officials will testify in open hearings.

 

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